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What Is Advertising Photography?

Advertising photography is the art of using photography to create images with a focus on selling or promoting a service, product or brand. 

Sometimes you may have ad campaigns that aren’t necessarily there to sell but to raise awareness.

For example, governments might commission ad campaigns to get certain information out to the public which might be beneficial to them. 

What Types of Advertising Photography Are There? 

While there are countless situations where advertising photography can be useful here are some obvious examples:

  • Food and Drink (e.g. fast food chains, beer etc.)
  • Products (e.g. watches, perfume, technology, beauty etc.)
  • Automotive (e.g. cars, motorcycles etc.)
  • Fashion (e.g. high street brands, vogue)
  • Travel (e.g. tourism boards, holiday resorts etc.)
  • Architecture (e.g. architecture agencies, developers etc. )
  • …. AND basically every other industry under the sun

The list of categories of advertising photography is endless since you can use it in pretty much any industry.

Since there is so much variety you’ll often find that some photographers will specialise in one or two industries.

By doing this they can become really good at certain styles and become sought after. 

This can be a good strategy as you become known for a certain thing and become the go-to person for certain brands. 

What Techniques Are Used In Advertising Photography?

Just like any other type of photography, there are some key techniques that you would use to have the best advertising photos. 

Some obvious fundamentals for a great photo include:

  • Compositional techniques
  • Correct exposure and focus
  • Storytelling 
  • Color theory

In addition to these general rules, there are some special techniques that advertising photographers often use to step things up a notch…

Macro Photography 

This is particularly good for product photography and sometimes food photography.

Using macro photography lets you really show off the details of a product and give a different perspective. 

For example, the sparkles from a diamond ring look much better and impressive up close.

Action shots

This can apply to both people and to inanimate objects like food. 

Think of a sports person in a Nike advert, or splash photography in an advert for a beverage brand. 

Staging and Props

In advertising photography, everything is highly staged for the perfect shot, so using props and staging a set is extremely common. 

Getting the right story and message across is vital to a brand and using props or staging a set a particular way helps to do this. 

In fact, you’ll often have specific people on set where their whole job is just staging items to look as good as possible.


Products have to look perfect if you want to make people want to buy them.

Whether it’s making sure that luxury watch is glistening just right, or making sure that burger looks like the juiciest burger you’ve ever seen, editing helps in polishing the final image. 

Another reason editing is useful in advertising photography is that sometimes advertising has a surreal style to it compared to other types of photography.

This is to exaggerate products that are being promoted and make the visuals more memorable.

What Is The Difference Between Commercial and Advertising Photography?

Advertising photography can be classed as a subcategory of commercial photography. 

While commercial photography can cover a massive range of photography, advertising photography will usually have the following objective:

To sell.

This contrasts with some other commercial photography where the photos may be commissioned for a more informational reason.

For example, product photography on a website or catalogue is more for the product to look as accurate as possible. 

But advertising products can have more of a surreal element as ads are designed to be more persuasive.

What Makes a Good Advertising Photographer?

A good advertising photographer will be able to use their photography to get the right message across and evoke the right feelings from the viewer.

You can accomplish this in many ways and when it comes to advertising photographers there are many different approaches and styles.

For example, for a drinks brand, it can be that refreshing feeling you get when you have quenched your thirst.

On the other hand, for a travel brand, it might be for you to feel the ‘fear of missing out’ on going to a dream destination. 

Whatever the message, a good advertising photographer will be effective at evoking the right feelings and getting across the right message in their images.

The top advertising photographers will be able to achieve this with ease. 

Sometimes there will be a team that decides the creative direction whereas other times the photographer themselves may take a more hands-on approach.

How Is Photography Used In Advertising?

Since photography can be used in so many industries there is a large variety of ways that the images can be displayed.

A lot of the time this will be determined by the ad campaign itself. 

The main thing to consider is, which of the following the ad campaign will be:

  • Digital
  • Print 

If it’s a digital ad campaign then you might see the photos being displayed only on social media apps, across the internet or on digital billboards. 

On the other hand, if it’s a print ad campaign then you might only see them in print publications like trade show flyers, industry magazines or printed billboards. 

Ad agencies and companies might use just one form of advertising (e.g. digital only) or a mixture of the two.

If you don’t consider how the photos will be displayed then the final images might not be fit for purpose and this is especially important for print campaigns for large-size prints.

But even if it’s a digital-only campaign, you’re gonna need to consider all the different screen sizes and aspect ratios that your images are going to be shown in before you even start taking photographs.

The image that works for a vertical aspect ratio for a social media ad might not be good enough for a horizontal ad on a website.