The following is an excerpt from the ASMP Licensing Guide resource.
Most photographers go into business for themselves because they are passionate about making pictures — not because they want to be in business. The irony is that photographers who do not learn and implement sound business practices will not be able to continue photographing professionally.
The business of professional photography is broken into three main categories of use.
- Commercial refers to photography that is used to sell or promote a product, service, or idea.
- Editorial refers to photography used for educational or journalistic purposes.
- Retail refers to photography commissioned or purchased for personal use.
The difference between these categories is not in the type of photography, but in the use of the images. For example, suppose that a corporation hires a photographer to document a product launch event. For the corporation, the type of photography being commissioned is event coverage, and the use is commercial because the corporation will use the photographs to promote their new product. For a local newspaper covering the same product launch, the use would be editorial.
An example of retail photography would be a wedding, which is also event coverage — but now the work is categorized as retail because the end use is personal.
While some photographers concentrate in one of these three areas, it is not unusual for a photographer to be approached to work in multiple arenas, making it imperative to understand the business practices and pricing structures of each.
You are a professional photographer and it is your job to educate yourself in all three categories, even if you are currently only focused on portraits and retail photography.
Trust me, if you have not been approached yet, as you grow your business you will definitely be called upon by a commercial or editorial prospect in the near future. We want you to be prepared and to know how to price yourself and license your images accordingly.