What does an Editorial Photographer do?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

An editorial photographer works in concert with magazines, newspapers, or book authors to provide pictures that enhance a story. Unlike commercial photography, these photos are not meant to promote a specific product but rather to highlight the topic discussed. An editorial photographer may work freelance or with a specific organization, and many also do fine art or commercial photography as well.

An editorial photographer works in concert with magazines, newspapers, or book authors to provide pictures that enhance a story.
An editorial photographer works in concert with magazines, newspapers, or book authors to provide pictures that enhance a story.

Magazines are a particularly popular place for an editorial photographer to find work. In order to help readers grasp the reality of article topics, photographs are extensively used to provide explanation or create emotion. An editorial photographer needs to have a good understanding of the topic and background surrounding the story they are working on. Editorial photos must be able to capture the heart of the story and help readers understand the point or meaning.

Editorial photographers look for ways to take photos that tell a story.
Editorial photographers look for ways to take photos that tell a story.

Unfortunately, an editorial photographer is often given a considerably smaller budget than a commercial photographer. Because companies need considerable advertising to sell products, product photography is often a key feature of marketing and therefore receives quite a lot of money. Editorial photographs, on the other hand, are often seen as supplemental, and budgeted as part of the overall expenditure on the article.

Magazines are a particularly popular place for an editorial photographer to find work.
Magazines are a particularly popular place for an editorial photographer to find work.

The upside to working as an editorial photographer is the increased creative freedom. Commercial photographers are often told what to emphasize and capture as part of a marketing strategy. Editorial photographers, by contrast, must often trust their own instinct and understanding of the story in order to capture the best and most useful images. As an editorial photographer, artistic ability and vision are much more important than just proficiency with cameras.

Because of the wide variety of publications that use editorial pictures, photographers can gear their work toward areas of interest to them. For nature lovers, this may mean approaching publications that handle the natural world, such as National Geographic. Whatever specific area of fascination a photographer has, there is likely some market for it in editorial photography.

Since many photographer work as freelancers, crossover between editorial, commercial, and fine art photography is quite common. By working in more than one area, a photographer can nourish both his or her bank account and artistic sensibility. As with most freelance areas, the keys to finding work are talent and persistence. Editorial photographers with a good portfolio will often be able to find commercial work between assignments, allowing them to make new contacts and find their next job.

Editorial photographers try to capture the emotions found in the moments they are taking a picture of.
Editorial photographers try to capture the emotions found in the moments they are taking a picture of.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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