Commercial photography is the art of taking pictures that are marketable, and finding places to sell them. You can do this on a freelance basis where you shoot a lot of images and then sell them or you can shoot by assignment where you shoot specific subjects. No matter where you want to get started, you’re going to need a strong commercial photography portfolio.
Think About the Market
Understanding what the art buyer wants and needs is critical in building your portfolio. If you’re not sure what niche you want to focus on, you should consider taking a wide variety of photographs that will show off your photographic flexibility. This will also increase the chances of a buyer seeing something they like. Remember that any photographs featuring people will need to have signed releases allowing you to sell the images, so it may be best to focus on environments and products when you’re first getting started.
There are two reasons that the Internet is your most powerful ally in building a commercial photography portfolio. The first is that it allows you to search through the portfolios of thousands of working commercial photographers and see what sorts of images sell the best. The second is that it provides you with a low-cost way to get your portfolio to as many people as possible. Simply get a website domain name and upload your photos, then send the link with any correspondence to potential buyers.
Create Your Own Assignments
You’re not going to have assignments right out of the gate, but a good way to get them is to shoot in the vein you’re interested in to demonstrate your abilities. For example if you want to do advertising images, create a couple of made up ad campaigns and take some Corporate Photography photos that would go with them. Then put them on your portfolio explaining how they interact with the campaign and why you selected them. Art directors love a photographer that can think “in theme.”
Pick Your Niche
One of the best ways in which to profit from photography is by becoming the best photographer at a certain kind of photographs. There are photographers who focus just one subject matter like food, celebrities, food, animals, bikinis and many others. Find something you’re passionate about, grab a few publications you’d like to shoot for, and see if you can build a portfolio of work that speaks to that potential client.
Beginning photographers may find it difficult to lock down work with a major publication, but there are thousands of local ones that often get overlooked. Find out if there are any local magazines, newspapers or websites that need images and offer to volunteer your services. You may not be rolling in the dough right at the start, but you will be building a powerful list of former clients and a healthy bit of experience, both of which will enhance your chances of landing a bigger and better assignment in the future.