How To Shoot Commercial Photography

I recently had the opportunity to do some commercial photography for Wine Cellar Specialists and Advanced AV in Pittsburgh.  The web developer had approached me because they were looking for a more custom, artistic approach than your normal stock photography could provide.  That’s one of the benefits of working with a photographer to capture your marketing/advertising photography rather than the cold, impersonal stock photography you could grab off of the web.

What Is Commercial Photography?

Commercial photography is photography created with the intent of making the end user money; essentially, photography for commerce and business.

The most important thing to remember when doing commercial photography for someone is to listen to what they want.  We all bring our own world view to whatever we photograph but commercial photography is all about making photographs that represent the business/business owners point of view.  If you’d like to get a referral from your client then focus on communication and don’t assume you know better when creating the images.

Often when you do commercial photography you’ll be dealing with multiple people…  The business owner, a second in command, maybe a marketing individual, the web developer, etc..  You’ll have to contend with multiple expectations and you may really please one individual while another is less than impressed.  The best advice I can give you here is to listen.  Find out who matters (usually the business owner) and make sure you create images that he or she loves.

You can quickly self sabotage yourself by ignoring what the person who hired you is asking for.  You may think your images are better than what they are suggesting, and they may be, but you aren’t paying you…  They are.  If you’d ever like to get more business from them you’ll want to at least meet them half way.  You can certainly make suggestions and show them different ideas, this will build trust and make them more confident in your capabilities as a photographer.

For this shoot I worked with the web developer and Gregg, the owner of both companies.  Both guys were great and gave me lots of freedom to work.  I listened carefully to what both guys needed (the web developer needed some background images and specific shots for specific areas on the site) and made sure I covered everything.

The entire time I shot I would explain what I was doing and why I was doing it.  I would show them my shots as I went so they knew they were a part of the process.  It was as much for them as it was for me, I wanted to see how happy they were with different shots and feel them out as to whether I was on the right track or not.  It helped that we were drinking some great wine and having a good time.

By listening and keeping an open mind you’ll be able to create better photographs for your clients…

What’s Important

While listening to Gregg talk about his business I could tell he had a real passion for what he does.  I was also able to learn what he was most proud of and make sure I captured that.


The security system, custom lighting, and custom shelving were a few of the things that were especially important to him.  The floors were custom-made and shipped in from Italy and the ceiling was made of rustic looking copper.  There was custom stone work and incredible art pieces that I photographed as well.  I made sure to spend extra time on everything that he emphasized.



Be Original

I approach every type of photography in a similar fashion…  I want to try to make an image that is more original that what my client is expecting.  Something that they or their clients look at and think “I would never have thought of that”.  Sometimes it involves laying on the ground, climbing a ladder, standing on a counter, and generally looking like a nut.  But if you do this you’ll be remembered.

0914_untitled_117Instead of shooting the traditional shot from the back of the theater I decided to narrow my aperture and create a star burst with the projector.  I had never seen anything like this and neither had my client, I’m sure he will remember this shot and me.

Consider Shooting Natural Light

Look, I’m not saying that shooting with natural light is better (it is) but it preserves the natural mood that your client created.  That doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time.  In this situation, where the business owner went to great lengths to design custom lighting and create a mood, it would have been stupid to use a flash of any kind.  I wanted to be able to create images that captured the scene exactly as the business owner had intended.  The goal of marketing photography is to create images that make potential clients want to be there or have that.


Marketing photography can be one of the most satisfying types of photography for photographers wanting to take their time with their work.  You can generally go at your own pace and revisit subjects until you get the shot you want (obviously this depends on the business and their product).  Just like portraiture you get to converse with people and build relationships in the process.  Remember to listen, explain, and set your own artistic vision on the back burner.

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Pittsburgh’s Wine Cellar Specialist Website

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