What is a Commercial Photographer?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Every day, we see photographs in magazines, in newspapers, on billboard advertisements, and even on the front of cereal boxes. These images are all the work of the commercial photographer. He or she can work in a wide variety of industries. Television, newspapers, advertising, photographic studios, and publishing are only a few of the areas available.

Many photographers would love to be in the position where their work is used for magazine covers and mass advertising, but it is usually only the most talented and professional commercial photographers who get to this position. Some photographers are contacted by agents to take portraits of major actors and music stars, but they have usually worked long and hard to get to the top of their profession. The photographer must know the trade inside and out, from setting up the perfect shot to developing the photograph in the lab. He or she must also be trained in lighting aspects, backdrops for particular photographs, and all aspects of digital photography. Computers are now a major component in photography, and the commercial photographer must be up to speed in this area.

Although not strictly necessary, gaining some form of educational qualification is advised for this type of career. Many colleges offer degrees and diplomas in photography and are able to offer excellent training in all aspects of the field. The photography business is competitive, and any extra qualifications are always looked on favorably by employers.


A commercial photographer seeking employment should have a portfolio of his or her best work. It is also a good idea to have an Internet website featuring one's best photographs. This way, the photographs can be easily sent as samples to employers.

Once the commercial photographer has enough experience, he or she usually specializes in a particular field. This can range from fashion and celebrity magazines to brochures and catalogs. The subject variety available is huge, including anything from travel magazines and postcards to compact disc covers and wedding photographs.

The majority of work available to the commercial photographer is freelance or contract. The hours can be irregular, and lifestyle flexibility is desirable, as there may often be deadlines to meet. It can be a tremendously creative career, although at times, employer and company guidelines must be adhered to.

Another option open to the commercial photographer is teaching at colleges and universities. There is also the option to run one's own agency or studio.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

For those interested in turning their photography hobby into a commercial business what are some of the ways to start attracting clients?

Do you think word of mouth is the best way, or are there forums for advertising photography that might be best?

I love to take travel photos, and would like to start being paid for my work, as the trips to get the photos can be costly. Does anyone know if stock photo services hire independent contractors for commercial work?

Post 2

@kennykor - Commercial photographers have a great deal of control over their art and it can be a very rewarding career. Having worked hard to be successful and keeping their skills upgraded can be a lot of work.

My friend has her own commercial photography business that focuses on wedding photography and keeping her work portfolio perfect is always key for her. She does her own retouching and printing, as well as any album designing herself.

I really feel that commercial photographers keep up their own quality control because their livelihood rests on their images and word of mouth recommendations.

If you are trying to hire a commercial photographer for an event, I would look closely at their portfolios and talk to former clients. Overall, with a good photographer, you shouldn't have to monitor their quality. They will delete any bad images and only give you the best shots.

Post 1

how to do quality control of commercial photography from the beginning (product received from client) till job complete (photo finish)?

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