What Is the Difference Between Commercial Photography and Advertising Photography?

Both commercial and advertising photography are important and specialized types of photography for the skilled, experienced photographer. However, commercial photography and advertising photography are not the same. They can easily be confused, since they both involve marketing something — but they are very different.

Read on to learn about the differences between commercial and advertising photography.

What Is Commercial Photography?

Commercial photography is a type of photography that focuses on the particular product you are selling. You can liken commercial photography to a “stock photo” you may see online when you do a search for a specific product.

The goal of a commercial photograph is simply to capture an image of the product in its best possible light. The consumer already knows they want the product, or there’s some other content that’s selling the product, now it now comes down to convincing the consumer to buy this particular product by showing them how great it looks.

Commercial Photography Tips: Best Practices of Commercial Photography

On a commercial photo shoot, you want the best possible equipment — including a fast, wide-angle lens, good zoom, tripod, quality lighting fixtures and some essential filters. You will also want a quality digital photo editing program for any touching-up that may be required.

With commercial stock photography, it’s important to remember that it’s all about the product. Lighting, background and styling should all be done in the service of enhancing the focus on the product, not detracting from it.

What Is Advertising Photography?

Advertising photography is flashier. It’s the kind of photography you might be more likely to see spread across a few pages in a magazine. Advertising photos are more about capturing an idea or a feeling.

It’s much more promotional than commercial photography. In commercial photography, you’re photographing a product and saying, “Here it is!” As an advertising photographer, you're still selling a product or service, but you're using your pictures to tell a story that gives that product or service greater appeal. You're enticing someone to buy by telling them what that product represents, rather than just showing the product in its best light.

Advertising Photography Tips: Best Practices of Advertising Photography         

Even though you’re not focusing on one product, it’s still important to depict everything in your advertising photography shot in the best possible way, so you want the same high-quality equipment you would use in commercial photography.

However, with advertising photography, you should always be asking, “Is this shot consistent with my vision for this campaign? Does it help to tell the story I’m trying to tell?” If a picture doesn’t fit the theme, get rid of it.

How the Two Differ

Commercial photography vs. advertising photography is going from the specific to the general. Advertising photography tells a story, while commercial photography freezes one moment in time. It’s almost the conclusion to that story you tell with advertising photography. When done right, both of these types of photography can be powerful marketing tools.