What is Editorial Photography

What is Editorial Photography? | Everything You Need To Know

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Editorial photography, sometimes called reportage or documentary photography, is what you might see in magazines. In this article I will answer what is editorial photography and we will also cover the tools required to get you started.

Editorial photography aims to inform or entertain by telling a story through photographs. The images are supposed to be realistic and not staged unless necessary.

The editorial photographer selects his material and determines how his pictures are presented. If he is working for a newspaper, magazine, or book publisher, the photographer’s choices will be limited by what his client wants, but he must still consider context and balance when making those choices.

Editorial photography is distinguished from news photography in that the latter refers to images published in newspapers and magazines and on the web.

In contrast, editorial photography generally occurs within a publication or specific context.

Editorial photographers sometimes work in industrial settings, photographing subjects that are newsworthy from an industrial perspective.

These images can be used to educate readers about various industrial processes and equipment and be possible candidates for industrial advertising purposes.

Difference between Commercial and Editorial Photography

Commercial photography is used within the context of marketing an idea or product to consumers. Editorial photography, on the other hand, exists for entertainment or journalistic purposes.

While commercial photographers follow specific guidelines set by their clientele, editorial photographers are afforded more creative freedom.

Commercial photography’s job is to communicate information about a product or service and convince the viewer to purchase it.

On the other hand, editorial photography exists for entertainment and/or journalism and should not be directly linked to selling anything.

How Can You Get Into Editorial Photography

To be an editorial photographer, you have to churn out good quality photos with proper lighting and exposure. Post-processing helps quite a bit if your photography skills are at an advanced level.

The most important thing in editorial photography is that your photographs should be able to tell a story. Here are the top 10 tips that you can follow to create great editorial photographs.

1. Create A Top Quality Portfolio

Your portfolio should have pictures that channel your inner creativity. The main purpose of editorial photography is to illustrate a story or tell a visual story. So, learn more about narrative photography and build a great portfolio on social media platforms.

2. Select A Genre Or Mix It Up

Editorial photography lets you click pictures of people, important events, various topics, and themes. You can click a picture to portray different viewpoints. Delve into the topic, learn more about it. For instance, if you are clicking a picture on any news topic, collect information on it from a variety of sources.

3. Know Your Subject

If you click people’s photographs, communicate with them to make them more comfortable.
You can get to know your subjects by interviewing them. This will help you weave a story through your photographs. If you aim to create meaningful portraits, a little communication goes a long way.

4. Identify Your Audience

Ask yourself the following questions

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is the story you are trying to tell and how it will impact your target audience?
  • Why is it important for your target audience?
  • What are the tools you need for capturing the story?

What equipment is needed for Editorial Photography?

Some of the most memorable images captured over the last century, and some of the best editorial shots put together today, were photographed with very basic equipment.

But while we can’t deny the fact that a great photographer is capable of capturing compelling and engaging pictures even with an entry-level camera, there’s no denying how much more convenient and comfortable it is to work with the right tools for the job.

Editorial photography is all about trying to capture a realistic sense of what’s going on in front of you.

So while being able to shoot with long lenses from far away might be considered glamorous and exciting, it isn’t exactly practical when you’re working under pressure or time constraints.

The same can be said when you introduce lighting equipment to your photoshoots.

It might not take much more than a standard office building’s supply of halogen lights at your disposal, but when it comes down to working quickly in trying environments, the last thing you need is having to set up cumbersome strobe systems.

Working under pressure and time constraints is all too common when it comes to editorial assignments, and this is why you need a camera body that doesn’t weigh more than a few pounds.

The same goes for lenses: the simpler and lighter they are, the less likely you’ll get tired carrying them around all day.

How to prepare for an Editorial Photography shoot?

The Editorial Industry is the world of magazines and newspapers. In this industry, photos play a significant role in the design and beauty aspects.

The photos need to be aesthetically pleasing and tailored for specific newsworthy events that happen in the world today.

Sometimes they are related to current events/celebrities, and sometimes they are related to fashion/beauty.

Editorial Photography is a very challenging part of the industry because pictures need to be taken that will interest a wide range of viewers, and it needs to have an emotional pull to it.

This requires a lot of planning and strategizing.


The first step to preparing for a shoot is pre-production, which consists of scouting locations and models and doing the proper research on the subject of the shoot.

Researching helps you come up with ideas that will set your photo apart from other photographers.

When you have done your research, understand the ins and outs of what you are photographing.

All these steps will help make the photo much more organized so that it is not just a bunch of random people or objects in one picture.

Location Scouting:

The location scouting step is crucial to scout out locations that will accentuate your models, and it will also help you with the details of your photo.

For example, if there is a shoot about makeup products, the location should help bring out the products (i.e., If you are shooting at a hospital, maybe have a model holding an operating needle as part of their pose).

It’s best to scout locations a day before the shoot because you will get new ideas and plan out the shoot in advance.

Locations types for Editorial Photography

Natural Habitat

This is places where your models would normally be found in their normal lives, such as an office space or a bar.

Fantasy Locations

This is a location that does not exist in real life, such as being underwater or on top of a skyscraper.

To choose the best locations for your shoots, you should look at these three things:

Model’s Environment

Will the environment be interesting and make for a good photo? The location should be something that the model is comfortable with.

For example, if you are photographing a business woman, her natural habitat would probably not be underwater (unless that’s what she does to relax).


What theme will your photo have? Is it about nature or technology? You should choose locations based on your themes.

For example, makeup shoots tend to take place in fantasy locations because they are usually fantasy-themed.

Time of Day

The best time to photograph at a location is usually when the sun is setting or rising because it naturally gives off amazing lighting for photos.

Types of Photos in Editorial Photography

Once you have decided on your themes and locations, consider what types of photos you would like to take. Locations will determine that.

For example, if you are doing a shoot about mountain climbing, it would be best to have the model ascending the side of a mountain.

There are three main types of photos:

Action Shots

These are photos where your models are engaged in some form of activity (i.e., Mountain Climbing, Swimming, Driving, etc.)


These are photos where the model is surrounded by their environment and usually has a neutral expression on their face.


These photos focus more on the person than other objects in the image (i.e., the model against a white background with minimal props/clothing).

Posing for Editorial Photography

Once you have chosen your locations and models, it is time to figure out the best poses. There are a few things to keep in mind when coming up with creative poses.

Pose Importance

The model should only be doing one action at a time so that their pose does not look awkward or Photoshopped. For example, if you have a model shooting a bow and arrow, the model should only be doing that action.

This is because it will look fake if two actions are going on at once (i.e., if the model was walking while they were shooting their bow and arrow).


The props you include in your photo should complement the shoot and not so distracting that they take away from your model.

For example, if you are shooting a photo about snowboarding, it would be best to use minimal props (maybe just snowboard equipment) or use more props such as skis or winter clothing.


Make sure that your model is showing the right expressions to fit into their environment (i.e., if you shoot a photo about surfing, then show an excited expression on your face).

Importance of Lighting for Editorial Photography

Some of the best photos are lit up in such a way that they make for good editorial photography.

There are three main types of lighting:

Natural Lighting

This type of lighting is when the natural sun light hits your model’s face and makes for a well-lit photo.


This happens when you are photographing someone against the sun so that their body appears to be in front of the sun (i.e.- If it is dark out, then take your model and face them away from the sun and take a picture).

Harsh Lighting:

This type of lighting creates shadows on your model’s face (i.e., if it is sunny out, you can take your model and put it directly in front of the sun).

What are Mood boards in Editorial Photography?

Mood boards for shoots are standard nowadays but still have to be realistic. So what does this mean for you? First, it means that if you are asked to take photos for an editorial assignment, it is essential to know what your client wants so you can get the picture.

Typically, the storyboard should include what the specific subject of the photoshoot will be about. For example, if a magazine features what it looks like to be a farmer, the mood board should include what the magazine wants depicted in the images.

This can mean what you see while on a farm and what is necessary for an editorial shoot:

  • What types of scenes will be shown (i.e. working with animals on a farm)
  • What type of clothing the subjects should wear (i.e. jeans, boots, plaid shirts)
  • What type of poses to have the subject(s) in.

In this situation, you might be keeping the animals calm while also being able to get a good image of what is going on.

For example, if there are children working with cows and sheep, what do they look like in their environment? What are they feeling in the moment?

Once the requirements for what you should be photographing have been given, your client will also give you what type of background or setting is necessary.

This may include what types of colors to use and what sizes things should appear.

For example, if a magazine wants a photograph featuring what it is like to work on a farm, what is in the background can be what you would see when walking onto one.

This could include tractors and other farm equipment, plants surrounding the area, etc.

If your client also specifies what type of lens they want for an editorial shoot, they may describe what type of reality the images should depict.

For example, what is it like to walk into a farm? You might be describing what you see naturally versus what they want you to get in the picture. 

This could include what type of angle they want, what type of approach is suitable for this specific shoot and what type of perspective will give them an idea on what it would be like to walk onto a farm.

The Editorial Photography editing process


After taking all of your photos (and you should take a lot because not using enough images can make for an incredibly dull photo essay), you need to decide which ones are the best. You could either include all of your photos or edit them in Photoshop/Lightroom to fit into one theme.

Editing Tools

There are several tools that you can use once you have taken your photos. This often includes Adobe Photoshop, among other tools like Lightroom, Affinity, InDesign etc.


This basic method is used to cut off some of the sides of your photo to include only what you want in the picture. While simple, it can be a crucial tool in your inventory when doing image editing for editorial photography.

Color ​Correction

This tool allows you to change the color/lighting of your photos. If you are going to be submitting images for print then it is vital to get the correct color profile for the images.


This tool makes objects in your photo clearer and crisper. Software such as Adobe Photoshop comes with multiple options such as shake reduction, edge sharpening, smart sharpening etc.

Removing Distractions

There are usually always unnecessary objects in your photos, so tools such as content aware cropping to remove parts of an image that you don’t want to include.

Adding Graphics

You could add a graphic overlay on top of your photo to accent it or put a frame around the edge if it fits with what you are trying to do.

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