Let me ask photographers – How often you receive the call from a potential client and his expectations about photoshoot appear far from real? Something like — “I need 200 dishes to be shot for my site”, “Your charge is $700 for one day? No, it’s huge, I don’t have such a budget.” And then you need to explain that unlike in a product photography, in the food photography, you will probably cover six to ten dishes in one day, yes only this much.
So dear food entrepreneurs, I decide to give a bit of clarity for you on how the photo shoot happens. I will not tell you how commercial photo shoot for international brands works, as different budgets and a different number of people are involved. But instead, I’ll just share how we work in our studio.
Step 1. Brief
Let’s start from the client’s call. Once we receive the call and discuss details, we usually ask a few questions like
- Which cuisine are we going to deal with?
- How many dishes we need to capture?
- Who is going to style the food?
- Who is cooking?
- Are we shooting in the studio or on the location?
- What is the core brand message you want to convey the customers?
- We also ask to send us the list of the dishes. and the reference pictures to guide us better. We confirm if the client wants something specific along with those dishes (like some special props or garnishing).
Step 2. Estimate. Advance. Planning
When we get our answers, references, and other details, we provide clients with an estimated cost of the shoot based on days, a number of people and efforts involved.
Many people believe that shooting is about two days of work and then it sounds too expensive. Well, it’s not even close to it. The one day of the photo shoot is usually followed by a week or more of postproduction. And also, count the few days of preparation in advance.
So when the estimate is approved, we start collecting the props and drawing the drafts which we finalize with the client later. By this time, the client provides us a 50% advance. Once ideas are finalized, we all meet in a studio or on the location.
Step3. The Photoshoot
The shoot usually starts early in the morning. If we shoot with the natural light then we have about five hours of shooting hours. It means we have to be fast, and the client has to be very organized and provide the dishes on time. If we shoot with artificial light, we need a lot of space (that means if we shoot in the restaurant, you may not serve that day, if the place is small).
The little trick clients like to use is to ask for one dish in two different setups. Well if you have one dish in two setups, it will be calculated as two dishes (because each setup takes independent time on the dish).
The more elements decided before the day of a photo shoot, the better. The less time will be wasted. Any changes in the plan during a shoot will eat time and add to the cost.
The shooting time starts when the photographer starts from his location. It means that the time of traveling and transportation must be estimated in those shooting hours. After arrival, the crew starts unpacking and setting up lights according to the plan. It normally takes about an hour. After the photo shoot, the crew collects the lights and packs them. That means if the location is not ready before the arrival of photographer and his team, you already pay for his time. (Remember this rule, it can save you a lot of money. Shooting in the photographers’ studio also saves your time).
Step4. The post processing and final payment.
So, the shooting is over. Client goes home and waits for about seven-ten days. I often meet the clients who call you next day and request images on ASAP basis. Well, I never give unprocessed images, because I’m a professional (So if you want images directly from the camera on the very same day, well, you can save a lot by shooting yourself. If you want professional results — please wait!).
What do we do all this time? We open RAW files in a software like Lightroom and start choosing the best images (best composition, sharpness, light, freshness). It may take one to two days. All images are studied in a proportion of 1:1. Then we process the images, make all the technical adjustments in several editing programs. It takes another four-six days. In about eight days, we will send you the watermarked images for approval. The moment the images are approved and we get remaining 50% of the payment, we share high-resolution images with the client. (Via FTP or CD).
As you see, it’s not just about clicking a few pics, it’s quite a process. That’s why I think clients need to learn basic photography, at least, to make good pictures for the social media. Or to know how to brief the photographer and achieve the best results during a professional photo shoot.
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