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Job Photographs

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a computer.  He is using the internet to search for photos.

    Using the internet to search for photos.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a computer.  There is a colourful image on the screen.

    Choosing relevant pictures.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a computer.  He is inserting a CD into the side of the computer monitor.

    Creating a CD of final images.

  • A man is standing next to a filing cabinet.  The top drawer is open and he has taken a filed transparency out of it.

    Looking for a filed transparency.

  • A man is bending down and holding a sheet of paper over a lightbox.  The paper has four images on it.

    Examining transparencies using a lightbox.

  • A man is sitting at a table looking at a paper document.  There are also some pictures on the desk and a CD.

    Preparing a form relating to picture usage and copyright.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a telephone and a computer.

    Clarifying picture requirements with an editor.

  • A man is sitting at a desk, using a computer.  On the screen there are many small images and some text.

    Reading through text that needs illustrating with a picture.

  • Picture Researcher

Picture Researcher


Picture researchers find and select photos and illustrations to use on websites, in books, magazines and newspapers.

Also known as

  • Illustration Researcher

Work Activities

As a Picture Researcher, you will choose relevant illustrations or pictures to use on websites, in books, magazines and advertising.

The process begins when the Editor or Author of a publication asks you to find a suitable picture. To help with this, you may be given a copy of the manuscript to be illustrated and a brief description of how the pages are to be put together and designed.

When you have found a suitable illustration, you will send it to the Editor or Author of the manuscript. You also supply captions (words) for the pictures as well as a list of picture sources to be included in the book. The final selection of illustrations is made by you, Editors, Authors and Designers working together.

You must consider the cost of using a picture and whether this price is within your budget. Costs include retention fees (payable if a picture is kept beyond the free loan period) and copyright fees.

You must keep detailed records of requests for pictures, including the title, Author and date of the publication in which the illustration is featured. You also need to know who the publication is aimed at and how many copies will be printed.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Picture Researcher, you need:

  • IT skills
  • imagination and visual awareness
  • to work accurately and methodically
  • good organisation and communication skills
  • a confident and pleasant telephone manner
  • good negotiation skills and persistence in order to secure the best pictures
  • an enquiring mind and good research skills

Some knowledge of a foreign language may be an advantage when obtaining materials from abroad.

Pay and Opportunities


The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £18,500 - £23,000
  • With experience: £25,000 - £33,000
  • Senior Picture Researchers earn £33,000 - £40,000

Hours of work

Picture Researchers usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, late finishes and weekend work may be required, especially as deadlines approach.

Where could I work?

Employers include publishers, broadcast media - including film and television, advertising agencies and firms involved in new media - CDs and the internet.

Opportunities for Picture Researchers occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.


Opportunities occur for Picture Researchers to work on a self-employed, freelance basis.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Find a Job, and at Jobcentre Plus.

It's a good idea to build up a network of relevant contacts, as not all Picture Researcher jobs are advertised. Making speculative job applications to potential employers can be useful.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Many Picture Researchers start their careers in a related area of work such as:

  • publishing
  • photography
  • design
  • museums
  • art galleries
  • picture libraries

The majority of these jobs are graduate entry.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

The Picture Research Association (PRA) can provide a list of courses you can take in picture research. These are mainly one-day courses or distance learning.


If you would like some training, the Picture Research Association offer a one day picture researching course. By the end of the course, you would have learnt about:

  • content
  • importance of the visual image
  • authenticity and picture sources
  • captions
  • terms and conditions
  • reproduction fees for picture use
  • new digital technology and its implication
  • use of CD-ROM and photo CDs
  • administration, recordkeeping and copyright law

Check the website for dates and availability.

Other courses could be available in your area.

Work Experience

Skills gained, for example, in graphic design, information technology systems, publishing, museum and art gallery work, work in picture libraries, or photography are useful for this career.


Progression is often to senior positions in an organisation. Some Picture Researchers become freelancers.


It is usual for those wishing to follow a career in Picture Research to first complete a degree course.

For entry to a degree course in any subject, the usual minimum requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 2/3 other subjects

Alternatives to A levels include:

  • a BTEC level 3 qualification
  • an Advanced Level Apprenticeship
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.


Skills gained, for example, in graphic design, information technology systems, publishing, museum and art gallery work, work in picture libraries, or photography are useful.


If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Art and Design) could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.

They can lead to relevant degree/HND courses.

Distance learning

The Publishing Training Centre at Book House has launched a new distance learning course in Picture Research, and also offers one-day courses.


  • 5% of those in occupations such as picture researcher are self-employed.
  • 26% work part-time.
  • 32% have flexible hours.
  • 36% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400



Publishing Training Centre (PTC)



Professional Publishers Association (PPA)



London School of Publishing (LSP)



Women In Publishing (WiP)


Publishers Association (PA)



The Bookseller



Publishing Scotland

Scottish enquiries



Society of Young Publishers (SYP)





Inside Book Publishing

Author: Giles Clark Publisher: Routledge

Independent Media


Picture Research Association (PRA)

Address: 10 Marrick House, Mortimer Crescent, London NW6 5NY

Tel: 07825 7888343



Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844


Welsh Books Council (Welsh Enquiries)

Address: Castell Brychan, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2JB

Tel: 01970 624151



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