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A Photographers Guide to Selling Food Photography

By Christopher Kimball on December 15th 2013

Pumpkin BreadSo, you have decided to photograph food and have taken the time to learn all of the essentials to produce a great image. Your skills are sharp and your images stand out from other food photographers and bloggers. Your hard drive is filling up with all these images, and then it hits you. What do I do with all these images? Maybe it is time to start selling them — but how and where?

[REWIND: Stocking Up: A Look at the Biggest and Baddest in Microstock Agencies]

Selling food photography can be broken down into a couple of categories. First, and probably the most common when you are starting out, is selling your images as stock with one or several of the many stock agencies. The second is to create images that are commissioned by clients for a specific purpose.

Stock Agencies

If you sell your images as stock, you will very likely make less on them to start with. If your images stand out from others in the archives, you have a good chance of decent sales, but it is a slow process to start with until you build up a significant library. Blogs, website designers, and some publishers use these sites to source images, so there is no way to know where your image may end up. In the end, if you get paid, does it really matter?

stock-perspective

Seek out the best agencies with the best traffic if you are going this route. Because you can license the same image over and over, you want all of your images to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. The more they are viewed, the more likely they are to sell.

If you really want to sell stock, there is something else to consider. You have to create images that are unique, or different from the crowd. Keep in mind though, if you stray too far out of the box, there may not be a market for the image. Be careful how far you push the boundaries, because it is a delicate balance.

Direct Client or Commissioned Sales

If you are planning to sell your images directly to clients, you have to determine what kind of clients you want to work with. There are some potential clients to consider within the direct sales market.

  • Media, Magazines, and Publishers – Does your local newspaper have a food section? Maybe there is a local food or lifestyle magazine in your area that features dishes or recipes. These are places to present your portfolio to. Contact them and ask for a chance to bring your book by. Sometimes they will look at it, others times they will not. Don’t take that personally, just keep trying. When you refresh your book, ask again and let them know you have new work to show. They are likely to look at your work eventually.
  • Restaurants – Local and chain restaurants often hire food photographers to refresh the images on their websites, menus, and advertisements. They often have a specific style of image that they use, so check out what they are publishing before you go in so that you can tailor your portfolio to that style. It isn’t cheating, it is showing them that you can do what they need or want.
  • Manufacturers – This one is a little tougher. Everywhere you go, there are packages of food products that have images on them. Someone has to create those images for the manufacturer, but you need to have a solid portfolio, and it can be hard to get in front of the big companies. Seek out the small, local companies, and pitch to them first. Then, work your way into the bigger clients.

When you approach a potential client to show your book, keep in mind that your style might not fit their business. Don’t take it personally, just move to the next one and the one after that. Sooner or later, you are going to find that perfect client that fits and you will be off and running.

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Christopher is a commercial and stock photographer based in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He specializes in shooting food, commercial real estate, and editorial projects related to food, sports, and products. His work has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and around the internet and his photography experience dates back some 30 years. Connect with Chris on social media or visit his website to see his work.

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