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April 2, 2019

Five Traditional Fine Arts Principles that Apply to Commercial Photography

These following fine arts principles apply to commercial photography. They are essential in any form of visual arts. 

Some of the hottest viral campaigns, most memorable wedding announcements, and successful commercial products in recent memory have featured strong visual photographic components. That is no accident. Commercial photography is an art form that is vital to the success of many products, services, and brands – worldwide.

Even though such photographs and images are primarily created to sell products, they still rely on principles found in fine art, including balance, unity, and pattern, just to name a few. Here we’ll look at five of these principles that have a place in commercial photography with recent examples from industries such as advertising, food, and fashion photography, through to portrait and wedding photography.

Commercial Photography

5 Key Principles For Commercial Photography

Pattern: Fashion and portrait photography

Commercial Photography

Pattern is an important part of fashion and portrait photography, which are both examples of commercial photography. Pattern is a repetition of a design, and can be seen on clothing, and a range of other products. It may even feature on the wallpaper in an image.

The February 2017 cover of UK Vogue shows one of the models in a polka dot patterned dress, and the pattern makes her image “pop” compared to her counterparts. Also evident in portrait photography is the addition of subtle patterns, which are often used in the backgrounds of images to create clean, appealing separation from the subject in the foreground.

Emphasis: Drawing the eye

Commercial Photography

Emphasis is found in all types of photography and it is simply the focal point of the image to which the viewer’s attention is drawn. It is up to the photographer to determine the focus, and then adjust their camera settings accordingly while prepping and shooting.

One of the most popular forms of commercial photography is product advertising photography for large clothing and shoe brands such as Nike, Under Armor or Asics. With selling products as the main goal, it is up to the photographer to make the product stand out both during the shoot, and in post-production.

Emphasis can be increased during the shoot by adjusting lighting, and shadows. After the shoot, emphasis can be increased manually in editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop.

In order to do this, professional photographers often enhance the color of the subject, and create subtle, clean backgrounds – often employing patterns as mentioned previously. Another basic example of enhancing emphasis would be adjusting the shadow to complement a pair of shoes, which in turn makes these post production programs very useful.

Unity: Creating harmony within the image

Unity is evident in many different works of commercial photography and is defined creating a “harmony” or “wholeness” within the piece. Unity can be achieved by showing items of the same color, or the same size, to give that feeling of completeness. Examples of this within commercial photography commonly includes the creation of logos and emblems for marketing purposes. In order to create clean logos for clients, commercial photographers and editors employ the theme of unity when piecing together their text, images, and shapes.

Commercial Photography

Balance: Images that are pleasing to the eye

Another strategy employed by commercial photographers is balance, which is integral to how effective, and pleasing a photo will be. Regardless of being commercial, or for profit, the photographer still wants to product a photograph that is pleasing to the eye. In order to accomplish balance there are two methods used frequently in wedding and event photography. These methods of symmetry are titled “symmetrical,” and “asymmetrical” and they determine whether or not the image has matching content on each side, as if there is an imaginary divider along the image.

Commercial Photography

Rhythm: The illusion of motion

Rhythm is often used to indicate motion within an image, and commercial photographers most often use it when selling products and creating advertisements. When analyzing a Coca Cola ad, for example, when there is a freshly poured glass of Coca Cola the viewer can “see” the bubbles rising to the top of the glass and popping, even though it is a still image. In this case, this movement-related strategy is used to show the viewer that a glass of the product is refreshing and crisp.

All of these principles, applied in the commercial photography space, reveal the depth of knowledge of professional photographers and their talent in applying fine arts principles to their craft. These talents produce product images and campaigns that are enhanced by fine visual elements, and are used commercially in different ways – from advertising, food and fashion photography to portrait and wedding related content. While the subjects may be different between the various industries, in order to produce high quality images each draw inspiration from the traditional principles of fine arts.

Commercial Photography

Guest Writer

Barry is the creative force behind BM Photography, which is a corporate photography company based out of Dubai. Firmly believing you should love what you do, to do your best. Originally hailing from a background in advertising agencies he now brings his business experience to create exceptional and effective marketing photography to help businesses achieve their goals.



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Kenalsworld is a source for quality art and design services provided by me, Kenal Louis. It is also an online presence that showcases the best talents I discover, my art, the art of marketing art and more.

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