Posted in Professional Practice

Professional Photography

Photography has many genres in which you can base your style. The distinctions between editorial and advertising, fine art and commercial styles of photography have got more predominant links now than seen before in traditional photography. Fashion is just one example of a genre. Fashion photography then has its own genres of photography, including documentary, portraiture, sports, advertising, editorial, still life, street, catwalk, and look book. Fashion photography is about depicting clothing and fashion items with the objective to look distinctive and stand out, therefore able to sell the product or garment. It is very experimental and much more diverse in modern photography. It has a lot of legalities that have to be taken place like model release forms, rent, contracts, leases etc. Fashion photography shows the links in fashion trends between now and previous eras, for example, currently the trends show androgynous styles, geormetric prints and pastel colours, which are all a loop of previously seen fashion in eras such as the 1960’s. We have also seen the development of things such as “smart fabrics” which is the merging of technology into fabrics. The obvious decline and trend that we see yearly is the seasonal trends, such as winter wear and summer wear. An online company, known as WGSN, works to show up and coming trends at least four years in advance. They have a 17 year track record, with 450+ industry experts and worldwide coverage. This is helpful to designers, marketers and photographers in a sense that it helps you to recognise future strengths in fashion which you could work with to get a front seat in the market.

Still life is another example of a genre in photography. This includes product, advertising, editorial, packaging, and food. Still life is the representation of inanimate subject. It uses a refined sense of lighting to create bold images that sell the product in question. It can prove to be quite challenging and requires a high level of technical skill, patience, perfection and organisation. It also requires a strong sense of attention to detail as every single crumb photographed in the image matters. Andy Whale is quoted saying “You create the image rather than grab the shots”, which essentially shows how it is important to plan and actively create the image and not just expect it to happen.

Another genre is space and place, which includes social, documentary, sport, editorial, landscape, architecture and street photography. It is about capturing the structures and beautiful (or derelict) architectures and conveying the experience of being in and around the environment of that place. It requires technical skill, and artistic vision and flare, and creativity.  It’s a good genre to study the use of scale, structure and to incorporate historical/factual elements into your images.

Commercial photography requires a more client based approach to the work produced, so requires a “market”. This includes genres such as packaging, product, advertising, editorial, post-production and stock photography.

Packaging and product photography is often confused as a genre. Packaging is about photographing an actual product which is inside a package, however product is about removing that product from the package and photographing its physical existence. When doing packaging photography you have to make sure it is realistic, using persuasive styling, design and layout to capture the eye of the audience but still keeping a true representation of that item. It is a medium budget process with heavy client input. Product is usually used for web or print advertisements. It is a limited brief, with a lower budget than packaging and the client isn’t as heavily involved, however there is a tighter time scale. It uses simple lighting with the photographer’s creative interpretation of the product. It is important to remember when doing product photography, that if you change the appearance of the product at all you must classify it as a “serving suggestion”, to avoid accusations of false advertising. 

The challenges of product photography are generally to represent the product perfectly, to represent the product in good lighting, and to photograph a range of products rapidly. It is often experienced that difficult products to photograph include transparent products like glass as it shows reflections of the lights, chrome and other highly-reflective products like mirrors, and products which are white or black. For some types of product, such as jewellery, a background of a  contrasting colour (example, green for gold) is better as it makes the product stand out. However, in other cases, the client will want a particular look which distinguishes them from competitors, such as using crumpled and then smoothed aluminium foil as the background.

To be able to pursue a career within this genre of photography, many product photographers come from a background of university or experience, and slowly work their way into an agency environment. Having a degree gives you an advantage in a sense that you can gain practical experience and technical theory essential to your career. Many product photographers also work on a self-employed or as a freelancer. When doing this you must be sure to be a good business person in a sense of being able to negotiate with customers about prices, timescales and keeping the legalities of the business up to date, as well as being on top of all the roles within photography when starting off. If being employed into product photography, most employers require formal training or a degree in photography. It is important for you to have an artistic and creative eye, and be up to date with technology to be sure you are educated on the technical side of photography. You can do this by taking continuing education courses, entering competitions and teaching courses. An advantage of being a product photographer is that as long as there are people trying to sell products, there will always be work to get in to. A disadvantage is that photography in general is rapidly increasing as a career so the opportunities for a successful career are decreasing as the market is filling with competitors. The average earning of a product photographer is generally between £40,000 and £50,000, but can vary depending on experience.

vmldvmsTimothy Hogan has been a successful advertising photographer for over 16 years. He is arguably a product photographer rather than advertising. Hogan studied photography in college and graduated from Syracuse University in 1998. He was inspired by the darkroom processes which made him follow photography to a career. After graduating thuniversity, he moved to New York where he assisted for a year and then set out on his own. He opened his first studio on 29th Street in early 2000 and has opened multiple studios since. He says “I’d say 80% of my work has been focused on advertising still life, with 20% beauty.” TIMOTHY[Griffin, E. (2013) Timothy Hogan: TheFINproject | resource magazine. Available at: (Accessed: 26 October 2015).] He’s shot advertisements for multiple large companies including Maybelline, Tommy Hilfiger, and Visa. As a personal project, he introduced “theFINproject”, which fused Hogan’s love of surfing, with his love of photography, giving him a more creativeTHS project as he could incorporate both of his passions into one, making it a strong outcome. The project explored the object of the fin and the story of the people who made the fin, giving it a narrative and giving the audience an insight into the lives of the fins from the production of them to the end product. His work is so successful because it’s passionate and selective, with an enthusiastic work ethic in advertising. He is also self-motivated, which essentially means his work comes from the mld;s vfact he actively seeks it and wants to do it. He
describes his work as “iconic, dynamic and essential” and said his success came from “just lots of hard work”. [Hogan, T. (2012) Learning from the Pro. Available at: (Accessed: 26 October 2015)]  His inspiration comes from Sarah Small who, is his words, uses “intensely HOGANpersonal, dynamic and unscripted work” which is the “virtual opposite” of his work. He believes to be truly successful a picture needs to have the perfect lighting, the perfect expression and mood, and the perfect composition for that particular subject. He learnt to do the things he does by dmlsv zldexperimenting after his degree. [Hogan, T. (2012) Learning from the Pro. Available at: CBSJKAC (Accessed: 26 October 2015).]       

Advertising photography is used to promote a product or service, selling lifestyle, concepts and ideas. It requires a high level of skill, the designing of the layout, organisation, project planning, a good location and maximum detail. It is a very team based style of photography, with many creative people working together to help with different elements of the shoot, proving teamwork to be essential. It can prove to be long hours but has a larger budget with a heavy amount of post-production work to help make the images perfect. It is a broad genre with not much creative freedom – the less money paid by the client, the more freedom the photographer has, but the client is usually the one doing the thinking. The photographer is paid for the images rather than works of art.

Editorial photography is published material that shows a narrative and a theme to enhance a story. It requires a lot of control, knowledge of rations and consideration for text as it is usually used for adverts. This job is usually done by a freelancer and is done by a brief to tell a story. It has tight deadlines as they usually work with magazines, newspapers, authors etc. meaning publishing deadlines are existent. The shoot is usually financed by the client (i.e. the newspaper or magazine), with lower pay but a lot more creative freedom than advertising photography. They have the chance to travel a lot with a team of people, similar to advertising.

Post-Production photography is the work that happens after the initial shoot. This is heavily used within editorial and advertising. It requires a digital re-toucher, digital artist, CHI, 3D imagery and photographic skill to make sure it doesn’t look tacky or obviously edited. It is used to communicate ideas and narratives to the audience and helps to visualise the ideas of the client more efficiently.

Stock photography is the supply of photographs, which are often licensed for specific uses. It is used to fulfil the needs of creative assignments instead of hiring a photographer, often for a lower cost. It provides a good source of income for minimum inputs of effort as the images are already existent. It requires a royalty fee which is a one off payment which grants you the copyright to the image also. It allows you a payment every time the image is reproduced but only normally takes a minimum amount of images. Companies such as Getty are known for stock photography.

Roles within photography are always changing, with things such as software, diversity of images, design etc. There is a vast amount of employment opportunities within photography also, such as freelancers, employed photographers, stock, art director, agents, assistants, editors, technicians, and teachers, post-production and even opportunities within large shows such as London Fashion Week. It is easy to promote yourself using research, CVs, having a stable online presence, contacts and networks, portfolios and personal work. It is essential to make sure you have good time management and motivation to be able to succeed.


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