How to become a Commercial Photography professional

What is Commercial Photography?

There are many definitions and discussions of what actually is commercial photography.

Commercial photography is a part of professional photography, which is a general and broader definition. In fact, commercial photography is a process of shooting and editing specific images that help sell a product or service. 

Food commercial photography

A good commercial photographer is not only technically mastering his job but is good at the understanding of product or service and the client’s needs primarily. 

You, as a commercial photographer, work with the client and have to understand the client’s business. It is essential for being able to express precisely the main idea of the client’s products or services. 

These products can be food, real estate, but also business headshot portrait, clothes, jewelry, etc. Commercial photographs you see in magazines, online publications, billboards, etc. 

Types of Commercial photography

  • Product photography

Product Photography is often connected to online shopping. You can also shoot outdoor, but the majority of commercial product photography is being shot at the studio

You can shoot the products on a white background. It is clearly showing the shape of the product, and it is effortless for the viewer to see all the details needed before buying. 

Another reason is the simplicity of cutting out the product image from the background and edit it if needed.

Commercial photo product1

Another approach is to shoot the kind of lifestyle commercial photographs. If the client wants to show, for example, outdoor clothes in the context of product usage, you should shoot it outdoor.

There are, of course, large objects or products like cars. This is another specific subcategory of product commercial photography. 

When shooting the car within the studio, you will good lighting equipment as well as background if needed. 

You will have to take into consideration the reflection parameters of various car parts and make a specific lighting setup for each.

 Such a lighting system could be expensive, but on the other hand, you can charge a lot of money for this kind of photography.

  • Food Commercial Photography

Commercial food photography creates a visual presentation of food. It makes a visual appeal that plays a massive role in whether you have the taste to eat the dish or not.

There are some basic rules you have to follow to get the best food commercial photographs. Your food has to be fresh. Many times you have not to overcook the food to look more vibrant and appealing. 

For example, when shooting carrot or broccoli, it is better not to over-cook it but rather let it rawer. You are preparing the food not to eat but to shoot and making an appealing image.

In some cases, many photographers use food imitations. 

Commercial photo food 2

On the other hand, there purists dealing only with natural food for commercial food photography. 

Various methods are used to improve the look of particular food types. For example, you can use a blowtorch to make the edges of the steak more brown.

You can also use motor oil instead of various syrups that look non-photogenic. Many photographers use glycerin to achieve a glossy effect.

From the photographic technique point of view, you should use low aperture lens settings. It is because of good separation from unwanted background. 

Of course, it will be given by the lens quality you will use. It is also connected to bokeh you can achieve with a particular lens.

  • Fashion photography

Fashion commercial photography is a photography genre that visually expresses fashion elements like clothing, apparel, and various accessories. 

You can see it mainly fashion editorials, fashion catalogs, but also street fashion photography is a subgenre here. 

All fashion magazines use for their editorial model dressing specific wardrobe and with particular styling. 

Fashion photo 1

The overall principle in Fashion commercial photography is to tell a specific story. So you have to be well prepared before shooting. 

You have to know what story your images are going to visualize. So the important thing is the subject of matter. 

You must be prepared and have chosen a good location for your shooting. In high fashion photography, you will definitely use lighting. 

Your model has to have hair styling and overall styling ready before shooting. It is a good practice to hire a hair and makeup stylist for this part of preparation. And the stylist is not the only one helping person here. 

As fashion photography is well paid, you should have a whole team to help you. Yes, you will have to put it on your expense list. But it will be paid by the client at the end of the day.

Fashion photo 2

What camera and lens to choose? Well, my favorite would be universal 24-70mm f/2.8, for example. 

The camera should have a decent sensor without noise. There are many good cameras on the market nowadays, suitable for this kind of job. 

Of course, you can shoot with the latest fancy high-end DSLR or Mirrorless from Nikon, Canon, or Sony. But generally speaking, lenses are more important than the camera - as always. 

Last but not least - retouching. Especially in fashion commercial photography, it is imperative to be an experienced retoucher or hire one. 

Fashion agencies or magazines will accept only top-class work in fashion commercial photography, and without professional editing expertise, you won’t be accepted.

  • Architectural commercial photography

Architectural photography is another genre of photography, focusing on taking pictures of buildings and structures but also cityscapes. It can be in exteriors, but also it includes interiors. 

The commercial aspect comes, of course, if you shoot this kind of photography for an architectural studio, magazine, or building company.

Camera parameters for architectural, commercial photography should be a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless

Ideal lenses are prime lenses that provide sharp and superior images. Many times could be useful to use wide lenses to help you position any big or complicated structure within the frame. 

Of course, you will have to deal with more distortion and fix it in postprocessing.

A substantial parameter of shooting good architectural photography is staying still. You should use a good tripod here.

Architectural commercial photo 1

You should know the object before you start to shoot. Try to collect some information about the building, bridge, or structure. Walk around and try to realize what perspective you will try to capture. 

Let you also include small details of the building that is filling the whole frame. Fitting the entire building into a frame is also one of the must-shot. 

Interiors are another part of architectural commercial photography. Here appears another complication, which is the light. 

If you shoot an interior of a huge cathedral, you cannot use artificial lighting because of the big space inside. It is many times impossible because you won’t have permission to do so. 

So here it is essential to have the proper equipment. The camera with a high-quality sensor, high ISO setting. Lenses should be f/2.8 or even less. And finally, as we already mentioned, the tripod will be a must here. 

Tripod will be necessary also because of another reason: the interiors are many times so big that you will have to shoot more images and connect them in post-processing. And without the tripod, you cannot do it.

  • Portrait Commercial photography

Portrait commercial photography is one of the biggest subgenres of photography in general. 

Here are some most important tips.

    • Focus on the subject and capture emotion
    • Capture the story
    • Communicate with the subject
    • Use the best posing
    • Get the best composition
    • Play with the perspective
    • Use appropriate backdrop
    • Use props
    • Try more lenses
    • Lighting is the king
    • Experiment with natural lighting
    • Try exterior portraits during sunset

As you can see, there is a lot of rules or tips that give you a picture of how to get better portrait images. 

Potrait photography 1

As we already mentioned, it is crucial to get to know your subject and have excellent communication. This is the way the subject will trust you and will feel comfortable. Then you will be able to capture the good mood, emotions and tell the story.

Posing is another aspect of having an impact on the final result. Only a small change of head or hand position could completely change the whole image expression. There are poses for women and men, for corporate portraits or kid portraiture.

When shooting in the interior, use off-camera lighting. This is a golden rule, and you want to avoid ugly images taken with built-in flash. Use decent lighting with more light source setups to achieve professional and beautiful shots.

Try to experiment with the lenses. Ideal are prime lenses like 85mm, for example. If you are on a budget, go for 50mm prime lenses. 

If you need to isolate the subject from the background, use telephoto lenses like 70-200mm or 100-200mm.

  • Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography is a popular part of commercial photography space. From the business point of view, good looking professional images are making the sale. 

So it is not just standing in front of the house and pushing the shutter button.

Appropriate equipment is crucial to achieving decent results here. 

Full frame DSLR or Mirrorless body and wide-angle lenses are always an advantage. 

Interior photo

Especially when shooting interiors, you will face the low light issues. To resolve it, you can use various approaches:

  • Use high-quality lenses
  • Higher ISO value setting if your camera has this ability with low noise
  • Use tripod
  • Use bracketing
  • Post-processing

If the high ISO setting brings more noise, you can fix it by shooting with long exposure times. Of course, you have to be stabilized on the tripod. 

Another issue, especially in interior commercial real estate photography, is the dynamic range issue. This is a more or less widespread issue in case of any DSLR or Mirrorless

To cope with this issue is to use the bracketing shooting mode. 

You can set three (occasionally five or even seven) shots with different exposure settings. Then in postprocessing, you will mask in all the best parts from each shot. 

For example, it is always a problem to have good light on the whole interior. Unfortunately, the exterior behind the window is blown out and practically white. 

Here you can mask in the blue sky or any impressive exterior behind the window. To do so, use the lower exposure shot from the current bracketing set and mask in the behind window area.

What you need to become a commercial photographer

Portfolio 

    • General portfolio

Your general portfolio is like your bio, and it is a critical element of your presentation like a professional. 

To create your portfolio you have to have high-quality images that will express your ability and professionalism when presenting to your clients. 

Any agency or generally speaking any client is looking at your work. It is expressing your visual feeling, technical knowledge, but also your personality. 

And especially your personality is essential. It is always connected with your About me page. Here you should write about you and emphasize your passion for the work.

It has to be very personal and bring some of your previous experiences, your work approach, and style.

    • Specialized portfolio to specific customer

There are situations when you apply for a particular commercial photography job in a niche genre or space. Let’s say you want to get hired for shooting a restaurant food menu. 

Here it is good to have your general portfolio. But even better is when you send to your potential client a specialized portfolio that shows the similar project you have done. 

So, in this case, it should be the food images portfolio. You simply show to the client you are experienced in this unique niche.

Niche Specialization

As mentioned above, the more specialized you are, the higher the credibility you have. Of course, everybody wants to have as many possibilities to get the business as possible. 

Especially when you just start your career as a commercial photographer. But the real-life proves it is better to deal with a specific commercial photography niche. 

Master your skills and practice

I suppose this is an obvious thing in any activity or profession. Simply said, you will have to practice and practice, and you get the improvement by that. 

You should dedicate a certain amount of time each day to track the latest trends and learn continuously.

Develop your style

To develop your own style as a commercial photographer, you will spend quite a long time. But it will give you a significant advantage in the market. You become recognizable by your work just by looking at your images or portfolio. Again it is easier when you are specialized enough.

Market yourself

Your presence in the highly competitive market of commercial photography depends on many factors. 

You simply cannot establish a photography studio and wait for the client will find you and ask for your services. 

Your marketing strategy is critical. 

You have to have your website. The online presence is a must nowadays. 

You have to be searchable on the web. So you should optimize your website for SEO. Good content also makes your site more visible for google web crawlers. 

Another essential part is to be on social media. 

This is an advantage of the photography business as it is a very visual industry. So you have enough content to be shared on social media. 

I would recommend choosing only one or two social media to concentrate on. Make a publishing plan for a month, at least in advance.

Conclusion

As you can see, we went through a couple of subgenres of the commercial photography world. It is a vast area to choose a niche from. 

As in all types of business, it is critical to have a good business plan before start. 

Know your niche and collect the images for your portfolio. Publish your website and optimize it. Start your regular activity on social media. 

Let you prepare the studio and equipment to be ready for your first commercial photography job.

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