AP Studios/ Seven tips for working with a food photographer to get the results you want!


Food.  you smell it, you taste it, and yes, you see it. But if you are selling food or showing food in a recipe there is only the photograph and some pretty packaging to help your brand stand out. We live in a highly visual culture and skimping on a good food photographer is an easy way to lose sales to your competitors.

Let’s face it – hiring a food photographer can be scary. Not only is it expensive but you are forced to step outside your comfort zone. You’re going to work with “artists” with “artistic” temperaments and leave your safe office to head into a studio full of people with a completely different outlook.

But hold on! It doesn’t have to be a total blind jump off a cliff. Take the time to analyze the portfolio, know the right questions to ask and be prepared to share certain brand knowledge with the photographer. I’ve been shooting food photography for over 30 years and I’ve learned a few things about this industry. Of course I want you to hire our amazing team, but if you can’t make it to Seattle, here are my seven tips for finding the food photographer who is right for you and getting the results you want.

Tips for Working with a Food Photographer

1. Know what you want to accomplish. This sounds so simple, but it is one of the reoccurring themes when people contact the studio. They are unsure of how the photos are going to be used. A photo for packaging is going to very different than an editorial recipe release to the food magazines.

Tell the photographer what you are seeking to accomplish. Put some thought and order of importance to these end goals. Doing ten fully styled food shots in a day for packaging is just not realistic. Ask the photographer what would be a realistic goal for you to walk away with at the end of the shoot day.

2. Know that value is very different from price. Be honest about what you have to spend and how soon you really need it. Know all possibilities of where your photo will be used and what copyright you really need. This will help the photographer suggest things that will accomplish your goals in your time frame and budget.

Food photography is no place to skimp if you’re selling food. Find a team who will use your budget and time properly. It may seem obvious, but get a photo team who knows and understands the food business and specializes in just food photography. A specialized food studio will know the best way to help you accomplish great shots.

3. Take some time to look through a few portfolios online. The key being “a few.” Most photographers in every far corner of the earth have a website now and there are thousands of food blogs. Stop and ask yourself, “Is every single image consistently professional? Is it the appropriate style for my product or company? Is this person going to understand what I’m selling?”

Look beyond the food galleries of photo websites and see what else the studio brings to the picture that you may need to tap into. Do they do great food shots with people? Do they have interesting on location work? Keep this in the back of your mind, but know what the priority is and make sure that base is well covered.

mozzarella tomato pizza

4. Bring a bit of inspiration to the table. So you’ve found a couple of good websites. Now what? You may be thinking, “I don’t know what I need this to look like. I am not a photographer.” Don’t worry. This is the part that a good studio will understand.

Photographers love it when you have an idea. This could be a tear out of a magazine, a competitors package or a fashion shot you just like the “feel” of. The photographer won’t expect you to have all the visual answers, but it helps to start a conversation.

5. Hire the right team. You’re not just hiring the photographer. You’re hiring his or her food stylist, the kitchen, the props, the lunch service and the client hangout area etc. You’re hiring the team who will take care of you and your photography needs. Make sure you ask about all of these things so you know what you are walking into and what is included in the price. While some studios may have hundreds of props on hand, often the prop stylist is a freelancer who brings their own items. If this is the case, make sure you know exactly which dishes you will need. The last thing you want is to delay a shoot because there are not enough props to choose from.

prop closet food photography

6. Make sure the studio actually exists. In my younger days I was a stylist in LA and there were a few times I styled important shots in a huge hangar, cooking on a hot plate, trying to make due without a kitchen because a client wanted to work with a “name” photographer. The trouble was the “name” wouldn’t spend a dime on this space as he leased it by the day or week. The sink for the dishes was in the bathroom and the clients sat on metal folding chairs. What can I say? I was young.

If you are deciding on a food photographer, check out photos of the physical studio space on their website. If they don’t have any, this may be a red flag. Make sure it is a place you’d want to hang out for a whole day.

7. Let the creative person help you achieve your goals. Your goals for a shoot are the studio’s goals too. A good photographer wants you happy. If you’ve looked at a portfolio and love the look and feel of the body of work you’ve been shown, allow the creative photographer to give you his or her best. Don’t micromanage the process; know that you’re in good hands and you will get what you need. Receiving that kind of trust makes a photographer work even harder to surprise you with something special and unexpected.

buttermilk and biscuits

About the author: EJ Armstrong is the chief art and cookie addict at the Black Building and has been shooting food photography in Seattle since 1989. She has thirty years of experience in the visual world, making her the lead nagger, design junky and advice columnist. You can find her on Instagram @avisualist

Posted By: EJ
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