food photography banner image 1Food photography is costing more than I expected.  How can I reduce the cost?

Food shoots can be very expensive and many clients, especially smaller companies, need to cut costs to make the photography justifiable. Restaurants and small food manufacturer such as bakeries and candy companies know they need photography, but find it hard to come up with the money to hire a food photographer and the team needed to produce the photos.  Here are some ways to cut costs in order to make the purchase more affordable.

Change the number of  photos

As a food photographer, I charge not “by the shot”, but “by the day”…  What that means is that the number of shots we can do changes with the complexity of the particular project.  Where that comes into play is if you need seven shots and we figure that we can do six shots in a day, that the seventh shot will put us into a second day.  Then, the one shot will actually cost you about 50% of the entire invoice.  If you’d be willing to give up doing that seventh shot, you could save a bunch of money.

The reverse side of that situation is when you think you only need three food photos and the team figures that it can shoot six in that same time period.  It might be a good idea to come up with some other photos you may need in the future, to round out the day.  That way, your cost per photo will be less and you may not need to pay for additional photo shoot down the line.

Be Flexible

It’s a good idea to have some “expendable” photos that you’d like to have shot,  it time allows, but if it doesn’t, then you’re okay not getting them.  You can have a “must have” list of shots and a “would like to get to” list of shots for the day.  If the “must have”  pictures take up the entire day, then not getting to the “would like to get to” photos is no big deal, but if everything goes smoothly and there is time at the end of the shoot day, then you get a few extra photos to add to your food photography library.  This brings down your “per shot” price.

Simpler Photos

The more elements in a food photo, the longer that photograph takes to shoot.  The longer the photo takes, the fewer photos can be done in a day and therefore the more each photo ends up costing you.  When I say elements, I mean food items and props.  The more different foods you have in a shot, the longer it takes to prepare, compose, and light.  Time is money.

Props also take time to compose and light, so an environmental food photos takes more time to shoot than does a simple plate of food on a white background.  Sure, the simple photo usually doesn’t look as good as something set in “mom’s kitchen”, but if cost is the factor between having food photography and not having food photography, then maybe that’s something to consider.

Changing Backgrounds

Changing backgrounds is another thing that chews up time on a food shoot.  To change the background, all the props beed to be removed old one and then rearranged on the new background.  This ends up taking valuable shoot time, so the fewer changes necessary, the less each shot will end up costing.

Take On Some Of The Food Stylist’s Responsibilities

A food stylist is an expensive member of the food photography team and takes on many responsibilities for producing great food photos.  Some of these responsibilities involve buying the food for the shoot and sometimes the props too.  One way a client can save a little money is to take on those responsibilities.  These things have to be done, so if the client wants to do the legwork then the stylist’s invoice will end up a bill less then it would have otherwise.

Hire a Cheaper Food Photographer

Clients interested in hiring a food photographer are usually limited to some extent, by geography.  There are usually few talented food photographers in a give area.  Shooting food is NOT something just any photographer can do.  And if you think it is, you just don’t know much about the subject.  You don’t want to hire your local wedding photographer to shoot your menu.  Just because a photographer has a couple of food photos on his website doesn’t mean that he knows how to shoot food. Take a good look at different local photographer’s websites to see who in your area is the best food shooter and go with them.  Usually there isn’t too much a difference between local competitors, but if you can’t see a difference in quality, then you might want to get estimates from a couple different food photographers.

Shoot Without a Stylist

You can also compare food stylist’s prices, but stylists are harder to come across than are photographers even…

One option you might want to consider is to actually go without a food stylist.  Out of everything I’ve listed here, this is the one thing that will save you the most money…  If you own a restaurant, you might have your chef do the job of the food stylist.  Don’t get me wrong, you will be lessening the quality of the shoot, but this savings may prove to be the difference between being able to afford or not afford to shoot.

I always prefer to work with a food stylist, but I’m also pretty good at directing a chef and letting them know what looks good in a photo.  Another thing about substituting a chef with the stylist, is the whole shoot will be more productive.  Stylists make the shots as perfect as possible, but they also chew up a lot of shoot time doing so.  With a chef, and depending on the types of photos, we can usually shoot two to three times as many photos in a given day.

So there you have it.  If you need to same money on shooting your next food photography project, I’ve given you a few suggestions and ideas.  By far, substituting the stylist is going to be the biggest cost savings, but it will also compromise the “perfection” of the photos.  Sometimes though, perfection isn’t really what you want anyway.  What you probably want is, as many ‘beautiful food photos” as possible,  And sometimes beautiful and perfect, are not necessarily the same thing.