How I landed my landed my first food photography client

How I landed my landed my first food photography client in six months

I wrote a few posts ago about my first paid restaurant shoot, but I know that food photography encompasses several forms of work and certain types will appeal to others more or less. So I wanted to take the time to write up a post about the exact steps I took to get my first  paid food photography client, which was actually a small parisian Chocolate brand.

A little bit of background and context first. In the months leading up to my first paid job, I had been working on building my photography portfolio by asking to shoot in restaurants. I would explain that I was an up and coming food photographer that was looking to expand my portfolio of restaurant (and occasionally hotel) photography, this including dishes, drinks, portrait shots and interiors. In other cases, I explained that I was a food blogger in Paris and that I was interested in featuring their restaurant on my blog, accompanied by a written article about the restaurant and food (that blog no longer exists). 

This worked extremely well for me for two reasons:

1. It was a small sort of flattery for them that their particular restaurant had stood out enough for me to write about it, and take photos.

2. I made it very clear that I was approaching this from a photography point of view, not as an influencer. I was in no way trying to get anything out of them, monetarily or otherwise (but also because I wouldnt technically be giving them photos upfront- more on that later). 

Because of this approach, I actually has more 'yes's than refusals! 

The Chocolatier

So, in mid 2017 I saw that a relatively new chocolatier in Paris was running chocolate patisserie-making workshops and I thought 'perfect, I can get food images AND action shots'. I contacted the marketing rep on Instagram to check the correct email address, and sent my message, explaining who I was, why I wanted to shoot and what I was planning to do with the images. It was an immediate yes.

I would like to add here that them being new and less established probably worked a lot in my favour. I say this because at that time, I also reached out to the culinary school at The Ritz, proposing the same thing. was a no from them!

Even though this was not a shoot that the client had requested, I treated it exactly like I thought a client shoot should be managed. For example;

  • I packed both my lenses 
  • I made sure to get there before time 
  • I checked out the lighting situation 
  • I got to know by name the team working there, and their roles and
  • I listened carefully when they presented me their range. They were excited to tell me about their products and I made damn sure that I was showing interest.

Image from first food photography client

During the shoot itself I made an effort to get in the way as little as possible. There was no way I was going to ask the instructor to repeat a movement or gesture (in a restaurant shoot I would now, but not then). When the workshop ended, I thanked the team, who even handed me a little goodie bag of leftover chocolates and caramels!

Naturally the marketing team were curious to see the images afterwards, and this is where I knew a possible request for imagery could be made. I casually asked about which images they wanted to see, and if there was anything specific they were looking for. This is where they started making hints that they would want to use a couple of the photos on their Instagram. I gave them a rate I made up on the spot (please DO NOT do this. Research the local standard rates first!) and they said they would get back to me.

Turns out, a couple of weeks later, they had decided to go ahead and use one of my photos anyway on not only their website, but also their Facebook page! I stood my ground and requested payment for usage. Luckily, instead of taking the photos down, they asked for an invoice. I stuck with the same original fee I had quoted...and that's how I got my first paying client.

Takeaway Points

I was new to food photography at this time, very new, and I admit I may not have handled to the resquest for payment as smoothly as I would do now. That comes with practice. 

Also remember, shooting for portfolio is not the same as 'working for free'. Here you are choosing to photograph these restaurants for your own portfolio, and because you already like these establishments. Working for free would be if you were to then give those images to the owner in exchange for no payment. Please, above all, make it clear that the intention of the shoot is for portfolio development, and if they like the images enough to use for advertising, that they will need to pay. I am glad that I put my foot down and didn't let them get away with using my work without compensation.

I realise that for some especially in these times post-covid, going into a restaurant to shoot multiple images may not be practical, even if it's for your own portfolio. Restaurant photography may not even be what you are interested in doing, point blank. In that case, shooting dishes with the product in your own home is perfect. Also pay attention that your photography aligns to the overall brand's image (the photography style of Lindt is very different from that of a brand like Cointreau, for instance).

To finish, if there is a product that you like or that you are already using, feature them organically in your porfolio and social media. That way, you can demonstrate prior interest. This in turn makes developing relationships that bit easier, and as a result, more chances of that brand or restaurant coming back to you if they love your work, and only when they are ready to pay.

How to get paid for food photography after  6 months

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