Food photography is about 90% of my business. The remaining 10% is a mix of lifestyle, product, and other commercial photography. Over the last 10 years as a commercial photographer, I have amassed a wealth of industry knowledge. The last two years I have spent my career as a food photographer.
I base my pricing on several factors. The first factor is time. How much time will I be spending on this project from the pre-production to photographing to post production and follow up.
Pre-production is everything that happens from the time an inquiry comes in the door until the morning of the shoot. This time includes any e-mail, phone calls and/or in person meetings about the shoot. It also includes any time spent planning for the shoot. During planning, I figure out who will be providing the food, who is going to cook the food, who is styling the food and where we are going to shoot. Will this be at my studio, will we rent a different studio or a cool airbnb? Is this better to shoot on location at your restaurant or your food testing kitchen? It includes hiring talent as well. If we need a cook, we must determine who it is going to be and then negotiate the rates. This must also be done for the food stylist, prop stylist, photo assistants, digital techs and the rest of the crew. If it is a large-scale production I also like to hire a producer who helps us run like a well-oiled machine. This is also the phase where we be provided with recipes and concepts and do any mockups and testing that will be necessary for the project.
The next phase is when the actual photography takes place. Based on the number of final images that are required, and the quality level of the images required, this phase could take anywhere from hours to days to complete. Image quality is something that is not discussed enough. If you need 100 images completed in 3 hours, we can do that, but the quality will be lower than if we did 1 image in 3 hours.
Post production is next. This includes backing up all of the images that we have taken, creating a client proof gallery if necessary (often times this is done on set where we flag images as we go). Then the images go through a markup phase and are sent to my retoucher or I retouch them depending on client needs.
The last stage is delivery of final images. After this phase is complete, I follow up to guarantee the client is happy with the images.
While it is not transparent in my billing because the bulk of my pricing comes from usage, I do have a cost of doing business that I charge clients. For shoots that require more pre-production and planning and have more images that need to be retouched and sent out, the pricing is higher.
Usage is always a tricky thing to price for and is often included in the creative fee or day rate. The difficult part is figuring out how to balance client needs and wants. For bigger companies with bigger reach and higher image standards, pricing is higher. For smaller companies that are just getting started, prices are lower.
Client budget always comes into play as well. If the client can state up front an ideal budget, I can always come up with a shoot that will meet those budgetary needs.
Pricing is about negotiating, as well. If I present a bid and the client does not have the budget, I’m usually happy to work though the bid and cut out items.
A simple formula for creating bids is COBD + Time + Talent Rate + Usage + Mark Up = Total Price