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Advertising and Editorial Photographer

Advertising and Marketing Communications | Photo Imaging | Publishing
Personality type:

The lowdown

  • Taking advertising photographs that are used to help describe and sell a product or idea
  • Taking editorial photographs that are used to illustrate and enhance a story or report, used widely in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books and websites

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • enjoy travel, meeting people and solving visual challenges
  • be able to interpret ideas and stories through original and emotive photographic images
  • understand the principles of composition, and have an appreciation of shape, form, colour and tone
  • be organised, practical and creative
  • have a calm, friendly attitude, coping well with busy and stressful situations
  • be highly motivated and self-confident in order to promote yourself
  • have good communication skills
  • be skilled in image-manipulation and image-management software

What does an Advertising and Editorial Photographer do?

Advertising Photographers produce images that support a marketing idea in answer to a photographic brief given to them by a client, a designer or an advertising agency.

This can involve any subject matter, but is often categorised into specialist areas: still life, portraiture and landscape. Some work is carried out on location, but much is done in studios, using studio flash lighting and a variety of props and accessories.

Some Advertising Photographers specialise in producing well-lit product shots for use on packaging and in catalogues. These are called ‘Pack’ or ‘Pack Shot' photographers.

Other Advertising Photographers choose to be self-employed and often operate their own studios. They are commissioned to produce high-quality photographs that sell the benefits of a product or reinforce brand awareness. They secure new work on the strength of past campaigns. Their original take on the subject matter is based on a thorough knowledge of the visual arts and the history of advertising photography.

They often specialise in a specific area, such as food, furniture, engineering, cars or financial services. They continually market themselves, through agents (who take a percentage commission), personal contacts and other forms of networking.

Editorial Photographers produce images to accompany feature articles in newspapers, magazines and websites, chapters in books and text in company brochures.

Since these publications cover almost every area of interest, photographers with a background in many different disciplines may be involved in this field, working both in studios and on location. Photographers are usually briefed by the publication's editor or picture editor. It is then the photographer's job to shoot images that will answer the brief and satisfy or exceed editorial expectations.

Will I need a qualification?

There isn’t a set qualification required to work as an Advertising or Editorial Photographer. Progressing in your career is about having a strong portfolio, track record and reputation.

There are many excellent college courses around the UK which could provide you with a sound technical grounding, as well as access to work placement schemes.

If you are considering taking a photo imaging course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the photo imaging industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the extent to which they prepare you for a photo imaging career:

Photo imaging courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

The LBIPP offered by the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography) has a good reputation with employers.

Employers may support work-based qualifications, such as Apprenticeships and NVQ/SVQs.

Membership of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), the Association of Photographers (AOP) and the Master Photographers Association (MPA) may also be beneficial to you. The BIPP and the MPA offer a range of qualifications that enable a candidate to benchmark their skills against other successful practitioners working in the industry.

What’s the best route in?

You can start off in either of these roles by working as an Assistant Photographer, supporting an established photographer and learning on the job.

This will give you invaluable experience, offering the opportunity to meet clients, art directors, models, etc., to hear their discussions with photographers, and to understand the details of preparation, execution and presentation.

If you want to be an Editorial Photographers, you might also start out as a Press Photographer or Corporate Photographer who displays particular ability in taking strong thematic photographs.

You are likely to be subject to physical stresses from carrying heavy camera gear indoors and out, in all seasons, come rain or shine. You should therefore seek training about appropriate techniques for lifting and moving equipment. You would also need to understand Health & Safety legislation and manage the risks associated with the use of electrical lighting, equipment and props.