Ask the Pros: Is it possible to get a job as a staff photographer?

Ask the Pros: Is it possible to get a job as a staff photographer? Our Ask the Pros series is here to  answer your most pressing questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication 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. 

Today our super-awesome photo editors give you the scoop on the elusive staff photographer role ...

Is it possible to get a staff job as a photographer for a magazine?

PRO: Ryan Mesina - Associate Photo Editor, Money magazine
I wouldn't count on it. Some magazines have special contracts with established photographers, but very few have any considered as being on staff (the only one I can think of is New York). Some of the big publishing houses (Time Inc, Conde, and Hearst) do however have in-house studios with employed photographers that service multiple publications and are largely still-life based.  

PRO: Deborah Boardley - Photo Editor, Essence Magazine
I've never had "staff" shooters at any of my magazine titles, but I do know some still have them. I've always felt that I wanted a freshness in our pages that may not come from having the same persons shooting the same stories each month. But we do have photographers that shoot with us often, and we hire them on a per-project basis.

PRO: Kathryn Marx - Assistant Photo Editor, Veranda Magazine
I would suggest studying mastheads to learn which publications actually employ staff photographers and which don't. Some publications work with staff photographers, some work only with freelance photographers, and some work with both. It's worth doing research before reaching out to every photo editor or photo director inquiring about it. Taking time to learn how a specific magazine operates will pay off in the future, and could impress the person you're reaching out to about potential openings.

PRO: Scott M. Lacey - Photo Editor, Boston Magazine
The answer is yes, but it might be in a hybrid role. Take myself for instance, I am the photo editor for Boston Magazine, but I am also considered the staff photographer. I'll pick what assignments I would like to shoot, and do the production on the rest. Having someone who can do both can come in handy. For instance, last month we had to switch out an item for our gift registry at the last minute and I was able to just shoot it in our studio instead of hiring another photographer and waiting for them to get it back to me.

PRO: Rachel Barker - Associate Photo Editor, HGTV Magazine
There are still some magazines that have staff photographers, but it is rare.  Most magazines want a ton of variety issue to issue, so constantly working with different photographers is important.

PRO: Kathy Nguyen - Senior Associate Photo Editor, Fast Company Magazine
It's pretty rare, I think more common at publications that are daily, maybe weekly? But for monthly magazines, most of the time, it's freelance photographers that we work with.

PRO: Susan Hennessey - Photo Editor, Inked Magazine 
No, unfortunately not at Inked. We only hire freelancers.

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for all 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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