Commercial Photography

What is Commercial Photography?

Commercial photography refers to photographic images produced to promote, market or advertise products, services or events, also known as advertising photography and is often commissioned by the clients, brands or companies that will be using the images. The role of the photographer on a commercial project is to satisfy the client’s brief, often working with an art director.

Commercial photography is often compared with editorial photography – whilst the subjects in both can be similar, the difference is in the process, result and ultimate use of the images. The differences in commercial and editorial photography is further explored in my post Commercial vs Editorial Photography.

Commercial Photography Uses

Examples of the use of commercial photographs are in advertising campaigns, event promotion, product packaging, books and book covers, product brochures.

Restrictions on Use

Because of legal issues around privacy, permission, and trademarks, images can only be used for commercial purposes if all recognisable people in the photograph are covered by a model release, any identifiable property or location is covered by a property release, and logos, brand names are used with permission.

The releases will explain the terms of use of the image, where and how the image will be published.

Commercial Photography Copyright & Licencing

In general the copyright of a commercial photograph is owned by the commissioning client, and not the photographer. This should be factored into the fee paid, known as a “buy out” or “work for hire”. However commercial photographs can also be licenced for a specific period, and re-licenced after that if required.

Working as a Commercial Photographer

Commercial photographers generally find work through photographic agents who have relationships with brands or creative agencies. Its also possible that an art director may commission a photographer directly or recommend for a specific shoot, or a client might issue an RFP – Request for Proposal inviting photographers to pitch for a job.