How to start a food photography career for the cost of an iPhone

Becoming a  freelance food photographer
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One of the topics I'm really passionate about when it comes to food photography is being able to do it on a budget (or at least, within your own means). In my other post about about the myths of food photography, I talked about two seemingly contradictory points; the need for something better than a smartphone, but not having a need of expensive lenses and camera bodies & gear. It was then that I realised that starting a photography business (not just as a hobby) would actually cost less than the cost of a new iPhone. So here, I'll break down how you can start your photography business this year for under $/£ 1000 (yes, including camera, lens AND online classes).

Food photography career on a budget



1. Camera Body. There are certain electronics that I would not personally buy second hand. A dslr however, is not one of them. Unlike a phone, a dslr is built to last much longer and as a result, is stronger, sturdier, less prone to fragile breakage and internal damage (there is always a limit, of course).  Buying your dslr second-hand can save you a lot of money if you know where and what to look for. Camera shops often have a trade-in section where you can buy a used model in perfect working condition. I still use a Canon 5D M ii which would now cost under £600!

2. Lens. As with camera bodies, lenses are definitely built to last as well, sometimes even longer if good care is taken. Start with a 50mm 1.8, also known as the "nifty-fifty" lens. It is a great starter lens and is usually less than  £150.

3. Online classes & workshops. I know, there are A LOT of food photography workshops and retreats constantly on offer and while many of them provide fantastically invaluable knowledge, they can be pricey (one online was running at $8000!). The great thing is that places like Udemy and Creative Live run live and recorded food photography classes and workshops too, for a fraction of the price. I was able to purchase 4 or 5 classes, each one being no more than about $30. There is  a possibility to buy a food photography bundle of 5 classes (what I did) or even an unlimited class pass for the year for under $130. As a sidenote, one of my favourite food Photographers in the business Andrew Scrivani has some highly valuable classes on there too. 


4. Books. If the classes are not enough, I'd definitely recommend a book or two. I cannot speak highly enough of Bea Lubas' book, How to Photograph Food. If you don't know where to begin with your learning, then definitely start here.

5. Website & domain. You probably know by now that a portfolio is strongly recommended if you want to get work, and many choose Squarepace. Their current basic plan starts from $132 a year (I believe this is the same in every currency). They also partner with a lot of Youtubers who often give out discount codes for a 10% or 15% reduction too, so it'll be worth scouring google for the latest codes (I don't have one unfortunately, sorry!). Domains with places like GoDaddy are often only about £10 for the first year too.

6. A homemade backdrop. I love this one. All you need here is a large bend-resistant sheet of card and a paint colour of your choice, totalling to about 10-20 dollars (in France it would be no more than about 15 euros). There are plenty of tutorials to follow on Pinterest and Youtube too. 




Points to remember

The thing to take-away from this is that you should never feel discouraged by large costs to start or pursue your photography career. Of course you can choose to expand upon or reduce this list by deciding which items are more of an immediate prioty. Oh and on that note, remember that these are not items that all need to be purchased at the same time. This can be spread out over the course of a year or two as your portfolio, skillset and business develops. 

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