Ester Bubley became interested in photography early on and studied at the Minneapolis School of Design for photography. She moved to Washington, D.C. in 1940 to pursue her career as a photographer. However, she ended up going on to New York, getting a temporary position at Vogue thanks to Edward Steichen. She went back to Washington in 1941 and worked as a microfilmer in the National Archives. Soon though, she was hired by Roy Stryker as a lab tech for the FSA darkroom. She took photographs on the side and eventually got assignments for the FSA. By 1950, she was on staff at the Pittsburgh Photographic Library. Eventually she went to work at Life magazine and worked there until it went out of publication. Then she went to freelancing.