Have you ever been asked what you charge for food photography before getting any details about the photo shoot? This happens to me all the time. But, I never talk money before getting more information about the project and what the client wants. In order to provide a fair estimate, I recommend asking these questions before estimating food photography.
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Estimating Food Photography
All food photography projects are different, so there isn’t a one-price-fits-all approach when it comes to what food photography costs. You have to consider the shot list, how much time you need to shoot the shot list, whether or not you need a team, image usage fees and potential expenses that might be involved. Below is a list of the questions I ask to my clients before ever talking money.
1. Tell me about the creative direction for your project.
This is my favorite part of the conversation. I love hearing the client’s vision for the project and getting their wishlist of ideas. It helps me get to know the client a bit more, learn about the project and figure out if it’s a project I would be interested in shooting.
2. When do you want to shoot?
I ask this pretty early on in the conversation, because if I’m unavailable when the client wants to shoot, there’s really no need to keep chatting unless there’s flexibility on the shoot dates.
Be careful when a client says “ASAP.” I know that’s a common thing to say, but photo shoots take time to plan and execute. A good client will respect the process and will want to do the photo shoot right, not just fast.
3. What is your desired shot list?
Not all clients will know the answer to this right away, but it’s a chance for you to get them thinking about it. The types of images the client wants will factor into how much time you’ll need, whether or not you’ll need a team and the equipment you will need to help you get the shots.
4. How many images do you want?
This question may get answered within question 3, but be sure to get clarification on this. If a client wants to shoot five recipes, but wants two variations of each recipe (an overhead shot and a 3/4 angle shot), this would actually be 10 images. Additional variations will require more time, due to different setups and compositions and could affect the image usage fees.
5. How do you want to use the images and for how long?
Image usage will vary per project and this needs to be considered separately from your creative fee. The more images the client wants, the more time the shoot will take. The more usage the client wants and the longer they want to use them, the more expensive the images could become. I highly recommend BlinkBid to guide you with your usage pricing.
6. Who is approving the images?
Knowing who is approving the images is going to help you determine how the photo shoot process will go on set. Will the client be on set to approve images or will you be screen sharing through Zoom or sending screenshots through email? Will you be shooting tethered to review images as you shoot or will you share a gallery for review after the shoot? Some clients will want to be involved every step of the way and others will prefer to be more hands off. It’s really important to get on the same page together so the photo shoot can be efficient and fun for you and your client.
7. Where are we shooting?
Where you will be shooting will factor into your expenses. It could be travel fees to get to the location, studio rental fees or your own studio fee.
8. Who is preparing the food or drinks? (Do you need a food stylist?)
Is the client expecting you to handle both the photography and the food styling? Is a chef preparing the food? Will he/she need plating guidance? Does grocery shopping time need to be considered? This is important to know so you can either 1) make sure you have the right team (a food stylist) to help or 2) adjust your creative fee and the time needed to do the job of two people.
9. Do we need special props, surfaces or backdrops? (Do you need a prop stylist?)
Will the project require certain types of props or surfaces to bring the creative direction to life? Will the client want a variety on set to choose from? Sourcing special props and surfaces isn’t an easy task, so getting the help from a prop stylist might be worth adding to the estimate, depending on the requests.
10. How soon do you need the images? (Do you need a digital tech?)
How quickly the client needs the images will help you plan for the shoot, post-production and editing time. Not all clients realize there are more work hours after the photo shoot, especially if you don’t have a digital tech on set. You’ll have to edit, finalize and organize all of the images, which takes additional time. If the client wants to leave the shoot with the images in hand, you will want a digital tech on set. A digital tech is a great asset, because they help the photographer with setting up and managing all of the images. They have a day rate for their time and a separate daily fee for their digital kit on set. It’s really important to talk through this part of the process with your client to be sure you have the extra help on set if you need it.
11. Who is handling the retouching?
I always edit and finalize the images before sending them to my clients, however this is not the same as specialized retouching. These requests will come in after the images are delivered. If the client already has a retoucher, then you’re all set. But, if the client wants you to do specialized retouching after the images have been delivered, it will be important to factor this time into the estimate as a separate expense.
12. How do you want the images delivered?
Finalizing and organizing the images for your clients is an important part of the service you provide. What naming conventions do they prefer? Do they want TIF’s or JPG’s? Do they want the images delivered on an external hard drive or sent through a secure online delivery system? Make sure you know what the client prefers.
13. Do you have a budget for photography?
Eight times out of ten, I don’t get a clear response to this question. However, I ask it anyway. If I do get an answer it will help me work up an estimate that is within the client’s budget. If a client wants a lot more than their budget can support, it’s an opportunity to figure out how to negotiate their requests to be more in line with what they can afford. And, sometimes a client’s budget simply isn’t within your own requirements for the project. It’s absolutely ok to walk away and recommend finding another photographer when the budget simply isn’t in line with the value you bring to the table.
I hope these questions helped demonstrate the importance of knowing more about a food shoot project before talking numbers. Having a clear idea of what the client actually wants will help you create a fair estimate for the project and your time.