What is ‘Commercial Photography’?

by | Commercial Photography 101 | 0 comments

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Question: What is commercial photography?


Commercial photography is photography commissioned by a company, organization or agency to sell, market or advertise a product or service. 

The easiest way to remember what commercial photography is is to ask yourself the following question:

“Will the images be used to help promote/market/advertise a product or service?”

If the answer is yes, then it’s considered commercial photography.

Clients who purchase commercial photography include but are not limited to:

  1. advertising agencies
  2. marketing firms
  3. creative departments within large corporations (‘in-house’ creative)
  4. branding firms that specialize in packaging
  5. freelance art producers/buyers acting on behalf of a company
  6. marketing departments at small and medium sized companies
  7. all-in-one digital/print/social media branding/marketing/promotional firms (<– these guys all have their own names they refer to themselves as, but I usually just say ‘digital marketing firm’)
  8. businesspeople needing headshots
  9. individual small business owners needing images for social media and collateral

What commercial photos are used for:

Images that result from commercial photo sessions can be used for a very wide variety of things, including but certainly not limited to the following:

  1. print ads in traditional media like magazines, newspapers, billboards, etc
  2. digital ads on various platforms like Google and Bing ads
  3. social media ads and/or in-feed content
  4. product packaging
  5. collateral such as business cards, brochures, door tags, flyers, leaflets, etc.
  6. out-of-home displays (‘OOH), like bus shelter ads, subway train ads, store displays, product displays (‘POP’ displays), etc.
  7. corporate print and electronic media, like annual reports, catalogs, newsletters, and trade show media. 
  8. And so much more….

Sometimes photographers confuse the term commercial photography with photography they provide in order to make money/profit, but if that photographer is only, or primarily, working with families, individuals, and couples, they are providing portrait, wedding, engagement or pet photography as opposed to commercial photography. These are simple yet important distinctions.

Types of commercial photography:

Any of the following can be considered ‘commercial’ photography provided they are used in an effort to sell a product or service. 

  1. Advertising photography (typically commissioned by advertising agencies for their major clients and used for national or global paid advertising)- often lifestyle, sometimes studio
  2. Product photography on white/in studio (for print and digital ads and e-commerce/product listing use)
  3. Architectural photography
  4. Food photography
  5. Event photography (conferences, speaking engagements, other corporate events)
  6. Personal branding photography for small business use (usually commissioned by solo business owners/entrepreneurs)
  7. Real estate photography
  8. Fashion photography (for marketing/advertising use; magazine/newspaper use is considered ‘editorial photography’, not ‘commercial photography’)
  9. Corporate headshots photography
  10. Lifestyle product photography (what many social media influencers do)

I hope you found this article helpful and informative!

Other articles you may like:

How to Know if You Are Ready to Do Commercial Photography

10 Ways To Get Started in Commercial Photography

Learn how to start booking more clients and making more money TODAY


the business of commercial advertising photography course product

Jamie Piper
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‘Commercial photography information is hard to wrap your brain around and Jamie has put it all into a simple way to understand. I do not have to scour the internet anymore to find information.’ – Kimberly Buccheri


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