Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to Take Commercial Photographs

A large portion of the photographs I take could be classed as commercial photography.  The shots I take for the magazine I work for could also quite easily be used by the business for marketing purposes, whether on their website or for brochures, flyers or catalogues.  A lot of the work I do for the magazine is actually photos for advertisements.  Commercial photography wasn't a direction that I purposely took with my work, I seem to have just fallen in to it, but it is one that I really enjoy.
I find myself taking shots of galleries, cafes and businesses, and having to focus on food, art, jewellery, furniture, home wares and even things that might seem a bit uninteresting, like paint!  I always try to make everything look the best it can.
I find that often looking at things from a different angle can really highlight them better.  Such as this chair.  As well as being a fabulous orange, it looks a lot better taken at an angle because you can see the legs, the fabric on the seat and get more of an idea of the overall shape, rather than just take a shot directly from the front.
Be conscious of what is in the background as well as the foreground, and adjust your camera so that you have a greater depth of field so that both foreground and background are in focus.  Although having said that it can look fantastic when you focus in up close on something and the background is blurred, or it has a shallow depth of field.
I like to get shots of staff going about their job.  Your client might not end up using these shots, but it is good to provide them.  I think having people in photos makes a business seem more personal and approachable, which I truly believe is important.
Make use of natural light.  I never ever use flash photography.  I hate how it looks.  Make use of what light you have, and if it is a little dark make sure you have a tripod.  You don't necessarily need to spend a fortune on one, although I do recommend not buying the cheapest you can find....because it will be flimsy and most likely not take the weight of your camera....trust me!  Adjust your camera to a slower shutter speed if there is less light, and if you have to, editing will be your new best friend.
Sometimes you might get lucky with your lighting too.  This shot above was actually kind of a fluke (don't you love it when that happens!).  It was late afternoon and the sun was streaming in through the windows and it hit these maple syrup bottles beautifully.  Snap!  Perfect shot.  This one was used in this cafe's advertisement in pride of place, right in the middle of the ad.
As well as adjusting your camera settings you may find that you also have to adjust your own bodies settings!  For example with this photo above I was perched precariously on top of a ladder.  I did not feel particularly safe but it made for a great photo.  This way you can really see the boxes, the products themselves (the mushrooms) look good and are easy to see, and it was just an all round interesting way to look at things.  This photo below was another such example.  I was hanging out the back of the moving starters gate at the Warragul Harness Racing Cup when I took this shot.  Let's just say it was exhilarating.  And terrifying.  And incredible.  The horses were literally about a metre from the back of the vehicle, all baring down on me...nostrils flaring, manes tossing....amazing.  And I wasn't strapped in either!

Sometimes you might find yourself going 'out on location'.  These mushroom growers sold their product at markets, as well as direct to some smaller supermarkets.  It was nice to get this shot of the seller interacting with a customer.  Just make sure that you ask the customer if they mind being in a photo first.
This was another business I took photos of at this market.  It also is important to get close ups of their goods and their display.
Sometimes 'out on location' can really mean being 'out on location'....and you find yourself all over the place.  For example....
....this free-range egg farm.  Wear appropriate foot wear is my advice here.  Oh....and don't accidently touch the electric fence.  I found this out the hard way.
See what I mean about appropriate foot wear?  High heels are not your friend when you're taking photos.  You need to be able to move, to be able to get up and down ladders, or even lie on the ground.  And if you are me....you have to be comfortable knowing that your shoes can handle the cow pats.  I take a lot of photos of cows....
...more cows...
...well steers actually.  I do take the odd photo of an alpaca here and there....
....Watch out.  They spit! 
So...my biggest piece of advice with commercial photography?  Be prepared for anything!


  1. Really interesting!


  2. Replies
    1. Haha! Yes...sometimes I take my life into my own hands!

  3. I just want to fly you here and hire you to snap photos of my life all day long. (; Your photos are always so beautiful. Such natural talent.

    1. Gee...shucks! Thanks Kiki, you're sweet. I know!.....how about you fly me over there and I will take your wedding pics! (how cool would that be!!!....probably for me more than you!)

  4. I totally agree with Kiki. Ugh!!! You are so talented and I appreciate you sharing your bits of advice on different types of photography and the topics around them. This was helpful. I think my favorite thing you mention is having people in the commercial photography. You're right that is seems a lot more personable. I also like that you get them at a candid "going about their job" sort of way. Some businesses hire people to pose. Which can be fine, but I feel like this is more genuine...

    Much Love!!!
    -Stephanie Eva

    1. Aw shucks! Thanks Stephanie. You totally know when they have hired people to pose in photos...they are always gorgeous and have amazingly white teeth!