How To Become A Professional Photo Editor

While I primarily coach photographers, recently I started getting requests to talk about how to become a professional photo editor. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the other creative businesses that support and surround photography, but photo editing is one I have experience with and wish more people knew about!

How to become a professional photo editor | Tografy

What is a Professional Photo Editor?

Professional photo editors support photographers by doing nothing but editing and culling their images. They are crucial to photographers’ growth because they free the photographer up to shoot more weddings or have more free time.

We love you! Photo editors are the true MVPs.

And there is a lot of money to be made! Most photo editors can make anywhere from $45,000 – $75,000+ a year. All without having to touch a camera!

So, whether you’re looking for a great remote side hustle or if you’re a Lightroom wizard who wants to start their own full-time venture keep reading. 

I’ll break down the nine steps to quickly become a professional photo editor!

Discover Your Ideal Client

One of the first things you should do to become a professional photo editor is to determine who your ideal client is. Will you focus on working with wedding photographers or newborn photographers? Boudoir photography or family photography? Do you love creating moody-style edits or bright and light?

If you’re already a photographer, it may be advantageous for you to start offering photo editing services to other photographers in your niche. Not only will you already have a portfolio of work to show potential clients, but you understand the nuances of that niche to better support those clients’ needs.

If you’re not a photographer, you may not want to box yourself into one photography niche just yet. That’s ok! Put feelers out to a variety of photographers you know and experiment with many niches. You’ll learn pretty quickly what type of photos you love to edit and which ones you don’t.

Determine Your Services & Pricing

Once you know your ideal client, it’s time to decide on your services and pricing. There are so many ways you can offer your photo editing services. You may charge per image or by the hour. As a new photo editor, I recommend setting pricing for the three most common ways photo editors charge clients and testing which ones clients choose most often.

The 3 most common pricing structures for photo editors are: 

  • Photo editing rates by image
  • Hourly photo editing rates
  • Photo editing rates by project

The important part is to charge a fair rate for yourself. It may be tempting to offer low rates when you’re just starting out, but don’t! If you want to make this a profitable side hustle or full-time business, you have to be able to make it worth it to you. 

Most photographers have been editing their own galleries for years and understand the effort it takes. They will work with you on the price and tell you what they can and cannot afford. 

Use a Photo Editor Contract

Contracts can be intimidating. They’re long and filled with legal jargon. Plus, it can be expensive to hire an attorney to draft them. But contracts are there for a reason. They help ensure you get paid, which is important whether you’re doing it as a side hustle or as a full-time business.

A great photo editor contract will include the expectations of both you and your client. Items to include are things like your scope of work, fees, expected turnaround time, retouching fees, and image ownership rights. 

After getting so many inquiries for photo editing products, I just launched my first one this year. You can grab my attorney-drafted Photo Editor Contract template from the shop. Simply download the template and plug in your details. You can be up and signing clients within the same day!

Setup Your Systems

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m a huge believer in having systems. So many creative entrepreneurs start out doing everything on the fly. Communicating with clients, sending invoices, sending galleries. It adds up!

Doing everything manually gets hard to keep up with really quickly. Systems allow you to work more efficiently and save time. As a photo editor, you want to free up as much time as possible to edit photos. (Because that’s how you get paid!) 

A few systems you can implement right away: 

  • Having a great CRM to send contracts and invoices
  • Using a project management software, like Asana, to keep track of your projects
  • Taking advantage of email templates for your customer journey

Create Your Website

Now, this tip is a bit controversial. On one hand, you do not need a website to start finding clients. On the other hand, having a website makes you look more “official” as a company. When potential clients see you as a “real business” versus a freelancer or a side hustler, they’re more likely to pay you more and respect your time.

You don’t have to go crazy and get a custom website when you first start out. There are tons of templates that you can find that are great starter sites. Once you’re ready to become a full-time photo editor, then consider getting a custom website and professional copywriting. 

Custom websites are an investment. I recommend waiting on custom websites until you’re ready for more polished, mature branding and a strategy to help you get found by clients from Google.

Start Building Your Portfolio

As a photo editor, you’re going to need a portfolio of your edited photos to show your style and experience. If you’re a photographer transitioning into photo editing, you probably already have a great portfolio of your work. But if you’re new, there are several ways you can quickly build a wow-worthy portfolio.

I recommend reaching out to photographer friends or local photographers in your ideal client niche to start. You can ask if they will allow you to use some of their raw images (with photo credit, of course!) to practice. In exchange, they can keep your photos and allow you to put them on your portfolio.

Just remember to curate your portfolio to your ideal client. Meaning, if you want to work with wedding photographers then fill your portfolio with wedding photos. This helps people visualize what it would look like if you edit their photos.

Find Your First Photo Editing Clients

Once you have a sample of work, go out and find your first photo editing clients! A lot of new editors turn to sites like Fiverr or Upwork, but I do not recommend those for editors. Websites like those do have some great clients on them, but many projects pay too little to be worth your time. I recommend looking for local photographers you can help or turning to Facebook.

To find local photographers who may be interested in your services, simply open Instagram. Start a search for photographers in your area and your ideal niche. Find a few you love and start following their work. When you’re ready, send them a DM and let them know you are just starting out and would love to know if they’re interested in hiring a photo editor. You may hear a lot of “no, thank you” responses, but I’ve seen a lot of people find great clients this way!

You can also take to social media to find non-local clients. Facebook has tons of groups for photographers and other creatives interested in extra support. (A TON!) Join a few and make a post introducing yourself. If the group guidelines allow, let people know you’re new and ask if anyone is looking to hire a photo editor. Trust me, there are a lot that are!

Collect Testimonials

As soon as you start getting clients, start collecting testimonials! Word of mouth is so important in the creative sphere. It shows the quality of your work and builds trust.

You don’t need to get super formal for this. At the end of a project, send your client an email asking them to leave a review for you on Google and Facebook. Make it easy for them by including the link for both! You can put testimonials on your website and use them on social media to show other photographers how much people love your services.

Becoming a Professional Photo Editor is so Rewarding

I think photo editors are an overlooked creative career. Most people don’t even know photo editing is something people would pay for. But as a former photographer, let me tell you…they will! 

It’s a great career for stay-at-home moms and dads, travel lovers, and those who love photography but hate being on their feet all day. For photographers, photo editing services are a great way to supplement your income during slow seasons or when you’re just building your photography business.

While I work primarily with photographers, a lot of the tips I provide are applicable to photo editors too. Feel free to join my email list and get twice-weekly doses of coaching and actionable advice.

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I’m Kara

I HELP photographers BUILD BUSINESSES THEY LOVE

Through my best-selling courses, thriving 1:1 tailored coaching experience, professional done-for-you business services, and powerful business templates, I inspire and empower photographers to take control of their businesses and realize that “Wow, I can do this!”

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Kara Hubbard, Business Coach for Photographers, Photographer Educator, Owner of Tografy, Ozo Coffee Branding

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MEET KARA

Kara Hubbard, Business Coach for Photographers, Photographer Educator, Owner of Tografy, Whole Foods Branding

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I’m Kara Hubbard

LET’S GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER

Through my best-selling courses, thriving 1:1 tailored coaching experience, professional done-for-you business services, and powerful business templates, I inspire and empower photographers to take control of their businesses and realize that “Wow, I can do this!”
 
I do this by teaching photographers how to run their businesses and not how I successfully ran my own. I firmly believe that with proper business education and tailored resources anyone can build a life and business they love through the incredible art of photography.

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How to become a professional photo editor | Tografy

How To Become A Professional Photo Editor

We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the other creative businesses that support and surround photography, but photo editing is one I have experience with and wish more people knew about! Learn what a photo editor does and the 9 steps to quickly start your photo editing business.

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Kara Hubbard, Business Coach for Photographers, Photographer Educator, Owner of Tografy, Ozo Coffee Branding

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