💯💯💯 "Commercial and editorial photography is determined by its use, not by its process and not by its publication. It doesn't matter how it was shot, or lit, or whether it was journalistic or not. It doesn't matter if it's for a magazine or for social media. Just ask yourself "were your images used to sell a product or service?", or "were they used to tell a story?"
What makes commercial photography commercial? What makes editorial photography editorial? How do I tell which category my job or assignment falls under, and ultimately, why does it matter? In this episode, we're diving in on some basics of what defines commercial and editorial use and how it will impact your pricing.
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Michael Der 0:02
You're listening to Artrepreneurs, a podcast that inspires photographers and visual artists to live their best creative lives. My name is Michael Der and I am a full time photographer with nearly 10 years of experience in the freelancing world. And I'm sitting down with an amazing community of visual artists to talk about process, business, and the lessons that have helped them grow. So let's get to it. Artrepreneurs starts right now.
Michael Der 0:29
Okay, welcome back to another episode of Artrepreneurs everybody, I am thrilled to have you join me on this journey. This episode is dedicated to all of you Artrepreneurs out there who are just getting started in freelance and want a little breakdown on the differences between commercial and editorial work. For some this information is rudimentary and obvious, but in my opinion, it is way too frequently misunderstood by creatives. So we're going to determine what defines commercial and editorial photography, identify some of their key differences and ultimately determine how you can apply this information to the job offers you do and don't take in your career. Now before we get started, it is important to note that today's topic applies mostly to b2b situations, not b2c situations. b2b means business to business. So your clients are going to fall into the categories of businesses and brands, not individual consumers, which is what b2c stands for. So if you are a b2c creative, like a wedding, senior pet or portrait photographer, you really don't have to worry about any of these issues. Unless your clients want to publish the images in more commercial and editorial ways. This can certainly happen from time to time. But typically, these types of images are kept for personal memories and sentimental reasons not for elevating one's business. For those of you who are b2b photographers, though meaning you photograph news, sports, fashion, brand, lifestyle and advertising, then these concepts will definitely apply to you. So before we get rolling on the definitions, what I want you to do is grab a pen and paper and write down the following question, because this question is really going to be at the epicenter of your photography career, it is a question that you will need to ask yourself multiple times as you engage with new leads and new assignments. The question is, how does this client plan on using the imagery? That's really it. Write that down and keep coming back to it? In order to accurately determine what constitutes an editorial job or commercial job? Just ask yourself that question. How does the client intend to use the imagery? Knowing that answer is going to allow you to price yourself appropriately and avoid taking jobs that are well below industry standard rates? Now, to help drive this point home, we also need to disassociate our preconceived notions about commercial and editorial photography, from the actual definitions of commercial and editorial photography. Here's what I mean by that. Some creatives think that commercial and editorial photography are defined by visual style and approach. For instance, have you ever told yourself that editorial photography is more journalistic in nature and that commercial photography is more scripted and rehearsed? I know I did. Now that sentiment may be right more often than not, but it isn't a universal truth. And it certainly is not what defines them. Commercial imagery can just as easily be shot with journalistic approach as editorial jobs can be scripted and rehearsed. Some creatives also think that publication is the driving force. Have you ever associated editorial work with magazines and newspapers will join the club because I have as well. And just like how style and creative process don't define commercial and editorial photography, neither does the publication, magazines, newspapers, websites, social media, all of them can hold both commercial and editorial photography. So don't worry too much about the platform it will be published on instead focus on how the image will be used. It is contact not content. Okay, so now that we've learned that commercial and editorial photography are determined by client usage, let's look at what those usages are. What does a commercial usage look like? And what does an editorial usage look like? So commercial photography is any imagery that is designed to sell a product service or idea that is its whole intent. Its purpose is to drive sales to whomever that product or service belongs. It could be as obvious as a billboard campaign in Times Square for Louie Vuitton, or it could be more subtle like a lifestyle shoot for a fitness coach that will display on her Instagram page. They may be very different in scope, but the point of the imagery is the same. They are both designed to sell their product or service. editorial photography, on the other hand, has no intent to sell you on any product or service. It is more narrative and story driven, oftentimes educational, journalistic or lifestyle based. You'll find photo essays, documentaries and feature stories on individuals as clear editorial pieces. news coverage that includes sports or politics and community also fall under editorial. Don't get caught up on the sale of the publication either just because your images in a magazine and the magazine sells does not make your image commercial. For instance, let's say you photographed Rianna for a piece in Rolling Stone about her upcoming album and one of the images runs on the front cover. Well, first of all, congratulations. That's awesome. But you might be thinking, Well, my portrait is selling people on the magazine. So shouldn't this be commercial? The answer is no. Under that context, the image is not of any endorsement of a product or service. Its purpose.
Michael Der 5:00
To tell a story about her album release. Now editorial photography typically pairs with text, but it can also stand alone. For example, some fashion photography can actually qualify as editorial when it's promoting a lifestyle or a mood as opposed to a specific brand. You may see this in art and culture magazines or websites that aren't looking to drive product sales. Now, for instance, if a specific brand of clothing sees that image and contacts you about using that image for their marketing, then it becomes sales driven. And you have now seen the power of how a photograph can transition from editorial intent to commercial intent, all based on how the client wants to use the imagery. Now I'm going to list a few differentiating factors between commercial and editorial photography, just so you have an idea of the work involved with both. But I also want to remind you once again, that these elements won't define commercial and editorial work. These are merely byproducts of them and the usage is what's the most important factor to remember. With that being said, Here are a few differences. Number one, the budget. Alright, so when it comes to budget, every client and project is going to be different, but safe to assume that by and large, commercial photography has significantly higher budgets and editorial budgets. Commercial creative fees can range anywhere from 1000 to $10,000 and beyond, whereas editorial creative fees may be closer to the low to mid hundreds. When you add on production costs like location, rentals, talent and crew, you can see why there might be a big difference from editorial. Just speaking from my own personal experience. The editorial assignments that I've shot for have ranged anywhere from 250 to $500. The commercial jobs have a far greater range, and also depend on how many images are needed as the license fee impacts the overall rate. On a low end commercial assignment I've quoted as low as $2,000 for a job. On a high end, I've been as much as $15,000 per job, and on a job that I've actually assisted on. That quote came out to $50,000 for one day of shooting, so you can see how high the ceiling is and the overall difference between editorial and commercial rates. Now let's compare creativity. This isn't a hard and fast rule. But the more creatives I've talked to have all echoed a similar sentiment that price and creativity are somewhat inversely related. The higher the paying job as in commercial photography, the more structured and rigid the requests become commercial shortlist tend to be carefully curated by marketing teams to ensure that the photography clearly hits with their core audience. That means there may not be as much room for artistic input or vision from the photographer. Keep in mind when we are on commercial shoots, we are primarily there to execute their strategy, not so much our own. Conversely, the lower paying editorial jobs tend to rely on the photographer's creativity and intuition. I have been on magazine shoots where the art director isn't even on location, so a lot of the creative decisions were on me to execute. And because of the budget being lower location scouting isn't as common as it is on commercial assignments, which means the photographer has to assess the location for the first time the day of the shoot, improvise, and then problem solve less control means more room for creative ingenuity. Now, let's compare the rights. commercial clients are known for seeking out full buyouts or what's known as a work for hire. They're looking to own the copyright completely so that they have full control over where the images are published and for how long. A commercial client is also coveting exclusivity. They want to make sure the photographer isn't licensing the images out to anyone else. Now, there certainly are opportunities for photographers to do commercial work and still retain their copyrights. But overall, I get the sense that clients are looking for ownership first and foremost when it comes to commercial photography. editorial clients may also seek full BIOS from time to time, but because of their nature of newspaper magazine lifespans, it really isn't as important for them to secure full rights when it's simply easier and more cost effective to just relicense an image on a case to case basis. This allows photographers to retain copyright more often and negotiate license terms more easily. And lastly, let's talk about release forms. Commercially used images require release forms, most notably model and property releases. This is especially required when a person's face or property is identifiable. So if you are doing a personal shoot with the intention of commercializing it down the road, having the proper release form signed is critical. And if a client is hiring you to do a commercial shoot, make sure someone is bringing those release forms to set. Do not assume the client will have them bring your own as backups. editorial photography, on the other hand, because of its story driven nature doesn't require any release form as it's not looking to sell any product or service. So if you're photographing sports news community features, you don't need a model release because the essence of the photography is to tell a story not to sell anything. So let me throw you a scenario here. Imagine a magazine wants to do a health piece on the best and easiest yoga poses for adults over 50 and they hire you to provide the photography because this is narrative driven. It is editorial use and therefore you do not need model releases to cover that story because there is no intent to sell. Now, let's say hypothetically that a company like Lulu lemon sees the story and wants to use any of those images for their social media. It has now shifted from editorial intent to commercial intent, which means you will need to get a signed release form outlining terms before you can license especially if that person's face is
Michael Der 10:00
identifiable and recognizable. Okay, so now that we know how to identify a commercial job from an editorial job, and we now have an understanding of a few key differences in workflow, we need to address why this all matters. How does it apply to us and the clients we seek to serve? The relevancy of all of this is so nobody is taken advantage of, and that the appropriate terms are equally appropriately compensated, you do not want to falsely quote a commercial rate to an editorial client. That's only going to ensure your reputation as someone who is either ignorant or even worse, intentionally misleading. You also don't want to accept a job that is disguised as editorial when in fact, it is commercial. And sometimes the clients not going to always know I recently had an athletic company asked for some lifestyle imagery that would be editorial in nature as it would accompany a story on their blog about winter clothing. When I pressed them on how else the images might be used. They said they'd like to promote their 2021 product line on their website, this changed the quote by 1000s of dollars, because the intent was clearly in favor of selling their product. And even looking back on the blog post itself, you could tell it was about promoting their brand. So it was on me to respond with a quote that not only accurately reflected the usage of the imagery, but also inform them of the differences between editorial and commercial use. You see what a client tells you a job is versus what it really is, might be two different things. Sometimes their act might be deceitful, and sometimes it's just simply an uninformed person learning on the fly, either which way you need to be the one to determine if it is commercial, or if it's editorial, assume the client won't know. Now as you venture into your career, I do recommend pursuing both avenues of editorial and commercial assignments if you can. If you only pursue the commercial end, you may miss out on some of the most amazing editorial assignments that can keep you invigorated artistically. And of course, if you only chase editorial assignments, you cap your financial ceiling and run the risk of not being able to scale your business. So let's review a few key concepts. commercial photography is designed to sell an audience on a product service or an idea. The budgets are typically high and allow for the creator to set his or her own rates. If there is a creative drawback I would say your focus is to execute your client's vision, not your own commercial clients will often seek to own the copyright, so expect those terms to be presented to you. What you decide to do is your call but just know that up front. And then lastly, all commercial projects need signed release forms, especially if any person or place is highly identifiable. An overview of editorial photography, it is designed to tell a story it is narrative driven. It can accompany text or standalone, but there is no intent on selling any product or service. budgets for editorial photography tend to be in the low to mid hundreds and are often set by the publication, not so much the photographer. Depending on the job, I do find that your creative opportunities might be a little bit higher, or at the very least allow a little bit more room for improvisation. You do have more negotiating leverage to own your own copyright for editorial work and signed release forms are not required. And last but not least one final reminder for redundancy sake, commercial and editorial photography is determined by its use, not by its process and not by its publication. It doesn't matter how it was shot, or lit, or whether it was journalistic or not. It doesn't matter if it's for a magazine or for social media. Just ask yourself where your images used to sell a product or service or where they used to tell a story. That's the crux of it. It is our responsibility to identify these differences in the jobs we are presented with and adjust any discrepancies in price and usage. Okay, folks, I hope this information helps you out in your client interactions going forward. I know the business side is confusing. So if this is going over your head right now, don't get discouraged. Keep this information simmering on the back burner. Keep checking in on it from time to time and before you know it you'll be able to identify these variables on autopilot. Now before I wrap this up, I want to leave you with some resources to help you price your work to editorial and commercial clients because as you might assume, freelance photography is more than just making awesome pictures. So I'm going to list two software's that can help you navigate your b2b pricing as you start to pitch to new leads. The first option is called blink bid. They are an awesome software that caters to commercial creatives in the film, TV and photography industry. If you do need help creating estimates and bids for your commercial photography projects, be sure to check them out at blink bid comm and see their monthly pricing options. Software number two that I'll recommend is called photo quote and they are the industry standard for anyone interested in licensing photos and stock pricing. Best part is there are no monthly fees there are no annual fees, you buy it once and you have it for life. Full disclosure, I am an affiliate of there so I do receive a commission at no extra cost to you. If you would like a discount code go to artrepreneurspod.com and click on affiliates use the code and get 10% off on any of their products or purchases. And of course if you want to check out their site directly go to Craddock photo software.com I will list that in the show notes as well. Okay, so that is going to be my cue for today as I bring this episode to a close I want to say a huge thank you to all the Artrepreneurs community out there for supporting the show for leaving your incredible five star reviews and for sharing this content
Michael Der 15:00
Don't forget we're gonna be launching new episodes each Friday. Thank you guys for tuning in. My name is Michael Der and I am outta here. See you next time and have a great week everybody.
Michael Der 15:15
Hey everybody, this is Michael Der thank you so much for making it all the way to the end of the episode. I hope you'll follow tag and engage with us on our Instagram account at entrepreneurs pod. We've also launched our website artrepreneurspod.com. It is the central hub where you can sign up for our newsletter, read our blog posts, send us voicemails, and even access discounts from our amazing affiliates. It's also the perfect spot to shout out entrepreneurs with what would be an immensely appreciated five-star rating and review. And if you're feeling extra generous, you can even make a small donation that's really going to help accelerate the growth of this podcast. But no matter what you do, folks, I just want to say thank you so much for supporting this program. There are a lot of great photography podcasts out there and I am just grateful to have gained your trust even for a moment. Take care everyone. See you next week.