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Essential Guide to Commercial Photography: How to Start | How to Price | 5 Pro-tips

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If you are a budding photographer and ready to start your photography business, this article is for you. This post will cover how to start, price your photos, pro tips and everything you need to know about commercial photography. Let's dive right in.

What Is Commercial Photography?

Commercial photography, also known as advertising photography, is a genre of photography that involves capturing high-quality images of products and services that are offered by commercial businesses and then using those images to help promote and market the products in various media.

One of the most critical aspects of commercial photography is that the images must be of high quality to be effective. This means that they need to be well-composed, well-lit, and sharp.

Images that are poorly lit or blurry will not have the same impact as those that are well-executed. In addition, the images should be appropriate for the target audience and should be able to convey the message that the business is trying to communicate.

Main Types of Commercial Photography

1. Product Photography

The main objective of product photography is to make the products and services look as appealing as possible so that potential customers are tempted to purchase them, driving up sales.

2. Food Photography

A significant aspect of food photography is being able to show the food in a way that tantalizes the eyes and tempts the taste buds.

food photo of coffee and pancakes

Photo by مهدی کردی on Unsplash

3. Architectural Photography

This is a type of photography that's used to capture the beauty and grandeur of buildings and structures. Architects and construction companies often use it to showcase their work and attract new clients interested in their services.

4. Corporate Photography

Corporate photography aims to create a positive image of the company that will appeal to potential customers and clients. It can involve anything from taking headshots of company employees to capturing images of the company's premises.

5. Fashion Photography

It is generally done to promote the clothing, looks and style of a model.

It also shows potential customers what they can expect to find when they visit the store or website and how they may look wearing the clothes.

6. Portrait Photography

portrait of a man on work

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

This type of commercial photography is all about capturing images of people. You can use it to capture family portraits, headshots for business purposes, or even photos of strangers.

The goal of portrait photography is to capture the subject's personality and emotions in a visually appealing way.

7. Lifestyle Photography

Commercial lifestyle photography is used to promote a particular lifestyle, such as a healthy lifestyle, in order to sell products associated with that lifestyle.

For example, you can use lifestyle photography to sell fitness equipment, healthy food, or travel products.

8. Real Estate Photography

This type of commercial photography is about taking pictures of properties for sale. Real estate agents and developers often use it to showcase properties and attract potential buyers.

a vintage barn house at the foot of the mountain

Photo by Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash

9. Advertising Photography

It is about creating images used in advertising campaigns. It can involve anything from taking pictures of models to capturing images of products. These images are then used on magazine pages, billboards, and other marketing materials.

How to Start Your Commercial Photography Business?

1. Equip Yourself with the Right Gear

Before you can start your commercial photography business, you need to have the right equipment. Some essential gear you'll need include:

  • A camera: You'll need a camera to take photos. A DSLR or mirrorless camera should suffice if you're starting. But as you progress, you might consider investing in a more professional camera.
  • Lenses: The lens you'll need will depend on the photography you plan on doing. For instance, a prime lens with a large aperture is a good choice for shooting portraits. But if you're planning on doing architectural photography, you'll need a wide-angle lens.
  • Softlight box: A soft light box is a great way to diffuse light and create a softer, more flattering light for your subjects. To get started, you'll need one that's at least 2x2 feet.
  • Beauty dish: A beauty dish is a must-have for any commercial photographer. It's a type of reflector that creates a more even light, perfect for highlighting your subject's features.
  • Other equipment you may need: You need some studio equipment like backdrop and backdrop holder, external hard drive, computer, light stands, studio strobe and reflectors.

2. Build a Portfolio

photobooks on the desk

Photo by Hello Revival on Unsplash

A strong portfolio is key to landing commercial photography jobs. Even though it is hard to identify the type of photography you want to do when starting, it is essential to start building a range of images in your portfolio.

Shoot anything and everything that interests you, and don't be afraid to experiment. With time you will develop a style, and the type of photography you are most passionate about will begin to shine through.

At this point, you can start to focus your portfolio around this genre. Ensure you indicate clearly on your portfolio the type of photography you specialize in, the price range you charge, and your contact information so potential clients can reach you.

3. Perfect Your Shooting and Editing Skills

To be a successful commercial photographer, you must have strong shooting and editing skills. This means capturing well-composed, technically-sound photos that are correctly exposed and in focus.

But it doesn't stop there; you also need to be able to edit your photos to perfection. This includes tasks like color-correcting, retouching, and adding finishing touches that make your photos stand out.

4. Get Contracts in Place

advertising photo of cocacola

Photo by Mahbod Akhzami on Unsplash

Once you've built a strong portfolio and perfected your skills, it's time to start landing some clients. The best way to do this is to get contracts in place. This means working with an agency or client to agree on a rate, schedule, and scope of work.

This way, you'll know exactly what's expected of you, and you'll be able to plan your time and workload accordingly.

5. Stay Organized and Efficient

As your commercial photography business grows, you'll need to find ways to stay organized and efficient. This includes keeping track of your bookings, editing workflow, and client communications.

You might also want to consider investing in software to help you keep up with things like a CRM or project management tool.

How to Price Your Commercial Photography?

As a commercial photographer, your job is to provide high-quality photos to help your client promote their business. But how do you determine how much to charge for your services?

product photo of orange juice surrounded by orange slices

Photo by Mahbod Akhzami on Unsplash

Well, here are some things to consider:

1. Taxes to the Government

When you are self-employed, you are responsible for paying your taxes. Be sure to factor this in when setting your prices. You do not want to be under-priced and have to pay a large tax bill at the end of the year, as this will eat your profits.

2. Cost of Starting Up

When you first start, you will have a lot of expenses, including equipment, software, and props. Make sure to factor in the cost of these items when setting your prices so you can recoup your investment.

3. Operating Costs

These are also ongoing costs associated with running your business, such as insurance, website hosting, and marketing. Be sure to factor these costs into your prices to stay afloat.

4. Target Amount

You need to set a target amount you would like to earn. This number will vary depending on your lifestyle and financial goals. Choose an amount you are comfortable with and feel is fair for your services.

a marble desk with a plant aside

Photo by Inside Weather on Unsplash

Once you have determined this number, add a margin to account for unforeseen costs. This will help you ensure that you are making a profit.

5. Profit

The last thing to consider when pricing your services is your profit margin, as it is well known that the primary goal of any business is to make a profit. You need to make sure that you are pricing your services in a way that will allow you to make a profit.

A good rule of thumb is to add a 20-30% margin to your costs. This will help you ensure that you are making a profit and will also allow you to reinvest in your business.

5 Tips for Commercial Photography

1. Always Be Creative

Commercial Photography is all about selling a product, so it is vital to be able to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to make the product stand out.

Using props, creative angles, and interesting lighting can all help to make a product look more appealing and increase its chances of selling.

Moreover, try to showcase your products in a unique way not commonly seen in other commercial photography, as this will help you stand out from the rest.

2. Go with the Trend

product photo of house facilities with desk and shelves

Photo by Aditya Wardhana on Unsplash

No one wants to see a commercial for a product that is outdated. Keep up with the latest trends, and make sure that your photography reflects that. This will make your photos look more modern and show that you are keeping up with the times and are up-to-date with the latest trends.

This will help you attract more clients who are looking for a photographer that is current and relevant.

3. Compose Your Shots Well

This is true for all photography, but it is especially important in commercial photography. Remember that you are trying to sell a product, so the composition of your shots should be such that the product is the star of the show.

Avoid distractions, and make sure that the product is the photo's focus. This will help draw attention to the product and increase its chances of selling.

4. Edit Your Photos Perfectly

In commercial photography, it is essential to ensure that your photos are perfect before sending them to the client. This means that you need to take the time to edit them carefully, removing any imperfections or distractions.

This can be time-consuming, but it is crucial to ensure that your photos are perfect before you send them off to the client.

5. Be Professional

Remember that you are working with a client, and they are paying you for your time and expertise. This means that you need to be professional at all times and be able to take direction well.

real estate photo showing the inside the building

Photo by Gabriel Sollmann on Unsplash

Be polite to the client, and make sure that you always meet their needs. This will help you build a good rapport with the client and increase your chances of getting repeat business.


Commercial photography is a highly competitive field; it takes more than just taking pretty pictures to succeed. With hard work and dedication, you will soon be able to build a name for yourself and be in high demand by businesses and clients looking for high-quality photography services. 

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