Commercial Photography: Types, Examples and Importance

Ivan Martinez
Corporate photographer with expertise in business headshots, events, commercial, and construction photography.

Commercial photography is an essential for every business, no matter how big or small, because it has the power to create a brand identity that will make your business more easily identifiable to potential clients. People don’t usually buy products or hire services they don’t know or that they don’t find appealing. You need a photographer who will capture the essence of your business through their camera and make your vision come to life.

Read on to learn more about this branch of photography, what makes a great commercial photographer, and why it is important for your business to have one!

What is Commercial Photography?

Commercial Photography is a wide term that refers to images used to promote or sell a product or service, or to support a business, organization or influencer. Depending on the industry they are used in, it can also be called product photography, food photography, fashion photography , architectural photography, real estate photography, event photography or lifestyle photography.

Currently, most sales and advertising are done online, therefore commercial photos are often shot with social media in mind. But they can also be used in catalogs, websites, print and digital ads, business cards, or billboards. This will depend on what the client needs.

In commercial photography photos are used for commercial purposes, which means that this is not a defined photography genre:  professional commercial photographers often have varied and wide portfolios. Here are some examples of how you can use commercial photographies:

Book Covers

Oftentimes, books are judged by their covers—and publishers know this. They can request specific photos to capture the essence of the book, and improve its sales numbers by making it more eye-catching. However, they can also opt to buy the license for a pre-existing picture.

Travel Brochures

These are pamphlets with pictures of a location and their main purpose is to attract tourists. They usually feature famous touristic and historical sites, as well as restaurants, museums, parks, or any other location that may be enjoyed by potential visitors.

Entertainment Advertisement

This type of commercial photos advertiseTV shows or movies, and they can be seen on billboards in busy roads. These need to be high-quality pictures because they are going to be printed at a large scale. They are usually taken and retouched by the in-house marketing team of the production company or studio, or they can be taken by an independent contractor if it is a small production.

Product Packaging 

These are photos used in labels and boxes, and they are the image people will have on their minds when looking for the product at the store. They should highlight the attributes that make the product unique, so it can stand out among its competitors.

What Types of Commercial Photography Are There?

There are so many different types of commercial photography that commercial photographers can be considered jacks-of-all-trades, because each one of these types require different skill sets that go beyond the photography service itself, like retouching photos with editing software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop. They need to have vision and experience in the photography industry. 

These are the most common types of images you can find in a commercial photography portfolio:

Fashion Photography

Fashion photography highlights clothing and fashion-related items, and it usually involves paid models. Its main purpose is to show how a piece of clothing or accessory looks when being worn with other matching pieces, and how it flows in the body. A unique skill good fashion photographers have is knowing how to give directions on the poses to the models, so the clothes  can look as good as possible.

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography focuses on capturing the personality of the person that appears in the photo, usually a business owner. The final product can be used as a profile picture in social media, in business cards, billboards, or in the “About Us” section of your website.

Product Photography 

Product photography shoots are usually done in a studio and they capture simple images of the product or service. They’re mostly used to promote sales in website listings or social media platforms, but they can also appear in product packaging.

Food Photography

Food photography is mainly used by restaurants and food reviewers or bloggers to showcase dishes in a manner that is appetizing to anyone who sees the picture. These pictures often highlight special ingredients that are used in the dish, and use special lighting setups so the dishes look as good as possible. Food photographers often work with food stylists to produce mouthwatering pictures. 

Architectural Photography

These photos are used to showcase an architectural design, or to show the appeal of a space—such as a retail store, amusement park, museum, aquarium, etc. Depending on the effect you want the photo to have, you may want the photo to be taken when there is little to none flow of people, or when there are a lot of people so the space looks lifeful. 

Lifestyle Photography

Lifestyle photoshoots are used to show how a product or service can be integrated into the life of potential buyers. These photoshoots usually include photos of people using the product or receiving the benefits of the service in different settings.

Real Estate Photography

The purpose of a real estate photoshoot is to produce striking images of the exterior and interior of a property that is on the market to lure potential clients that come across its listing. 

Headshot Photography

Headshots are a type of professional photography that focuses on capturing the face of the person in the photo, who is usually a realtor, physician, veterinarian, actor, or politician, or any other person that wishes to boost or enhance their brand. They are the most common type of photos requested by commercial clients. Headshot photoshoots tend to be quick and fun, if the subject and the photographer are able to form a connection.

Advertising photography 

Advertising photography captures images of products or services for its commercial use. These images can be implemented in your marketing strategy through billboards, posters, catalogs, and product packaging.

Event Photography

Commercial event photography is the art of capturing the essence of a wide array of occasions, such as corporate events, galas, award ceremonies and music festivals. These photos are used to promote the event or to highlight the culture of the company that is hosting the event. 

What Are the Skills of a Good Commercial Photographer?

Commercial photographers need to have certain skills and traits. These will help them find clients, have good photoshoots, and a satisfactory post-production phase. This will in turn help them get new and recurrent clients. Some of these skills are:

  • Good Communication Skills: Communication and people skills are fundamental in the photography business, because photographers often have to deal directly with clients and vendors. Clients tend to choose photographers they get along with and that are able to clearly communicate what can be expected from the photography service. Being able to communicate effectively with clients is a common skill in successful photographers.
  • Detail Awareness: Every little detail is important when doing commercial work as a photographer, since the photos taken could become the image of a brand, product, or small business. Composing a photo that looks pleasant and conveys the feeling the client requires is an art, and it’s often something that can’t be taught.
  • Imagination and Creativity: These are the heart and soul of commercial photography. Talented and experienced photographers will be able to take an interesting and unusual photo of your business or product that will catch the eye of your customers and set you apart from the competition. Professional photographers know how to use tools such as camera angle, lighting, composition, exposure, perspective, and focus, to produce a photo that is worth your money.
  • Efficient Use of the Equipment: It’s a given that a professional photographer needs to master their equipment‒they can’t be reading their camera’s manual during a photography job. They should know how all the settings and buttons work, and how they affect the image. If you hire a professional photographer for your commercial photoshoot, you can trust that they know what they’re doing.
  • Good Understanding of Lighting: Whether you want your commercial photoshoot done with natural or studio lighting, a professional commercial photographer should understand how to manage lighting, and they should also plan some lighting setups ahead of the photoshoot so it flows seamlessly. Professional photographers should also be able to adjust when the original lighting plans aren’t working out. They have to be willing to experiment on the go to obtain an end product that will please the client. Lighting is one of the most important tools photographers have, since it can make a great difference in the final look of the photo.
  • Proper Materialization of the Client’s Ideas: Even though the photographer’s imagination and creativity are a great part of commercial photography, they have to use these to serve the client’s ideas. Being resourceful and doing whatever it takes to give the clients what they want is going to make clients come back to work with them time after time. Professional photographers will often request a brief or a series of guidelines, as well as details about the marketing strategy that the client is trying to implement, to better understand what the client wants before the photoshoot happens. 
  • Clean and Neat Portfolio: Professional photographers must have a physical or online portfolio that shows the scope of their abilities and the wide variety of photography jobs they are able to do. They often have several portfolios that cater to the needs of different types of clients. 

Why Does Every Business Need a Commercial Photographer?

If you have never worked with a professional commercial photographer, you might think that they can be unnecessary or a waste of money—that couldn’t be further from the truth. Hiring someone who is able to produce a clean and meaningful photo of your product, service or business can cast a different light on them in the eyes of potential clients. 

If the image of your product or business stands out, people will be more inclined to inquire about it—increasing your sales and revenue. Attractive and distinctive commercial photos go a long way in creating a brand identity that potential clients will want to embrace and incorporate into their lives.

How you showcase your business and your products is extremely important for customer engagement and sales numbers. Your business should be using high-quality, professional, and consistent  images to market your goods and services. A bad photo can make people think twice before buying your product or service.

Ivan Martinez Photography has been creating high-quality images and stunning business photography for 15 years. In addition to my time as a professional photographer I have 22 year of marketing and advertising experience. Let me help you capture exactly the look you want to showcase your commercial property, your employees, your services, and your products in the best possible light. Get in touch with me.

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