Most people think that since I run Broma Bakery it means I started my food photography career through blogging. But nope! I actually got my start as a food photographer by shooting in restaurants!
Let’s go back in time, shall we? In 2011, I was working as a hostess at a restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI. The owner knew I liked photography, so he asked me to take some photos. He said, “I’ll pay you $500 to do the photography for our website.”
This was my first gig shooting food not in my apartment. Yes, I knew I liked photography, but (and don’t tell my former boss this) I had no idea what I was doing.
I didn’t have a clue how to find the best light, what equipment to bring, how many dishes to ask for or even what types of shots I should take. Or if I needed to sign a contract. Or how to invoice. aksdjfhlaskdjfh
But guess what? I did it. Here are some of the shots from that first restaurant shoot:
Now at the time, I looked at these photos and felt happy about the work I produced. But being the perfectionist that I am, I knew I could do better. So I spent the next few years studying up on food photography, using my food blog (and other restaurants!) as practice.
I can say without a doubt that restaurant photography is what made my career. It’s through restaurant photography that I learned to shoot in a variety of settings and with a variety of styles, how to work on the fly, how to style like a pro, and how to get connected in my community (and therefore score more jobs!).
And it’s because of this shoot 7 years ago that I can go into a restaurant and shoot like this now:
I hear from entrepreneurs all the time about how they want to diversify their income, and shooting for restaurants is a great way to do just that. Learning how to shoot in restaurants not only adds an additional revenue stream to your business, but it also helps you gain credibility as a food photographer (you don’t just work for yourself, people pay you!) and it improves your overall portfolio, which in turn can help you to score even better clients.
So today I’m sharing 4 surefire ways to get your next paid gig with restaurant photography. Are you ready?!
1. First thing’s first: do your research to see where you can add value
If you’re just starting out, I always suggest researching and reaching out to restaurants, cafes, bars, or coffee shops that fit at least one of the following criteria: they are owned by a restaurant group; have strong interior design; are >50 seats; have multiple locations; they already have a presence on social media. Doing this ensures that the restaurants you end up pitching value design, aesthetics, and have the budget to be able to afford a photographer.
Next, look up their website and Instagram account to see what type of photography they’re currently using. This will really help you figure out how you can add value to their business. For example, if their website has entirely iPhone photography, you can help up their game up with some really gorgeous professional-quality photos. Or if they do mostly User Generated Content (UGC), offer to do social media management for them (more on that in a bit!).
Last, if you’re not quite sure how to approach restaurants, get the exact email templates I use to reach out to restaurants, HERE.
2. Network, network, network (or get your foot in the door, literally)
Emails work (sometimes!), but the restaurant industry is all about making a personal connection, and that means showing up in person. Think about it; relationships are a HUGE part of what a restaurant does– they’re all about hospitality and the human connection! Visit the place you want to work with during off-hours (hello, happy hour!) and sit at the bar. Make friends with the bartender, bar manager, or General Manager, and eventually tell them what you do for a living. Be prepared to show them some of your work, or if you’re brand new to food photography order some dishes and snap a few photos! They will get the picture (literally) realllllll quick!
3. Ask to take on social
A great way to turn a 1-time restaurant shoot into a recurring client (who doesn’t love recurring business?!) is to take on social media management, or managing their social media account and creating fresh and new photographs every week or so. If you’re wanting to work with restaurants on the regular as a food photographer, adding on social media management is a great way to bring in some extra dough on a consistent basis. We talk all about taking on social media management (and how lucrative it is) in our Restaurant Photography, Pricing Guide, Proposal, and Contract guide here!
4. Charge what you’re worth, then add tax!
Pricing is ALWAYS the hardest. And unfortunately there is no magic formula to figure out compensation. Pricing your work is a combination of prior experience, skill level, and your gut. That being said, I put together a pretty comprehensive pricing guide that takes into account our team’s combined 24 years of experience in the restaurant space. It has everything you need to know about the business side of restaurant photography– You’ll receive a quoting checklist so you know exactly what questions to ask so you can devise an accurate quote, a pricing matrix so you learn exactly how to price yourself depending on your skill level, industry best practices, a sample proposal and contract, and a customizable proposal and contract (I know, WOAH!). In short, this guide takes you from the first touchpoint with a restaurant all the way through to the final product aka you getting PAID! Grab that download HERE.
Hope you guys have enjoyed my best tips on how to make money shooting for restaurants. I can’t wait to see what jobs you bring in!