Commercial Photographer

By TACP Staff on August 13, 2023

Commercial Photographer

In today’s highly competitive business landscape, having visually stunning and compelling images is crucial for captivating customers and driving sales. This is where commercial photography comes into play. Commercial photography is a genre that focuses on creating high-quality images for the purpose of promoting and selling products or services. It encompasses a wide range of photography niches and requires a diverse skill set to excel in this field.

In this comprehensive guide to commercial photography, we will explore the different types of commercial photography, the commercial use of photos, the role of a commercial photographer, and how to become one. We will also delve into the importance of commercial photography for business growth, tips to get started, pricing considerations, and the essential equipment needed for successful commercial shoots.

So, whether you’re a business owner looking to enhance your online presence or a photographer aspiring to venture into the commercial photography industry, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and strategies to create captivating images that drive business growth.

What Is a Commercial Photographer?

Commercial photographers create photos for advertisements, product placements, sales pitches, brochures, and merchandising – to name a few. They take pictures of everything from cars, clothing, food and shoes to weddings, real estate and portraits. They also contribute to campaigns in illustration or editorial contexts for a variety of fields and industries.

Commercial photographers are employed by advertising agencies, design firms, magazines and corporate marketing departments. They can also run their own photography businesses with clients ranging from small local companies to large multinational brands. They might specialize in one type of photography, such as food photography or industrial photography, or they may be a generalist who can produce many types of photographs in numerous styles.

What Does a Commercial Photographer Do?

As a commercial photographer, you will be taking photos of products and people to be used in advertisements, catalogs, brochures and other forms of print and digital media. You could also be employed to take photos for television advertisements, promotional materials or other related projects that are used to sell a product or service.

There is tremendous diversity of style, content, and approach in the practice of commercial photography as it encompasses a wide range of subject matter and media. Commercial photographers might work in the fields of advertising, design, retail, entertainment, or publishing just to name a few. In other words, there is not a specific style or look that can be associated with commercial photography. Commercial photos feature people and products alike, and every possible type of scene from city-scapes to nature scenes might be used as backdrops for a commercial photo shoot.

Examples of Commercial Photography

Types of Commercial Photography

The specialties within commercial photography are as varied as the types of photos you might shoot. For example, a food photographer would be expected to take photos of fresh ingredients as well as final dishes for use in menus and online food blogs. Similarly, a commercial photographer working in the real estate industry would shoot photos of houses, apartments and other dwellings for sale or rent.

Commercial advertising photography also encompasses product photos that might be used to sell furniture, automobiles or any number of big ticket items. You can also expect to take detailed close-up shots of jewelry, watches and other high ticket items to be used in print ads or on company websites. Listed below are several different types of commercial photography:

Architectural Photography

Architecture photography focuses on capturing images of buildings, structures, and spaces. It is commonly used to showcase architectural designs or highlight the appeal of commercial spaces such as retail stores, museums, and amusement parks.

Fashion Photography

A commercial fashion photographer specializes in taking photos of clothing and other fashion-related objects such as jewelry, accessories and shoes. Fashion photography is most often used in print advertisements, periodicals, online fashion blogs and other forms of media that communicate trends or promote clothing brands.

Food Photography

Commercial photographers specializing in food photography take photos of ingredients, dishes and drinks to be used in advertisements, menus and other marketing materials. The commercial photographer might work with food stylists to take enticing shots of meals that are healthy or decadent depending on the client’s needs.

Interior Photography

Commercial interior photographers provide images of interiors for purposes such as display in decorating magazines, advertising real estate or leasing commercial spaces. These photos might be used to promote the look and feel of designers’ work, real estate agents’ listings or retail outlets such as furniture showrooms.

Portrait Photography

Commercial photographers specializing in portraits take photos of individuals, families and groups to be used for advertisements, promotions and social media. For example, a commercial portrait photographer might shoot headshots of businesspeople or other professionals to feature on a corporate website. Other types of commercial portraits might include families or children for use in print ads, social media sites and company newsletters.

Product Photography

Commercial product photographers take photos of products for use in catalogs, online directories and print advertisements. A commercial product photographer might take photos of any number of objects, from kitchen gadgets to auto parts or clothing items. For this reason, the commercial product photographer must be knowledgeable about all types of consumer goods in order to best communicate their features and benefits to the target audience.

The Role of a Commercial Photographer: Skills and Responsibilities

As a commercial photographer, your role is to create visually stunning imagery that helps businesses promote and sell their products or services. Depending on whether you work independently or as part of a team, your responsibilities may vary. Here are some key aspects of a commercial photographer’s role:

Building Your Client Base

To thrive in commercial photography, it’s essential to actively pitch and market yourself to potential clients. Building a strong network and establishing relationships with businesses can lead to a steady stream of projects and referrals.

Understanding Your Clients’ Needs

To create impactful images, you need to deeply understand your clients’ products, services, and goals. This can be achieved through client questionnaires, consultations, and thorough research. By aligning your photography with their vision, you can deliver images that effectively promote their brand.

Conceptualizing and Framing Your Shots

While clients may have specific needs and requirements, as a commercial photographer, you have the opportunity to showcase your creativity and expertise in the niche. By developing a range of visual techniques, you can bring unique perspectives to your clients’ projects.

Capturing High-Quality Images

Executing the actual photoshoot is a critical aspect of a commercial photographer’s role. Whether it’s in a studio or on-location, you must use your technical skills, creativity, and attention to detail to capture visually appealing and compelling images that align with your clients’ objectives.

Editing and Polishing the Final Product

While commercial photography generally requires minimal editing, it’s important to ensure that the final images are polished and enhance your clients’ sales efforts. Utilizing editing software and presets can help streamline the editing process and deliver consistent results.

Follow-Up and Client Relations

Once the photoshoot is complete, maintaining open communication and following up with your clients is crucial. This allows you to address any concerns, gather feedback, and strengthen your professional relationships. It also positions you as a reliable and trustworthy photographer for future projects.

How to Become a Commercial Photographer: Steps to Success

Becoming a successful commercial photographer requires a combination of technical skills, creativity, business acumen, and determination. Here are some steps to help you kickstart your journey in commercial photography:

1. Develop Your Photography Skills

Invest time in honing your technical photography skills, such as mastering exposure, composition, lighting, and post-processing techniques. Take courses, attend workshops, and practice regularly to refine your craft.

2. Choose Your Niche

Identify the specific niche or niches within commercial photography that align with your interests and strengths. Focusing on a niche allows you to specialize and develop a unique style, making you stand out in a competitive market.

3. Build Your Portfolio

Create a compelling portfolio that showcases your best work in your chosen niche. Your portfolio should demonstrate your technical skills, creativity, and ability to capture images that align with commercial objectives.

4. Network and Collaborate

Attend industry events, join photography associations, and engage with other professionals in the field. Networking can lead to valuable collaborations, referrals, and opportunities to learn from experienced commercial photographers.

5. Market Yourself

Establish an online presence through a professional website, social media platforms, and online photography communities. Regularly update your portfolio and share your work to attract potential clients and build your brand.

6. Pitch to Potential Clients

Research businesses that align with your niche and reach out to them with personalized pitches. Demonstrate how your photography can enhance their marketing efforts and contribute to their success.

7. Provide Exceptional Customer Service

Deliver exceptional customer service to your clients by being responsive, reliable, and professional. Exceed their expectations and build long-term relationships that can lead to repeat business and referrals.

8. Stay Updated and Evolve

Keep abreast of industry trends, new technologies, and evolving marketing strategies. Continuously improve your skills and adapt to changes in the commercial photography landscape to stay competitive.

By following these steps and persistently refining your craft, you can carve a successful career path in commercial photography.

Helpful Links

Commercial Photographer Salary

Commercial photographers are able to command a relatively high salary compared to photographers in other industries. The median salary for commercial photographers is about $51,965 per year or $25.00 per hour according to ZipRecruiter, which is slightly higher than the average for photographers across all industries ($50,290 per year), as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The salary of a commercial photographer is highly dependent on the person’s artistic skill, experience, and location. This is reflected in the wide range of salaries earned by commercial photographers as reported by multiple online sources (including, which reports salaries that range from $32k to $197k per year).

Highest Paying U.S. Cities for Commercial Photographers

The following 10 cities have been identified as the top paying metropolitan areas for photographers.

Logan, UT$36.11$75,100
Bridgeport, CT$35.88$74,620
New York, NY$34.95$72,690
Washington, DC$33.90$70,510
Boston, MA$33.00$68,640
San Francisco, CA$32.07$66,700
Los Angeles, CA$30.46$63,350
New Haven, CT$30.20$62,810
Norwich, CT$30.16$62,740
Minneapolis, MN$29.57$61,510
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2020

Additional Resources for Commercial Photographers

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