• Advertising Photography
noun | \ ˈad-ˌvər-ˈtī-ziŋ fə-ˈtä-grə-fē \

A genre of photography specializing in the creation of high-impact images designed to promote or sell products, services, or brands. These images aim to engage audiences by eliciting emotions or interests, and may be utilized in campaigns focused on sales or raising awareness. Also known as ad photography.

Ever scrolled through Instagram and found yourself stopping at a stunning photo advertising, let’s say, a mouth-watering cheeseburger?

Yeah, me too.

That’s the power of ad photography, my friend!

It makes you pause, stare, and most importantly—remember.


Now, what if I told you that you could wield this power for your own small business?

Intrigued? You should be.

In this guide, I’m going deep (without photography jargon overload) into the world of advertising photography, aka “ad photography.”

Let’s explore how it can add pizzazz to your brand and why you should be penciling it into your marketing strategy, like, yesterday.

So, buckle up, because you’re about to turn into an ad photography aficionado!

Want some wild Maine Blueberry Jam? That is the power of ad photography.

What is Ad (Advertising) Photography?


“Picture” this: You own a quaint café that serves the best blueberry muffins in town.

They’re so good, but guess what, you only see a trickle of clients every day. Why?

Because no one’s going to know if you don’t show it off, and I mean really show it off,

How? Through high-quality, eye-catching advertising photography.


What Exactly Are We Talking About Here?


Ad photography isn’t just about taking a quick pic with your smartphone and posting it on Facebook.

Advertising photography is an art and a science.

It’s the meticulous setup of your blueberry muffins next to a steaming cup of coffee, all captured in the perfect light, making anyone who looks at it instantly crave your culinary masterpieces.


Why Should Small Business Owners Care?


Because in today’s digital age, your customers are swiping through hundreds of images a day.

Your job is to make them stop at yours.

And not just stop but go, “Wow, I NEED to have that blueberry muffin, or I’ll suffer from severe FOMO!”

And let’s be real, who wants to suffer from FOMO? No one, that’s who.

You see, ad photography is more than just pretty pictures. It’s your brand’s visual voice.

Advertising photos are how you say, “Hey, we exist, and we’re awesome!” without actually saying it.


Full page flyers


The Real Benefits of Ad Photography for Small Businesses


So, you get it—ad photography makes things look good.

But wait, there’s more! (I sound like a guy selling you kitchen gadgets on late-night TV).

This isn’t just about looking pretty; it’s about making your business soar to new heights.


Reasons Why Advertising Photography is Crucial


Illustrating a Brand


Think of your favorite brand. Got it? Now, what images come to mind?

Chances are, you’re picturing something specific—maybe it’s Apple’s sleek, minimalist design or Coca-Cola’s nostalgic holiday commercials.

That’s no accident, that’s the result of top-notch advertising photography creating a lasting mental snapshot.


Providing Social Media Accessibility


Social media—where cat videos reign supreme and where your business can reach the masses without breaking the bank.

A killer ad photograph can make your post go viral.

Imagine your product photo getting shared like the latest meme?

Yeah, it’s that powerful.


Presenting a Compelling Message


Every photo you share tells a story about your brand.

Is your product the hero, the solution to consumer problems?

Or is it the sidekick, making life just a bit more enjoyable.

A well-crafted photograph can tell this story better than a thousand words—or at least better than this sentence.


Persuading Consumers to Buy


Let’s cut to the chase: you’re in business to make sales.

And guess what persuades people to part ways with their hard-earned cash?

A stunning ad photograph that doesn’t just say, “Look at me!” but screams, “Buy me now before it’s too late!”


Affordable Advertising Strategy


Worried about costs? Advertising photography can actually be a cost-effective marketing strategy.

Think about it: you pay for the shoot once, but the photos can be used in countless campaigns.

That’s what I call a return on investment!


Bringing it All Together


This is why advertising photography is so important!

It’s your 24/7 salesperson, social media influencer, and brand ambassador all rolled into one.

(Plus it doesn’t ask for a salary or take bathroom breaks!)


Advertising photography appears on billboard at mass transit station.


Exploring the Various Types of Advertising Photography


We’ve established that ad photography is your new best friend.

But like any good friendship, there are layers to this.

Not all ad photographs are created equal, so let’s break it down, shall we?


Which Style Fits Your Brand?




Picture this: your product seamlessly fitting into the everyday lives of your customers.

That’s lifestyle photography. Selling hiking boots? Show them conquering the highest peak.

Your product isn’t just a product; it’s a lifestyle choice.




The world of fashion, where even a trash bag can look chic if worn with confidence.

If your business is all about style and flair, then fashion photography is your go-to.

Remember, the focus here is as much on the attire as the attitude. So, strike a pose!




Beauty photography is where your product is the star, and everything else is a supporting actor.

Think close-ups, think intricate details, and clients will think:

“Wow, I didn’t know I needed this anti-aging cream until now, but look at those results!”




Food photography is the reason your diet always starts “tomorrow.”

This style is all about making the viewer’s mouth water. A

nd let’s be real, who hasn’t been seduced by a gooey, cheesy pizza ad? I know I have. 🍕




Architectural photography focuses on spaces, design and structure.

For architects and engineers, using architectural photos helps convey plans to clients.


Real Estate


Selling homes or interior decor? Then real estate photography is for you.

It’s how you make a studio apartment look like a penthouse suite—at least until people see it in person.




Last but not least, environmental photography showcases your product in, well, an environment!

It tells a broader story and often includes human subjects (also known as models) interacting with the product.

Like a happy family enjoying a picnic—sponsored by your awesome, eco-friendly picnic gear, of course!


The Takeaway


The type of ad photography you choose can make or break your brand’s image.

So, pick wisely, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

After all, variety is the spice of life, and who wants a bland brand?



Practical Applications: How is Ad Photography Used?


You’ve got these amazing photographs—now what?

Do you just flood your Instagram and call it a day?

Well, you could, but that would be like buying a Ferrari and only driving it to the grocery store.


Where You’ll See Advertising Photography Make an Impact


In-house Marketing Materials


From brochures to business cards, a good photograph can elevate your in-house materials from “meh” to “marvelous.”

Trust me, no one ever raved about a pixelated product image on a flyer.




Go big or go home, right? Billboards are the stage where your ad photographs can shine—literally, with all those headlights.


Stills Used in TV Commercials


Ever notice how a single frame in a TV commercial can captivate you?

That’s not just any random shot; it’s a well-thought-out ad photograph.


Product Shots for Your Website


Your website is your business’s virtual storefront and you want to make an immediate positive impression.

Physical stores design creative product displays to entice people in the door, but what does an e-commerce store use?

High-quality product photography can make people want to “come inside” and browse around.


Display Banners


Those banners you see on websites? They’re not just filler.

A compelling ad photograph can make someone actually want to click on it. Shocking, I know!

Another type of display banner would be used in trade shows or a physical store.

Once again, advertising photography would come to your rescue.


Your Action Plan


So, you’ve got options—a lot of them.

The key is to tailor your ad photography to the medium you’re using.

Why not start now? After all, there’s no time like the present.


product photography for marketing materials - blog feature image


Decoding the Jargon: Commercial Photography vs Advertising Photography


Alright, let’s settle this once and for all.

Commercial photography and advertising photography are not the same thing.

You know how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square?

It sounds confusing, but it isn’t!  Here’s the deal …


What’s the Real Difference?


Commercial photography is like your dependable, no-nonsense friend.

It focuses on the product and gets straight to the point. “Here’s our widget. It’s great. Buy it.”

Advertising photography, on the other hand, is your dramatic, storytelling friend.

It not only shows your widget but puts it in a dazzling scenario that makes people think, “I need this widget to live my best life.”


Which One Is Right for Small Businesses?


If you’re a small business owner, you might be wondering, “Which one do I pick?”

The answer? Both, depending on the situation.

Sometimes you need to be straightforward, and sometimes you need a bit of flair.

It’s like choosing between a classic black suit and a sequined party dress. Both have their moments.



The Investment: Advertising Photographer Salary


Let’s talk numbers, shall we?

Hiring a professional advertising photographer isn’t like picking up a freelancer off the street.

There’s a reason these folks charge what they do: because they’re worth it.


What to Expect


On average, an advertising photographer makes around $66,188 per year if you’re looking for a full-time commitment.

Add on to that unemployement insurance, health insurance and other benefits, plus vacation and sick days … it adds up fast.

Obviously some advertising photographers will make more, and some will make less, depending on their skill levels.

Luckily, there are many photographers that work for themselves and take jobs on a project basis, making it easier to manage costs.


Why It’s Worth It


You’re not just paying for pretty pictures. You’re investing in a visual narrative that can skyrocket your brand’s appeal.

High brand appeal can easily equal more sales and a greater ROI (Return on Investment).



DIY or Hire: How to Pursue Ad Photography for Your Business


So you’re pumped, ready to take your business to new visual heights.

But now comes the question: do you try to DIY it, or do you hire a pro?


Steps to Kickstart Your Journey


Obtain an Education


No, you don’t need a PhD in photography, but knowing the basics won’t hurt.

There are tons of online courses and tutorials that can get you started.


Complete Internships


“What? I’m a business owner, not an intern!” Hear me out.

Even a short stint shadowing a professional photographer can provide invaluable insights.


Build a Portfolio


Whether you go DIY or hire a pro, start building a portfolio of your best work.

It’s like your visual resume, showcasing what your brand is all about.


Time to Decide


So, DIY or hire a pro?

The answer depends on your needs, budget, and how much time you’re willing to invest.

Either way, remember: great ad photography is not an expense; it’s an investment.


If you’re still with me, why not take the next step?

Fill out the online form below for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your ad photography needs.

Trust me, your brand will thank you!

Discover How Professional Photography Can Elevate Your Brand

Get a Custom Quote Tailored to Your Specific Needs

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Take a minute to fill out the form below. Doing so will help me understand your product photography needs. Once I receive your information, I'll reach out to you personally to discuss the project in more detail and create a customized quote for you.

You may also text me at: 410-596-4127 or E-mail me at: tom@tomcrowl.com

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is Ad Photography?


Ad Photography, short for advertising photography, is a specialized field that focuses on capturing images designed to promote a brand, product, or service.


Why is Ad Photography Important for Small Businesses?


It’s a game-changer for brand recognition, social media engagement, and sales. In a world filled with visual clutter, high-quality ad photography helps your business stand out.


What Types of Ad Photography Are There?


There are various styles, including Lifestyle, Fashion, Beauty, Food, Architectural, Real Estate and Environmental. The choice depends on what suits your brand’s message and goals.


Commercial Photography vs Advertising Photography: What’s the Difference?


Commercial photography is more straightforward and focuses on the product. Advertising photography tells a story and aims to evoke emotions that enhance the product’s appeal.


How Much Does an Advertising Photographer Cost?


The cost can vary greatly, but the national average salary is around $66,188 per year for full-time work. Many photographers also work on a project basis.


Can I Do It Myself?


Yes, but there’s a learning curve. If you’re serious about DIY ad photography, consider taking some courses and even shadowing a professional to get the hang of it.


What Makes a Good Advertising Photograph?


A good ad photograph should be visually appealing, align with your brand’s message, and most importantly, encourage the viewer to take action—like making a purchase.


When Did Advertising Photography Begin?


Advertising photography has been around for quite some time. While photography itself was invented in the early 19th century, it didn’t take long for businesses to realize its potential for marketing. By the early 20th century, advertising photography was already a crucial part of the marketing mix. So, while it might seem ultra-modern, it’s actually got a storied history!


How Do I Calculate the ROI on Ad Photography?


ROI (Return on Investment)—the three letters that every business owner loves and dreads at the same time. Calculating the ROI on ad photography isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Here’s a simple formula:

Advertising Photography ROI equation graphic

ROI=(Net Profit from the CampaignCost of the Photography)×100ROI=(Cost of the PhotographyNet Profit from the Campaign​)×100

So, if you spent $1,000 on a photo shoot and made $5,000 in sales from that campaign, your ROI would be 400%. Not too shabby, right?

Remember, the benefits of ad photography can extend beyond a single campaign. High-quality photos can be reused in various marketing materials, adding value over time.


Recommended Resources




“Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson

A fantastic primer for anyone looking to get serious about photography, this book covers the basics of light, aperture, and shutter speed.


“Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

While not a photography book, it’s a must-read for anyone in advertising. Learn how to make your ideas and, by extension, your photos, unforgettable.


“Photography Business Secrets: The Savvy Photographer’s Guide to Sales, Marketing, and More” by Lara White

Perfect for photographers who want to understand the business side of things.


Note: the above books are affiliate links. If you purchase one, Amazon will pay me a small fee however it will cost you nothing more. That isn’t why I recommend the books, I believe they are excellent resources that can help you.


Online Courses


MasterClass: Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography

Learn from one of the best advertising photographers in the world.


Udemy: Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography

A comprehensive course covering everything from understanding your camera to post-production.


Coursera: Cameras, Exposure, and Photography by Michigan State University

A great beginner’s course that covers the essentials.




Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom

The industry standards for photo editing.



A user-friendly tool for simple edits and social media graphics.


A Good Tripod and Lighting Equipment

Never underestimate the importance of stable and well-lit shots.


Google Analytics

To track the success and ROI of your ad photography campaigns.


Appendix: Additional Search Terms for Further Exploration


Advertising photography examples