It often surprises photographers to learn that there is an enormous difference between commercial and advertising photography. For instance, a commercial photographer frequently finds themselves taking pictures that are intended for use entirely in the retail and wholesale sectors, or in creating images that will be used in sales materials or promotional efforts.
The advertising photographer, on the other hand, is taking many different types of pictures and most are intended to sell products of all kinds or even just to market “ideas”. One day might see them photographing the exterior of a hotel while the next day might find them using a light box and macro photographic techniques to capture the glittering jewels in a designer bracelet.
Techniques of Commercial and Advertising Photography
This means that the commercial photographer might have to implement a much narrower array of techniques than an advertising photographer. Yet both, however, will find that they require the highest quality equipment possible. For instance, both should own a very good DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera body and a few reliable lenses. The best lenses are going to be a good zoom and a fast wide angle lens. A lens is described as “fast” when it can use a larger maximum aperture and a faster shutter speed. This gives optimal control over the results, and is something absolutely necessary when a broad range of techniques is to be used on a regular basis.
Inside the Camera Bag
What else would a commercial or advertising photographer need for their work? There will usually always be the need for a good tripod, some portable lighting fixtures, and a few essential filters. These tend to include the ND (neutral density) and the polarizer at the very least. These are the filters that can be used to eliminate glare or lens flare and to help to capture colors in a super-saturated amount. A lens hood is also good for helping with issues connected to sunlight as well.
In the current climate there tends to also be the need for a macro setting or lens for the DSLR, a cable release to help with delicate shots that might be lost to any camera shake, and special lighting devices that help to make deep zoom photography successful.
In the Professional Studio
Another thing that an advertising and commercial photographer will require, that other professionals may be able to avoid, is a comprehensive photo editing program. This is because they are going to have to be able to “touch up” their work in ways that others may be able to ignore altogether. They will also need to be able to deliver their works electronically to such groups as publishing houses or corporate websites. This means that the “cleanliness” of their shots is an absolute essential, and there is nothing that can do the work in the way that advanced photo editing software can.
Today, most photographers will tend to work with Adobe Photoshop, and if the professional is handling huge volumes of work that need to be processed quickly, they might also use a companion program such as Adobe Lightroom. The reason that quick management is essential is, as almost all freelance photographers would tell you, that roughly 70% to 75% of any work day is spent selling and managing their work – as opposed to being out in the field or in the studio actually doing the work. When software can apply what are called “workflow” adjustments with only a few clicks of the mouse, then it is best to access the technology as soon as possible.
Finding the Work
When a freelance photographer begins to consider the ways in which they might get some work, they are going to have to be sure to remain current and up to date with what companies will be using. If the work is primarily for commercial businesses, the photographer is going to have to request annual reports and visit various corporate websites to get a good feel of the message or tone used in their existing campaigns. When a photographer prefers to do advertising work, they must make a point of studying their favorite print and online ads and emulating (never copying) the things that they appreciate about the imagery. For example, there is a lot of interest in water droplet and water splashing photography and it would be of tremendous benefit for a photographer to experiment in this technique and to have some samples to offer when they are seeking work.
Both types of photographers should also make a concerted effort to join relevant organizations too. This will give them the kind of credibility that a major business or corporation will appreciate – in addition to excellent work, of course. This means that they might want to become a member of the Professional Photographers Association of America or of the American Photographic Artists too.
Lastly, the value of a website and several social marketing and networking accounts cannot be undervalued either. Be sure to develop a site that reflects your professional abilities. You can always have tabs or galleries of the artistic work, but if you want to earn a living doing advertising and commercial photography, you will have to make a point of marketing your skill and your style.
Share your Work
For those who would like to share their Commercial and Advertising photography please feel free to join our flickr group and add your images to the pool. Make sure and tag your Commercial and Advertisingl images with “TPA_Commercial”. From the pool of images we will be selecting the best examples and showcasing them in a future article. This can mean some great exposure and your images will be inspiring photographers from around the world.
Top image by Ricky Flores