Is there still a market for food photography?
Yes. In fact there are many markets for food photography. While it’s true there seem to be a gazillion cellphone photographers flooding the social media channels with really crappy photos, (and a few good ones too) there are still clients for good quality food photography. The market really hasn’t changed. If anything, there’s a larger market. I think that all that crappy food photography has done two things to food photography. I think it’s drawn the “trend” toward a ”more casual look” in most food photograph markets, but crappy photography is still crappy photography.
The second thing this flood of social media food photography has done is to create a demand for more of it by the manufactures and retailers of food. Social media is a big deal in marketing these days. Companies realize that they need to participate in channels like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And to have a presence there, they need photography! (and video too)
What are the markets for food photography?
Like I just said, social media and amateur food shooters have influenced the food magazines, but the truth is that there are still a lot of magazines out there and they all still need QUALITY photography. They have to hire someone to do it for them and I can tell you that in general, the photos in the magazine are not being taken with cell phones. Maybe someday not too far off that might change, but for now, the magazines still need and use professional food photographers.
Companies that make food, still need advertising style food photography. They need to market the food to consumers and to do that, it takes more than a pretty picture (and way more than a crappy picture), they need food photographers that can make you experience the food. They need me… :o)
It’s the same with food retailers like grocery stores, bakeries, catering companies, and restaurants. They still need the kind of photography that sells their food. Don’t get me wrong… There are some cellphone food photographers out there that have amazing eyes and there are some really talented food bloggers out there too. The thing is though, is they really aren’t competing for work. They’re doing it for fun! If anything, the good ones are forcing us to up our game a bit in order to look better than the free stuff out there.
The good news
Here are a couple of interesting facts that will make you feel a little better if you’re a working food photographer.
Most cellphone food photographers out there, even though they may have amazing eyes, cannot produce quality work on demand. And that’s what professional food photographers do. They produce high quality work, no matter where the sun happens to be, no matter how bad the interior lighting is, they do it on demand and produce every time.
I have a good client that tried working with an young up-and-coming food photographer in the area not all that long ago. The photographer’s style is very editorial and the client was not a magazine. The result was a disappointed client. Why? Because the photographer had a style of shooting that, while appealing, just wasn’t at all flexible. The client had a choice… “Do you want the big box on that side or that side?” “Oh, it’s dark there and you want it lighter on that side?” “Okay, I’ll move the box to that side then…” He couldn’t go outside his comfort zone. He never had to do it the client’s way instead of his own. The moral of the story? There is still a market out there for good quality food photographers. The photographer I was talking about might very well change his ways and learn to light, but for now, he’s having trouble with advertising type clients. He’s kicking my butt with the editorial ones, but as of right now, he’s just not an advertising kinda shooter…
A new trend in food photography markets
There is something interesting going on in the market that is actually a good thing. Social media is such a hot topic that many of my advertising clients are now hiring me to shoot photos for Instagram and Pinterest. I think it’s kinda crazy, but that’s where things are going… So why do they choose me to do the social media photography? Because they KNOW that I can produce. Sure, I cost a bit more than the newbes, but the new guy on the block, is a gamble, and this is still business where gambling with the company funds is frowned upon…
So, practice, practice, practice… First learn to SEE light and then learn how to control light. Lighting food is actually the easy part. Figuring out what it needs to look like is the tough part.