If you have an interest in the advertising industry and you're maybe thinking about entering it as a photographer, there are a few things you need to know about. First of all, it's anything but easy. It takes a lot of skill and there is no dancing around that. Also you won't be dealing with bridezillas and emotional moms, but rather with annoying art directors who will be breathing down your back.
With that said, let's have a quick look at how a commercial photograph should be created.
The way you light in advertising is probably the most important part of the whole deal. The lighting needs to be spectacular, so with very few exceptions, you can forget about available light and high ISO. This isn't a wedding photographer's game. The set for a shoot like this is covered with light stands, each of them supporting a flash or a continuous light that is precisely placed to give a desired effect. Handling more than three lights is hard work, so you might need a friend to help you.
What's important to understand about lighting in commercial photography is that even if you see nine lights pointed at one person, they each have a controlled purpose. If your lighting skills aren't quite there yet, no need to panic. Start small and practice with two or three lights. If you can master them, it means you will have enough skills to get the job done without creating a forest of light stands around the set.
Modifiers are also very important, so it's probably a better idea to invest in a large octobox or soft box, a beauty dish and some umbrellas instead of buying a $2000 lens that you're not going to need as much.
The differences between a commercial photograph and other genres are quite obvious. The colors are one the first things you will notice. Unlike wedding and portrait photography that follow mainstream trends like vintage tones, in commercial work you have to follow the client's indications. Regardless of what the scene consists of, the colors in advertising photography will catch your eye. They will often be more saturated but the balance between them has to be perfect. Don't even think about using filters and presets because you are most likely not going to be taken seriously.
Models, MUA and hairstylists
There is often a lot of money at stake with a campaign, so everything must be done by professionals. Everyone on the team has a specific job and if you want things to be done right, you can't improvise. Pro models will be a lot easier to work with than your good looking friend who hasn't had much time listening to directions from other photographers. The make-up artists will make your skin editing a lot easier and good hair is essential as well.
(Success Tip #1: How to take photos of people having fun and sell them easily)
But let's say you are just building a portfolio and you don't have access to such resources. If you look around your local area, you will most likely find that just like you, there are young professionals looking to build a portfolio and helping each other is usually rewarding. Get in touch with local beauty salons and aspiring models and do a test project together. If things go well, do some shoots together and starting building a local network.
You need to bring out the best in a commercial image and highlight the quality of the light. Editing is an essential component in advertising, often more important than the shoot itself. Unless you are absolutely sure that you can do the editing yourself according to the client's standards and demands, give it to someone else. There are professional retouchers out there for all budgets. It's best to find someone who understands what you and your client need rather than ruining a perfectly good photograph with bad editing.
(Success Tip #2: Improve your photography with this simple deck of cards)
The advertising world can be very cruel with photographers. That's way you need a good portfolio and a solid network. All of this takes time and commitment, but if you enjoy doing it, it won't even feel like you're working.
Helpful link: Sell your old camera gear.