Are you ready for a food photographer?

Choosing a food photographer can be an intimidating process. If you have never done a food shoot and are contemplating one here are some things to consider. If you are on the fence about whether you need a food shoot here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

1) Food photography a highly specialized genre. When you are selling a food product or package design obviously your goal is to drive sales. All too often people have a phenomenal web site or advertisement but do not take the time or expense to do great photography. Does this help drive sales? Food images need to do one thing, connect to an emotional response. This results in a sale, the ultimate goal. If you do not have a great photograph of your product your sales will suffer. It is better not to show a poorly photographed image than risk loosing a customer who might be turned off by an unattractive item. In the age of digital cameras people think they can shoot the photographs themselves to save money. If you have taken the time to create a great product, packaging, sales, website showing a poor photographic representation of your product can hurt you in the long run.

2) Choosing a photographer. You want choose a photographer one who specializes in your niche. The best way to find a photographer is by seeking a reference from someone who has worked with them.. A positive referral is always favorable. If you do not have resource for this type of referral than you must do your homework. The best place to start is a web search. It is also preferable to look at as many photographers as possible to find the style that best suits your needs. Once you have narrowed down your search, contact the photographers to discuss the project. Ask about rates and other costs associated with the assignment. If the photographer you really had your heart set on is too expensive for your budget you can ask to negotiate a better rate. Frequently if there is a contract to shoot more than one day you may be able to get a better rate for volume. This is not always possible and crew expenses are always fixed.

3) Pricing a job. There are many factors that go into a job’s price. The photographer usually gets a day rate.. Food stylists, which are essential to a food shoot, have rates that range from $800 per day and up. Assistant fees are around $300 per day. Some jobs may require a prop stylist as well. They range from $1,000 per day and up.
There are also prop costs, food costs and other expendable costs.
The costs can add up quickly.

4) Stock photography vs. original images. In the age of cheap royalty free photographs
why would any one want to go to the expense of a photo shoot? While stock photography can be cheap there are literally thousands of people who have also purchased the same images. Your company may have an identical image as a competitor thereby rendering your ad campaign less effective.. Often times these disks contain out takes from a photo shoot or are of low quality. Rights manages stock images are of much higher quality but also can cost more than a personalized photo shoot depending on usage. Also once the usage agreement is completed you have to pay for the right again. This route can often eclipse the cost of a shoot where you negotiate with the photographer unlimited usage. Original photography is just that, custom content which is designed especially for you. It is specifically tailored for your advertising.

5) Off site art direction. In our digital society geographic location is no longer a factor.
While it is always great to have a client in the studio, it is now a common occurrence to work in a totally separate location and still achieve the same quality as if the client were in the room. A shot is taken, placed in a client provided layout sent via email as a pdf and
the client receives the file and is able to make corrections or approve a shot in very little time. The process is not slowed down at all.

6) What can I expect from a food shoot? The process starts when a photographer is hired.
Dates of the shoot are discussed and a pre production meeting is held. It can be a conference call or live meeting. The goals of the shoot are discussed. This includes concept, crew needs, logistics and number of days required. If your shoot requires more than one day it is best to shot consecutive days if possible. This cuts down on variable expenses. The day usually lasts 11 hours, 10 hours for the shoot and 1 hour for a meal break. Some shoots go quicker than others and time may vary. Usually an art director handles the look of the shoot but often times the additional expense of an art director is not possible. Good photographers can act as art directors on the shoot and need to be flexible with a client. Since digital photography is the norm files are shot to the computer and can be instantly mapped into a layout. This process significantly increases the number of shots that can be done in a day. Once the images are shot and approved files must be prepared for the end use. All spots and dust are removed and files are set up for
the printer and for web usage. This process usually takes about a day and the client can expect files 2 days after the shoot via disk. If files are needed to meet a tight deadline, discuss this before hand with the photographer. Most will accommodate your request.
If only 1 image is crucial meet a deadline in most cases the client may get it the day of the shoot.

7) How many shots can you expect in 1 day? This question is complex. Between 5 and 10
shots in a single day is about the norm. It really depends on the complexity of the images. Complicated sets with multiple dishes could only yield 2 shots in a day. Often people want to cram a 3 day shoot into 1 day to save money. They do not believe that 15 or 20 shots can not be achieved in 1 day. If the shots are simple this may be possible, however, it must be carefully planned out in order to execute. A keen art director who can get a maximum amount of productivity with a clear vision is essential. Complicated meat dishes take time to prepare and food is cooked and styled. Experience has taught us that eight carefully executed set ups is really tipping point to a successful shoot. While the Stylist is preparing the shot we use stand in to light and get camera angles. When the food is ready we shoot and tweak the food , fill in any holes and change things in order to achieve the best result. The next shot is prepared by the food stylist. At the same time, the photographer and art director will get the set ready. The process is repeated. Each shot takes roughly one to two hours from start to finish.