Behind the Lens

How to run a successful Commercial Photography business?

In this article we reveal the fundamentals of commercial photography and give you valuable tips on achieving success as a professional commercial photographer.

One of the exciting aspects of working in photography is the wide range of fields available to explore, based on your skills, interests, and personality. The particularly popular and well-compensated field is commercial photography. In today's visually-oriented world, commercial photography has become essential for businesses to communicate their brand stories, engage customers, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market. Hence, it is worth seriously considering this path in your photography career.


In this piece, you will learn:

1. What is commercial photography?

2. What is the application of commercial photography?

3. What is the difference between commercial photography and advertising?

4. What are the types of commercial photography?

5. How can commercial photography grow your business?

6. What is the best way to get started in commercial photography?

7. How to get your first clients as a commercial photographer?

8. Commercial photography tips 

9. What license type is best for commercial photography?



1. What is commercial photography?

Commercial photography can initially be a bit perplexing due to its broad scope. It primarily involves businesses creating top-notch images of their products or services for the purpose of promotion, marketing, and sales. This category often encompasses photographs of products, lifestyles, fashion, architecture, food, events, and more, depending on the specific client and the items being marketed.

A career in commercial photography offers great diversity and a wide range of portfolio opportunities. This is because the focus lies more on the ultimate usage of the images rather than their actual content.


2. What is the application of commercial photography?

Given the widespread online sale and promotion of products, it has become commonplace for commercial photographers to capture images specifically for platforms like Instagram. These visuals are further utilized on websites, marketing materials, print or digital advertisements, billboards, and any other medium through which the client seeks to visually communicate with their customers.


3. What is the difference between commercial photography and advertising?

Although advertising photography and commercial photography share similarities, they also have nuanced distinctions. Commercial photography primarily aims to present a product in its most favorable way, focusing on highlighting its features and attributes. On the other hand, advertising shots go beyond merely showcasing the product and instead concentrate on evoking emotions and conveying a narrative that embodies the brand's essence.


4. What are the types of commercial photography?

As mentioned below, commercial photography is a highly diverse field, offering a wide range of opportunities and niches to explore. Some common types of commercial photography include:

  • Fashion Photography: Dedicated to showcasing clothing and fashion-related items for selling purposes. 

Photo by Naeim Jafari from Unsplash

  • Portrait Photography: Focuses on capturing the personality and essence of individuals or groups.

  • Product Photography: Involves capturing images of products or services to be used on websites and social media platforms to drive sales.

  • Food Photography: Creates visually appealing images of food to entice viewers.

  • Architecture Photography: Concentrates on capturing photographs of buildings and structures.


Photo by Marius Christensen from Unsplash

  • Lifestyle Photography: Integrates a product or service into the lifestyle of the subject to create compelling images.

  • Real Estate Photography: Involves capturing attractive visuals of properties and interiors.

  • Headshots Photography: Focuses on capturing professional photographs of a person's face and shoulders.

  • Advertising Photography: Captures images of products or services specifically for promotional purposes, used in billboards, posters, magazines, online advertisements, and product catalogs.


Photo by Micheile Henderson from Unsplash

With such a wide array of options available, there is likely to be a niche within commercial photography that aligns with your interests and passions.


5. How can commercial photography grow your business?

For photographers venturing into commercial photography, the advantages are manifold:

  • Consistent Availability of Clients: Commercial photography ensures a consistent influx of clients, offering a stable and predictable workflow throughout the year. Businesses in various industries, such as fashion, advertising, e-commerce, and hospitality, require professional photographers on a regular basis to capture their products, services, or brand image.

  • Lucrative Profits: By venturing into commercial photography, photographers have the potential to earn substantial profits. Commercial clients often have larger budgets allocated for photography projects, allowing photographers to command higher fees and negotiate favorable compensation packages.

  • Increased Professional Success: Engaging in commercial photography opens doors to significant professional accomplishments. Photographers may have the opportunity to work with renowned brands, collaborate with talented creative teams, and have their work featured in high-profile advertising campaigns, magazines, or online platforms. These experiences not only enhance their portfolio but also elevate their professional reputation and visibility.


6. What is the best way to get started in commercial photography?

It is feasible to establish a commercial photography business even without prior experience in the field. As long as you can find commercial clients who appreciate your images, you can secure work regardless of your style. So what should you start with?

The initial step is to choose a specialization. As stated below, commercial photography encompasses a wide range of images, but having a clear stylistic and thematic focus is advantageous for your photography business. Specializing in a specific area of commercial photography allows you to be perceived as an expert in that niche.

Next, gather the necessary equipment. While it's advisable to start with what you have and gradually acquire equipment based on your needs, certain specialized pieces may be required to create portfolio images. Depending on your focus, additional items like a studio strobe for product photography or beauty dish and softbox lights for people photography could enhance your portfolio.

Proficiency in editing is crucial. To create images that appeal to your commercial clients, it's essential to be familiar with editing software. Continuous learning and staying updated with new techniques and tools are necessary to produce high-quality images. Utilize resources such as Photoshop tutorials to develop a basic understanding of editing.

The fourth step involves creating a portfolio. If you don't already have a commercial photography portfolio, now is the time to create one aligned with your specialization. Experimenting with different lighting setups and subjects in your home studio can help build a product photography portfolio while offering free shoots to friends, family, or local businesses can generate images for lifestyle photography or other commercial genres.


Photo by Nick Morrison from Unsplash

The fifth step involves establishing your rates. Before approaching clients, it's essential to determine your pricing structure. While some flexibility may be necessary depending on the client and project scope, it's helpful to have a starting point based on factors such as the type of shoot, number of images delivered, licensing, and other relevant considerations. Being prepared with a price range early in the discussion process allows clients to have the necessary information.

In the sixth step, it's time to acquire your first clients. This stage may seem intimidating, but it's also filled with excitement. Landing clients that align with your goals and being able to monetize your passion is a gratifying experience. Engaging with potential clients and successfully securing projects that match your aspirations is a rewarding accomplishment.


7. How to get your first clients as a commercial photographer?

Acquiring your first clients as a commercial photographer is crucial in building your photography business. Here are some tips to help you attract and secure your first clients:

Network and collaborate: Attend industry events, join photography associations, and connect with other professionals in related fields, such as art directors, graphic designers, or marketing professionals. Collaborate on projects, offer your assistance, or participate in creative meetups to expand your network and gain exposure.

Create an online presence: Establish a professional website to showcase your work. Use social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share your photography, engage with potential clients, and network with industry professionals. Regularly update your online presence to demonstrate your ongoing activity and growth.

Offer competitive pricing or special promotions: When starting out, consider offering competitive pricing or special introductory packages to attract clients. You can provide discounts, bundle services, or offer additional perks to entice potential clients to choose your services over others.

Leverage online platforms: Utilize online marketplaces and platforms specifically designed for photographers to connect with potential clients. Websites like Behance, 500px, or even freelance platforms like Upwork, can help you showcase your work and find commercial photography opportunities.

Reach out directly: Don't be afraid to proactively approach potential clients. Research local businesses, agencies, or companies that might require commercial photography services and send them personalized pitches or introductory emails. Tailor your communication to their specific needs and explain how your services can benefit their brand or projects.

Ask for referrals: Reach out to friends, family, and acquaintances and let them know about your new photography venture. Ask them to refer you to anyone they know who might be in need of commercial photography services. Referrals can be a powerful tool for finding your first clients.

Remember, acquiring clients takes time and persistence. Consistently improving your skills, networking, and marketing yourself will increase your chances of attracting clients and establishing a successful commercial photography business.


8. Commercial Photography Tips

Here are some extra tips for you that may help you succeed in commercial photography: 

Having a distinct style is important. Your work should showcase unique methodologies that captivate viewers and distinguish you from competitors. Developing a signature style helps attract compelling projects and refines your expertise.

Staying relevant to current trends is crucial. Keeping an eye on industry trends through social media allows you to understand customer expectations and enhance the quality of your work.

Creativity is key. Balancing client expectations with your creative skills is vital. By innovatively presenting products or services, you can capture viewers' attention and enhance your clients' profitability.

By following these steps and embracing specialization, equipment, editing skills, portfolio creation, and a distinctive and creative approach, you can undoubtedly establish a successful commercial photography business.


9. What license type is best for commercial photography?

Ultimately, the best license type for commercial photography depends on the specific circumstances and agreements between the photographer and the client. It is essential to carefully consider the intended usage, negotiate terms, and ensure that the license aligns with both parties' needs and expectations.

Therefore, understanding photography licenses is crucial in commercial photography, as they dictate the rights you grant to your clients when entering into a contract. Familiarizing yourself with different types of licenses helps protect you from potential financial losses. Some common license types include Royalty-Free, Rights-Managed, Creative Commons licenses, and Unlimited Use. For more detailed information on various licenses, refer to our article.


What to do if someone used your photo without prior licensing?

Establishing an online presence as a photographer can significantly contribute to your professional achievements. However, it is important to acknowledge that sharing your photos on the internet also exposes them to the risk of image theft. So, what to do if your photo has been stolen?

If you find that someone has used your photo without prior licensing, you have a couple of options to address the copyright infringement. One approach is to personally contact the infringer and attempt to resolve the matter independently. If you don't know how to proceed, you can seek legal assistance from a lawyer specializing in copyright law. However, if you prefer to avoid the complexities, high costs, and potential reputation damage associated with legal proceedings, you may consider using Fair Licensing as an alternative solution.

Fair Licensing is a tool designed to assist photographers and photo agencies in resolving infringement cases in a fair and friendly manner. It allows direct communication with infringers to request payment for the image license while maintaining a good relationship. The plattform offers a user-friendly case management system, integrated evidence collection, pre-written email templates, and a billing portal that supports various payment options worldwide, that make the whole process much simplier.



Commercial photography offers an exciting and rewarding career path, providing opportunities for creative expression, professional growth, and financial success. By understanding its significance, exploring different types, and following practical tips for success, you can establish a thriving commercial photography business. Remember to continuously refine your skills, adapt to industry trends, and prioritize building strong relationships with clients to ensure long-term success in this dynamic field. Additionally, it is essential to remain vigilant about image usage and safeguard your work against unauthorized exploitation, which could threaten your business and income.

We suggest you read our Photo Copyright Guide to stay aware of your rights as a photographer and learn the techniques of protecting your photos from copyright infringements.

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