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What is Commercial Photography?

As a commercial photographer, you will be taking photographs of products or individuals, that will be used to sell a product or a service. This could vary greatly: you could be shooting fashion models in designer gear for an advert, someone clicking away on a computer to sell a service, or anything else that might appear on a business website, literature, or advert.

It’s actually rather difficult to pin down a commercial photography definition. Some people would say that it only applies to advertising shots, but others would include catalog work and e-commerce shots.

So, how can you tell if you are doing commercial photography? Usually, a commercial photographer is employed by a brand or a company, to promote their product or services. Let’s take the example of Ansel Adams. Most would say that he is a landscape photographer, and this is true. But when he was working for the Department of the Interior to photograph national parks for advertising purposes, it would be more accurate to describe him as a commercial photographer.

The main thing that sets commercial photographs apart from other genres is the intention behind the shot. Adams would normally take images to capture and preserve the beauty of nature in untouched areas. For those national park shots, however, the intention was to sell access tickets to tourists.

Types of Commercial Photography

Now that we know how broad the definition of what is commercial photography can be, it’s time to take a look at some of the types of assignments you might pick up. Commercial photography is one of the fastest-growing genres of photography

The multiple categories of Commercial Photography include, but are not limited to:


This genre of photography includes images promoting a product or service that are used in billboards, posters, magazine pages, online adverts, product catalogs, etc.

Website Images

All images that are used to promote a new product launch, or included with a press release

Catalog and Sales Images

These will be images of a product in use and are often formulaic (for example, a clothing brand will usually want models wearing the clothes against a white background, showing both the front and back of the garment as well as any pertinent details). Think also of restaurant menus, as well as non-conventional ‘catalogs’ like Etsy or Facebook Marketplace

Product Images

Any images which go on the packaging, including products you may not think of at first: CD and DVD covers, tags, instructional guides, and so on