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What does a Food Photographer do? A Day in the Life of a Food Photographer

March 27, 2016

Contrary to what some people may think, food photography is one of the most difficult areas of photography. Although their subjects aren’t exactly moving around, such as in sports or nature photography, there are still a whole host of problems and tasks which one must take into account when photographing food.

So what exactly does a food photographer do, other than capturing shots of glistening cakes and crumbly macaroons and what might an average day in the life of a food photographer involve?

The good news is that we have the answers to these questions below, along with everything else that you might’ve wondered about this career.

What does food photography involve?

Food photographers often pursue this medium commercially, therefore they can work on anything from photographing food for restaurants, catering companies and food producers, to capturing eye-catching shots to aid a client’s marketing, website, PR etc.

When you’re perusing a restaurant or café’s menu and your taste buds tingle as you glance at the scrumptiously styled images of their meals, these have most likely been captured by a food photographer. Other examples may include the food-related imagery featured on food packaging and even the exceptional images of the finished meal often showcased in cookbooks.

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A food photographer versus a food stylist:

A food photographer doesn’t always work alone, however, as many are accompanied on their jobs by a food stylist. While the photographer is responsible for capturing stunning and polished 2D images of the food being showcased, it is the food stylist’s job to perfect the 3D version of the food in front of them.

Many food stylists have actually studied food, meaning that they’re aware of food properties and scientific food facts that others aren’t knowledgeable about. Their job includes sorting out the meticulous organization and attention to detail that a food photo shoot requires.

It’s important to mention, however, that some food photographers also take on the role of food stylist, making their job an even more difficult one at that! The combination of these two roles requires a lot of talent indeed.

Who else might be involved?

When it comes to a food photographer’s job, there are also a number of other key-players involved in their photo shoots or food photography related tasks. Other than the food stylist, a food photographer will also work directly with the project owner or client. This might involve a restaurant owner, chef, marketing manager, PR manager, food company owner, cookbook author etc. There may also be an art director and / or a prop stylist present.

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What does an average day in the life of a food photographer look like?

As with many creative professions, there isn’t exactly an ‘average day’ for a food photographer, as no two days are ever really the same! We can look at what a typical week might involve for a food photographer, however, to give us a clearer idea of their tasks.

Austin based food photographer Melissa Skorpil recently shed some light on her typical week:

So a typical week would be: one day a week you’re shooting a full day and it’s probably like a 12 hour day. You’re getting up at 6, you’re packing up your gear, you get on site at 8, you get ready to shoot, you’re shooting for almost 10 hours, and then you pack up. So that’s the one strenuous day of the week, and other than that you’re doing business meetings, you’re sending pricing proposals, you’re working on your accounting, paying invoices, all the business stuff. And then there’s probably a good day or two of editing. For every shot that you do, for every hour of shooting, it’s often 2 hours of editing or sometimes less if the shots are just perfect as is. It also depends on how many images you shoot in one day, how long the editing is going to take, but that’s what a typical week would be. And I typically take off a day after those strenuous days, the next day I’ll often keep it minimal and try to relax…” (source)

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Ria Osborne, also a food photographer, shared what her typical day looks like:

I don’t shoot every day, but if I am it normally starts at the studio at 8.30. My assistant meets me at the studio, we have a coffee and a quick chat and then start readying the studio before the madness begins. Over the course of the day, a props stylist, a food stylist and an art director will arrive. Props will be laid out, food will be cooked and the art director and I will run around making it all come together and look pretty. We always try and sit down and have a nice lunch, but it depends how much we have to do… We normally finish shooting around 6, then I have an hour to tidy up, back up the shots and send things off to the clients.” (source)

Food photographers will often have a preproduction meeting with the client before a photo shoot in order to discuss what the concept of the shoot will be, along with its objectives and the specific roles and responsibilities of each person involved.

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How can you become a professional food photographer?

If you too are interested in becoming a professional food photographer, there are a number of things you can do to get started in the industry. Firstly, if you don’t have any knowledge or education in photography, it’s best to enrol into a photography course to teach you about the medium. The next step would involve trying to gain work experience, or even a paid job, working as a food photographer’s assistant. This is certainly the best way to learn about the industry before you pursue it full-time.