Ask the Pros: As an aspiring photo editor, what can I do to make myself a good job candidate?

Ask the Pros: As an aspiring photo editor, what can I do to make myself a good job candidate?
To help prepare you for the real world, our Ask the Pros series is here to help answer some of your most common questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication and media art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work.

And if you're a working professional yourself, we'd love to hear your opinion too ... don't hesitate to add it in our comments or email us to be on one of our panels.

Today, our current panel of photo editor pros give you some insight into how to get that job or internship .... even if you're not interested in being a photo editor, their awesome advice should be heeded!

I just discovered the photo editor job as an option for my career, and it sounds cool! As a college student with no real-world experience, what can I do to help make myself a good internship or entry-level job candidate?

PRO: Michael Norseng - Director of Photography, Esquire
First, have something on your resume that displays your passion for photography as it relates to publishing. Whether that is an internship at a magazine, a staff position at a campus newspaper, or the photo editor of a website.
    Two, realize and accept that starting out you aren't going to know a lot of answers and thus are going to have to work hard and possibly a lot of hours to educate yourself of photographers.
    Last, walking in the door, it is good to have some base familiarity with photo archives and agencies. Research is a key component to any starting photo department job. This page from aphotoeditor is a good starting resource.  

PRO: Yvonne Stender - Photo Director, Sunset Magazine
Internships are a great way to break into this business. But don't just look for editorial work ... interning with photographers, stock photo agencies, photo reps, modeling agencies are all relevant to the position.
    A background in the history of photography along with a strong interest in your local fine art scene is helpful as well. The more well-rounded you are, the more job opportunities there are for you.
    Don't discount past clerical or administrative work either. This, in fact, makes you an even stronger candidate if your organizational skills are good. Often, these tasks are a large part of your job starting out.

PRO: Michele Ervin - Senior Associate Photo Editor, Popular Mechanics
Get an internship. Find time while you are in college or right after to dedicate 3 days a week to working as an intern. While applying to internships, keep in mind that you need to be available to work enough hours in the week to make it worth their time and for you to learn what you should from the internship. Use your summers for internships if your class schedule doesn't allow you to devote enough time during the semester.

PRO: Stephanie Kim - Photo Director, Woman's Day
Internships are ideal, but can be very difficult to obtain. Having work experience of any kind, even if it's as a waitress or in retail, shows you work hard and are responsible. Starting a site/blog of your favorite art projects from school and/or photographic images that inspire you would make you stand out. Most importantly, have and show enthusiasm!

PRO: John Toolan - Photo Director, Field & Stream and Outdoor Life
The best candidate is someone who's well-rounded and shows clear interest in both photography and magazines. It also helps a lot to have a deep knowledge or passion for the subject matter that a magazine covers. If someone applies for an internship at Field & Stream and they happen to love fishing, I'm going to lean toward that candidate. If you know a lot about pop culture, you're a good candidate for Entertainment Weekly.
    If you've worked at a school newspaper or magazine, that helps a ton. It shows you're serious about this.
    Most importantly, if you score an interview at a magazine, make sure you've read recent issues of it, just so you look informed. There's no bigger turn-off than someone who just wants a job and doesn't care where it comes from.

PRO: Whitney Tressel - Associate Photo Editor, Budget Travel
Interning in the industry, during college or shortly after graduating, is invaluable. You learn so much day-to-day that you could never experience in a classroom, diploma or not. Also, the people you will meet will put you at an advantage from your peers and will be helpful throughout your whole career. 
    Once hired: Be above nothing. It's very important at an entry-level position to show your unmatchable work ethic. Because the position, by nature, is not a decision-making or highly creative one, it's best to perfect your strengths of anticipating needs, working hard, and being enthusiastically game for anything that comes your way. Arrive before your boss, and always leave after them. 

PRO: Leslie dela Vega - Director of Photography, Fast Company
Do as much research as possible on different photographers that are out there. Start with buying a bunch of mags you're interested in, with the kind of photography you'd like to get more into. Go to their sites, dissect images, study them. Ask yourself, why do you like them? What don't you....etc. Be knowledgeable of different kinds of photographers: studio, environmental portraiture, still lifes, travel, reportage, etc. Go to gallery openings, exhibits. Fill you head with photo knowledge!

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.
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