How To Get Started in Commercial Photography

Have you heard about commercial photography and wondered what it is or how you can break into this popular genre as a commercial photographer?

Commercial photography is a genre of photography that includes carefully styled photoshoots for businesses, products, and brands, but there’s more to it than just that.

In this post, we’ll explain:

  • what is commercial photography;
  • how to get started with this style of photography;
  • some tips and tricks for taking quality commercial photos. 
Commercial photography
Commercial photography

Table of contents

What Is Commercial Photography?

Commercial photography is the creation of images to help sell a product (usually) or a service (sometimes).

Commercial photographers are employed to create compelling visual images that speak to the target audience of that product. The images produced and style of production should align very closely to both the overall branding strategy that exists for that product or service and play to the target demographic that the company is going after.

Successful commercial photographers are not only great photographers. They understand how things sell, and are able to articulate the qualities that drive people to purchase a given product or service..

Dave Geffin, Profesional Photographer

The simplest definition of commercial photography is any photography created for commercial purposes. This genre of photography can be shot in a studio or outdoors.

Specifically, commercial photography includes several niches such as fashion photography, product photography, location photography, food photography, headshots, personal brand photography, architectural and environmental photography.

Let’s take a closer look at each of those types. 

Fashion Photography

Fashion photography, as the name implies, refers to taking high-quality photos of models wearing various fashion designs. The photoshoot can take place in a studio or outdoors but it can also refer to fashion shows. 

Commercial photography
Fashion photography

In this style of photography, it’s important to understand the best poses and know how to give direction to the models to produce the best-looking shot. 

Product Photography

Product photography is all about taking photos of products. As with fashion, you can take high quality pictures outdoors or in-studio, although most commercial photographers prefer taking shots in the studio where they have more control over the backdrop and lighting conditions. 

Commercial photography
Product photography

For this type of photography, you’ll want to pay special attention to the light. You have to understand what type of settings would work best for different types of products.

Location and Environmental Photography

If you decide to be a location and environment photographer, you’ll primarily be taking photos of various locations for commercial purposes as well as people in their working environment. 

Commercial photography
Location and environmental photography

This can include office and building photos for a particular brand, or even workers in a factory. You can also go for employees in an office, as well as vacation homes, rentals, hotels, and more for tourism purposes. 

Food Photography

When specializing in food photography, you might be taking photos of food products as well as editorial photos for local restaurants. In some cases, you might even work with a food stylist to get the most appealing images. 

Commercial photography
Food photography

This is another genre of photography where having a good understanding of how lighting affects photos is crucial. 

Headshots and Personal Brand Photography

Personal brand photography and headshots are similar and usually used to promote a person’s services or products. Headshots are also used by actors and models for the purposes of putting together a portfolio. 

Commercial photography
Headshot photography

Taking headshots is a common type of commercial photography. Personal brand photography is starting to get traction as more and more small business owners and entrepreneurs want to get professional photos for their brand and business. 

Architectural Photography

Lastly, we have architectural photography that refers to taking photos of buildings and spaces for commercial purposes. 

Commercial photography
Architectural photography

Whether it’s an architect trying to build their portfolio or rental agencies wanting to get professional photos of spaces and buildings they have for sale, architectural photography means working in tight timeframes and having an excellent knowledge of lighting conditions. 

And then you can build your photography portfolio and make a photography business out of it.

How to Get Started With Commercial Photography

Commercial photography is a lucrative field and can be incredibly rewarding. Here are a few tips that will help you understand commercial work. 

Commercial photography
How to get started with commercial photography

Understand The Client Needs

First and foremost, make sure you have a good understanding of what the client wants and why they need the photos. A good place to start is to create a questionnaire that your clients have to fill out after they book a photo session. 

If you’d rather talk with them in person, be sure to take plenty of notes that you can refer to later on as you prep for the photo shoot. 

Discuss Photo Use and Usage Rights

Before signing the contract and sending off the final invoice, be sure to discuss how the photos will be used as well as usage rights. This will help you determine the right price for each session as well as what type of photos you need to provide them with. 

For example, photos that you will use nationwide or worldwide in print magazines or billboards will command a different price (and resolution!) than pictures taken with the intent of being used on social media. 

Ensure Your Quote Includes All Potential Costs

Once you know what your client wants, you need to think about any extra potential costs. Which ones? Permits, props, gear rental, hiring additional photographers, and similar. Another commercial photographer will make your work easier and the product or service better.

Keep in mind that in some cases, your client might also want to include extra photos in their session. Be sure to explain that this will incur an additional fee and line-itemize each additional cost. 

Ask For Referrals

Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful sources of income for any photographer. As you wrap up each session, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals and testimonials to help you drum up new business. 

Commercial Photography Tips

Now that we’ve covered some steps that will help you start as a commercial photographer, here are a few tips that will help you take your photos to the next level. 

Commercial photography
Commercial photography tips and tricks

Keep Your Gear In Top Shape

The most important tip we have for you is to keep your gear in top shape. Having a variety of lenses as well as lights and other photography gear will ensure you can take photos in any condition.

Keep in mind that if you aren’t ready to buy new gear, you can rent it depending on the shooting you have scheduled. 

Hone Your Skills

It’s important to keep developing and honing your photography skills. Take extra courses, watch YouTube videos, invest in photography books, and experiment in your free time. 

Check out our list of the best places to learn photography online.

Understand Camera Settings And The Lighting

If you want to become a commercial photographer, you need to have a thorough understanding of your camera settings. This will help you adjust them appropriately for different types of commercial photography as well as different photography conditions. 

No matter what type of commercial photography you’re doing, one thing is sure: the best light is dependent on the situation. In some cases, natural light will produce better results. In others, you might need a few artificial lights to make a flattering image. 

Practice Prop Styling

If your dream is to shoot product or food photography, then knowing how to properly style a photo is a must. Experiment and practice in your own free time. More, ensure the final photos are aesthetically pleasing both to your client and their clients or customers. 

Final thoughts

Commercial photography is a lucrative opportunity that encompasses several different sub-genres. With the tips shared in this article, the right equipment, and a bit of practice, you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a commercial photography pro. 

Take a look at other’s masterpieces and start practicing this field. There is nothing wrong – only skills that need to be improved.

Begin by practicing with your own products, build a photography portfolio and once you feel like you have a good grasp on the process, find clients.

Cristian Raiber

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