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Advertising Photography vs. Fine Art Photography

Photography is not a one size fits all kind of term. Myriad subfields of photography exist, each with their own purpose, peculiarities, and unique set of skill requirements. Advertising photography and fine art photography are two such subfields. While on the surface, these genres may appear to be antitheses (the former for the money, the latter for the show), they actually share a lot of DNA.

Before we explore that thought any further, let us take a quick detour to define each term.

Advertising photography is a sub-genre of commercial photography. The job of a professional advertising photographer is to create an image that convinces consumers to purchase a service or product. The goal of advertising photography is to send one very specific message that leaves little room for interpretation. The message is always a variation on one theme, which is “This thing has value and will improve your life.”

Fine art photography is a non-commercial endeavor. Fine art photographers are not typically trying to sell anything, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather, they are using photography as a medium to express an idea or an emotion. While professional advertising photographers must promote a singular message, fine art photographers often encourage their audience to bring their own unique interpretations to each piece.

Advertising photography is commercial; fine art photography is not. Fine art photography is open to interpretation; advertising photography is not. Despite these seemingly drastic differences, advertising photography and fine art photography have one major thing in common: they tell a story.

The notion that fine art photographers are storytellers is hardly novel; a picture says a thousand words, and these people dedicate their lives to creating images that evoke feelings, beliefs, narratives, conclusions, and the like. The thing is, professional advertising photographers do, too.

It’s easy to dismiss the idea that advertising is inherently artistic. Advertising is soulless, cold, detached, right?

Wrong! Advertising is about appealing to human nature and getting people to respond. People respond to stories. So, professional advertising photographers craft narrative photos that convey excitement, comfort, luxury, or whatever else their client wishes to be associated with. The fact that advertising photography is commercially motivated does not preclude it from being creative.

Advertising photography and fine art photography have very different objectives, but they share the same heart in storytelling.

If you want to learn more about photography and its many sub-genres, check out the work of Michael Grecco. Whether you need to hire a professional advertising photographer, or have an interest in commissioning or purchasing some fine art photography, Michael Grecco is the man for the job.