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Picture research: graduate area of work

Picture researchers find suitable pictures for use in a wide range of media products including advertisements, books, magazines, newspapers, catalogues or television programmes

Picture researchers mainly work within the film, television, video, advertising, design and publishing industries. Large companies, art galleries and museums may also offer jobs in picture research. After gaining initial on-the-job experience, many picture researchers do self-employed/freelance work, run their own businesses or work from home.

Typical responsibilities of the work include:

  • negotiating terms and conditions of contracts
  • establishing time-scales and budgets
  • determining project requirements
  • liaising closely with clients
  • undertaking relevant research
  • sourcing appropriate pictures and images for assigned projects
  • exploring all picture sources including the internet
  • deciding when to use existing images or to commission a photographer
  • negotiating fair prices for pictures
  • handling images with care and protecting them from loss or damage
  • building computer archives of images
  • keeping accurate records of pictures
  • obtaining correct caption and credit information
  • using specialist software for editing and manipulating images
  • working with other professionals including writers, reporters, graphic designers and editors
  • keeping up to date with rules and regulations governing the use of images.

What's required

There are no formal academic requirements for entry into the profession, although visual arts qualifications (fine art, photography, publishing, illustration or graphic design) may be helpful. Aptitude, relevant experience and artistic abilities are generally regarded as being equally important. It is essential to have excellent picture knowledge and photographic experience.

Candidates should be able to work under their own initiative, and should have good language, teamworking, organisational, negotiation, problem solving, communication, presentation and IT skills (including knowledge of digital imaging and associated software packages). Relevant work experience is normally essential - this can be gained via speculative approaches to appropriate employers.

Where to find out more

Vacancies attract intense competition as there are few permanent paid positions. Advertisements appear in national newspapers and publications including Design Week, Campaign Magazine, Creative Review and The Bookseller. Directories such as The Writer's and Artist's Yearbook can provide useful contact information for speculative applications.