Photographing food for a living sounds pretty straightforward. However, the reality of selling your work is not always so clear-cut. You need to consider a range of factors before embarking on your photography career.
1. Get started.
Before taking your first food photo, check out how to sell your work on different online sites. Some of these platforms offer free trials of paid membership to see if you like the site, but others charge a fee up front.
For example, Fotolia (www.fotolia.com) has a free trial. The Fotolia website is a popular site for commercial photographers. It’s not cheap though – you need to invest £50 to join.
2. Consider your strengths.
Are you good at taking portraits, nature shots or food pictures? Look at other photographers’ work. Can you see what they do well? What do you love doing most? Do you like to work with people or alone? Would you enjoy being outdoors or indoors?
3. Develop your skills.
The more you work on your photography skills, the more likely you are to make money from it. Here are some tips for improving your skills.
Take lots of pictures. If you can’t spend lots of time on developing your photography skills, take lots of pictures. If you don’t have a professional camera, just use your mobile phone. Take pictures whenever you get the chance.
Work on your lighting and composition. When you take a picture, ask yourself ‘why’? Is this photo working? Is there another way you can improve it?
Practice in front of a mirror. If you are taking photos of people, work on your pose, expressions and body language.
Read books and magazines. Look for inspiration from photographers in magazines and books. Books on photography will give you lots of ideas for new pictures.
Look for advice online. There are lots of websites dedicated to providing advice on how to improve your photography skills. Just type ‘photography tips’ into a search engine and you should find a wealth of websites with lots of helpful information.
4. Be realistic.
Unless you are going to get a job as a professional photographer, don’t expect to make a lot of money from your food photography. You may be able to earn a bit of extra cash from your food photos, but probably not much.
However, if you are willing to devote lots of time and effort to your photography, there are many opportunities for making a modest income. For example, you might be able to get paid for creating and sending photos to magazines, newspapers, or companies. You could create postcards, brochures, or posters, and sell them at events, fairs, festivals or markets. You could get paid for designing food products and advertising on packaging.
Alternatively, you could run a food photo business. For example, you could create a blog, selling images or food products. You could set up a food photography website, or run a food photography Facebook page. You could be an independent consultant, creating and selling food photography courses, books, products and equipment.
5. Start with something you can manage.
It’s usually better to start with something you can manage rather than a project you can’t. Don’t expect to make a big profit straight away. It might take a few months before you begin to make any money, so be patient and make your first sale slowly.
6. Offer several options.
Some of the sites you’ve explored will have a list of things they accept as payment for food photos. You can list your work on a number of different sites to increase the chances of being chosen.
7. Choose the right platform.
Each platform has its own policies and restrictions. Before you begin to sell your work, make sure you are aware of the rules. Check if you are allowed to use your own photos, how much you will have to pay, and the length of time you have to accept a buyer’s payment.
8. Keep your prices competitive.
Try to keep your prices as competitive as possible. This is an important part of the process of getting started. If you set your price too high, you may not get enough sales. But if you set it too low, you may lose out on money to more experienced photographers.
9. Be prepared to negotiate.
It’s inevitable that you will be offered a lower price than you expect. Remember, this is the only way you will make a profit. You need to decide whether you can live with the difference or whether you want to accept a lower offer.
10. Sell your work to customers you like.
Remember, when you are starting out, you are unlikely to make a large amount of money. So you will have to look after yourself. You need to make your own decisions about who you want to work for and with. Try to work only with those who will treat you well. Remember, if they treat you badly, you will treat your work badly, and if you do a bad job, they won’t be buying your next batch of photos.
11. Set up a bank account.
It’s important to keep track of your earnings and expenses, as you need to pay taxes on the amount of money you make. You can save some money by setting up a bank account and paying yourself a small amount each week, or set up a separate bank account for your food photography business.
12. Work on a flexible schedule.
This is not always easy, especially if you are trying to support yourself and your family. It will be much easier if you have a flexible schedule where you work at different times each week. You will need to make some lifestyle adjustments, such as eating breakfast at home rather than rushing out, or working from home instead of commuting to your workplace.