I recently completed a merger with one of the finest food studios in Chicago, and we're all very excited about the expanded capabilities this brings to our roster of clients. So I thought it would be a good time to post some thoughts about the best ways to source food photography.

If you own or manage a food-related business like a restaurant, candy company, or even a bakery, sooner or later, you’re going to need some food photography for your marketing. And if you don’t mind your photos looking like every other item out there, you might be able to buy stock photography online. But if you want truly unique photos to promote your business, you’ll want to hire a high quality, professional food photographer.

Hiring a food photographer can be an expensive endeavor and if you haven’t done it before, the process can be a bit daunting. Being a photographer, I’ve seen this process a hundred times, only from the “other side”. That’s why I’m taking the time here to share my experience. I’m hoping that I can help educate you and maybe relieve the anxiety associated with buying food photography for the very first time.

There are several things to consider when hiring a food photographer. The main thing is, you want to understand the type of food photography you need and you want to find a photographer that actually does “food” and has a portfolio to show you. Additionally, there’s that pesky thing called a budget to consider.

Type of Food Photographs Needed

Before you get too far into your search, you’ll need to give some thought as to what kind of food photography you actually need. Do you need photos for a magazine spread, for a billboard, or maybe some photos for your menu or packaging? You will want to give this some thought because it will determine what kind of photographer you look for.

Photographic Style

If you haven’t hired a food photographer before, you may not realize that there are different types of shooters. Most food photographers are usually either editorial shooters or advertising specialists. While some food shooters will be able to create photos of different styles, you might want to look for someone that naturally shoots in the style you’re looking for. You will be able to tell a lot by looking at the photographer’s portfolio. For example, if you’re looking to do some packaging photography and all you see on the photographer’s site, are “directly overhead" photos, maybe they are not the best person to shoot your packages. That particular photographer might shoot mostly magazine spreads, but wouldn’t have the first clue about shooting for advertising purposes.

Food Shooter’s Capabilities

If you need to shoot at your restaurant or at some location, any food photographer that has the style you need, might do, but if you need to shoot in a studio, you’ll need a photographer that has a studio. Sounds pretty obvious, but that’s something to consider.

Using the Internet to find a Food Photographer

Just because you “Google”, “food photographer Chicago”, doesn’t mean you’re going see a list of the best photographers that shoot food in the Chicago area. What you will find is a ranking of the photographers with the best SEO in the city. It will give you a way to find related web pages, and will give you a good place to start, but I have an even better suggestion for you to make your search time more efficient. Go ahead and Google that same phrase, but instead of looking through all those websites, click on the “images” option at the top of Google’s returns. Since food photography is a “visual” thing, you will be able to see hundreds of food photographer’s images. Simply click on the photos you think best match your needs, and that will take you to the photographer’s webpage, where you will be able to see more pics. It’s a really good shortcut.

Making Contact

Once you find the food photographer that best suites your needs, you’ll want to contact them and discuss your project. A little warning here. You’re going to want a price of some kind, but the photographer is going to need the answers to a lot of questions. Most food shooters end up charging for their time, in one way or another, so the photographer will want to determine how long the shoot will take to complete. Besides time, there may be other expenses involved that may sway the price quite a bit. Here are some of the questions you may need to answer:

* How many and what type of food photos do you need?
* What type of backgrounds and props will you need?
* Will there need to be a food stylist involved in the shoot?
* How will the photos be used?
* Where will the photography take place?
* Do you have a budget number you need to work within?
* How soon would you like to shoot this?
* Who will supply the food?
* Will there be an Art Director?
* Are there any existing layouts?

These are just a few of the questions that a quality food photographer will have for you. Because of these variables, most food photographers do not have a set “per shot” price, so each individual estimate will be different and based on your specific needs.

In Summary

Finding the right photographer for your food photo needs is not going to be an easy task, but with a little patience and a little hard work, you should be able to find someone that’s a great fit for your project. If by chance, you like what you see in my portfolio and you’d like to chat, drop me a quick note here.