What are Hero and B-Roll Photos?

by | Commercial Pet Photography 101, Photography

We use the terms ‘hero’ and ‘b-roll’ frequently when talking about our commercial photo shoots.

Our big brand clients who are used to working with commercial photographers understand what the term means, but if you are working for a small business, start-up business or even a mid-sized business that’s used to licensing stock, you may not be familiar with these terms.

In this post I’ll explain what ‘hero’ and ‘b-roll’ photos are, and show you examples of both.


A ‘hero’ photo is a premium, cream-of-the-crop photo. A five star shot. A photo that will be used in a high-value use, including but not limited to:

  • website homepage
  • sponsored/paid social media posts
  • paid digital ads
  • paid print ads
  • important sale emails
  • trade show banners

A hero photo should always be used for any usage that needs to produce revenue results.

For this reason, hero photos should always be considered an investment, not a cost.

Below is an example of a hero photo we created during a high-production-value shoot for a well-established growing national brand.

Both the little boy and cat talent were professional talent, and we had a full crew of 15-20 people on set at a professional location we sourced through a location scout. We used multiple lights, a set stylist, professional cat trainers and gave ourselves 2-3 hours to get this single shot that we storyboarded and planned weeks in advance.

commercial cat and kid photography

More hero photos we created from the same shoot.

vetriscience commercial animal photography by cowbelly media

Below is a hero photo we created for a small startup pet product brand using regular dog owners and their pet dogs, at a local park, without any crew or lights, e.g. what we call a ‘run & gun’ shoot. Their wardrobe consisted of what they wore to the shoot, they did their own hair and makeup, and the dogs arrived as-is.

The dog owners did all the wrangling and played the roles of ‘dog trainer’.

UltraJoys by Cowbelly pets product photography 71

You’ll see the quality of the hero photo is based on the quality of the production.

The higher the production value (the more production-related expenses we include) and the higher the client’s budget, the higher the quality of the results.


B-roll photos are filler photos that are used for low and lower-value use, including but not limited to:

  • (non-paid) organic social media use
  • interior (not homepage) web pages
  • weekly emails
  • small interior printed brochure photos
  • other small/low-value print collateral

A b-roll photo can be considered for any usage that isn’t expected to produce revenue results.

Below is an example of a b-roll photo from the first shoot above. Cute, but not 5-star cute.

Connor Ben wagon 05

And here is an example of a b-roll photo from the second shoot above. Nice, but not ‘cream-of-the-crop’ nice.

UltraJoys by Cowbelly pets product photography 47

Hopefully this helps clear up what we mean by ‘hero’ and ‘b-roll’ photos!

Do you need custom or stock pet photos for your own pet brand? Give us a shout! 


About Us

Cowbelly® is a creative, web and design agency that provides commercial animal photography, stock dog and cat photos, graphic design, branding, web design, copywriting and other services to pet-industry businesses and brands.

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