The Structure of a Food Photography Estimate

Food photography services can add up really fast. But, where do all the fees come from? This post shares the structure of a food photography estimate, so you can clearly outline what goes into food photography for your clients.

This post contains affiliate links. Read the affiliate disclosure.

Why Food Photography Is Expensive

Questions To Ask Before Talking Numbers

First, food photography estimates will vary depending on the project. It’s very important to ask questions before talking numbers with potential clients, because it gets the client thinking about what they want and it gives you more information to work with when writing up a fair estimate.

I have another blog post that shares the questions I ask before estimating a food shoot, so be sure to check it out, if you haven’t already.


The Structure Of A Food Photography Estimate

The structure of my food photography estimates includes four categories including:


Creative Fees

A photographers creative fee is what it costs a photographer to do the job. So, what actually goes into a photographer’s creative fee?

  • Time
  • Experience
  • Business Expenses


One of the biggest challenges I face as a food photographer is educating potential clients to how much time it takes to plan, produce and deliver high-quality, beautiful food images. The images in my portfolio took a lot of time to plan, set up, light, style, shoot and edit.

Many people think that a photographer’s job only happens during the photo shoot. But, that’s only one part of the process. A photographer’s time on a project includes:

  • The pre-production (planning)
  • The photo shoot (time on set)
  • The post-production (editing)

Pre-production time is the time leading up to the shoot and could include creative calls, emails, meetings, developing a pre-pro, sourcing materials, finding a team and a location.

The shoot time is the time on set during the actual photo shoot.

Post-production time is after the shoot takes place and includes editing, retouching and finalizing of all of the images.


Being a successful food photographer involves more than just knowing how to take beautiful images. Photographers are experts at their craft, but also need to be educators for their clients and problem solvers on set. It doesn’t hurt to be fun to work with too. 😉

The more experience a photographer has, the higher their creative fee will be because they are bringing a lot of experience and value to the table. They know how to host an efficient and successful shoot that results in gorgeous images. This allows the client to sit back and relax, because they know that they’re going to get stunning images.


Photographers are a business and have to pay their bills and taxes just like everyone else. They know what it costs them to be in business and have to deduct taxes per project. These numbers will vary per photographer and will affect a photographer’s creative fee.

Image Usage Fees

A common misconception when hiring a photographer is that the client will own the images after the photo shoot. This isn’t true. Photographers always retain full copyrights to their images. This means clients are technically “renting” the images from the photographer.

It’s important to keep in mind that the more images a client wants, the more expensive the shoot can become, because it takes time to capture each shot. The more usage freedom a client wants with the images, the more expensive the images can become.

There isn’t a one-price-fits-all number for image usage either, which can make this a tricky area to navigate for both photographers and potential clients. The usage fees will vary depending on how the client wants to use the images and for how long. Image usage fees also vary depending on how “big” the client is. For example, a small-scale local restaurant wouldn’t pay the same image usage fees as a global food brand.

In a nutshell, image usage fees should be figured out separately from the creative fee. Sometimes these fees can get bundled together, but it’s important for the photographer to make sure they’re accounting for both their time and the images they will be delivering when writing up an estimate.

Team Fees

Not all food photography projects require a team, but for larger projects, a photographer will hire a team to help them get the job done as efficiently and successfully as possible.

A photographer’s team will depend on the project, but could potentially include:

  • Food Stylist
  • Food Stylist Assistant
  • Prop Stylist
  • Prop Stylist Assistant
  • First Assistant
  • Digital Tech
  • Producer

That’s a lot of people, right? Not all projects will require that many people, but the team fees will add up quickly depending on how many people are needed on set.


A photographer’s team usually bills a day rate, but this rate could include overtime if the shoot goes longer than planned. Overtime fees varies, but is typically charged at an hourly rate separate from the team’s day rate.

Setting up equipment, taking it down and cleaning up after the shoot is factored into this time. All these things need to be discussed leading up to the shoot so everyone is on the same page with how long the shoot will go and when overtime fees might come into play.


Food photography is expensive because expenses can also add up really fast. Expenses are also going to vary per project, which is a big reason there isn’t a one-price-fits-all number when it comes to how much a food photography shoot costs.

It’s better not to talk money until you get more information and estimate the possible expenses for your clients. If you don’t list the cost for expenses in your estimate, those costs would end up coming out of your creative fee.


Let’s say I book a job with a restaurant client and I bring my D750 camera, my 28-70mm lens, my 105mm lens, my Manfrotto tripod all packed up in my travel camera bag. Let’s throw in one strobe, pocket wizards and a light modifier too. I’m basically showing up to this restaurant shoot with roughly $13,000 of equipment. Kind of eye-opening on the business side of photography, right? Photography equipment is a big part of a photographer’s business expenses and it’s not cheap.


Because equipment can be so expensive, not all photographers may own everything they might need for certain types of photo shoots. This means they would have to rent some equipment. If a photo shoot requires special equipment that the photographer doesn’t own, rental fees will be added to the estimate and the client will be responsible for those expenses.


Food shoots can be held at photographer’s studio, a rented studio space or the photographer may travel to be on location (like shooting at a restaurant). Studio fees and/or travel fees will be factored into the expenses.


If you’re shooting food, the costs of groceries are another expense that gets added to the estimate when applicable. And, with food shoots, you usually need more than you might think.


Props and surfaces are other expenses that might need to be added to your estimate too, especially if you have to buy or rent something special to bring your client’s creative vision to life.


Most photographers deliver edited and finalized images to their clients. However, if additional retouching is requested after the images are delivered, this may be a separate expense. Some clients may already have a retoucher, but if they don’t, the photographer will need to factor their time or their retoucher’s time into the estimate when applicable.

Whether you’re new to food photography or are searching for a food photographer, I hope this post gave a little more insight into what goes into a food photography estimate.

Happy Creating!

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.

Comments +

  1. Very interesting!
    I just started with restaurant photography and having my first clients. This article was very helpful. Thanks!
    And you have an incredibly beautiful portfolio!!!!

    • Regan says:

      Hi Liliana! Congrats on getting started with your first restaurant clients! That’s super exciting! Thanks so much for the sweet words and for commenting! I’m so glad that this post was helpful for you! I also have another post about Tips for Shooting with Restaurants, if you want to check it out. Link:

      Reach out with questions anytime!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *