What I learned from my first paid restaurant shoot

Beyond fully charged batteries and back-up flash cards that we are constantly reminded to bring to a shoot, here are the top things I learned from my first few restaurant photoshoots as a food photographer.

Always make sure there is a contract. And READ it. Not having a contract is a big no-no in my book, and the client not signing one is a huge red flag. A contract protects you from eventual lost work, time and money (which I'll explain more in my second point) but also makes your responsibilities as the photographer clear. With a contract, you know exactly what is expected of you, and anything outside the scope of this will be at your discretion.

Make sure payment terms are clear. Unfortunately even in 2020/21, many smaller and even larger-scale clients are still extremely lax when it comes to paying the photographer on time. Have the payment terms written into the contract. Failing this, you can make the payment terms clear on the invoice (e.g Payment due no later than 15th of the month). If you want to take it a step further, I would even recommend requesting a deposit before shooting day, in case of last minute cancellations. This is common practice among wedding photographers and you ought to be compensated for any time or work lost.

Know who will be styling the food. This is especially important if food styling is not your strong suit. From my own experience, having a food stylist or chef who knows how to plate the food is an enormous weight off my own back. I don't have to worry about if the client is happy with my styling, and I can focus on what I came to do.

Always be aware of the weather forecast, and plan ahead. A sunny day? You may need to whip out the scrim. Middle of winter and sun is due to set early? Make sure you start early enough in the day. Starting at 2p.m for a half day shoot is cutting it VERY fine, and couple this with a rainy day and you may be looking at only an hour and a half of  semi-decent light. Check the weather in advance and plan accordingly.

Only promise what you know you can deliver. Telling the client you can hand over 55 photos the next day is a very ambitious promise. Don't tell the client anything just because you think that's what they want to hear. Give a realistic timeline/ deadline and explain that this is due to the quantity of photos and time taken to do your best job on the editing. They will (or at least should) understand if you tell them it will be 3-4 days. If you manage to get it done ealier, even better, but this shouldn't be the focus. Doing a good job of the editing and producing high quality work is the goal. Just make sure not to go over the deadline without a very good reason either.

Send PROOFS. NOT raw files. The client will often ask you to send over all the photos taken during a shoot to select the ones they like. If this happens, send proofs. This is for two reasons. Number one, the file sizes are much smaller and so a lot quicker and easier to transfer via services such as WeTransfer. Number two, a lot of photographers are hesitant about sending their raw files, and rightly so. By sending proofs at a lower px, you essentially rule out any possibility of the raw photos being edited and used without your consent before editing them yourself.

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