If your social media pages are full of foodie snaps, it is worth considering whether you could turn your creativity into a career. Ever since the boom of social media, millions of people began to take an interest in taking quality pictures of food, either for fun or for commercial purposes.
With the popularity of food photography, especially on platforms such as Instagram, this became almost everyone’s dream job. Today, this trend has rapidly changed from an outcast photographic world to a medium that’s as ‘cool’ as other fields such as fashion photography.
This post will take you through all that you need to know regarding finding the best food photography jobs online, what it takes to become one of the best food photographers, and how to succeed in the field.
What does a food photographer do?
A couple of years back, having the precise definition of a food photographer would have been easy. Today, however, you may find many people who have no qualifications in professional photography claiming to be food photographers. Some of them merely work using their smartphones and have even contributed to the birth of a new genre of food photography – food porn.
But how would you describe a professional food photographer?
Food photographers work alongside stylists to create food images that can be used for advertising, menus, blogs, magazines, and other media. If you want to become one, you must be proficient with a digital camera and use all the relevant computer-aided software (CADs).
Creativity is another factor that distinguishes a professional food photographer from the wannabes you see on social media. You must have a knack for instinctual expertise that helps you arrange food in an appealing and appetizing manner.
Food photographers should be able to work extra hard to elicit strong emotions and reactions out of their work to influence their audience to want to try out the food. Although this may sound as simplistic, it is no small task.
You don’t just need to have a working knowledge or a background in understanding different types of foods, but also how to capture them through your lenses. This means that choosing this career path requires strong culinary expertise, mixed with good photography skills.
Although you can get freelance food photography jobs, they are highly competitive, and you need to set yourself apart from the competition by considering some best practices, which we shall cover in this post.
Food photographers may work directly for corporations as part of a team in a food organization where there is a regular need for excellent food shots. Depending on which industry one works in, the images may be used for promotional purposes, advertisements, food packages, etc.
Apart from being involved in taking the shots, food photographers are also directly in charge of the setup. They ensure that all the necessary materials are gathered and that the best-looking food items are used. Lighting in photography is another crucial bit that food photographers must consider, as it helps to highlight the food perfectly. In most cases, artificial light is used to point out tiny little details of the product, unlike when taken in a natural setting.
The end goal of getting into food photography would be to appeal to the audience to buy the food items directly or to have the images used in advertising such as menus, promotional materials, etc.
Getting started with food photography
The internet offers an excellent learning platform for those that wish to get started on food photography. There are many self-taught food bloggers on the internet that you can get ideas on making eye-pleasing food images. In some cases, you might also find different tutorials and tips for getting started as a food photographer.
However, regardless of the depth of information, you may find online from bloggers and Instagram stars, is it enough to get you started on a path to becoming a professional food photographer?
Much of the information you may find on the internet is intended for beginners and food bloggers. Although it will get you started on food photography as a hobby, it won’t help you land your first food photography job. This is because only a few sources, such as this one, will help you to understand the entire journey of what being a professional food photographer entails.
What does it take to become a professional food photographer?
Photography is an art, and just like any other profession in this field, the main requirement is creativity. You may have access to the best photography cameras but lack the creativity needed to bring out the best of an image. Moreover, you’re also required to be detail-oriented and have some experience using digital cameras. Expertise in handling computer-aided software (CADs) is an added advantage and can help you stand out from the rest.
Here are the main steps you need to undertake to become a food photographer:
1. Get the necessary certifications.
While getting a degree is not a mandatory requirement when scouting for jobs in the food photography sector, it may be an added advantage as you’ll get to understand the trade at an advanced level.
Besides getting a degree, you can also take other online courses to further help you comprehend all the nitty-gritty surrounding food photography. Apart from knowing how to handle a camera, you’ll also learn other factors such as lighting, composition, editing, etc.
There are also business courses that you can start learning if you wish to start your career as a professional freelance food photographer. This is because you still have to learn how to manage your business – handling factors such as finances, how to deal with clients, and many more.
2. Take a workshop
Workshops are an alternative route that one can take to learn the basics of food photography without obtaining a degree. Most of them are taught or organized by seasoned photographers who’ll offer you first-hand experience lessons of the trade.
This is some sort of apprenticeship method of learning, as you’ll be able to walk in the footsteps of some of the most experienced freelance photographers. However, you shouldn’t expect to walk into those workshops without having the slightest clue about how photography works. Before enrolling in any of them, take some time to learn photography basics by self-training at home. The basic thing you need to know is to know how to shoot using a digital camera in manual settings.
3. Build a portfolio
All freelance photographers must have a professional portfolio that they can use to show their potential clients when applying for jobs. A food photographer should have both a print and digital copy of their well-curated portfolio, displaying some of their best works.
A portfolio is beneficial as it shows your creative side. Even if you lack the necessary certifications, some clients may be more inclined to offer you the job simply because they love your creativity.
4. Check freelance job boards.
To find food photography jobs, simply go online and scout on freelance job boards. You’ll be surprised at just how many postings you get of people looking for professional food photographers with tons of work to offer.
5. Check at local restaurants and eateries.
What better way to find food photography jobs than from your local eateries? Simply walk to a restaurant or hotel that you like and speak to them regarding your services. You can start by inquiring about who makes their food menus and show them how your services would benefit them.
Bakeries or cake decorators are also ideal target audiences to reach out to. These artists would always love to have a display album of their best works that they can use to show to prospects. You never know if you’ll be picked as the person for the job.
5 crucial elements to a professional food photographer’s career
Food photography isn’t all about knowing how to handle your camera. There are many other crucial factors that are often overlooked, and in most cases, you come to learn about them while on the job. Here are five elements regarding professional food photography that no one really wants to talk about:
1. No specific photography equipment will make you a professional
No specific camera or gear will make you the best food photographer in the world – the secret lies in the person behind the camera. You might be having the most expensive gear, but your skills are wanting. Your images won’t be as good as those who use budget equipment but with great skill.
Forget about the hundreds of review websites that will tell you that camera so and so will help you make the best images, as some of them are often out there to make beginners spend too much on the equipment. To be realistic, some gear will definitely help you create better imagery than others, provided the skillset and expertise remain constant.
2. You need to outline a project ahead of time.
Being a professional means having the entire process figured out, even before you even begin working on it. As a food photographer, you need to plan ahead of time on the type of equipment required for the job, and depending on the food that needs to be captured, you may have to apply some special ‘treatment.’
Some of the factors you ought to consider before stepping into the studio include:
- The story you wish to tell with the photos
- The location of the shoot
- Set design
- The necessary props
- The models, if necessary.
- Special effects involved (SFX)
- Camera and lens specs
- Post-production needs
3. Having an emotional attachment to the subject
One thing that sets a professional photographer from the rest is having an emotional attachment toward their subject. The same applies to a food photographer. You’re unlikely to become a great food photographer if you do not care and appreciate the process it undergoes from the cooking, preparation, eating, and the beauty the food offers.
4. Professional food photographers have other skills besides photography.
Getting to the top of the food photography food chain means going beyond the creative and technical expertise. A professional needs to incorporate other skills such as the necessary business skills, organizational skills, effective communication, and diligence. Food photographers also don’t work alone. This means you need to have excellent collaborative skills and the ability to work as a team player.
5. Food photography isn’t all about glamor.
Let’s be real, even though food photography produces some really nice results, the process isn’t as glamorous and can be quite physically draining. As opposed to other genres such as fashion photography, food is a stationary object, and it requires constant human intervention to achieve the ideal caption.
A food photographer also doesn’t work alone. They need to collaborate with other professionals such as food stylists, restaurant owners (or managers), marketing teams, etc. You can imagine the pressure you may have to endure if working with demanding clients.
All in all, the driving factor towards becoming a food photographer should be passion. You should love the field first before venturing into it. Getting started with it will be much simpler if you love what you do.
5 types of food photography jobs
By now, you should be aware of all the nitty-gritty that will help you get started with food photography. Still interested in pursuing this field? Here are the five main types of freelance food photography jobs that you can get started with:
1. Commercial food photography
Commercial food photography takes a lot of skill, as you’re not just taking photos of the product, but you’re trying to convince people into buying the product. You have to make the food appear more enticing, so you have to develop a different creative angle from your competitors.
2. Packshots (Product photography)
Ever seen the images added to product packaging, for instance, the case of a juice box? Well, that’s the work of a food photographer. A product photograph is the image of the subject itself, which can be extracted from the background in a post-production setting. Thanks to advanced technologies, these images can be placed on any background or new color background.
This is a technical type of photography and requires extensive photo editing expertise, attention to detail, styling, etc. Due to how transparent their background is, packshots are flexible and can be used for any purpose – from catalogs to webshops, and many more.
Food photography can also be useful when advertising a product. The photographer has to work side by side with an art director and the client to meet the creative brief. The images can be used on advertising materials such as banners, social media posts, and many more.
Unlike commercial photography, which aims at promoting the product to customers, editorial food photography is more oriented towards representing a mood. You can use this type of food photography to tell a story.
There are many ways that editorial food photography can come in handy, such as using it as an image to explain a recipe, which can be used in cooking magazines. In essence, these are simply the kinds of images that would make you hungry when scrolling through the web.
Lifestyle images try to tell a story with food being part of the main characters. In most cases, the food is taken alongside another subject, which in most cases is a human. The main goal of such photos is to show the use of the product in a real-life situation. The food photographer’s main job is to ensure that the right message is passed while making it look as natural as possible.
In this type of photography, you’re trying to showcase a still product and try to bring out the mood that it depicts, even in its natural state. Product in mood photography shows the raw version of a product before it is incorporated into a recipe. An example would be to show a tea bag placed next to a cup of steaming tea or water. You could also show marmalade with strawberries placed next to it, to show what it is made of. Such images may be used to promote the product indirectly.
Did you know that you can shoot documentary-like images of food? This type of photography is used to depict a real-life situation, and it is not staged like a product in a mood image, and no one specific moment is targeted. Such images are used to tell the entire story of a product and can encompass factors such as what the food makes people that consume it feels, how it is prepared, where the key ingredients originate from, etc.
Food photography is now a prevalent subject in the film industry. Regardless of the category you choose, one must have an eye for detail, and an understanding of how food behaves under different circumstances, backed with other vital details such as composition, lighting, and more.
Ready to become a food photographer? Don’t wait any longer and start practicing today. You can even start by taking cool snaps of the foods you eat or the ones you get from your local eateries. With enough skill and experience, it’ll be much easier for you to land freelance food photography jobs from different clients and job boards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the recommended background for food photography images?
A: Most food photographs are taken in studios where the photographer controls factors such as lighting, composition, etc. However, you should first understand the aesthetics of the shoot that the client seeks to help you identify the correct style and color choice. Either way, the background that you choose must be cohesive and blend in well with your subject.
Q: Who supplies the food used in food photography?
A: If you’re doing commercial photography, the client will provide the food, and in some cases, all the supporting props or ingredients needed. In other cases, food photographers have to work with a food stylist, who will then come with the necessary styling ingredients.
Q: Who oversees a food photography shoot?
A: The food photographer is the creative talent in a shoot, but they have to report every progress to the client or a representative of the company they’re shooting for. The client needs to provide creative direction and approve the shots before they are taken for post-shoot editing.
When working for a long-distance client, you may have to send it to the client for approval at every stage. This process might take a little longer. Therefore, you may need to factor in the total time taken by the project when submitting your invoice.
Q: Who does post-editing for food photography?
A: If you’re a freelance food photographer, you’ll most likely be the one responsible for the post-production editing. This means you may have to undergo training on using editing tools and other computer-aided software (CADs). In case you work for an ad agency, you may get assistance from other specialists to edit your pictures.