Unless you're a food photographer, it's hard to comprehend the amount of work that goes into one single styled photo. I certainly didn't know how involved the process was before I began taking professional pictures. So, what are the top tips I give to every food photographer starting out?
It's cliché but it goes something like this -- "Master the basics and don't get discouraged." Running a successful food photography business or even including it as an aspect of your work talks time and effort. Educating yourself on the essentials and not undermining what your worth are key parts of what I teach my clients.
Read on for my top five tips that every food photographer (especially beginners) should know.
1. You don't need a fancy camera.
Many people assume you need a top of the line device to get the best photos. In my experience, that is simply not true. While I do think DSLRs produce higher quality photos, you can create beautiful images using much cheaper methods.
Most modern smartphones come with incredible cameras already. What I tell most people is that the less specific and more multi-purpose the device is, the more you need to master the basics.
Even DSLRs have automatic settings, however these generally don't produce the really drool-worthy images that stop us scrolling in our tracks. There's a lot to be said for knowing photography basics (that's next week's #FridayFieldnotes post 🤩) and then using your set of devices to the best of your advantage.
2. It's not just about taking pretty pictures...
Nailing that perfect image really does give you butterflies. However, running a business that focuses on or includes photography also means you're talking:
Pricing and rates
Are you stressed yet?! The good news is that you aren't alone. So many others have been in your shoes, and some of my favorites have shared their wealth of knowledge with the world.
Sam Adler of Frosting and Fettuccine is not only a food photography icon, but often shares Instagram Stories about knowing your worth and advocating for fair pay as a photographer. Kyleigh Sage of Barley & Sage also has several resources on her site that I refer to regularly. She spends hours carefully crafting helpful posts on navigating copyright, licensing, contracts, and more.
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- USE YOUR RESOURCES. Be unique in your approach but know you don't have to do it alone!
3. Get ready to wear different hats!
Unless you're exclusively doing brand photography, many food photographers are also food bloggers. That means the photographer doubles as a prop manager, taste tester, and recipe maker. One shoot for one recipe can take upwards of 10 hours to get just right.
With that said,...
4. Invest in your progress.
Whatever you want to excel in -- artificial light, natural light, brand photography, etc. -- closely examine your competitors and grow with your community. Spend the necessary time and resources on wise investments that get you where you want to be.
Many people swear by Foodtography School and The Bite Shot. If you are pursuing a full time career in food photography I would definitely recommend their courses. However, if you are unclear on your niche or if food photography is just one aspect of your brand or business, I would consider following their social feeds or investing in a course more specific to your audience (i.e. restaurant photography course, brand photography guides).
5. Decide on a niche, but don't limit yourself!
Whether it is restaurants, busy moms reading your blog, or other professionals in your field, narrowing down to a niche is something I am passionate about. My motto is "Nourish your niche," after all 😉.
Finding a niche isn't about limiting yourself. It's about finding the best way to cater to your clients. It's about finding your ideal audience and creating accessible ways for them to work with you.
Know that beyond your main goal, there are plenty of side avenues to supplement your work as a photographer. I do photography on the side and as an add-on for many of the companies I work with. So for me, photography is the side avenue that helps add additional revenue to my income.
If you're pursuing food photography or food blogging full-time, here are other ideas for making income from your photos:
Contact other bloggers and discuss updating their older photos
Work with a stock photo company to sell your shots to a bigger network
Reach out to brands you know and love (and already have in your pantry 😊)
Reach out to restaurants and ask if they need updated menu or online images
Create opt-in guides or online courses that connect you to potential clients and create passive income streams
The Bottom Line for Beginners
There really isn't a "right" way to do food photography. Get clear on your branding, business goals, and narrow your niche to an ideal audience. As long as you invest in yourself and get educated on the basics, you'll be primed for a promising career (or side hustle) in food photography.