Professional Food Photographer Secrets

Professional Food and Drink Photographer

As you can tell by the spreadsheet below, I really need to work on the search term “Professional Food and Drink Photographer”

Professional Food Photographer Secrets

I’m a professional food photographer located in Pittsburgh, PA, in the USA.  I’ve been doing this for quite a few years and know for a fact that I owe most of my success to only two things, my ability to create appealing food photos and my ability to find and keep my food photography, clients.  In fact, the real secret to being a PROFESSIONAL food photographer isn’t as much taking great food photos as it is creating great marketing on a consistent basis.

Most people think that taking great pictures in what professional food photography is all about.   In fact, the real secret to professional food photography is marketing.  There are tons of good food photographers that can’t make their passion into a profession.  This short article will outline what I do to find and keep my professional food photographer clients

Make it easy for food photography clients to find your web page

Now-a-days, most professional food photographer shoots will originate from some sort of Internet search.  Because of that, probably the best way for a professional food photographer to get new clients is by hiring great SEO company or known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

What is SEO and why is it important to the professional food photographer?

Search Engine Optimization is important because most searchers don’t get past the first page of the search results.  If your web page isn’t listed on the first page of the search results, you won’t get many people finding you.  And if they don’t find your web page, then the chance of them finding you are slim to none.  Of course, they might find you in the Yellow PAGES… :O)

Here are some interesting statistics I picked up from the Smart Insights web page.

Google has 73% of the search market.  If you’re going to optimize for a search engine, then that’s the one you want to target.

More people search on their mobile devices than they do on their desktops.  Keep them in mind when you design your email campaigns.

Organic Search gets 95% of the clicks whereas PPC (pay per click) only gets 5%.  That tells me that having great SEO is a better investment than is paying to be listed on Google’s Ads.

Picking your Professional Food Photography SEO Battles

You can’t be everything to everyone and it’s no different in SEO for the food photographer.  You will need to decide on which search terms are most likely to bring you work.  Those will be the “words” you target in your efforts. The terms I’ve decided that are important are listed below.  Yours may be different, but I’d bet against it.  You’ll want to give a lot of thought to which keyword phrases are important to you.  Seo takes a lot of effort and you don’t want to go after words that aren’t going to make you money as a professional food shooter.

External SEO for the Professional Food Photographer

An extremely important consideration to search engines in inbound links.  You’ll want to sign up on any directory that you can, especially those in your industry of location.  Keep away from any place you have to pay to be listed, unless it’s a reputable one in your industry.  Stay away from “spammy” directories.

I’ve heard it mentioned that backlinks from social media post are valuable too, so when possible, post your web page URL in your posts.

On-page SEO for Professional Food Photographers

Having good on-page SEO refers to the way to structure your web pages.  It’s a bit much to get into in detail here, but I’ll give you the basics.  You can learn more by going on Youtube and viewing pages about SEO.

  • Title tags should contain your target words
  • H-1 Tags should contain your target words
  • Your first paragraph should contain your target words
  • Almost every page you create should be in some way about food photography
  • The alt tags of your photos should contain your target words
  • Each page should contain more than 500 words about some aspect of food photography
  • Have links on your pages to other pages in your site and to outside pages related to the topic of that individual page
  • The URL should contain your target words

Local SEO – If you’re already familiar with SEO, you may notice on my list that none of my terms contain my geographic location.  The reason for that is that I have another page that targets Pittsburgh, the city where I live.  If you’d like to see my Pittsburgh site, you can check out

I actually have three sites, each targeting different keywords.  With my site, I’m trying to reach a national or even international market, so I don’t stress my location.  In the site, I do list the word Pittsburgh on almost every page.  At the very least, I list my contact info at the bottom of every page.

Prifessional food photography standings

Here’s a sample of the spreadsheet I keep in order to track my status and to show me what I need to work on. Notice how poorly I’m doing with the term “Professional Food Photography”.

Keeping Tabs on your Professional Food Photographer SEO Battles

The list of links below is actually how this article started out.  I wanted to create a web page that I could use to quickly check on my own SEO status, so I created these links so that they would keep me from having to type them in every time I wanted to see how I was doing.  So here ya go, a look behind the curtain on what my target “keyword phrases” are for my Professional Food Photography SEO battles.  These are the phrases I’ve chosen to rank as high as possible in.

The way I use these links is to periodically click to see where I stand for these search terms.  I keep a spreadsheet in order to create a history of my standings.  This also shows me what terms I need to work address in my next post or content.

Did you notice the fourth line?  It’s the title of this article….  Do you think that’s a coincidence? :o)

Sample Emailer for professional Food Photographer

This is a screen capture from a recent emailer. Note the informal tone used to make it as much like a “regular” email as possible.

Professional Food Photography Email Marketing Campaigns

What is an emailer

An emailer is an email you send to multiple recipients that are designed to bring you more food photography business.  The idea is to let potential clients hear from you and to see your food photography.

How do I send out emailers?

First you need a list. that’s covered below. Then you need to design an emailer and the best way I’ve found to do that is through a company called MailChimp.  They offer free service if you list is under and certain number and you follow a few other rules of theirs.  I pay for the service and the price is low and well worth it.  Visit their site and sign up.

Mailchimp is basically a company that lets you create emails and then mail-merges them so you don’t have to send out individual emails.  It also manages the “unsubscribe” requests and tracks various statistics on your email.  It tracks the number of people that opened the email and the number of clicks from links in the email.  It’s a great tool.

Professional Food Photographer Secret #1 – This is controversial and different photographer have different opinions.  I think that the emailer should look and sound like an email and not an email advertisement.  I do whatever I can to make the email they receive look as little like a “blast” as humanly possible.  Here’s how I do that… 1. I use email sized type, not big bold type.  2. I mail merge their first name at the top of the email.  3. I write the email as though it was a personal email. I use words like “you” and I like to include a little humor if appropriate. 4. I keep it short.

Building a list of emails of possible food photography clients

The most important element of a successful email marketing campaign is the list of people receiving it.  I don’t care how wonderful the food photos are, if the recipient isn’t interested, you’re wasting your time.

I have four main sources for building my email list.

1. Current Contacts – If you’ve been in business for awhile, you’ve already made a ton of contacts that you already know are interested in your food photography.  That’s the start of your list.  A word of caution here.  Just because someone is in your contact list, doesn’t mean you should put them on your emailer list.  Only send your emailer to the people that you think would be interested in food photography.  Don’t for example, send your list to people that only hire you for other types of photography.  There is already too much spam in this world and you don’t want to be thought of as one of “those guys”.

2. Job Inquiries – Hopefully over time, your SEO will become so good that you’ll start getting requests for estimates for food photography shoots.  Whenever anyone contacts you, put their name on your list.  You KNOW that these people are potential clients and interested in your professional food photography services.  Even if you don’t get the shoot they called you about that doesn’t mean they won’t hire you some time in the future.  The key is to keep reminding them that you’re alive and shooting.

3. Web Surfing – When I get some free time, I’ll go to potential client’s web pages and look for email addresses of the people that might be interested in my work and add them to my list.  I will sometimes actually email them and ask if I can add them to my list, but I’d be lying if I told you that I did that for everyone I added.  Does that make me a bad person?

Professional Food Photography Secret #23 – Don’t forget to add “influencers” to your list.  These are people that do not directly hire food photographers but have the ability to influence those who do.  Look for titles that like “Editor” or “Director” or the principles of small companies or organizations.
food photography secrets!

Behind-the-scenes photos are great for social media posts. Everyone likes a peek behind the curtain of professional food photography!

4. Social Media – I’ve found that LinkedIn is especially good for finding email addresses of possible “national” clients.  On LinkedIn there are “groups” you can join of people interested in the food photography industry.  How more targeted can you get?  The great thing about LinkedIn is that once you’ve “connected” you have access to that person’s email address or you can even message them directly.  Be aware of one thing though.  People on Linkedin often list their personal email address.  That way, if they ever leave their current position or look for a job, the email address will still be valid.

Caution Professional Food Photographers!

When you’re building your email list, keep in mind that there is a really, really, really, thin line between email marketing and spamming.  You want to be thought of as a potential professional food photography vendor, not a pain-in-the-butt spammer.  People hate spammers and you don’t want them hating you.  Walk that line with great care.

Most Art Directors or Creative Directors will consider your emails as the information they need, and others will just either ignore your emails or unsubscribe from your list.  Either is fine.

Professional Food Photography emailer frequency

Every professional food photographer will struggle with the question about how often they should send out their email campaigns.  I’ve come to the conclusion that one email per month is just the right amount.  More than that, and your recipients will consider your emails a nuisance and less than that, you may not be showing up enough to “be at the right place at the right time”.  When in doubt, I tend to error on the side of sending fewer emails rather than sending too many.

Social Media for the Pro Food Photographer

Social media is a great way of keeping in touch with potential clients and showing off what you’ve been up to.  My platforms of choice are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  I’m probably not as active as I should be, but I’m working on correcting that.  Feel free to reach out and like or connect my pages!

Professional Food Photography Secret #3 – Do NOT post political opinions of you social media pages, especially if you’re a right-winger like me.  You’ll find that there is no upside to these types of posts, no matter how tempting they are to make. :o)

So, that’s it, a few super secrets of professional food photography.  To some, it might seem simple but you’d be amazed at how many great food photographers are now flipping burgers and shooting food on the side, instead of being a true professional food photographer and making a living at what they really love.  And that’s okay too.  Less competition… :o)

If you’d like to read more about Professional Food Photography, you can either visit my food photography blog or better yet, the Food Photography Tips link in the menu section of this page.

BTW – see the contact info listed below?  It’s very important to your “local listing” as a Professional food photographer!  Don’t forget to put this on all your pages!

Michael Ray Photography
2820 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222