If you’ve ever tried pricing food photography, you may have found that getting a simple answer is hard to come by. The world of photography pricing can be a tricky subject, with sometimes vast differences depending on who you ask. It may be easy to think that it’s as simple as plating the food and taking the shot, but if we look a little closer we’ll find that there are many variables at play.
Whether you are a restaurant owner, chef, or food manufacturer in this article I’m going to give you a little more insight into food photography costs!
What Goes Into Food Photography Cost?
Experience of the Photographer
Some photographers are just starting out whilst others are masters and have years of experience.
A novice photographer will charge less and may be right for some, but for others, they may not be willing to take the risk.
During a shoot there are normally many problems that come up and must be solved on the spot. You can’t just reschedule a shoot because a problem has come up – you normally will have money tied up in a location, ingredients, the chef, a food stylist and not to mention you and your staff’s time.
An experienced professional food photographer will charge more but when you take into account the risks of using a novice, it’s normally money well spent.
Before we even get to the food, there’s preparation and planning time. We spend a lot of time up front to determine what look the client wants. How many shots are needed? How many items are there to photograph? How about the aesthetics? Summer/winter? What kind of props – should they be specific to the cuisine?
After we know what the client wants, the shoot needs to be planned out. Props and ingredients need to be sauced. Excuse my pun J Backgrounds and shooting surfaces need to be chosen. Where is the location and how do we make the shoot work there. Is the chef available?
These are just some of the many different things that need to be thought of before the shoot.
As someone working in the food industry, you already understand the time it takes to prepare your food. Simply preparing the food for eating is not enough though.
Not only must the food be prepared as close to perfection as possible but it must also be prepared in a way that looks best in a photo. Food can look very different in a picture. And it needs to be prepared differently to how you would normally cook it. For example, when photographing something saucy like a curry, it’s important to make sure the meat can be seen and isn’t hiding under all that delicious sauce.
For this job, you’ll need a food stylist. Some photographers can style food as well as shoot – especially food photographers. Food photographers that double as food stylists normally charge more as they are providing you additional valuable skills. This can save you money by not having to hire a stylist too.
Not all food photographers know how to style food though and sometimes there is just too much work for one person to handle so it’s best to have a stylist too.
Not only does a food stylist handle the preparation of the food, they often work with the photographer and client to plate the food and style the props.
The food needs to tell a story and interest the viewer. It’s the paint being applied to the canvas and it’s the difference between an OK image and a great image.
Everything that is in the frame matters. This goes from the food itself, to the type of plate and the background. The image is about more than just the food. Sometimes, a specific surface or backdrop will give the image depth and to speak the message more clearly. Food photographers will work with you to understand your goals for the shoot and how to best represent your food.
Where you decide to shoot will also affect food photography prices. In most cases, photographers are happy to travel to your location no matter if it’s a restaurant, cafe or boardroom. If a studio is needed, that can be arranged as well – in Sydney, photography studios are normally charged as a half day or a full day.
Finally, we arrive at the part most people are familiar with. The shoot.
There are lots of elements here that affect the price of food photography. The number of dishes/products, the type of food, the number of images and the set requirements (i.e. shooting surfaces, backgrounds, props, set size, lighting requirements, crew size, location) etc.
Generally the more complex, the longer it takes and therefore the more it costs.
An often-overlooked task is the post production/editing, which is additional time the photographer has to put in. And the job is not easy!
There are many hours spent during this process, looking through each and every shot, picking the best ones and fine tuning each of them to perfection.
The photographer has to have extensive knowledge of their photo editing software of choice. This is the moment where all of the hard work of planning and shooting brings dividends. But if the photographer doesn’t know how to edit well, then all of your beautiful work could be ruined!
Again there are many factors in editing that affect the cost. This includes the need for cropping, colour matching, retouching of imperfections, adjustment of tones. It can take from a few minutes per image to a few hours depending on the requirements of the job.
So How Much Does It Cost?
Long story short, it depends on your situation. All of the things above (plus any other unplanned situations) come together in the final quote or estimate for food photography. It can range from $300 for a few images to tens of thousands for larger projects like a cookbook. The only way to know, is to reach out to food photographers and tell them what you need, get a few quotes, view their work/quality and make a selection!