photography types

Photography Types: Commercial Photography vs. Portrait & Wedding Photography

If you are a wedding, portrait or other service based photographer, and you are wanting to learn more about commercial photography… or take on a little ore a lot more  commercial photography work, then today’s video is just for you.

If you aren’t sure which photography types are right for you, I’m giving you my top 6 differences between wedding or portrait photography and commercial photography. Some of these differences may seem obvious, but there’s a lot more to it, than it first appears. Watch the video posted above for the best explanation, or scroll down to read the rest of the post if you prefer.

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Photography Types: Commercial Photography vs. Wedding & Portrait Photography

  1.  who you are servingIf you are used to working in the service field of photography then you know that your clients are primarily “real people” who would be hiring you to photograph their wedding or do portraits for their personal needs. For commercial photography you would be hired by an advertising agency or directly by the client. Understanding who you are serving will play a big part in how you handle your marketing as you will want to spend time and effort on marketing where your target market would be hanging out, and speaking a language that resonates with them. Understanding who you serve will also play a big part in how you handle the rest of the differences listed below.
  2. who you are photographingClearly with service based photography you are being hired to shoot the people who hired you or somebody close to them. Whereas, in commercial photography you are photographing models who are being paid as professionals to be in the shoot. With “real people” you are expected to make them comfortable, make them look good and provide an experience for them. When working with paid models, you are not providing an experience… They are professionals. The end product is not for them and they are being paid for the expertise that they bring to the table. This means that any direction you give would be very different than it would be to normal people and also that you can “get the shot” and move on more quickly. Casting prior to a commercial shoot is recommended so that you have a chance to see the models in action and determine if they are a fit for the shoot before you get on set.Pro Tip: Actors or models who also do acting are a great fit for lifestyle shoots because they are familiar with remaining natural and fluid, but are also comfortable being on camera and taking direction.
  3. how you are pricingThis is probably one of the biggest transitions to wrap your head around, and is a common stumbling block when a service photographer gets their first few commercial jobs. Knowing how to price and present pricing properly. With service photography prices are -pre-determined and presented as different package or hourly options. For commercial photography pricing, it is much more complicated and is based on different variables determined by the details of the shoot, who the client is and how the images will ultimately be used. It can be very exciting when you get your first request for a commercial shoot, and it can be tempting to just jump at the opportunity to do the shoot without putting all of the costs together. Gather the information beforehand and take the time to provide a proper estimate after you have thought through all of the variables. The main things to include in an estimate are production costs, image usage and your time as the photographer.
  4. how you are planningWith a wedding or portrait photo shoot the planning is largely around a schedule determined by the client and the needs of the day. For weddings, the schedule will be determined by a string of events that are part of the day. With portraits it will be more what the client wants in terms of pairings and location. For a commercial shoot your planning is everything, and far more of your time is going to be spent planning out every last detail of the shoot than it is actually doing the shoot itself. When a commercial client is involved, you are going to need to think through every detail (or hire somebody to think through every detail with you.) This will involve detailed communication with the client to ensure everybody is on the same page every step of the way. Location, Talent, Crew, weather and production details may have different degrees of importance put on them. For example one shoot may need to take place in a specific location… so everything will have to fall into pieces around that. You will want shot lists, schedules, color schemes and everything planned down to the finest detail so nothing goes wrong on the day of the shoot.
  5. The way you are shootingWith wedding and portrait photography, you are moving quickly with the aim of getting a variety of images for your client that tells the story of their day or of them. You would likely move around quickly and capture details and candid moments as well as the formal portraits. With commercial photography there are a few different approaches depending on the needs of the client and the style the photographer is known for. It is increasingly common for clients to want libraries or collections of work… however more traditionally advertising clients would only be walking away with a handful of shots to use in their campaign. Spending a full day to capture only 5 shots means that things moved a lot more slowly than they would on a day that you are running around capturing anything you can. This means a lot more time being spent on making sure everything is set up properly, testing shots, doing variations of the same shot, and then checking to make sure the shot was nailed before moving on. This is especially true of big campaigns that involve lighting setups and where everything needs to be perfect. Even for the more fluid photo shoots that involve natural or minimal lighting setups or where a more natural feel is the goal, it is still about taking your time more than getting a huge variety.
  6. how you are presenting your workWith wedding and portraits the goal in presenting your work is to show a client how you would capture their day, and to give them a sense of your style and the type of stories you tell with their collections. It will largely be about them putting themselves in your past clients shoes to see if that is how they want their wedding or family photos to look. This involves presenting a consistent style, but showing variety within each story so they can see consistency. They want to see the value they will get from working with you. For commercial photography portfolios, you will want to dive deeper into your full body of work and hone in on your very specific niche. You will want to show a very succinct body of work that captures the story of your brand, so that clients or agencies think of you automatically when a job comes up.

If you are looking to build a commercial photography portfolio, you can watch my video on the 5 tips to build a dynamic photography portfolio and download my FREE photography portfolio checklist below so you can build your portfolio the right way. Fill in your details below to get the checklist.

There you have it my list of the top 6 differences between wedding or portrait photography and commercial photography. If you are wanting to transition into commercial photography, or dive right into the commercial photography industry then hang out with me. I will be releasing videos about commercial photography weekly. Be sure to subscribe to my channel to stay caught up. Share this with your friends and contribute to the conversation below.

What are your main pain points with commercial photography? Tell me about it in the comments below.



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