Commercial Photography – The Art That Sells
One crucial factor in any business is marketing and commercial photography is an important aspect of it.
Even before establishing a new company, there is a convention to carry out a market survey to find out if a particular product has demand in the market. The sole objective of any business venture is to sell products in the market and gain profits. However, there is so much competition for almost every product or service that it has become critical and challenging to reach out to customers and secure them. Marketing people constantly make efforts to find out new and innovative ways to target customers, they utilize every channel, every possible media to advertise products and compete with rivals.
The market has become global creating an illusion that expanding market allows plenty of scope for all products. On the contrary, it has become all the more difficult to reach across the globe from a small location somewhere on the earth. The backbone of marketing is advertising. Advertising remains a strategy although the media have changed. From print or audio-video media, advertising these days has been transferred to social media and digital channels. This is because the market has also become digital. Whether print media or social media, advertising revolves around pictures more than it depends upon content. While content appeals to the intellect, image appeals to the eyes. In fact, content in an advertisement is used as supplementary to an image. To conclude, an image or a picture is an important element in advertising and marketing. A photograph is a real representation of an object.
The scope of commercial photography is ever increasing.
Photos are clicked for many reasons. People click photos on one-in-a-lifetime events like weddings, anniversaries etc. to keep memories alive. Photographs are taken at crime scenes, construction sites, manufacturing units etc. Photographs taken for the purpose of business or sales, for earning money, taken for a commercial purpose is called commercial photography. It is not an aimless activity that one indulges in merely as a passion or pastime.
Commercial photography is the pivotal point of advertising and marketing. Commercial photographs find their way in posters, brochures, handbills, leaflets, menus, video-clips, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, websites, social media sites and so on. The aim of commercial photography is to promote a business in every possible way. It not only helps to drive business but also helps to create brand awareness. Commercial photography can take place either onsite or offsite. But the best results appear when an image is presented as a functioning product, where it is utilized. The photographs can either cover a line of products or individual products. It can either focus upon the design of the product like the shape of a bag or the depth of carpet fibres, or upon the use of the product like the functions on an iPhone. Product commercial photography reveals the detail and feel of a product to the customer, while advertising commercial photography is more likely to focus upon the status and attractions of the product.
Commercial photography includes a range of categories or types.
- Advertising photography –The purpose of advertising photography is to promote a brand, product or even a high values person. It is common in print media like newspapers, magazines, posters, brochures and leaflets. There are advertising agencies through which the photographs are circulated.
- Architecture / Interior photography – Outer structures of buildings or interiors of hotel rooms, restaurants, apartments etc are photographed. It is meant for real estate dealers, tourist agencies, and hotel and restaurant owners, furnishing houses, carpenters or interior designers.
- Food photography – This finds a place in menu cards, recipe books, pamphlets, user guides and manuals of products like refrigerators, microwave ovens, OTGs, air-fryers etc. it is also used for display outside eating houses, restaurants. There is great demand for photographers who capture attractive images of cuisines and food items.
- Product photography – This branch of specialized photography is gaining increasing importance in the digital market. Photographs of products are used for creating awareness about the brand and features and utilities of various competitive products available in the market. The photographs can be pictured in different backgrounds with props, enhanced by light effects and taken from various angles.
- Journalism photography – This kind of photography is used for substantiating news stories in newspapers, on news channels on TV and also on social media. Events and incidents that create sensational breaking news are captured. This kind of photography involves risk and uncertainty. One cannot anticipate what can happen where and when so photographers have to run around constantly to get the best shots. They often get involved in dangerous situations and circumstances for the sake of unique images.
- Sports photography – The photographers cover crucial moments in the sports world. Rare meetings between players from different countries are included. Practice sessions, real shots from matches etc complement sports news. The photographs are also used in magazines or newspapers to accompany relevant articles and books like biographies or autobiographies of sportsmen.
- Jewellery photography – Some products like jewellery are best displayed in photographs. A range or series of ornaments can be displayed on suitable props to give the viewers a clear idea about the product. This too is a very specialized branch of commercial photography and it requires aesthetic vision as well as photographic skill.
- Aerial photography – These photographs are taken from a high position, from helicopters, balloons, tall buildings or towers, aircraft or parachutes. The elevated position affords a complete view. It covers sports events, public meetings, religious events etc for news media. It is also useful for preparing maps and routes.
Preparing for a commercial photo shoot
Commercial photography is a serious affair. One cannot just carry any camera or device and click scenes casually. When people pay for the photographs, they have to be done well and done systematically. Here is how one should prepare for a commercial photo shoot.
- Planning – As soon as you get the topic of the photo shoot, you have to start planning how you are going to achieve the goal. If your client wants a classroom scene, do not immediately start shooting a class in progress with students seated at desks, the teacher busy writing on the blackboard etc. The photographer needs to think of the end product. Why does the client want to shoot a classroom? What does he want to focus on? The planning stage has to be collaborative. When the client’s intention is clear, the photographer has to put his creative talents to use and come up with a few ideas. Discuss the ideas with the client and finalize the one that suits the purpose. Hence, if the client manufactures special types of dust-free chalk that does not break easily and can be utilized conveniently till the last bit, there is no point in showing students bent down on the desks. The focus should be confined to the teacher writing on the blackboard, with a couple of suggestive props in the background.
- Prepping –Before starting the photo shoot, it is necessary to prepare the scene. The natural background as it exists may not always be appropriate for a photo shoot. For a sports event, if the sports ground is littered with unwanted things or the sides are stacked with logs, old furniture, vehicles, or worn out sports material, the place has to be cleaned up. There is a limit to what can be cleaned with photoshop. If necessary accessories are missing from the background, they have to be arranged beforehand. There is no scope for compromise in commercial photography!
- Timing – Timing is important for the sake of lighting. When shooting in natural light onsite, one has to think of availability of light. The direction of the sun may also have to be considered and the shoot session planned in the morning or afternoon accordingly. It should not be too late when the light becomes dim. Hence, all the pre-planning and preparing that may cause delay! Another reason to consider the time is in case of food photography. A fresh dish gives the best image. The lustre of oil may get lost after a lapse of time. A photographer may have to brush up a dish with oil, butter or garnish it again to get the right effect.
- Lighting – Lighting itself is another important factor in commercial photography. When shooting indoors in an artificially created scene, the light source and light amount can be manipulated and adjusted. If possible, the commercial photographer should pre-light the set. This is because some shots need to be taken quickly. A suffering patient cannot go on making painful faces for a long time. Two things have to be considered related to lighting – the light in the scene and the light on the model or object. A light source must be arranged to concentrate enough light on the object at the time of the shoot. While shooting people, the light must be focussed on them. Lighting helps to draw that sharp outline between the background and the object or person and separate the two. The dim light focussed on Mona Lisa’s portrait of the Renaissance period adds much to the total effect. It is interesting to note the direction of the light source as well. Facial expressions are clearly visible when there is sufficient light on the face.
- Post production –This is the time to add depth and realism to an image. Post production experiments on photo shop are not confined to adjusting shades and lights; one has to delete entire objects at times. The angle of a face may have to be changed, necessary objects added and so on. The final effect depends upon this stage of artistic skill. Hence, this stage is as crucial as the initial preparatory stage.
The purpose of commercial photography is chiefly advertisement and marketing. Fashion, food and product photographs aim at attracting customers. The main objective is to make a product sell well in the market. Sometimes, customers are driven off their feet to such an extent by the looks of a product that they don’t think of its quality or utility. This is the success of a commercial photographer. Hence, advertisement is an important branch of commercial photography. Almost 80% of advertisement campaigns use photography.
Both commercial and advertisement photographers are creative professionals. Commercial photographers take photos of buildings, models, merchandise, artefacts and landscapes that are used for promotional purposes in books, reports, advertisements and catalogues, for example. Commercial photographs typically are used entirely in the retail and wholesale sectors and in sales materials or for promotional efforts. In commercial photography, the entire photo shoot is devoted to the product being photographed. The lighting, styling and background generally are somewhat neutral so as not to detract from the product being promoted.
The world of advertising photography is broader than the narrower array of techniques used in commercial photography. The advertising photographer uses a wide variety of photographs to sell not only products but lifestyles, concepts and ideas. The advertising photographer has greater creative freedom to interpret how products, services, lifestyles and ideas can be presented photographically. Advertising photographers are often experts at marketing, layout, business management and sales trends.
Commercial photography includes fashion, food, travel, product and advertising. Each needs its own set of skills and experience as well as top notch equipment.
This is the most glamorous area of commercial photography. It is a combination of two arts, fashion and photo. It is more than a photo; it embodies a fashion trend at a given time. It portrays the mood and atmosphere of a moment. A fashion photographer cannot work alone. He has to depend upon a huge team of artists like fashion designers, make-up artists, hair-stylists etc. the location/setting also play an important part in fashion photography. Coordination between the team members is necessary. Fashion photography must be original and evoking.
It is glamorous but hard work. Obviously, it requires a great deal of travelling. One cannot even travel light because the right kind of equipment is essential. The client may need a specific type of image for a definite purpose and the photographer has to put all his skill and imagination to use. One comfort is that there is that there is little room for error because images are clicked onsite, conditions are realistic and natural and there is no question of manipulation. Hence, travel photography is tiring but rewarding. Travel photographs are used by transport and tourist agencies, airways etc.
Product photography involves the challenge of being attractive yet realistic at the same time. Every shot from every angle is important if you are handling the part of complex machinery. Focus is on minor details that convey accurate information. The images must give information about the product, its appearance and also its functions. Hence, a series of images rather than a single image have to be taken. Product photographs can be enhanced by varying angles, adjusting light, manipulating colours and backgrounds, using tripods, suspending or hanging the objects, incorporating interesting backgrounds, thinking of weird uses etc.
Challenges in commercial photography
Commercial photographers are not hired merely for their ability to click images; anyone can do that. They are hired for their creativity, imagination and experience. They must be able to offer creative solutions to problems and point out the right direction to a successful photo shoot that achieves the specified purpose. Commercial photographers face problems of their own.
In most cases, a commercial photographer stands behind a lens and shoots in such a way that he tells his story as per his perspective. A newbie often fails to correlate with the vision of the client. The photographer’s art has to be modified and turned according to the client’s vision and each client is different.
Photography is an art. Any art is a free activity and cannot be pushed, initiated or forced. Art is a result of inspiration and motivation. In the commercial photographer’s case, the profits are the motivation but inspiration is a problem. Commercial activity is time bound. There is high pressure of completing assignments in time. Inspiration and deadlines cannot go together. If one really wants artistic value, one must allow the photographer to take his time.
Commercial photography is a responsible task. Clients look up to your advice regarding where to place an object, how to take the image, the angle of every shot etc. If you are unable to get the desired results and create the best effect, clients get disheartened and lose faith in you. You stand the risk of losing business.
Commercial photography also expects substantial investment. Without necessary tools and equipment one cannot get the best quality. Cameras and lenses must be well-maintained and in good condition. New technology brings new products to the market and to be in the competition, one has to keep upgrading knowledge and new techniques along with latest gadgets in the market. Photography equipment is expensive.
Cameras of a range of capacities are now available and fitted into cell phones and other hand-held devices. Many amateurs have begun to think that photography is merely a matter of clicking images. Their attempts are fairly successful hence the notion of photography as an art has changed. Every ambitious aspirant has started indulging in commercial photography and the status of a professional has been affected. Several apps are available to modify images. Images of unforeseen images are quickly clicked by eye-witnesses affecting the role of professional photographers.
The transformation from print to online publishing has changed the type and volume of photographs needed for editorial, advertising, and marketing purposes. Markets and needs vary from place to place.
The photographer cannot merely function as an artist. When he pursues photography as a profession, he has to be proficient in multi-tasking. He has to be a visionary, an editor, a manager, administrator, finance person, HR manager, team-leader and so on. He must have enough knowledge of computers not only for administrative purposes but also to utilize technology advantages for enhancing his art.
A commercial photographer faces the greatest risk of copyright violation. Someone in some far corner of the world can take credit for your skill. Challenges are on global scale.
In spite of challenges and obstacles, commercial photography is an enchanting, interesting, fulfilling and profitable profession. It offers valuable opportunities for those with passion and determination.
Opportunities in commercial photography
- This generation has lost interest in words and content. The interest has shifted to visual images. One prefers to go through a series of telling and vivid images rather than pages and pages of written content. The increasing pace of life has led people to fast ways. A series of selected images can tell a story more appealingly than black and white words. The impact is also greater because images include colours and expressions. Resourceful commercial photographers can bank on this changing tendency.
- It is possible to avail of customized images at cheap rates directly from photographers. There is no need to order in mass quantities for competitive prices.
- Many photo labs and digital-printing firms are now equipped to produce a wide range of photo-centric greeting cards, books, calendars, enlargements and photo specialty items. Most photo-merchandise items look better when the images are shot by professional photographers.
- Commercial photographers can work in collaboration with engineers, architects, and civil engineers, product designers thus widening the scope of their work and adding a competitive edge to the task. This also brings specialization into commercial photography.
- Commercial photographers can work as consultants and provide technical support to those who need it. They can start training courses for aspirants.
- A global market has opened up for commercial photographers to sell their art and services online.
- Advancement in printing technology has opened new venues and portals for commercial photographers.
- Corporate marketing departments are becoming publishers. Instead of buying advertising in editorially independent magazines, many corporations are attempting to develop magazine-quality content for their websites to help establish online exposure and credibility for their brands and promote two-way communications with customers. Opportunities may develop for photography professionals who can supply both still photographs and videos.
Artistic possibilities are endless. Nobody stops photographers from creating their own distinctive style. The more they experiment with their art, equipment and imagination, the higher they will rise in their profession. Combinations exist in terms of: creative image editing; digital, historic, and mixed-media printmaking techniques; printable materials; and new methods of displaying and selling your finished images. Ultimately, a commercial photographer is indirectly a member of a marketing team. He must build strategies to create images that will finally help to sell products in the market.
Why hire commercial photographers?
It is fun to go around clicking images on cell phone cameras and similar devices. Yet, there are reasons why hiring commercial photographers is profitable in the long run.
- Commercial photographers know the ins and outs of the trade.
- They have experience in handling a variety of projects for different purposes.
- They are aware of new trends and changing expectations of society.
- They possess expensive and appropriate equipment for specialized photo shoots.
- They have the technical expertise necessary for indoor, outdoor photography, for head shots, personalities, objects, places etc.
- They know the right people to collaborate with.
- They can complete projects within time limits.
- They can offer work at competitive rates.
- Hiring a commercial photographer takes the stress off your mind.
- Only a commercial photographer can give you a professional grade image that relates aptly to your product or service enabling you to promote it in the market, real or digital.
- Average photography is generic. Professional photography will establish your brand.
- A professional photographer knows how to engage a customer with images.
- A professional photographer can humanize images that can speak. He can create a story to surround it, thus making it complete, comprehensive and voluble.
It is rightly said that pictures speak louder then words!!!
Reach out to us!
Inderjeet Singh is a talented commercial photographer with over 15 years of experience in handling a vast range of professional projects for advertising agencies, industries, architects, interior designers and fashion houses all over India and abroad. He is the captain and mentor, the brain behind every project at inderphotography.com. Photography is a unique combination of varied talents merged together: technical knowledge, creativity, vision, art and aesthetics. The secret of successful photography is the use of multi-talents for pleasing the viewers. The expert team at inderphotography.com combines a range of skills, talents, visions, perspectives and adds the best advantages of latest technology and equipment to produce unique results that baffle the eyes.
If you want to make sure that your product images go viral within seconds and are shared and re-shared flitting across the globe at the speed of light, contact inderphotography.com and see the magic of images work!!!