As a Food Photographer you expect certain expenses such as the food and props like bowls, napkins, and fifteen different forks. But what about those other expenses and necessary evils, like manicures? Yes, seriously. I’ve made a list here of some items you’ll need to consider budgeting for when getting into the world of Food Photography.

I know many bloggers that got into food photography because they thought it was easy. They thought they would just make dinner like any other night, and photograph with their iphone. Little did they know, that from a photography perspective, there would be so much more involved. They had no idea that steam from their vegetables wouldn’t last long enough to photograph, or to get the right amount of light on their plate they would have to tilt it. Have a smear of BBQ sauce where you don’t want it? Don’t wipe it with the right paper towel and all you see is lint.

If you want to be taken seriously as a high-end food photographer and stylist, there are some things you’re going to need to know. You’ll need to create a Prop Support Kit to help you perfect the scene.  If you don’t want trolls on your YouTube videos when you decide to start taking on videos telling you how gross your hands are, you’ll need to get manicures. And this is just the start…

Additional Expenses as a Food Photographer & Stylist

  • Vodka – No this isn’t just for drinking after a long week. Matt Cetta of Nomageddon shared with me how he uses Vodka on a cloth to wipe down plates before plating food, or the mark of a rogue onion on a plate. This rids the plate of any dust, eliminates the need for washing when you just want to photograph something quickly, and rids the surface of any residue. Also, being alcohol based, it will evaporate quickly and not pool like water does.
  • Tape – double sided preferably. Sometimes stuff just doesn’t want to stay where it should. Flower petals, spoons, etc. especially if you live in an old house that isn’t level like I do.
  • Non-Food Props – many food photographers love to implement the lifestyle look. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using non-food items such as flowers, jewelry, notepads, laptops, etc.
  • Manicures – YouTube is notorious for trolls. These people just comment on your videos to tell you how horrible they are and all the ways you must be failing as a mother as a result – because obviously those two are related (insert dramatic eye roll here). While you will certainly get those people, if you’re creating a video of appetizing food, nothing turns someone off more than seeing gross hands preparing it. Many food photographers recognize this and get weekly or bi-weekly manicures to keep their hands looking as amazing as the food.
  • Paper Towels – You’re going to have spills. You’re going to need to wipe things down. You will need paper towels. My biggest tip here: get ones that are lint free. You don’t want to be photographing a piece of paper towel lint, nor do you want those particles getting into the air and fogging up your lens.
  • Memory Cards & Storage – while this one may seem like a no-brainer, you never recognize how quickly you run out of space until you do. I have multiple solid state storage devices, two hard drives on my computer, an online storage system for clients, and somewhere near 20 SD cards of various sizes and types (see my list of must have gear here).  Trust me, you don’t want to be in the middle of a video, cooking, and have to run to the computer to unload images or go through your camera to delete just enough to finish up.
  • Tampons – This one will either intrigue you or gross you out. It is genius either way. Jenna Fletcher of Seasoned Sprinkles shared with me the other day how she uses tampons soaked in water, then microwaved for 1 minute, to produce steam. She then places the tampon behind the food, out of view, and photographs. GENIUS!
  • Snacks – I kid you not. Quickest way to ruin a food photo shoot is to do it on an empty stomach. If you forget to eat and are making rash decisions so you can get done quickly and eat what you’ve plated – because, duh, it looks so good; you’re likely to forget a step and kick yourself. Keep snacks on hand to much on while you work.
  • Make-up – If you’re like me and have tattoos that are visible, some brands will want you to cover up. While it’s important to be authentic to your own brand, recognizing that not every business you get hired by will want to see your wrist tattoo is important. Just like you want to be authentic to your own brand, you need to make sure you are representing theirs to the highest standard as well. Sometimes that means investing in a trip to Sephora and some dang-good foundation for your tattoo – or recognize you will not be able to work with that brand.
  • Research – Whether you want to spend the time doing it yourself, or hire someone like a virtual assistant to do it for you, you will need to spend time researching cultural references. For example, while I am personally not bent out of shape about much, I recognize that when I use props such as chopsticks, that if I use them incorrectly it is super disrespectful. What is pleasing to the eye may not always be “politically correct.” Some things are bigger issues more than others. So it is just something to be aware of.

While I’m sure there are more that I’ll think of as time goes, that’s a good list to start getting you educated on how much more is involved with food photography and styling than just the food. Be sure to pin this post and check back for updates, or subscribe to the email list to be notified. 

And remember, you don’t have to have a B.A. in Photography – to be a BA in Photography. 

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