What’s the Difference Between Commercial and Editorial Photography?


Look at any free photo sharing website and you’re sure to see a whole host of images captured in different ways and for different purposes. When it comes to photography there are a number of different terms that refer to the different types and genres you see on such sites. For the uninitiated, it is quite common to get confused over what commercial and editorial photography are. There are some very significant differences between the two types of photography. Here we will take a look at those differences and explain their uses so you can work out the type of photography you’re looking for..

What is commercial photography?

Commercial images, sometimes referred to as creative images, are used to promote things like services and products. These are images that offer an idea or concept; and are a powerful tool that is used in the advertising world.

These images are predominately used for marketing and promotional purposes and as such, they are governed and protected by a range of different regulations with regard to things like permission, privacy, trademark infringement and the use of any logos or branding.

If there are people in the photos it is important that they have consented to be in the photos. For this reason commercial photography is usually done using models or employees of the company who the photos are being taken for. There are also plenty of rules that need to be taken into consideration regarding locations and properties that are not public property – locations that are open to the public are not public property. If a photographer is looking to use a location for a commercial photography shoot it is very important that they check out what restrictions may be in place for the location.

Commercial photography is used for images that may be seen in print but could also be used in other ways. For example, you may see it on social media. It may be a sequence of photographs, but these will not always be in the form of a story. Usually, a larger budget is involved for a commercial shoot. They tend to take longer, use more people and have more prep work involved; this often means that they will be used for a longer amount of time so that a client can get the most from them. These photographs do not usually end up in the photographer’s portfolio.

What is editorial photography?

Editorial photographs, on the other hand, will depict current events, real-life issues, and issues of human interest in a way that helps to tell the truth. They are often used to illustrate articles in magazines or newspapers, blog posts and other forms of writing where images help to illustrate to text.

There are still rules that govern this type of photography, but they are not as regulated as commercial images. These photos can contain places and people but can only be used for informative purposes. They are not to be used for promotional needs.

These are photos that tell a story, and this is often done through the use of multiple images. Editorial shoots normally have a much smaller budget and the photos, because they often depict current events, do not have a long lifespan. What an editorial photograph does, however, allow is for the photographer to use their own creative talent to express themselves within their photograph and these are photographs that they can usually put into their portfolio.

There are some distinct similarities between the two different types however they really are very different, and it is highly likely that a photographer will specialise in one of these types rather than dabbling in both.


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