Often, I am asked “What do you do?”. When I respond “I’m a commercial photographer”, I love to watch the face of the person who asked. Sometimes there is instant understanding – “Oh, so you do headshots?”, or “Cool, product photography is very interesting”, or sometimes “Commercial? You mean like for advertising?” Yes. Yes. And Yes. And so much more. Once in a while, they look at me quite blankly, sure that I must have meant that I was a videographer if I’m shooting commercials.
I’m sure every photographer will define Commercial Photography as something slightly different, and it will probably be somewhat coloured towards their own specialty or preferred “focus” (pun intended). And that’s perfectly ok. We all have our preferences, and it’s what makes the whole entrepreneurship thing so cool, and so much fun, and so incredibly valuable. A common explanation for commercial photography is, “any kind of photography that is images captured for use in commerce, or business”. This still leaves it pretty wide open. It could include Fashion photography for example, even though I’m sure most of us would consider that a genre in itself. But essentially, fashion photography came about as a way to display designer or clothing manufacturers’ offerings in catalogs, magazines and flyers. The intent to sell those designs and articles of clothing and jewelry, making it, well, commercial. So now you’re likely asking “So, Su, how do you define ‘commercial photography’?”
For me, Commercial Photography is any photography related to the visual representation of a business. The world is becoming a very visual place. We all want to see the pictures. And we want the pictures to look like what we’re going to see when we get there. This whole gig for me was started and fueled by personal experiences. I would plan to go to a restaurant, or store, or service based business, and go online first to find out where it was, what it looked like, and basically what to expect when I got there. I like to be prepared, and not wear an LBD to a dive bar. Not that I go to dive bars as a habit. Or ever actually.
The problem I found was that I would sometimes – but not always – see images online of where I was going, and then when I got there, was surprised to see that the real place looked totally different than the photo showed it. The photos on the website or Facebook page really just didn’t tell the story of what the business was all about. Actually, the higher-end restaurants with big budgets are usually pretty good about providing relevant, updated visual content. Smaller establishments, or newer businesses, or even those that have been around for a long time and never had to think about their online presence before, often have few images available. Unfortunately, the images that are there don’t seem to take advantage of the power of professionally crafted photographs that showed their customers what they wanted to see.
Notice how I did that? …showed their customers what they – the customer – wanted to see, not just what the business wanted the customer to see. So I’m taking that to heart. I started looking into what my customers’ customers want to see, so that I can help my customers make good decisions about what kind of images they add to their website or social media pages. Here’s what I learned, so that hopefully you can use this info in your own marketing strategy.
People want to see:
- What the outside of the place looks like, so that they know they’ve gotten to the right place (the address for a business is sometimes a lot harder to find than for a residence).
- What the inside of the business looks like, so that they know if it’s a place they will be comfortable bringing their children, or be able to navigate their wheelchair, or just to make sure it’s a clean and safe environment.
- Some candid as well as posed images of the staff that work there. Are they smiling? Enjoying their work? Engaged with their customers? Are their customers happy?
- Products or services, and it doesn’t have to be a full catalogue, but if the business has a range of offerings, it would be good to see how they are displayed so that they can be easily found. Services might be a bit harder to showcase, but a good professional photographer can usually find a creative way to present even the most unique service.
- Branding. They want to see the actual business, rather than only stock photos. Some stock photos can be used to add information in some cases, but most people want to see what they’re going to get.
If you have questions about commercial photography, or anything else related to photography, feel free to send me your contact info and I will be happy to help. Have a great day!