Tips for Working With a Food Photographer

Food photographer in action
GettyImages/Dave Fimbres

Are you are a restaurant owner, cookbook author, or food start-up and need photography of your latest culinary venture? Here are some tips on how to work with a professional food photographer.

Know What You Want

Take some time and write down all of your photographic needs:

  • White background photography for your online store?
  • Editorial images for your cookbook?
  • PR images of you in the kitchen? Close-ups for your food packaging?
  • How about short videos for your social media outlets?

Write it all down with as much detail as you can think of and prioritize your list.

Select A Food Photographer That Suits Your Needs and Style

Look for photographers that specialize in food photography. Research a few, ask your networks for recommendations and look for the ones whose style fit your vision and brand. Then schedule a meeting and see if you like their personality and work style. Preferably, you’d like to start a long-term relationship with your photographer, so take your time while dating. Ask a lot of questions and don’t wait until the last minute. The good ones are booked for weeks.

Request an Estimate and Sign a Contract

Once you have found a photographer you’d like to work with, ask for an estimate. (Quick tip: ask for three versions, the bare minimum, the all-in, and something in between.) You will need to work out a contract with the photographer that includes a project description, the deliverables, a licensing agreement, all costs, and terms and conditions. If the photographer is not offering you a contract see this as a red flag and a sign that she is not a professional.

Work with a Creative Team

Most likely the food photographer will consult with your creative team to stay in line with your brand image. They’ll suggest that a prop stylist and/or food stylist be brought in for the shoot. This is how your shoot will be a success and your images will stand out from the crowd.

Be Available During the Shoot

It’s always a good idea to be on set or available via phone during the shoot. You want to know be able to answer questions about worst case scenarios: clouds roll in and ruin the perfect lighting, cakes don’t turn out right, or locations aren’t accessible at the last minute. In other words, life happens. In these situations, the team will roll up their sleeves to secure extra lights, run to the store for more icing, or help scope out a new location, but will need your advice too.

A Word About Image Rights

In the US, the copyright to the images belongs to the photographer. You can license the images for a certain amount of time for a specific use from the photographer, but unless you buy the copyright or exclusive, unlimited rights the use of the images is restricted. That’s not the photographer being difficult, that’s the law.