Marca Studio

Fashion vs. commercial vs. editorial photography

editorial photography

Our eyes feed the hungriest of our six senses, which is why images are the most powerful and impactful forms of communication. It’s the reason why simple icons and not words were used in the very first complex languages. Even today, we still use them to increase the impact of text, data, and instructions whether we are learning a new skill or triggering a sense of desire for a new product.

Of course, to be effective, an image needs to have a purpose that connects with what you want to say and how you want to say it, which is how different photographic styles evolved. In this article, we’re taking a look at three powerful styles of photography – commercial photography, editorial photography, and fashion photography. Discover how these styles differ in purpose and format, and how they can be used by professional photographers to achieve different marketing goals and truly capture the imagination of your consumer.

What is editorial photography?

Editorial photography is used to make that all-important initial connection with the viewer to engage them, connect with them on an emotional or intellectual level, and ultimately to help tell a story. It’s a way of bringing less-engaging text-based information to life, holding the reader with you through this journey, and increasing the impact of the more detailed message you want to send to the viewer.

In this type of photography, a professional photographer and brand aim to tell a story in a way that is expressive and engaging rather than simply about selling a product. It is used to clearly show a concept and bring it to life in an eye-catching way. In fashion photography, editorial images serve to connect with a larger message that a product or service is an important part of. It’s a way of settling your product or service into a bigger picture that deals with a fashion trend (for example, eco-friendly clothing for green consumers) a way of life (for example, urban clothing options for families living in a diverse, cosmopolitan city), or an area of importance in your consumer’s life (for example, modern office wear in a remote working environment).

These images are clear, concise, and creative; working to elevate the concept and create a reaction in the viewer by setting a particular tone that supports the text content. Fashion editorial photography is one very popular subsection of this photography style, helping to show consumers how to achieve the lifestyle they want to live or overcome challenges that they are dealing with through fashion trends, clothing, and products.

It’s also important to note that editorial photography can look very different depending on the client and what they want to achieve. For example, editorial images around a political event in a newspaper article may be dramatic and emotional but they still have to be realistic and portray the truth as closely as possible. In a fashion magazine, however, editorial photography can be much more stylised, unique, and creative, involving models, makeup artists, and scenery rather than real people and real events. In the end, it’s all about the purpose of the image, which is to engage the viewer in a story.

Where would I usually find editorial photography?

Editorial photography can be found in almost all content where a story is being told through words and images. It is commonly used in magazines, blogs, and online articles, documentaries, textbooks, newspapers and editorial features. In this photography style, the aim is to use imagery to help engage the viewer with the text content. It grabs your eye and your imagination, evoking a powerful and immediate connection with the viewer that pulls them into the less visually engaging text.

For example, an article about your football team winning a top competition is much more engaging when you can see the captain and team lifting the trophy above their heads in joy. Similarly, an article about the latest fashion trends is simply not going to be as interesting or appealing if it’s not accompanied by fashion editorial photography that shows off these trends in action.

What is the difference between editorial photography & commercial photography?

While editorial photography tries to show the viewer a story that brings content to life, commercial photography is about showcasing the product itself. It’s a more sales-based style of photography where the product is the hero. When you look at an example of great commercial photography, you should immediately be able to tell what is being marketed to you.

Traditionally, a commercial shoot produces the type of content that is seen in traditional advertising, including retail catalogue shoots. It’s what’s used on billboards on roadsides, on posters in stores, and in newspapers and magazines. It’s also what you see on menus, online ads, brochures, and websites. It’s usually clean and simple, with an unobtrusive or plain background, a neutral shooting location, few or no props, and straightforward lighting. This type of photography stands on its own and isn’t usually linked to any additional text content like an article or blog, and it can be used to advertise any product or service you can imagine, from alcohol and sunglasses to businesses and charitable causes.

Like editorial photography, commercial photography can be straightforward or creative and ground-breaking. The difference is really in the purpose of the image. In editorial photography, the purpose is to draw the viewer into a story – in commercial photography, the purpose is of a commercial shoot and the images you produce is to showcase the desirability of a product or service.

When you think of classic ads in magazines or the bespoke photos used to promote a business, then you’re thinking of commercial photography.

What is the difference between editorial photography & fashion photography?

Fashion photography is a bit of a mix between editorial and commercial photography. That’s because its purpose is to sell you fashion items by presenting a story that engages you, which is why it is sometimes called editorial fashion photography. This story is purely visual, however, rather than supporting a text article. As a result, fashion photography usually includes a range of photographs from an elaborate set or location where the backdrop of the shoot is as important as the models, make-up, props, and fashion.

Typically, you’d find this photography style in fashion magazines, in online fashion publications and blogs, on Instagram and social media, and campaigns hosted on fashion websites.

Using a detailed brief, a fashion photographer will work with a large team that includes clothing stylists, brand marketing specialists, modelling agencies and more to design an entire story to showcase in the fashion shoot. This creates a mood and story through editorial fashion images that resonate with the brand and their target audience while connecting the viewer with products that they can buy to support this vision.

For example, a fashion photography shoot for Burberry would be very different in terms of atmosphere than a shoot for Levi’s jeans. It has to connect with several important creative and technical aspects to successfully draw in the audience, including current fashion trends, the values and interests of the target market, and the personality and goals of the fashion brand. If any of these elements don’t match up, the result can be confusing or jarring to the audience, losing the message the brand is trying to send to the audience and ultimately costing them in terms of sales.

While a lot of fashion editorials are very eye-catching and creative, it’s a mistake to think that you have to always push boundaries to produce fashion images. After all, it’s about showcasing a lifestyle to your audience. Yes, a dramatic Vogue cover shoot featuring a world-famous model in bespoke designer clothing at exotic shooting locations is fashion photography – but so is a shoot that features a mom cuddling her newborn in a soft pure cotton onesie, or a shoot featuring everyday people walking the street in their vintage 90s memorabilia.

In the end, great fashion photography is as much about the talent and expertise of the photographer as it is the vision and message of the brands they work with. An experienced professional photographer not only understands what photographic style is best suited to your campaign but also how to bring fashion trends and the campaign to life in a way that has the most impact on your audience.

Photography styles and expertise to bring your offering to the world

An image is worth a thousand words, so every word your brand produces must connect with your audience the right way. At Marca Studios, our professional photographers have worked extensively on commercial, editorial, and fashion photography shoots for industry-leading brands in the fashion industry. In this digital age, we’ve brought brands including Emporio Armani, Fred Perry, Calvin Klein, and more into the online space through e-commerce fashion shoots that are bespoke to each brand’s vision and audience. Find out more about how expert fashion photographers can deliver the campaigns, catalogues, and content your brand needs to thrive online.

Contact us for your fashion and editorial photography needs