How to start as a Professional Food and Product Photographer
You are probably thinking about getting into product or food photography but do not know where to start. Worry not, this is your one-stop guide to starting and establishing a professional career in either of these fields. Since both of the fields involve photographing stationary subjects mostly in a studio, that is why the professional journey is quite similar. Other than the subjects themselves, there are slight differences which we have also mentioned. Now, let us get to the main article right away.
Get your hands dirty
Now, you might have guessed, the absolute first thing is learning the craft. If you do not possess any cameras yet, you can even start with your smartphone. However, it is only recommended if you own a phone with advanced camera systems. Also, you need to remember that photography cannot be mastered in a short time. It takes time and patience to develop the skill. You need to pay attention to the smallest details such as lighting, composition, props, and more.
Gather the Equipment
After you have spent some time learning the basic tips and tricks, you must invest in professional equipment or prosumer equipment that allows you to produce decent quality photos. Of course, the main things include a DSLR or mirrorless camera paired with a similarly good or even better lens, a great option to start is at least a 50 mm prime lens, and if you will be photographing small items a 105 mm macro lens is ideal. One last thing but not least is a flash, even tho you can work with natural light like a window, I recommend artificial light because it is controllable and repeatable. These three things are a must to produce great photos. Till this stage, you have only worked on the basics, now you are going to learn not just how to shoot with a camera but also how to process the images in the editing process. For that, you will need some good editing software like Lightroom, Capture One, or Photoshop. Other than that, you need to know that photography is a creative process. That is why learning how to compose the images and product placement that will reel in the viewers is necessary.
Showcase your work
It is now time that you start working on your brand. We assume that at this stage, you are very well familiar with your niche, either product or food, and can create awesome photographs. You need to showcase your work if you are confident about your skill. It does not need to be professional paid work; you can even showcase the work that you have done in your own kitchen. The only requirement is that the quality of the work that you publicize is professional and top-notch. Now, comes the hundred dollars question; where to showcase? The simple, however most effective method is to start with your social media accounts that are most suitable for a photographer like, Instagram, Flikr, 500px, Viewbug. The other way is to build your website. Don’t underestimate this last one since there are lots of people relying only on social media and it is a big mistake.
Building a website is not as difficult as it used to be. There are sites like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and other ones that provide you with themes and plugins that you can drag and drop however you want. This lets you create your own website with minimal technical knowledge.
Spread some love
After all this work, you still have not made a single dollar, but you have to be patient for a little while longer. Setting up your social accounts or website will give you a solid footprint which is very helpful in this next step. You need to start approaching local businesses or even your friends who might be operating a physical or e-commerce store. However, offer them free shoots because it is very difficult to get paid clients without any professional experience. These free shoots will strengthen your footprint, give you new insights about the craft, and most importantly, these will get you good reviews. All of this is necessary to make your name in your field.
Understand your clients
All of the free shoots and the reviews you get will definitely help you in getting your first client. However, you have to know that many people are working for the same thing as you. That is why you need to be creative with your process and stand out from the rest. Apart from your skill and creativity, it Is equally important that you fully understand what your clients want. Listening to your client will greatly improve your success rate and you will be able to easily understand the nature and scope of the work needed. One bonus tip I highly recommend you apply is to underpromise and overdeliver, this will exceed your client’s expectations.
Seek a mentor
There might be a few cases where you will be struggling to find some work. For this, you can pair up with an experienced photographer to share some of his workloads and to get some practical experience. This will not only help you how to get clients but also serve as a way of learning new techniques and tips specific to your profession.
For food photographers, we have a very special recommendation. Since your main work is to present the food that looks delicious and practically reels people in, that is why it would be fitting that you learn some techniques from a food stylist. Creatively presenting the food will get half of your work done, therefore, give it a thought.
Publish on Websites
If you cannot find clients or even if you do, this option is beneficial for both groups. Basically, you just have to work on your own and create your own pictures. After that simply create an account on a photography website that publishes photographs for sale and you publish your work under your name. People will be able to view your work and they can either buy or even license it for some time. This method is very convenient because it allows you to work on your own ideas and even make money from them. One that I use very often is wirestock.
We have talked about every aspect of the professional journey of a product and food photographer from scratch. However, this is a very basic and generic map that you might follow but you are free to understand it and then carve your own journey. Remember that it might take a lot of time but if you are patient and diligent, it will definitely be worth it. We hope that you get to play with a lot of products and food.
Jose Soriano is a photographer, visual content creator and blog writer with over 10 years of experience. He is working with start-up businesses, top commercial brands, and other amazing people, helping them to achieve their visual goals.