My free checklist will help you get organized so you can finally run a smooth food photography shoot!
I’m ready for clients! Yay! But wait…where do I find them?
Don’t worry, most photographers struggle to find food photography clients at some point. You want to make money as a food photographer, so you spend all of your time and energy mastering every technique under the sun. It’s easy to overlook the inevitable struggle of actually finding someone to shoot for!
Don’t stress, though. There are actually a lot of places to find food photography clients, and I’ll list ten of them right here for you!
This may seem obvious but hey, you have to go where the food is! Restaurants need food imagery to hang in their windows, use for advertising purposes, and display on their menus. Just think about the last place you sat down for dinner. Was there a separate dessert menu? Were they promoting any specials? Exactly!
You’ll want to speak to the owner if possible, but you can also make a great impression by throwing a few freebies their way. I’ve grown some really amazing business relationships with restaurants that started with a quick photo of one of their menu items and permission for them to use it on social media. I get into more details about this strategy in this free pdf, 3 marketing tactics I used to jumpstart my business.
Between Healthy Foods, Recipes, Baking, Regional Cooking, Vegetarian and Vegan publications, the choice of magazines related to food is endless, and a great place to find food photography clients! But let’s think beyond national magazines for a moment here and talk about local ones. Many towns and cities circulate their own magazines that promote local tourism and talk about current events within the community. Most of them highlight local restaurants, food brands, markets, and some even include seasonal recipes. There’s an added side benefit here: an opportunity to meet and potentially work alongside other local vendors. What a perfect way to make a name for yourself right where you live! Check into publications from neighboring areas, too.
This is my dream! Cookbooks are a little more tricky and can require going through an agency, but they’re very rewarding projects to take on. When you see a cookbook project you’d like to go for, you can try reaching out through social media to find the right person to contact. You may also have some success reaching out to publications via LinkedIn. Another way to do it if you are a food blogger and are familiar with recipe creation, is of course to create your own cookbook. There are many options to self publish your book, and creating an ebook has never been easier.
Cookbooks are more time intensive in some ways than other assignments. You may be in charge of putting together a cohesive look for the many recipes it contains. If you’re working with a publisher, there may also be more levels of approval to work through before you’re guaranteed to be done with an image or series. That said, cookbooks offer a lot of opportunities for you to show off your creativity. That’s why I love them!
Marketing is the name of the game for brands, and good photography is an invaluable marketing tool. If there’s a particular brand you’d like to work with, the first step is to know their product. For physical products, buy something if you can. Take some stunning photographs and show them off on your Instagram, talking about why you love it. Be authentic! Include an on-brand hashtag so it’s sure to get seen. Food brands are amongst my favorite type of food photography clients because they constantly need updated imagery for their social media, website, and marketing. a lot of them are looking to create a long lasting relationship with a photographer and setup some kind of retainer, which means recurring income for you!
Social media is packed with people and products trying to build a brand. And the great thing about finding them there is that there’s a built-in way to contact them: through their DMs. You can also find contact information through websites and product packaging. If you see specific instructions about where to direct inquiries, be sure to follow them!
Take Note: Marketing agencies and PR firms are great resources, although they are quite exclusive ones. If you can get your foot in the door, they’ll give you access to lots of different brands who are serious about investing in the success of their product. Don’t be discouraged if it takes several tries to get traction in professional advertising! It’s a busy field and may require some persistence to find the right “in”. Networking will serve you especially well here!
Food bloggers know food, but that doesn’t always mean they know photography. (I would cut that part out of my pitch though, if I were you!) I’ve had good luck connecting with food bloggers on platforms like Thumbtack and Upwork, but you can also meet them through generalized networking or Facebook groups. Of course, bloggers that you already follow are great potential clients and you can contact them directly from their sites or Instagram DMs.
Dieticians and health coaches sometimes keep blogs too, and need food photography services for different recipes, diet plans, and so on. What starts as blog work could easily blossom into marketing photography commissions, ebook images, and social media features if you play your cards right.
A word of caution here, and this applies to every pitch you make: be tactful when you talk about their current imagery. Not only is it highly unprofessional to badmouth someone else’s work to a client, you also don’t want hurt feelings to stand in the way of your dream job!
Next time you walk into a grocery store, take a look around the produce section. You might genuinely be surprised at how much photography you see, all to promote the food that’s sitting right in front of you! In addition to that, weekly sales flyers are jam packed with food and product photography. Some stores even have dedicated magazines now with recipe suggestions! (Look for the name of the editor in chief in the magazine to make contact.)
Food companies who are just getting off the ground might be inclined to give an up-and-coming photographer a hand! Regularly make time to read articles, guides, and news about food, business, and photography so you’ll recognize new names in the industry. Keep your ear to the ground through social media groups, local listings, and online freelance communities to stay in the know about who is looking. When you see something that interests you, learn all you can about their vision before making contact. Companies really appreciate a photographer who understands what they’re about.
Food and meal delivery services go through a lot of photography, since they’re constantly introducing new recipes for their clientele. That’s great news for us, right? Online freelancing communities are usually a good place to look for this type of posting and if you really wow them, there’s the potential for regular assignments.
Likewise, food-related brands need appetizing photography for their websites and Amazon listings. Although their product might be packaged, there’s often a desire to highlight the star ingredients. That’s where your creativity will really get to shine. Keep that in mind when you decide which images to include in your portfolio!
Clients don’t always have the time or resources to interview multiple candidate for their food photography needs, nor the time to create complex photography briefs to describe their vision. Sometimes it is just easier for them to browse the stock sites and to find the closest thing! These clients are the perfect candidates for stock photography. You may not realize it, but a considerable amount of the imagery you see in print and online advertising was not custom-made to suit one purpose. Someone on the team found it on a stock website and purchased the right to use it.
Submitting some of your work to stock photography sites will allow clients to “pick and choose” the photos that match their needs, without a drawn-out planning process that distracts from their ultimate goal. On the photographer’s side of things, it’s an avenue of passive income that can stack pretty easily with your other endeavors. Read my post on getting started with stock photography to learn more!
You know that trendy food packaging that makes your mouth water without even tasting the product yet? Someone designed that! In fact, design studios that specialize in food packaging are ideal places to look for food photography gigs. They’re constantly in the market for photography that complements their designs and sets the product they’re creating for apart.
And just like with the marketing agencies we talked about earlier, design studios are a hub of client potential that you’d be hard-pressed to access on your own. Send only the best of the best of your portfolio when you inquire here. These are some highly sought after working relationships! But I believe in you. Keep submitting your best work and it’s only a matter of time before you’re discovered.
If you are struggling to find work for your food photography business, stay tuned! I am working on a brand new eBook that I will launch at the end of August. Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter to get the updates about the eBook, and get all the posts and freebies right in your inbox!