Why Food Photography Is So Damn Expensive

Food photography is expensive. Not everyone is aware of everything involved in a food shoot and there isn’t a one-price-fits-all number to share. All projects are so different and require different things depending on the client’s wishlist. This post dives deeper into pricing a professional food shoot and will help demystify why food photography is so damn expensive.

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Why Food Shoots Are Expensive

Why Food Photography Is Expensive

Food shoots can get expensive depending on the details of the project. It’s important to ask important questions before talking numbers with potential clients, because they may not realize how quickly their wishlist can add up. There are four main categories that photographers should include in their estimates:


Creative Fee

A photographers creative fee includes more than just showing up and taking pictures and this fee will vary per photographer. So, what actually goes into a photographer’s creative fee?

  • TIME


One of the biggest challenges I face as a food photographer is educating potential clients to how much time it takes to produce high-quality, beautiful images. The images in my portfolio took a lot of time to set up, light, compose and style… not to mention the time after the shoot to edit and finalize the images. Not all projects require the same amount of time, but there is always pre-production time, shoot time and post-production time to take into consideration.


Pre-production time is the time leading up to the shoot and includes creative calls, emails, meetings, sourcing materials and equipment, finding a location and pre-lighting. Post-production time is after the shoot and includes editing, retouching and finalizing of all of the images so they’re beautiful, organized and ready to go once the client receives them. Your time before, during and after the shoot is valuable and is all part of the photography process. Factor it all in when figuring out your creative fee.


Being a successful food photographer involves more than knowing how to take beautiful images. Photographers are experts, educators, thought-leaders, communicators and problem solvers. It doesn’t hurt to be fun to work with too. 😉 The more experience a photographer has, the higher their creative fee may be because they are bringing experience and value to the table. They know how to host an efficient and successful shoot that results in gorgeous images so the client can sit back, relax and have a good time on the shoot.

Business Expenses

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 also have to deduct taxes per project. These numbers will vary per photographer and will affect a photographer’s creative fee.

Related Post: How To Estimate A Food Shoot

Image Usage

A common misconception when hiring a photographer is that the images will automatically belong to the client and they will own the images. This isn’t true.

Photographers always retain the copyrights to their images and clients have to pay to use those images. The more images a client wants, the more expensive the shoot becomes. The more usage a client wants, the more expensive the images can become.

Unless a client is buying the full rights to the images (which is rare, because it’s so expensive), the client is actually renting the images from the photographer.

Image usage fees will vary depending on how the client wants to use the images and for how long. Image usage is figured out separately from the photographer’s creative fee.

Team Fees

Not all food photography projects require a team, but for large-scale shoots, a photographer will hire a team to help get the job done as efficiently and successfully as possible. The need to hire a team is a big reason food photography can get really expensive. A photographer’s team will depend on the project, but could include a food stylist, a food styling assistant, a prop stylist, a prop styling assistant, a digital tech, a first assistant and possibly a producer. That’s a lot of people, right? Team fees will add up quickly depending on how many people are needed on set.

If a client wants to try to save money by having the photographer do both the photography and the food styling without hiring a food stylist, the photographer’s creative fee should go up. This is because they would be doing the job of two people and more time will be needed to do the shoot alone.


A photographer’s team usually bills a day rate, but this rate could potentially include overtime if the shoot goes longer than planned. Overtime is 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.


Food photography is expensive because expenses can also add up fast. Expenses are 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.


Photography equipment is not cheap.

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 showing up to this restaurant shoot with almost $10,000 of equipment. Kind of eye-opening, right? Not all photographers own everything they might need for certain types of projects too, which means they’d have to rent 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.

Read More About: Food Photography Equipment

Location & Travel

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

Food & Props

If you’re shooting food, the costs of groceries are another expense that gets added to the estimate when applicable.

Props are another expense that might need to be added too, which includes dishes, linens, glassware, surfaces and backdrops.

There’s usually more food and props on set than you might think and the costs can add up. This ensures that there are enough options on set to keep the shoot running efficiently. If you’re shooting with a restaurant, however, you may not need to factor in food or prop costs.


Most images will be edited and finalized by the photographer. However, if additional retouching is requested after the images are delivered, this may be a separate expense to consider. It’s important to think about this as you discuss the shot list with the client. Some clients may already have a retoucher, but if they don’t, the photographer will need to factor this time into their creative fee or as an additional expense if it ends up being needed down the road.

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

Happy Shooting!

Read More About: Restaurant Photography Tips

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: https://reganbaroni.com/blog/business/restaurant-photography-tips/

      Reach out with questions anytime!

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