The Difference Between Editorial and Commercial Photography

Their are loads of terms that get banded about in photography, and I am sure you have all heard the terms "editorial" and "commercial photography" mentioned. But do you really know what they mean?

Photography has more turns of phrases and categories than most professions. We love a good bit of terminology and to be able to carefully put things in the right boxes. When I started out in photography, I thought that commercial photography was photographs in commercial settings (offices or workplaces) and that street photography was a photograph of a street. Of course, over the years, we slowly gain a better understanding of the secret language of our profession.

In this video, I go over both the differences in terms of the types of work that would be categorized as commercial or editorial, the reasons why they would meet that criteria, as well as the professional differences in terms of the way we carry out the work, the types of requests we may have, budget restrictions in both genres, and the reason why many professional photographers regularly do both. 

I am probably in the minority in my niche of food photography, where I prefer to do commercial over editorial work, but that is probably because I come from a sports and science background, and I like the rules. What is your preference?

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3 Comments

Mike Shwarts's picture

What I find amusing is well known forum with a thread on editorial style photos, and they are all fashion photos.

There is no editorial style. Editorial photos support a story. They may tell a story, but often they support a written article. And there is no editorial style. Any style of photo can support a story.

Andrew Feller's picture

I think that's the issue, its not an 'artistic style' but rather a style of working... usually, to the learned client, editorial style = lean crew... but people forgot that and coined the term 'editorial' to mean "story" the same way some people use the word "reportage" or "photojournalistic" instead of "candid" because it sounds more "pro" not knowing what any of it actually means.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

More money in commercial, more freedom in editorial. I've done both