Hiring a food photographer should be easy and straightforward isn’t it ? If you reach out to friends and families who have hired a food photographer before and are happy to recommend them to you, that is a great starting point. Check out their portfolios and if you like what you see on my website, schedule a discovery call to find out more. But if no recommendations are available and you start your search on the web, you may feel overwhelmed as you look through potential food photographers portfolios. You may notice that some photographers shoot every genre under the sky, be it portraits, food, products, events, pets and you start to get confused or have more questions than answers about how to hire the right food photographer for your photo shoot.
You may be wondering whether you should hire a professional food photographer when you can easily shoot your food on your mobile. I started shooting food with my iPhone as I previously owned a home bakery and could not afford a professional food photographer. Truth be told, some didn't even responded after hearing my budget which was next to nothing! My first DIY attempts were pretty disastrous but slowly I picked up the skills and today I shoot food and products for a living, having wound down my home bakery. Through this journey, I realise that there is a whole lot involved in shooting food and iPhone photos may be great as a start for websites and social media but looked horrific when it is being printed out.
If you have just started your business and am tight on budget, you may have simply taken some quick photos on your iPhone and use them. To me that is a good starting point especially when you cannot shell out the dough for a professional food photographer just yet. If you ain’t confident in using your smartphone or camera, I've an online food photography course that will help you transform your photography in just 1 day!
However, to say that an amazing food photo sells is not wrong either as it brings out the best in your dish, makes people crave to try it and may even evoke fond food memories for them. It is also an excellent way to get free PR coverage via the media because we all know that an article with beautiful images are more likely to be read! Make out a shot list as part of your planning process and this also allows your photographer to be able to give you an estimate.
A good compromise would be to hire a professional food photographer to shoot the key dishes in your menu rather than the entire menu. This is very common at many restaurants where you only get to see how some dishes look like. The key dishes could be your signature dishes, food that lets you earn the most profits or food that would create the most buzz when photographed right. This list of must shoot dishes is known as a shot list. Another way to bring the food photography costs down would be to opt for a shorter license period such as a year rather than for a lifetime. When a year is up, you can choose to renew your license for another year or a few years or maybe by then you would have the funds to undertake a full menu shoot.
Definitely ask around for recommendations, Google food photographer sg and checking out Instagram hashtag #sgfoodphotographer are some places you can start your search. Look at their portfolios and see whether their images resonate with your creative vision. Have they shot for your competitors or cuisine or dishes that are similar to yours? If they do, that is a bonus as they are likely to be familiar with the specific quirks that comes with your food. Most photographers have their personal style infused in their images so check to see whether it matches the look that you wish to have for your brand. If they do, see whether they specialise in food photography or shoot everything and anything. Just like there are chefs who specialise in a particular cuisine although they can cook everything under the sky, professional photographers who specialise in food photography have a leg up over those who don’t. The intricacies of shooting food may seem simple as it doesn’t move and talk back but we all know how quickly food can wilt, dry up and separate if not treated right. If you are curious about my process and work flow, read here
Shortlist a few food photographers that you like and check out their Instagram to see whether they share behind the scenes as that is a great way to suss out whether they double up as prop stylists for their shoots or work with an external food stylist. This will be a deciding factor if you have a tight budget and cannot afford to hire both a food photographer and a food or prop stylist for your shoot. Do note that if the food photographer doubles up as the prop stylist, the number of shots that can be completed during a shoot is much lesser. If your chef can plate well and you have chosen minimal food styling, a food photographer who can do tabletop styling would be a definite bonus to your shoot.
If you are looking for a styled shoot that requires props and backdrops, finding out whether your potential food photographer offers them as part of the shoot is crucial. If requested, I send all my clients online prop and backdrops catalogues that they can freely choose what they like for their shoot. Based on their creative brief or mood board or reference images, I make my recommendations and provide prop and lighting setups prior to shoot day. This allows us to work together to narrow down the backdrops and props that have the most potential which I would bring down for the shoot.
Before you give your shortlisted food photographers a call or an email, have your shot list, licensing requirements and budget ready as these are likely questions that they would ask. If you have a non negotiable budget, be upfront and let the photographer know rather than saying you are open to numbers. Based on your answers and your budget in mind, they can come up with a suitable estimate while taking into account your licensing requirements. During the call, the type of questions they ask would be a telling point as to whether they know their craft well and can bring value to your shoot. I always ask for go-bys from a potential client so as to better find out what their expectations are for the imagery they wish to create and I can then assess the time, crew and equipment required to execute it perfectly.
Find out their process, rates, schedule through the call or email to see whether it fits your needs. If you are undecided, revisit their portfolios, check out their reviews and list the pros and cons of working with every shortlisted photographer. Speak to them again if you need to clarify any doubts and questions you may have and don’t be pressured to commit if you are still uncertain. Wait a while and see whether they follow up on your enquiry, send any useful resources to you that may answer your doubts and then decide.