What first springs to mind when you think about the role of a food photographer?
Irresistible Instagram posts? Appetising adverts and promos? Mouth-watering menu shots?
Well, the life of a food photographer can often entail all of the above… and more!
As digital technology becomes more embedded in all aspects of daily life, food photographs are only becoming more popular, with everyone from fast food joints and five-star restaurants to food bloggers and social influencers wanting a piece of the pie.
If you’re considering a career in food photography, this means there are avenues galore to explore. But how do you know where to start?
That’s where we come in.
Today, we’re sharing a mighty menu of career options available to aspiring food photographers. Discussing the pros, cons and must-knows of each, we’re helping you find the role that best suits you.
Cookbook imagery is the bread and butter of food photography.
Why? Because the public never tire of cookbooks! Whether it’s Jamie Oliver’s new stocking-filler or fresh takes on the latest trends, cookbooks remain a popular product all year round.
The good news is that, for every new cookbook, there’s a photographer needed. These projects can be short and sweet, such as capturing a striking image for the book’s cover, or far more extensive (such as if you’ve been hired to shoot imagery for the entire book).
Cookbook photographers will be required to work very closely with the writer to ensure their vision is brought to life. You’ll be expected to carefully craft your shots in a way that visually enhances the written instructions, meaning an eye for detail and a thorough understanding of photographic techniques is vital.
Skills you’ll need:
- Patience – cookbook photography projects can be an intensive process. Whether you’re shooting each stage of the cooking process or a multitude of recipes for one book, even the most ‘off the cuff’ shots are often rigorously planned. This means you’ll need a high degree of patience to keep at it until you’ve secured those perfect shots. Perfection takes time!
- Teamwork – there’s more manpower behind the creation of a cookbook than you may have ever imagined. From the writer and the publisher to prop stylists and cooks, you may need to work closely with various members of a large team to achieve the desired outcome
- Expertise – the role of the cookbook photographer is twofold. They must capture the final product in a visually engaging way, while also visually enhancing the written instructions – thus engaging and enlightening readers. Getting this right requires expertise in technique, approach and editing
As the food industry continually evolves to cater for digital advancements, from delivery apps to social media ads, the demand for food-based stock imagery continues to grow.
Food stock imagery is used for a variety of means, but regularly features as visual content in blog posts, social media posts and more. Brands want to tell their stories digitally, and stock imagery is often used to visually enhance this.
Stock photographers usually work freelance and are therefore responsible for their own success. For the best possible start, look to ensure you’re uploading your imagery to the right platforms and keyword tagging correctly.
Most importantly of all, you’ll need to ensure your images are striking, high-resolution and unique. This will help your photography stand out among the competition, with Shutterstock alone housing over 300 million stock images.
It also pays to have an ear to the ground to ensure you’re ahead of surges in demand. Is a food product or diet type particularly hot right now, for example?
Skills you’ll need:
- Autonomy – you’ll be responsible for coming up with ideas, taking the images and uploading them to your chosen platforms. This requires autonomy and self-discipline
- Expertise – standing out against the stock imagery crowd requires leaning on your expertise to create unique, eye-catching imagery
- Contextual awareness – a wider awareness of what customers are searching for (and
why) can help you get steps ahead of your competition
Social media ‘foodie’
Social media ‘foodies’ are online influencers who run social accounts – particularly on Instagram – specifically dedicated to food.
Still relatively new in the grand scheme of food photography, social media food influencers are becoming more and more common, and more and more popular. There’s a good reason, too: food lovers are consuming 4 times more content than the average Instagram user.
But with a market comes competition. 27% of Instagram users are sharing food content, with #food being featured on approximately 250 million posts a month. This means you’ll need more than the right photo – you’ll need the right strategy, too.
From nailing your hashtags to securing affiliate deals, a social media strategy is key to monetising your account and can make the difference between a hobby and a career.
Skills you’ll need:
- Expertise – an in-depth understanding of optimal lighting, angles and framing is key to creating stand-out imagery that stops users scrolling
- Social media skills – familiarise yourself with the latest and greatest in social media best practices, generating the awareness and driving the engagement you want to see
- Autonomy – you’re your own boss, meaning complete autonomy is a given. From establishing and following through with a posting schedule to replying to comments and following back, it’s up to you to steer your ship on the right course
Of course, freelance isn’t always the name of the game when it comes to food photography.
There are plenty of in-house opportunities available to food photographers who’d rather immerse themselves in one brand, product or service. Those looking for in-house positions should consider restaurants, chains, food brands and supermarkets to name just a few.
That’s not to say in-house positions are stale and repetitive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: in-house opportunities involve a diverse range of tasks week to week. From tantalising social media photos of a new menu addition to product packaging shoots for a new range, expect to work across different formats and styles with a view to achieving different results.
Skills you’ll need:
- Flexibility – you’ll need to be able to adapt your style and technique to suit different formats and achieve different results
- Expertise – in-house photography requires an understanding of how to best represent the brand and its values in each and every image. This means possessing expertise far beyond knowing how to take a good picture, instead demonstrating an ability to evoke different responses via different techniques
- Teamwork – teamwork is particularly important when working in-house, as you’ll be expected to work closely alongside a variety of departments
There’s a proverbial feast of job prospects available to anyone considering a career in food photography. Before you decide which item on this menu takes your fancy, it’s important to first hone your food photography skills.
Our HNC Photography course was launched to help you gain the creative skills and technical knowledge you need to master this art form.
To learn more about how the course can help you on your way to becoming a food photographer, enrol in one of our photography courses.