A question I was asked recently and one that I have been asked many times in the past, is commercial photography creative?

Most people would answer a resounding “Of Course”, but many people have questioned me based on the meaning of “Creativity”. See below:

Meaning of Creative (from several sources on the Internet).


  1. relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.
  2. Describing or explaining things in unusual ways in order to deceive or give a false impression


  • a person whose job involves producing original ideas or doing artistic work.

There is more detailed explanation available than this but you get the general idea.

Now the thing that stands out to many people at first is the word “Original”. Here is the stumbling block for many (and I use examples of my own work above), a lot of people might see an image that I shot of a worker on a factory line as not original but merely a copy of someone in a pose doing their job and you the photographer coincidently being at that place at the right time to capture the moment… original creation or just documenting?

The answer in my mind is both. As a commercial photographer I see myself as being a bit like an archivist of time. That frame that I shot will never happen again in human history. The subject of the commercial photograph that I shot may be in a similar position again but never exactly as it was in the frame at the time I hit the shutter release and that is a fact. Subtleties of light, creases of clothing, dirt and air can never be exactly as it was in that instance ever again, therefore I have frozen time, to be reviewed like a time traveler for ever more.

Of course anyone with an iPhone or the like could capture a similar shot and also consider themselves archivists of time (the beauty of so many cameras moving about the planet in this day and age) but here-in lies the “Creative” part of the shoot.


When a commercial photographer sets out to capture an image for a client it will ultimately be for a destination where the image will assist in telling a story in some manner or will in fact be the focus of a story or message, whether there is supporting text or none at all.

To do this successfully many factors must be taken into consideration at the time of setup and prior to hitting the shutter release. Some of these factors will include lighting, whether the image will be required in portrait or landscape format, what is the focal point of the image (a facial expression, an item in the hand or a part of a machine) that is going to tell the story. Will the image be dramatic or calming, dynamic in its action or contemplative in nature?

Will the final image be used in an enhanced colour perspective such as HDR (High Dynamic Range) or will it rely on its composition in a Black and White format? Will the image be enhanced if there is motion blur in parts of the shot or all of it, or does it need to be pin sharp in a small part and out of focus in the background (Bokeh) to bring the eye to a point in the frame?

If artificial light is required, how much and what kind will you use? How will the lighting units be placed to capture the correct feel for the story being told by the image? Will the exposure be long and the subject painted dramatically with coloured gels or subtly with complimentary light?

One of my biggest issues when shooting large subject matter such as high-rise buildings and commercial areas is the time of the day and the activity of the weather. This takes planning and prior logistics so you are in the correct place at the right time to capture shadows and highlights at the best possible time.

Putting all of these things and dozens more factors together for a commercial shoot is like writing a musical score at times and this is where much of the “CREATIVITY” comes alive.

Often times being as creative as possible to make the image look as natural as it can be is the real art form for a commercial photographer.

So next time you are wondering, is Commercial Photography Creative? please feel free to visit my portfolio.

Thanks for reading, see you next post.


“The Industrial Photographer”