Break Into Food Photography as a Social Media Photographer
So you want to break into the food photography industry and you’re not quite sure how to go about it. I have an idea. It’s an untested idea, mind you, but I bet it will work. Read what I have to say and please tell me what you think about my idea in the comments section below. This is the idea….
Businesses have a need for fresh, unique, and relatively inexpensive social media content.
Unless you’ve spent the last couple of years under a rock, you’ve noticed that social media has become as commonplace as breathing. Everyone, including grandma, is involved with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, Snap Clap or whatever the latest social network is… Businesses are now starting to understand the marketing opportunities that all these social media platforms are creating and want to get in on the game. This new way of reaching potential customers is called “content marketing”. More and more businesses are posting and tweeting in order to attract new business. The thing about content marketing is that to do it properly, these businesses need a constant supply of new content, and photography makes for REALLY good content. That’s where you come in.
It seems like just a few years ago, I’d be on a location shoot and the Art Director would say something like. “Oh, ya… If we get around to it, he client needs to have that shot for the web”. It was an afterthought at best. It just wasn’t that important. That was a few years ago… Today, it’s a different story. I routinely shoot projects JUST for web page content and now I’m starting to get hired to shoot JUST for social media. In fact, a couple months ago I was hired to shoot a two-day job to supply a well-know company with photos that they were going to use on Instagram. It was a pretty big deal. We shot for two days and before that, we had to buy materials and build a set (kitchen) in my studio. The budget as VERY healthy, and it was all for Instagram photos. The times, they are a changing…
So the point is, large companies are realizing the importance of social media content so smaller businesses can’t be far behind. As an established food photographer, my prices are probably going to be too high for most small companies. BUT, if I were a young photographer, wanting to break into the food photography world, I would see this as a potential opportunity.
Here are a few types of business that might just need good quality food photography as social media content:
- Grocery stores
- Any business, really…
So here’s what I’m suggesting…
I think it would be a good idea to approach some of these companies and tell them that you’d like to come into their restaurant and shoot a bunch of photos that they can use for social media! Tell them this is an experiment and if they like what you do, maybe you can figure out a schedule and a price for doing this on a regular basis. I suggest that you only spend one hour at each company. Why only one hour? Why for free?
First off, there’s a learning curve for everything. I’m guessing that you can probably come up with 12-20 decent images in that hour, but this test will let you figure that out. The photos you are producing will NOT be advertising quality and you really don’t want them to be either. The idea is to give them good quality content that they can post or tweet for the next couple of weeks and then, when that batch of photos are used up, they’ll have to come to you for their next fix. You want them to go through a “content” withdrawal. You want your photography to be a little like content crack. If it’s good enough, they’ll want more, and more and more. No one likes to post the same stuff over and over. Ideally, you’ll be able to schedule a monthly visit to shoot more content for them, only this time, you’ll want to get paid.
I suggest that you come up with a price that isn’t so high that it makes you too expensive for a s all company to afford. I’m thinking 100 bucks a visit to start out. Pretty much every company can afford that. A hundred bucks isn’t all that much money until you figure out how many restaurants there are in your area. That can add up to some serious moola! If each shoot is limited to just one hour, then you can do quite a few of these shoots in a single day.
Here are some things you can shoot, using a restaurant as an example.
Food / drinks / kitchen action shot / portraits of every employee / Every employee working / interiors / exteriors / misc still life shots / signage / customers and employees /
The biggest challenge you’ll run into is coming up with fresh new ideas after shooting in the same location several times. But don’t worry, I have confidence in you! :o)
And if you have the necessary skills, and you want to make some more money, you might want to offer additional survives like writing the “copy” to go with the photos. Maybe you can actually do the posting of the content too! Maybe you can make yourself into a social media agency of sorts??? You could build an EMPIRE!
- These are the client’s benefits
You’re giving them fresh, unique, quality content for all their social media needs. (and it should be much better than their sister-in-law can provide)
- Your benefits
There are “barriers to entry” in every business, and food photography is no different. This idea of mine will help you bust through some of those barriers.
Foot in the door
This idea gets you a “foot in the door”. Sooner or later, these companies are going to need other types of photography, and who will be the first photographer they think of to help fill their needs? YOU! Just make sure the clients understand that “content” quality is not the same as “advertising” quality.
If you’re going to do photography for a twitter post, the life expectancy is very short whereas a menu shot will live for years. You’ll need more time to do those kinds of shots and you need to make the client aware of these differences. This is a potential hazard to this idea of mine, but if you play it right, it’s doable.
Just keep to the one-hour shoot. Don’t stay longer! That way, the client will have to schedule the shoot and be ready when you get there. Don’t let them take you for granted. Walk in the door at 10:00 and leave at 11:00 sharp! If you don’t they’ll try to slip in other shoots that maybe you can charge for at a later day and for more money too.
Requires minimal gear
Because you’ll be shooting so many shots in such a short period of time, you won’t be able to use much equipment. That comes in really handy if you’re new to the business and don’t have the equipment anyway…
Build your portfolio
Even though you’ll be moving quickly, you will come up with some really nice stuff. You’ll end up with a few portfolio shots that you wouldn’t have created on your own. That, by itself, is worth the lower price you’ll be charging. Think of it as “they’re paying you to develop your portfolio”. Maybe you should pay them? Na…
Build your confidence
There’s nothing like “producing” under pressure to build confidence, and food photographers need confidence. This will be great practice for when the steaks are much higher.
Build your skill level
The more you shoot, the better you’ll get. That’s a given. Again, they’ll be paying you money to educate yourself. It’s a win-win for everybody!
So that’s my idea and I think it’s a good one. Sell yourself as a social media food photographer and hopefully find a couple dozen clients that will need you on a monthly basis. It’s a great way to make some money, build your portfolio, and increase your food photography skills. Don’t charge a lot at the beginning and then raise your price as time goes on. With a little luck, you can get them addicted to your product and you can grow this into a substantial business. It works for drug dealers! (Hey, maybe that’s a good name for your business: “Crack Food Photography”) And if it works out, please get back to me and let me know. I’d be curious and maybe you can buy me a drink or something… :o)
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