Budnik studied at the Art Students League of New York in the early 1950s. After working as an assistant to Philippe Halsman, he joined Magnum Photos in 1957, eventually photographing material for Life, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue magazines. Budnik persuaded Life to have him create a long-term photo essay showing the seriousness of the Selma to Montgomery march.
Budnik has photographed Candice Bergen, Sophia Loren, Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia O'Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The American Society of Media Photographers awarded Budnik to its 1998 Honor Roll Award. Budnik has work is in the collections of the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia and the Museum of Modern Art. Budnik also exhibited his work at the Agnes gallery.
Budnik lives in Tucson, Arizona.
- The Book of Elders: The Life Stories of Great American Indians, as told to Sandy Johnson, photographed by Dan Budnik. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994. ISBN 978-0-06-250837-9