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

Many picture researchers work as freelancers.

What does a picture researcher do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Typical responsibilities of the job 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 online image banks and stock photo libraries
  • 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.

The role of picture editor (sometimes known as a photo editor) is slightly different from that of picture researcher. Picture editors usually work for newspapers or magazines. While part of their job involves choosing, editing and positioning photos to determine the look of the publication, they are also the main point of contact for press photographers. This includes agreeing the photographic requirements of a story, allocating assignments, negotiating fees and rights to photos, booking travel and obtaining permission to shoot in a particular location.

Typical employers of picture researchers

  • Publishing houses
  • Film companies
  • Television studios
  • Advertising companies
  • Design companies

Large companies, art galleries and museums also employ picture researchers. Many are self-employed/freelance and run their own business or work from home.

Vacancies attract intense competition but there are opportunities for permanent paid positions. Advertisements appear on the websites of publications such as Design Week, Campaign, Creative Review and The Bookseller. Directories such as The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and Le Book can provide useful contact information for speculative applications.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into this career for both university graduates and school leavers.

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. Relevant work experience is normally essential – this can be gained via speculative approaches to appropriate employers.

For more information on how to get into a career in this area via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for picture researchers

  • Initiative
  • Strong research skills
  • Good language skills
  • Team working skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Presentation skills

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