What’s the Difference between Editorial and Commercial Photography?

by David Em

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Editorial and commercial photography are two common types of photography. Learn the differences between the two, and why you should do one over the other.

Photographer smiling while holding a camera.

What’s editorial photography?

The purpose of editorial photography is to tell a story or educate the viewer through an image.

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Magazines, news, and other media outlets are common places where you’ll see editorial photos. These photos may or may not be accompanied by text, which means the photo must be able to illustrate what’s going on.

If you want to be an editorial photographer, you’ll have the opportunity to get your work published.

In most cases, your photos will have an editorial license, which means that your images can be used to show newsworthy content or current events. However, they can’t be used for commercial purposes.

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As an editorial photographer, you need to capture compelling images and illustrate a story.

What’s commercial photography?

Commercial photography means that the images will be used for advertising or selling a product or service.

For example, if a company hired you to take photos of their new car for advertisements in a magazine or on social media, the pictures you take are commercial photographs.

Since the images are used for promotional purposes, you need to take legal precautions. There are laws around privacy, permissions, trademarks, logos, property, and recognizable people. Understanding this will ensure you don’t run into any legal issues.

With commercial photography, your photos are meant to sell. You’re selling a product or lifestyle through your images.

A lot of thought and preparation will need to go into a commercial photography session because you need to create images that resonate with the company you’re shooting for and what their viewers want to see.

Building the right portfolio

Whether you choose to do editorial or commercial photography, a portfolio is essential. Upload your best photos to your website, or an online photo gallery to showcase your work.

The photos you include in your portfolio should align with the type of photos you want to take. Having a solid portfolio will help you close deals with companies, and continue building your experience.


The biggest differences between editorial and commercial photography are the budget, goals, clients, ownership of the images, and your role as a photographer. Commercial images are used to promote a product or service, while editorial photos document life.

More resources:

Featured photo courtesy of Pexels.

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