Techniques used by commercial photographers

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Commercial photography is one of those careers where a skilful portfolio is more important than academic qualifications. There are a large number of commercial photographers across the UK, covering shoots for both corporate and private clients.

A commercial photographer is one who uses his or her skills in a professional capacity. This can range from taking simple pictures of "for sale" properties on behalf of local estate agents, to elaborate photoshoots for advertising companies. Wedding albums and pet and family photography are another important area.

Some commercial photographers specialise in one area, while others offer a more generalised service. The former is more common where the photographer is employed by a company, for example - an events or advertising agency. Freelance commercial photographers tend to cover several areas. For example, a commercial photographer in Leeds may be called upon to cover graduations, football matches, tourism and photojournalism shoots, as well as pets, weddings and school photos. Nonetheless, many still specialise in a certain area, investing in special equipment, lenses and software. For example, advertising agencies invest a great deal of money promoting products, and are unlikely to use freelance photographers who haven't invested likewise.

Whatever the style, most commercial photography involves advanced techniques and professional photo equipment, often worth thousands of pounds, to create images which are beyond the scope of what the clients could achieve. Under this umbrella is a whole plethora of specialised areas. Sports events, local news, school photos, cookbooks, astronomy magazines and travel brochures; all these use commercial photographers to one degree or another.

One of the biggest errors made by amateur portrait photographers is a fussy or unsuitable background. Commercial photographers shooting in a studio will often shoot against a white, non-reflective background to get perfect results. Another technique is chroma keying. Usually associated with TV and movie filmmaking, this involves the compositing of two images into one by the use of a blue or green screen background. On a smaller scale, light boxes (the "studio in a box") are often used for photographing small objects, such as products for advertising shoots.

A commercial photographer does far more than skilfully create an image. Whether it's an advertising shoot or a wedding, the photographs must convey real feeling and emotion. Photojournalists and advertising gurus work hard at creating an image in the viewer's mind, striving for immediate impact that will stir the emotions. This is very different to school and graduation photos, where everything circulates around a perfectly posed centrepiece creating an image of style.

When people book a wedding or family portrait photographer, they're often looking for something memorable, something outside the usual brandy glass mock-ups and fixed poses. Canny commercial photographers working in the private sector use the same techniques that advertising photographers use, with zany studio images, digital effects and props that reflect the fun of the occasion.

There's an endless range of unconventional ways to parade your art if you're a
commercial photographer, In Yorkshire, for example, you will see banner ads, rotating advertising boards, flyers and large-format displays, adorning everything from shop fronts to the sides of buses. Commercial photographers have never been more creative - or more busy.

Neil Adams is Managing Director of Powerhouse, a UK creative commercial photographer in Leeds and commercial photographer in Yorkshire Powerhouse offers a range of commercial photography services including advertising, lifestyle, food, catalogue and pack shot photography as well as other specialities including 360 photography and interactive web video. For further information, please visit to find out more.


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