Introduction to Commercial Photography

An Introduction to Commercial Photography and Could Commercial Photography Be the Right Career for You?

Introduction to Commercial Photography - SHOOTFACTORY

Defining Commercial Photography and Recognising Its Uses

Pursuing commercial photography generally means you’ll be taking photos for commercial use. When we say commercial use, we mean that these photos will be used by businesses, used for selling products and traded for money. You have probably seen commercial photography before in advertisements, brochures or sales pitches. You can also find it in business cards, press photos (Typically photos you’d see in press releases) and corporate brochures; You can also see commercial photos in materials like advertorials, menus and leaflets. Overall, there are tons of ways commercial photography can be utilised and we’ll discuss each of these thoroughly.

Using Commercial Photography to Sell Products

A stunning photo of any product will allow it to sell much more quickly, as it will allow consumers to see the full functionality of a product and may cause them to buy it. Typically, clients would have the choice of “sharp” images that can be printed on adverts or brochures or they may need design-focused photos that will showcase the design and features of a product; For example, clients may want to show a high-quality watch’s sapphire glass or stainless steel frame in a design-focused photo. Clients could also want pictures that show the product “in action”; An example of a commercial photo showcasing a product in action is someone playing football with a nice pair of shoes made by a popular sports company.

Promoting a Business With Commercial Photography

Another frequent use of commercial photography is in the corporate world, as commercial photos can make a firm, investments or any business in general develop its brand more. You’ll typically find commercial photos used constantly in business, whether they be on small flyers or giant billboards; To put it simply, some great commercial photos and/or media will greatly help in the promotion of any business. In some cases, clients may even want commercial photos of themselves and/or possibly their co-workers, as those photos could be used to promote individual skills. Commercial portraits of businessmen and lawyers are also incredibly common, as it lets them showcase their personality and/or professionalism easily; Businesses may also have commercial photographers take photos of their employees working to promote their staff’s expertise and/or care.

Using Commercial Photography in a Restaurant to Showcase Delicious Food

If you’ve ever dined out to any restaurant, you’ve likely seen commercial photographs of food in their menus. Typically restaurants will order commercial photographs to showcase certain dishes of food to motivate a consumer’s appetite and/or inspire them into booking a table. The commercial photography of food is also a bit different than that used in other methods, as many restaurants will hire “food stylists” along with a commercial photographer to be sure the food looks amazing in its photos; However, restaurants are careful to make sure they capture a true representation of this dish, as they want to make sure they don’t oversell the dish by creating something completely different for their photographs.

Commercial Photography in Fashion

Commercial photographs are also an incredibly popular way to promote fashion items like clothing and accessories. Fashion designers will typically want their designs shown as advertorials in magazines and/or as a product in catalogues. Clothes and fashion in general also play a role in a lot of commercial photography, as promotional images of individuals will typically use clothing as “working props” and add dynamism to the photo. You’ll also see portrait photography blend into commercial photography in some cases; For example, photographers of events like weddings will typically find themselves taking both a portrait of the bride and/or groom as well as highlighting their clothes and accessories in the photo,

Becoming a Commercial Photographer

If you’re looking into photography as a career, chances are you will be working as some sort of commercial photographer. The market for commercial photography is also growing quickly, as businesses want professional-quality images for their:

  • Profile pictures and promotional images on social media
  • Websites, as businesses may want backgrounds or other images showcasing their business
  • Advertorials in magazines or on billboards
  • Commercials on television
  • Staff and their business in general to showcase their brand, skills and personality

You may think that there’s a lot of competition in the commercial photography market as well, thinking that anyone with a digital camera and computer can compete in this market, but that’s only partially true, as it does take a lot of skill and focus to take and edit a professional quality image. So it may be easy to get the items necessary for commercial photography, but it is actually quite hard to capture products, businesses and professional individuals in a “commercial” or promotional fashion without a certain degree of skill. However, we’re here to share tips and tricks that can help you start a career in commercial photography and/or find out if it’s right for you.

The First Step in Becoming a Commercial Photographer, Finding Your Speciality/Niche

As we’ve stated before, there is quite a bit of subjects you can cover in commercial photography, even some that we haven’t covered, and it’s important to find a subject you enjoy and/or have skill shooting. This is because the different types of commercial photography are all heavily specialised based on the subject they’re capturing; For instance, a photographer who captures pictures of delicious food typically won’t be able to use the same techniques to capture portrait images of a company’s staff. This is because, again, they have specialised in a specific field of commercial photography; This shows why it’s essential to find the subject that you want to capture. Maybe you want to explore the world and take pictures of places and landmarks. On the other hand, perhaps you’d rather have models wearing high-quality clothing coming to your photography studio to get photo-shoots for an advertorial in a catalogue; It’s all up to you and you should find your niche before you start working with commercial photography.

One quick way to find the niche/subject that you want is to think about the photos you’ve enjoyed taking and which photos have achieved your best results; You can also think about your specific hobbies and interests in an attempt to find your niche. Recognising what photos you personally enjoy looking at and/or are interested in can also greatly assist you in finding the subject you want to capture, as you may be able to apply that interest by creating your own photos of subjects you love.

Commercial Photography Isn’t Always for Big Corporate Projects

Maybe you don’t want to capture photographs for huge companies or you feel you don’t have the skill to use your photos on a large and/or commercial level. Well don’t worry, as both local businesses and large multi-national companies have a need for commercial photography, and these needs can be big or small. If you just want to try commercial photography out or possibly feel out the market for it, try visiting or contacting businesses in your area to see if they have any need for photography in small adverts and/or for their social media accounts. If you feel stuck, here’s a little tip, restaurants will almost always need photographs for new dishes, so they’ll almost always have a high demand for commercial photos as they will want to showcase certain dishes on a menu and announce them on social media; Another business that will typically be in high demand for commercial photographs are law offices and investment firms, as they’ll usually want high-quality portraits of every professional working on their staff. These are just some examples though, as tons of businesses and individuals are always looking for commercial photography, and that brings us into our next point, which is building your network.

Building and Maintaining a Commercial Photography Network

When you’re first starting out with commercial photography, it may be hard to find clients and you’ll likely feel stuck, this is where building a professional network comes in. If you have a friend who already does commercial photography, that would be a good immediate start as they may have a studio and/or equipment you can rent or find extra work that doesn’t fit into their schedule; They could also, in some cases, suggest you to existing clients so you can start taking commercial photos immediately.

It’s also important to build relationships with other professionals in tons of different industries. For example, if you’re doing a fashion shoot for a new line of clothing, it’d be extremely helpful to know a make-up artist or stylist that could help craft a model’s look to help you meet your client’s needs. You might have a friend that is a stylist, or perhaps you have a trusted stylist that you go to for your fashion needs, either one is a great, professional option for building your network in that field and they may end up giving you some work if they want to promote their own products.

Having healthy connections to previous coworkers or bosses in other industries can also be helpful, as they may have commercial photography needs that you can satisfy or they could offer unique skills to help with your photo-shoots that you can’t find elsewhere. Meeting people in different towns or areas of your own town can also greatly help you when building your network, as you never know when you’ll find a perfect location for a photo-shoot that you might want to use or when someone can be a potential client.

Building and maintaining an active and healthy network as a commercial photographer is essential, as it can both help you find work and find professional colleagues whose work you can trust; Without a network, you may find yourself working with strangers who may not fit you or your client’s needs. So, overall, make sure you have professional colleagues who you know so you can guarantee that you’ll be able to do a great job, as well as find great clients and jobs yourself!

Building a Commercial Photography Portfolio

If you want to find clients, you’ll need to make a portfolio that highlights your skills as a commercial photographer and the specific fields you may have expertise in. You will likely want to build your portfolio around the specific niche you’re interested in, and you may already have photographs in mind that you can use in these situations. If you’ve ever done any previous commercial work, even on a small scale, be sure to include that to build your credibility as a professional. It’s also a great idea to make sure that your portfolio is available somewhere online, whether it be on your website, a blog or on a freelancing board. It’s also essential to know that you should craft your portfolio around the clients you want to work for, as different clients will want specific shots related to the field they’re working in; Because of this, you should save all of your work in one place, whether it be amateur or professional, as you never know when it could come in handy for crafting a new portfolio.

If you don’t have any shots or work that you feel you can use on a commercial level, here are some ideas on photos you can take to build your portfolio:

  • Take shots of tourist attractions, hotels or sunsets in your area to develop a commercial travel portfolio
  • Photos of your favourite clothing being worn by models with a showing size and details can be an excellent way to build a fashion portfolio
  • Take multiple shots of one of your favourite products close-up and by itself; Try to focus on highlighting the specific features and advantages of the product in these photos.
  • If you currently have an office job of some sort, ask your coworkers if you can take professional head-shots of them to use in a business photography portfolio
  • Take pictures of your favourite meals at your favourite restaurants if you want to build a portfolio around food; If you’re doing this, be sure to get a close-up of the food and try to include all of its tasty ingredients and aesthetic features in the shot

Finding Your First Gig

You might think finding your first gig as a commercial photographer would be hard, but that actually isn’t the case. First, try contacting or visiting local businesses and see if they have any commercial photography needs that you can meet, you’ll probably end up being surprised by how many businesses want your services; You should also reach out to friends and family, as you never know when they may need professional photos. Another great tip is that a lot of small, local bands would love to have a commercial photographer they can trust, so don’t hesitate to ask them if they’d like some photos of themselves while they’re playing for the press and/or their social media.

Google is also your best friend here, especially if you’re looking to work with fashion designers, as you can simply search for designers in your area, look for ones that could perhaps use an extra professional touch and contact them to see if they would like photos retaken or if they’re possibly looking for new photos showcasing their brand; If you do this though, make sure you’re friendly and respectful in your conversations, as you could lose potentials clients if you come off on the wrong foot. Pursuing editorial work, even if it it is for a short time, can also be a great way to link up with people in the press that are always looking for photographs for their stories. If you’re still not having any luck, try contacting local casting and/or modelling agencies and explain your situation, they’ll likely be glad to link you up with modelling and acting talents in that industry that need some portraits for their portfolio and can help you start establishing yourself; This is also a great way to start building a network of clients that may need your services.

So, you just landed your first client, you might be asking yourself “What do I do now?” or “What will they need in their shoot?” Tips to getting started in commercial photography and some questions that you should be asking your new clients:

  • Do you need a specific amount of photos?
  • Will your budget affect how much work I can do for you?
  • What’s your deadline? Is it a tight deadline?
  • What specific shots do you have in mind?
  • Do you want me to use any specific props, locations, consultants and/or clothing in the shot?

Correctly Setting Your Quotes and Budgets

Another concern you might have when a client contacts you for your services is that you might not know what you should give them as a quote or how to set your budget for the shoot; Your client may also ask for additional services or request specific items and/or a specific arrangement in the shoot that could add to the final cost. So be sure to thoroughly think about the quote you provide and tell your clients that your final rate may change if additional costs arise. Setting the right quote also requires you to make sure you’re always open to communication, as you don’t want to leave any expectations of a client unmet or their requests may be too much for you to satisfy.

When giving your client an initial quote, make sure your base rate assumes that certain items will be used in your budget; You should also show them more items that you typically don’t use that could have additional costs, these items can depend on their requests and/or needs; Be sure to think about everything you’ll need for the shoot as well. Items/services you may need for the shoot can include:

  • Permission to take photos in certain locations and the required permits if necessary
  • A studio rental if you need a studio and don’t have one
  • Renting gear to take the photos if you don’t have everything you need
  • Shoot assistants if you need them
  • Other professionals like hair and/or make-up stylists for clothing shoots
  • Props the client may request to be included in the shoot

Make Sure You Discuss the Photo’s Intended Use and Learn About Usage Rights

Your rates should change depending on how your photos will be used, as typically your photos will be used to generate more profit for businesses. To determine your rate, think about how the photos will be used specifically, as different uses could mean different needs for the photograph itself. For example, a head-shot of a client for their social media account would only need a low-resolution photo, as it will create less profit. After you understand what your client needs, be sure to check the specific rights the contract to purchase the photo will give them, as you should also adjust your rates depending on the rights they purchase.

Commercial photography could also end up being a lucrative career option for you, so be sure to build a portfolio and network if you’re interested in pursuing it. Overall though, you should do your own research, find the clients that are right for you and fully realise the niche you can fill with commercial photography.


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