Yolise 2:04pm, 30 October 2006
I've got my first paying gig coming up and one of the things I've not discussed with the client is what I'm going to charge (it's a small patisserie and I've known the owner for years, so was a very informal assignment).

My inclination, since I've not done it much, is to go down, take as many shots as I can and then charge him for the images he wants to use. This seems fairest since I don't really have a portfolio that proves I'll do a decent job!

Does this seem sensible and if I do go down this route, any ideas what I should charge per print/image? They'll mostly be displayed on the shop walls below the menuboard. He may also end up using them for ads or printed menus, I expect.
Lara Ferroni 12 years ago
I've just started doing some professional work, and I offer two rate types - by the image and by the hour, and I leave it up to the client to decide which they prefer. When I charge by the hour, the client gets license to all the work I do during that time. If they need several images, this is generally the most economical. But I've done some work by the image as well... where a client just needed one shot for a postcard. In that case, it doesn't matter if I get the shot after one take or 30, they just pay for the right to use that photo, almost as if it were stock photography.
moretosee_photos [deleted] 11 years ago
Wow -- that's a great system. Can you give us an idea of what you charge by the image?

Your blog(s) -- great! I'm just getting into food photography and between you and MatthewA, there's such a wealth of stuff.
nikaboyce Posted 11 years ago. Edited by nikaboyce (member) 11 years ago
L- re: per hour - hours onsite? what about the post-processing and time for outputting to a format that the client needs? (CD etc).

I shy away from the per hour concept because it gives me flashbacks to wageslavery :-) and its counterintuitive re: one's skills. The better you are (or get), the faster you are and thus the less one is paid.

Also, anything I shoot for a specific client, I keep all rights. We negotiate usage prior to shooting but its never about them having the image rights 100%. There may be some subset that they can choose from but not all shots are theirs (I guess that fits in with the non-per hour basis).

Yolise: As this is a portfolio building exercise, negotiate prominent credits both in the shop and in adverts. He can not pay you in money the value of having your images out there with your name on it.

Think viral.

For example, until recently, I had been allowing educators from across the world to use some of my shots in books and software. Thats perfectly fine to me, free usage with some credit. I have also had paying clients, but all through the web.

Recently, to further build my portfolio, to get out of the damn house, and to develop client skills, I cold-called a local bakery. I walked in and asked if I could shoot her, her food, her employees, her bakery, and do a piece on it on my blog. It was fun, she turned out to be a fantastic person, I got a couple of great blog posts out of it (here and here here ), people loved the shots (here ), and she (the baker) asked me to do some more for her brochure, website, and for large posters for an upcoming tradeshow. I was happy to do it for mostly credit (by line if you will) because 1) she doesnt have a large budget, 2) it didnt represent much of my time, 3) I got more shots that I can use anywhere and sell anywhere (stock or otherwise), and 4) I got local exposure.

Alas, local exposure may NOT be what you really want tho! :-) Depends on what "local" means. For me, its the boondocks of MA. My target customer is a large Ad agency with BIG bux, not the local restaurant who wants you to shoot his chicken fingers for credit or free sodas. That is the main thing I learned from this experience :-).
Craig John* 11 years ago
Most good professional food photographers will charge between $2000-4000 per day (and that will include either a food stylist or FS assistant and/or prop stylist and post production/ minor retouching). Heavy duty retouching in post is usually a seperate charge, about $100-$150 per hour.

That said, I know of several food photographers that charge $500 for half a day, and don't do shjt with the files other than convert from RAW to tif. No food stylists or prop stylists. They'll pop off as many as 20 shots in 4-hours then spend the next two converting files and burning DVDs. Do NOT become one of these people.
nikaboyce 11 years ago
I do not think I could allow my name on something that looks like crap... That is so counterproductive. I guess people like that know they can get away with it so they do it a lot
Lara Ferroni 11 years ago
Sorry I kind of dropped off of this thread after my initial post.

To answer the previous questions, my hourly rate covers everything... food styling, prop styling, shooting, post production. (ok, there's still some overhead in archiving, billing ,etc.) and I grant use license to use the photos to the clients, but I still maintain the copyright on the image. Most of the images aren't really useful for stock as many of them have branding, etc. My rates are still pretty low for now... $100 per hour, which I think is reasonable for someone getting started.

Additionally, I do work with magazines, which have fairly set rates for image usage. In this case, we usually work together to come up with something that works for both our budgets. they also have photoshop experts that know their print systems better that I do, so I only do limited touch up on the images.
Lara Ferroni Posted 11 years ago. Edited by Lara Ferroni (member) 11 years ago
on a related note, and not at all to pick a fight or anything... but most small to medium sized business can't afford $2000 to $4000 a day for photography. There are good photographers out there that can deliver for them at much more reasonable prices, without it meaning that they are either bad photographers or producing poor quality work. There are certainly compromises... sets are smaller, shots are less complicated... but I don't think you can just dismiss a photographer out of hand because they can produce 20 shots in a day's shoot at rates that are less than $1000 per day... look at the work, and then decide.
Craig John* Posted 11 years ago. Edited by Craig John* (member) 11 years ago
Lariffic, I apologize if that's what my post sounded like. It wasn't my intent. I was just making a comparison of the top and bottom of the food photographer perspective. Certainly there is a wide gamut of in between. I've seen and been apart of everything. I've art directed at Kraft Foods with some outstandingly talented photographers, food stylists and prop stylists.

I've art directed at an independent photographer's in-home studio where she charges $3000-4000 per day. She's probably the best food photographer I've ever worked with.

We shot this line (the product shots for the four packages near the bottom of the page) for $3000 - four shots in one 12-hour day, assistant food stylist and no prop stylist to keep the cost down. With the product supplied, the food stylist, lunch, and props probably cost about $750. The rest goes to the photographer.


I've art directed a 10-day Ice cream shoot in Chicago where they charged $55,000 for 20 shots. ...that covered photography, a food stylist and an assistant food stylist. Ice cream isn't easy. LOL

I currently work with a studio that charges about $1000-$2000 per day (with a food stylist) and we hit some wonderful work. Like this one below.


We shot the above photo in 2 and a half hours, but myself, the photographer and the food stylist we were just screwing around.

I've also worked with a photographer that shot some other products for Joseph Campione (the Toaster Delight link above). He charged $1000 for the entire day and created 20 shots, didn't do any color correcting or retouching. I ended up having to do it. And the photos were terrible. Poor lighting, poor exposure. But he was cheap, so the client was more than happy not to spend money. She couldn't see the difference between the person I recommended in Chicago vs. the Schmoe in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The Schmoe didn't know when the product died on set and needed to be refreshed. It was sad.

I've also worked with a studio near Green Bay, Wisconsin who is expensive and rotten. A client recommended working with her, so we did. The next project that came up, I recommended we shoot it some place else, a studio Near Appleton, Wisconsin.

So I've worked the entire gamut. I apologize if I've offended.

Kind regards,

nikaboyce 11 years ago
Its not my place to say if L was offended or not but I didn't find the comment offensive but perhaps a bit hurried in it's delivery.

We would all love to just, de novo, one day start charging 4K/day.

Doesn't work out that way. But if you know the secret, you can whisper it in my ear, I will keep my lips sealed, promise.
Lara Ferroni 11 years ago
oh, not offended at all (that's tough to do :-) )... I just wanted to get the point across that not all photographers charge that much money, and still produce some great stuff. Some do, and they are worth it.

One point I think is worth emphasizing (and I think it's the point you are trying to make) is that you definitely get what you pay for, and complexity adds cost. Ice cream is an absolute bear (as are many of the formal presentations of meats, like turkey), and it takes a huge amount of time and effort to produce great shots. And, I agree that a food stylist makes all the difference in shots like that.

The shot above is beautiful!

MatthewA [deleted] 11 years ago
I've been reading the thread and I must agree with Lara. I've paid $7,000 a day for some photographers (Ok, not me PERSONALLY, duh!) for only 5 shots that were SOOO not worth it, and I've paid $1,000 a day for some of the best work I've ever seen. Here in Los Angeles the average for a pro food photographer is between 2,000 and 5,000 a day, but price is never a guarantee on quality.
moretosee_photos [deleted] 11 years ago
Lara: do you charge $100 per image as well as per hour, or is it a different rate?

Thanks for the contributions everyone, this is eye opening.
Lara Ferroni 11 years ago
Per image shots vary in price based on usage and circulation, so some are a lot more and some a lot less than $100 per image... but that's my general starting point. I don't charge as much for web-sized images that are used by small businesses for their local websites, for example. But a cover shot for a magazine would be closer to $1000.

nikaboyce 11 years ago
Lara: have you done a cover? Would be awesome.

Can I throw a slightly different question out there for you all:

Does a photog need a rep/agent?
If yes, why? (as in, what do I get out of it, what does s/he do?)
If yes, when? (as in, do I need to have a certain track record etc?)
If yes, how much goes to said rep?

I am curious because I know like 1000% more about what a writer's agent does but am dimly aware that photog rep/agents even exist or are needed.

While I am being inquisitive... for those of you who are mere mortals (and not photog-gods with established reps), how do you find your jobs? How do you plan on getting more?

You photog-gods with established reps - how did you get your start with getting the jobs?

For me, right now, I am experiencing work coming to me through client exposure to my blogs. Thats why I HAVE blogs to tell you the truth - to help me develop my photography and my business activities. (ok, also because I adore food and the look of food but lets not get emotional about this :-)
Lara Ferroni 11 years ago
I haven't yet, but I have been talking to a magazine about one for a month or so now, so fingers are still crossed. We'll see how it goes...

as for how I find jobs, it's been almost completely through my blog and then through word of mouth. I just recieved an order of postcard mailers that I'm going to be sending out in the next month or so... my only "real" marketing effort so far. I didn't start the blog as any kind of marketing thing... I started it more as writing practice, that turned into photography practice.

As for the agent, I don't have one. And, I'm not sure if I need one or not. I like the work I'm doing, and as long as it is coming in, I don't see much need.

stina_sj 11 years ago
This is a very good discussion. I'm new to this group -- hi, by the way -- and I'm pleased to see this kind of talk going on. I'm standing on the threshold of becoming a freelance photographer, but although I'm new I've decided not to cut myself short. Ok, I'm not charging $7000 a day, but I think one has to be aware of ones costs and budget.

In regards to doing jobs for friends and family, I was once recommended by a teacher to charge essentially the same as for any other client. The reason was otherwise the freebie shoot might end up in the end of the to-do-list all the time and both friends and family will be unhappy customers. That would be bad ...
MatthewA [deleted] 11 years ago
The photographers I know with reps fork over anywhere from 10-20% of their fees. Something to consider.

With that said, it's mostly the big shooters with reps. I haven't seen too many mid-level shooters with reps.

I know many photographers who once had reps, became established and stopped working with them (something about that 20% hehe).

But reps have their places - they get the big jobs and leave the creative process to the photographers. However, I always thought it was strange to deal with reps over the years and never talk to the photographer until the actual day of the shoot. THAT kinda irks me.

To answer your other question about getting jobs, like you and Lara it's all word of mouth. My last few freelance photo jobs have been through the blog and my new cookbook project has been through professional food contacts.
goblinjo 10 years ago
great picture scoops :)

comment posted by d60
Old Shanghailander 10 years ago
Nice topic......I'm going to take up some very informal projects soon, so learning a bit how to charge is useful for me too!
Anastasia Photography 8 years ago
To get more clients, you can always go to small local festivals (food & wine or just a general kind) and amataur cooking/baking competition events. Usually you can find people who have been baking/cooking for a long time and just recently decided to start a business which is why they are there in the first place (to get exposure from the public).
V.K.Rees Photography 7 years ago
Hi everyone! This may be a helpful resource: foodphotography101.wordpress.com/
Take care!
Ashley Morrison 7 years ago

And this may be an even more helpful resource for those who product images for others to 'use' - and therefore charge for the 'use' of their images, rather than what it costs them to produce.
alicia bruce 6 years ago
This is a great thread. I am looking to do some freelance local food photography (I live in a small, but growing, town) and it's been so hard to nail down any advice as to charging. People seem to bash business newbies easily and assume we all want to be big-time professional 5-star restaurant food photographers right out of the gate. I don't strive for that at all - I'm a photo editor/hobby photographer and would like to just do this, like I said, freelance, for local bakeries or luncheons. Nothing major. Your posts have helped quite a bit. Hopefully more people can post their insights to this thread.

I don't think I'm off to a bad start shooting my own food, at least that's what I hope!

Masumi Kat 4 years ago
This has been a great thread. As a freelance photographer I have been thoroughly enjoying doing food photography and am hoping to start getting into the industry soon. Thank you for all of your input!
liukaitc Posted 3 years ago. Edited by liukaitc (member) 3 years ago
Wow..Did not know food photographer can make this amount of money.
When I first started 2 years ago. I only charged $100 for 2-3 hours shooting for a few local restaurants. That build my portfolio. Last year I charged like $200-300 for 3 hours shooting. Seems most shooting for local restaurant can be done within 3 hours.
Just recently for my last two shooting, I raised my price. I charged $500 for 3 hours shooting. I thought that was a lot. But the client told me he can not afford thousand dollars. I was like what? it need charge that much money???? Until now reading this post, I was like ohhh..so food photographer do charge so much...
But I still think for most local restaurant they can not afford it. I think like $200/hour is reasonable for most restaurant.
By the way I live in New York.
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