Commercial photography is one of the most high-energy, profitable, and exciting photographic niches. Most of the world’s best known photographers work in the commercial world.
As much as this facet of the industry is enticing, it is also the most competitive type of photography. Everyone wants to break in and make it big!
So how do you get ahead? Here are our 10 commercial photography tips to help you get a leg up in the commercial world.
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1. Keep Your Gear Up To Date
It is true on a general scale that photography lies in the photographer, and not the gear. That being said, commercial photography is a world all its own.
In order to compete with the intense and demanding market, you have to make sure your gear is up-to-date (or at least relevant in terms of technology).
The reason for this is that commercial photography adapts based upon current technological advances. What was once industry standard a year ago is no longer applicable.
Because commercial photography likely involves printing, having a camera with the highest number of megapixels you can afford is an absolute must. Sharpness is also important, so make sure your lenses are equipped with luxury glass.
Many commercial photography job postings and castings will require a gear list from you. Be ready to send them what you work with. This isn’t exclusive to just camera gear. Clients will likely ask you what editing software and computer you use.
Bonus Tip: If you can’t afford brand new gear, don’t worry! Develop a relationship with a rental shop and rent what you need.
2. Have a Solid Portfolio
Portfolios are of the utmost importance in this industry. Ensuring you have a solid body of work should be one of your top concerns if photography is to become your profession.
This is especially true in commercial photography. Because the industry is so heavily saturated with photographers trying to break in, having a brilliant portfolio will set you ahead of the curve.
My advice for your portfolio is to have a great variety of images. Different styles, different subjects, and different apertures. Don’t be afraid to try some creative portraits. Have some shots from both a studio and natural light.
As well as this, only showcase your absolute best work. Don’t add too many similar images or too many photographs of the same subject and arrangement.
3. Be Professional and Have a Good Attitude
Professionalism will get you further in life than one can even imagine. Bringing your A-game to every photo shoot will build a positive reputation, encourage trust, and help you with your efficiency.
Work ethic, motivation, and ambition will absolutely set you well ahead of the pack (and this is also how one weeds out the many applicants).
Being professional includes always being punctual (I suggest ten minutes early), focusing on the tasks at hand, completing your required work within a timely manner, being polite and respectful to everyone, and having a good attitude.
Being a negative Nancy helps no one and can be rather tedious!
4. Be Reliable
Going hand-in-hand with professionalism, being reliable is a fundamental characteristic within the commercial photography world.
Those that hire you want to make sure that you show up on time, are well prepared for the photo shoot, can meet deadlines, and (hopefully) exceed expectations.
Being reliable will ensure that you are hired again, and again, and even again!
A good way of making sure that you meet all of the demands expected of you is to keep a daily planner and take lots of notes. Consolidate your work schedule so that everything that you do is timely and happens according to your pre-planned schedule.
Keep notes on important information that you may otherwise forget. The key to success is organization.
5. Keep in Tune With Trends
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Much like needing to be updated on technological advances and new gear, being knowledgeable and aware of current trends is equally important.
Every year, every season even, brings forth new aesthetic trends in the photography world. With the social media climate, these trends are even more important than ever if the company hiring you wants to stay relevant.
As such, it is your responsibility to research and be informed on what kind of visual images are popular to produce.
6. Find Your Distinct Voice
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A part of standing out is offering something that is above your competitors. This comes in the form of your own personal aesthetic, ideology, and way of creating.
Art is just as much for us as it is for others, even when you’re creating commercial photography for someone. Don’t be afraid to let yourself shine through your work.
You’ll likely attract jobs that mesh very well with what you do this way, and create a very mutually collaborative workflow.
7. Creativity Is Important
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With showcasing your distinct voice, you should also be creative. No one wants the same image as someone else, and this can ring true with commercial photography.
Don’t be afraid to offer something out-of-the-box and exciting!
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That being said, make sure you listen to your client’s needs, wants, and aspirations so that you don’t go too overboard. Know when moderation is necessary.
8. No Rookie Mistakes
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If you’ve stepped into commercial photography, you can no longer be an amateur. Rookie mistakes will not be forgiven at a certain level, so make sure you work out all of those kinks.
Education is particularly important in commercial photography, where there is no mercy for hobbyist behaviour.
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Keep developing your skills. Take seminars, classes, read books, watch YouTube videos, experiment on your own time, and you’ll soon make sense of those photography basics.
9. Have Business Cards and Contact Information on Hand
Commercial photography is built on relationships and information. It is a great idea to have photography business cards and up-to-date contact information with you wherever you go.
Pass this around far and wide, you never know who you might meet on set.
10. Recommendations Speak Loudly
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Tying in with having photography business cards and updated contact information, in the commercial world, recommendations make a huge impact.
As a relationship-oriented profession, put your best foot forward and prove that you are worth recommending.
Bonus Tip: Electronic Press Kit
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Much of my work revolves around music photography. In music photography, bands often have a press kit that they give to industry professionals.
This kit is like a visual and legible resume for the band. It showcases a biography, promotional photographs, their discography, press excerpts, and so much more.
As everything is now digitised, most press kits are electronic, often in the form of a website, PDF file, or USB flash drive.
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Electronic press kits are not just for musicians, however. All creatives should have one. Ever since I made an electronic press kit for myself, I have had an easier time attaining higher caliber jobs.
In your electronic press kit, you can showcase your portfolio, client roster, gear list, biography, awards, and so much more. Make this, and update it as need be. Send this file in addition to your resume.
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Now that you have all of this knowledge, go out there and take over the commercial photography world!
You can also explore other avenues by checking how to sell your stock images or travel photos. There’s also commercial photography potential in real estate or interior photography. Get out there!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
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