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A Description of the Photography Business

Photography offers a wide variety of business options for the motivated artist.
the ancient camera image by Vladimir Konjushenko from Fotolia.com

Photography businesses encompass a wide variety of services and specialties with many photographers crossing into other specialties for creative rejuvenation and to increase their incomes. In today’s market, it is not uncommon for a photojournalist to work part time as a wedding photographer or a fine art photographer to support his art through portraiture commissions. The scope of photography is large and with the advent of digital technologies, more photographers are entering the business world and taking the profession in exciting and innovative directions.

Commercial Photography

Commercial photography encompasses a wide variety of photographic specialties, but its sole purpose is providing photographs for commercial enterprises to promote their products or services. This includes advertising photography, architectural, product, real estate, fashion and a host of other specialties. Commercial photography is among the higher-paid specialties and usually requires large budgets, production staffs, complicated lighting equipment, product stylists, wardrobe and make-up artists. Smaller commercial projects can be conducted for major corporations by individual photographers and usually helps photographers from different specialties to meet their fiscal goals for their business.

Consumer Photography

Consumer photography involves providing professional photographic services for everyday consumers. This includes family portrait photography, wedding photography, infant photographs and senior portraits. Many photographers also use portraits and weddings to help boost their annual income, though some extremely successful photographers specialize in providing these services throughout the duration of their careers. While the scope of a consumer studio can vary vastly in size, many professional portrait and wedding photographers operate a studio with several staff employees or photographic assistants and use location lighting in addition to some studio lighting situations.


Photojournalism encompasses the field of visual communications for the sole purpose of telling a story or relaying a news event to the public through images. Newspapers, magazines and online news websites use images created by photojournalists to illustrate their stories and written content throughout their publications. Due to the decline in the media industry and the shift to online publications, photojournalism is undergoing a shift in focus and a downsizing of traditional roles for the photojournalist in the newsroom. Many photojournalists are now shooting video and gathering audio in addition to their still images and producing multimedia videos of their stories. Photojournalists are usually hired as staff photographers for publications and the pay is traditionally on the lower scale, unless she is lucky enough to land a position at a major magazine, but many photojournalists pursue this genre for the passion of the craft.

Freelance Photography

A freelance photographer works primarily in the editorial fields and contacts publishers and editors of newspapers, magazines and other publications with photo story ideas or assignments and is hired on a per project basis to provide images for the publication. Once established, the freelance photographer may work with a specific set of editors who contact them when an assignment fits their style or location and the photographer is sent into the field to provide the images requested by the editor. Some freelancers work with an agency who represents the photographer and contacts the editors, handling the promotions and booking of the assignments at a commissioned fee. Many freelancers compensate their editorial income with both commercial and consumer photography projects as the freelance market is unpredictable and highly competitive.

Fine Art Photography

Fine art photography encompasses a wide variety of photography, ranging from black-and-white hand printed pieces to large scale digital installations on the sides of buildings in urban settings. This specialty is huge and varies dramatically based on the style of the artist and the market they are targeting. Many art photographers sell their prints through gallery representation, though a large number of artists are now selling directly to their markets with online galleries and stores. Fine art photographer's incomes vary widely, based on skill, representation and marketing, and some compensate their income with portrait and commercial work as well.

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