How to Become a Freelance Photo Editor

Become a photo editor

As the unsung heroes of the photography industry, photo editors play a crucial role in editing and enhancing photographs to perfect the message that they are trying to convey. Whether you’re a seasoned photographer looking to expand your skill set or someone simply seeking a creative career, this guide will provide invaluable insights and practical steps to start your journey as a photo editor. 

From acquiring the necessary technical skills to building a portfolio that sets you apart from your competitors, we’ll cover everything you need to know to thrive in this field. 

What Does a Photo Editor Do?

Start your career as a photo editor

Photo editors are responsible for touching up, adjusting, resizing, and otherwise editing photographs to perfect them for their purpose. They may adjust the lighting in an image, brighten up the colors, or remove unwanted features. Photo editors may be hired for a variety of projects, and may be asked to edit photos of the following examples, among others:

  • Weddings
  • Models
  • Products
  • Real estate listings
  • Events
  • Family portraits
  • Clothing

It is, therefore, important for photo editors to have a variety of skills and talents, as they may be asked to edit many different types of images in a wide range of styles. Photo editors should also be proficient in a multitude of editing software and tools and have a natural ability to turn ordinary photos into extraordinary masterpieces that clients will love. 

How Do You Become a Photo Editor?

Approximately 1.81 trillion photos are taken every year, which equates to 57,246 per second, or 5 billion every day. With the numbers already so high and still growing, it is no wonder that photo editors are in high demand. 

In order to become a professional photo editor, there are some necessary technical skills that you will need to acquire. In addition to these skills, it is crucial that you have a thorough understanding of composition, lighting, and photography theory. 

If you want to learn more about how to become a professional photo editor, we’ve outlined the necessary steps to take, skills to acquire, and equipment to purchase. 


Many employers will require that their editors have a Bachelor’s degree specializing in photography, photojournalism, or visual arts. Obtaining one of these degrees will give you a solid understanding of the skills that you will need to become a photo editor. However, degrees are not always necessary; it is also possible to complete diplomas or short courses that will teach you the necessary skills to edit photos professionally as an online worker.

Photo editors should have experience with PhotoShop


Photo editors should have a thorough knowledge of photography theory and should know how to use editing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom. In order to showcase your skills to potential clients, compiling a portfolio to display your past work can be advantageous.

Determine Your Niche

Identify your specialization or preferred editing style. This could include portrait retouching, landscape enhancement, product photo editing, color grading, or any other specific area that you are talented at. Focusing on a niche can help you stand out and attract clients specifically seeking your expertise. 

Build a Portfolio

Create a compelling portfolio showcasing your editing capabilities. Include before-and-after examples to demonstrate the impact of your editing skills. If you’re starting out and don’t have any client work to showcase, you can use your own photographs or practice on sample or stock images. Use a website builder such as Squarespace or Wix to create your online portfolio to link to your website or social media profiles.

Equipment & Software

While the specific requirements may vary depending on personal preferences and the nature of the work, here are some key equipment and software for photo editors to improve their processes and abilities:

A Computer: A reliable and powerful computer is a must-have for photo editing. Opt for a system with sufficient processing power, ample storage space, and a high-resolution display to ensure smooth and efficient editing.

Monitor: Investing in a high-quality monitor with accurate color reproduction is crucial for photo editors. Look for a display with good color accuracy and a wide color gamut to ensure that you can accurately assess and adjust the colors in your images. 

Graphics Tablet: A graphics tablet, such as those offered by Wacom, can greatly enhance precision and control when making intricate edits. It provides a more natural and intuitive way to work with photo editing software, especially for tasks like retouching and extremely precise selections.

Photo editors may use graphics tablets

Editing Software: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom are examples of industry-standard software for photo editing, and are used by 90% of creative professionals. Photoshop offers extensive tools and capabilities for advanced retouching, compositing, and manipulation, while Lightroom excels in organization, batch editing, and non-destructive adjustments. Other popular software options include Capture One and DxO PhotoLab.

File Storage: As a photo editor, it’s crucial to have a reliable and secure method of storing and backing up your files. Invest in external hard drives or cloud storage solutions to ensure your work is protected and accessible.

Color Calibration Tool: To maintain consistent color accuracy across different devices, consider using a color calibration tool, such as the X-Rite ColorMunki or Datacolor Spyder, to calibrate your monitor periodically.

Additionally, having a comfortable workspace with proper lighting, a color-neutral environment, and a color-accurate proofing setup can greatly enhance your editing process.

Market Your Services

Develop a marketing strategy to reach potential clients. Create a professional website or create profiles on relevant platforms such as LinkedIn, photography forums, or freelance marketplaces such as Upwork. Leverage social media to showcase your work and engage and connect with others in the photography community.

Collaborate with Photographers

Connect and partner with photographers who may need assistance with editing their images. Reach out to local photographers, join photography communities, or attend networking events to establish connections. Collaborative relationships can lead to ongoing work and referrals in the future.

Offer Photo Editing Services to Businesses

Extend your services to businesses that require professional photo editing. This could include e-commerce companies, advertising agencies, magazines, or any other relevant organizations that frequently work with visual content. Tailor your services to their specific needs, and demonstrate how your editing skills can enhance their brand and product imagery.

Photo editors may collaborate with photographers

Price Your Services

Determine your pricing structure based on factors such as the complexity of the editing work, the time it takes, and the market rates in your area. Consider whether you’ll charge per image and offer packages for bulk editing. Research industry standards and consider the value you provide to set competitive pricing.

Develop Efficient Workflows

Establish streamlined workflows to maximize efficiency and productivity. Utilize presets, actions, and batch processing techniques to save time while still maintaining the image quality. You can also use automation tools such as forms and time management software to create more efficient workflows. 

Continuous Learning & Improvement

Stay updated with the latest editing techniques, software updates, and industry trends. Invest time in learning new tools and exploring advanced editing features. Continuous improvement will help you stay competitive and deliver high-quality results.


Starting a career as a photo editor requires a combination of technical skills, artistic vision, and a strong understanding of photography. This complete guide should provide you with the necessary insights and practical steps to kickstart your journey as a professional photo editor. 

From acquiring the necessary skills and equipment to marketing your services, each step is crucial for your success. With dedication and passion, you can embark on a fulfilling career as a photo editor, turning ordinary images into extraordinary works of art that captivate audiences and tell powerful visual stories.

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How to Become a Freelance Photo Editor

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