The main difference between the two is process and result. Let’s take a photograph of a swimmer in a swimming pool for an example. It is an editorial photograph if the photo is for a magazine article about swimming. It becomes a commercial photograph if the photo is to advertise swimming gear.
This refers to images that tell a story. Fashion photography is one type of editorial photography. It can tell a story without the need for words. Fashion editorials in magazines are usually less about selling products. They are more about representing a mood or depicting a theme.
Editorial photography is usually seen in newspapers or magazine articles. Reports and articles about a sports game, celebrities, and places have these photos. Textbooks, essays, and documentaries also use editorial photos to educate readers more. Editorial features also include editorial photos to convey their message clearer. A photo with copyrighted logos or recognizable branding is not allowed for editorial use.
This is also called advertising photography. It promotes and markets products or services. Commercial photographs have more setup needed than editorial photographs.
Commercial photographs are often used for advertising campaigns and promotions. One common example is the brochure of companies offering products. Promotional posters of upcoming films and concerts also use commercial photos. These photos are also in book covers and product packaging. Commercial photos can include branded products, recognizable people, or private property. That is after securing legal permission to publish the said images. Model release and property release forms are also part of commercial photography. These serve as agreements between the client, the photographer, and the image subjects. These forms specify the publication and terms of usage of the images.
Editorial photography aims to narrate a story. It depicts what happened, what is happening, or what is about to happen. The end goal of commercial photography is to advertise a product or a service. It connects a brand and a consumer audience.
Publications are the usual clients of editorial photography. Companies and brands are the clients of commercial photography. The clients of commercial photography are often present throughout the shoot. The presence of editorial photography clients is not needed.
Role of photographer
An editorial photographer has more creative freedom. He or she only needs to tell a story through photos. A commercial photographer has to meet the requirements of the client. That is why it is vital to have the client present in the photoshoot.
Getting a job
An editorial photographer can submit a portfolio or a tear sheet to a photo editor at a magazine. A commercial photographer usually has an agent. The said agent has a connection with creative agencies and major consumer brands.