When I started freelancing I didn’t really think outside the box of how to get paid. But looking back over the years I’ve realised that I’ve had a lot of different ways to make money as a food photographer.
For sure, there’s no denying that there are people out there who earn 6 (or even 7 figures) from photography commission alone. (The reason is – they charge more)
But in order for many of us to make a living (or a decent amount to justify what we do to our family…wink, wink), we will likely need a few different ways to make money as a food photographer.
Top Ten Ways To Make Money As A Food Photographer
Here is a quick list of the top ways to make money as a food photography and how to leverage income around your photography.
#1 – Photography Commission
As far as ways to make money as a food photographer go, this is a no brainer right? Get paid to shoot images of darn delicious food. But food photography can feel like a very small world sometimes. Lucky that with the ease of social media and access to beautiful websites, everyone wants to get in on the action of having beautiful imagery on their sites.
If you feel pigeonholed by food photography, you can pair it with portraits of chefs and food influencers. Food goes well with travel photography too. Adding those feathers to your cap can land you more gigs and have a competitive edge. (Maybe I should take my own advice!)
Also, don’t be afraid to shoot something else apart from food. Be in charge of your journey. No one cares if you shoot everything. They just care about if your style matches their brief.
#2 – Styling Gigs
Clients will sometimes already have an existing relationship with a photographer, but they love your style. So they may reach out to you to do just the styling portion of the job. None the less, it’s one of my favourite ways to make money as a food photographer.
A word of warning though. Just because you can style, doesn’t automatically qualify you as being a food stylist. A food stylist is waaaaaay beyond knowing how to cook and plate food. Best to check with the client as to what they expect to ensure you can deliver.
I have regular ‘just styling’ gigs and whilst they do have pre-production, not having to do the post production sometimes is a dream!
#3 – Licensing Your Images
Passive income at it’s finest. You have work you’ve already created, shot and produced. Clients will want to use it as it speaks well to their brand, article or story.
If you have a bank of good work that you can tee up with a stock agency, you can make some extra cash on the side while they do the work for you.
Personally, I tend to get licensing enquiries through Pinterest and license directly with the client, cutting out the middleman. I will get a larger cut, but my work may not be seen by as many people looking to license. Having both options could serve you well.
#4 – Content Creation
Us food photography folk are a talented bunch aren’t we? If you have a website or social channel and a unique story to tell, chances are at some point someone will want to hire you to create some content. Whether that be a blog series, a recipe, design, social media takeover, or a video series, I’ve heard of lots of ways to make money as photographers can leverage content creation to get paid.
I used to write a monthly food column for Decor8 blog. Requiring recipe, words and images.
High volume blogs will also outsource their content creation, so keeping an eye on job boards like Pro Blogger and sites like UpWork can sometimes come up trumps. There might be some other ways to make money on these boards that you come across. Let me know if you do!
#5 – Affiliate Commissions
Affiliate commission come in all shapes and sizes. There is the classic ‘buy this’ link in a blog post that can get you a small share in the sale price of that item. It works wonders for high traffic and expensive items, but can prove to be penniless for low ticket items like spice mix for a recipe you’ve created.
But don’t fear, affiliate commission in my opinion should be for products you believe in and use. You can partner with larger brands, other bloggers or influencers to add some affiliate commission to your bottom line.
A word of warning though, if affiliation commission is your sole strategy then you may not be adding value to your clients or community. Having a balance between providing value and getting paid to promote is important when thinking about the ways to make money as a food photographer.
#6 – Sponsorships
In case your iPhone has been broken for the last three years, sponsorship is rampant in the social media world. I can’t scroll for 10 secs (#legit) without seeing a sponsored post on Instagram. Sponsored posts are really just advertorials that don’t cost as much.
Here you get paid to partner with a brand (hopefully one you believe in) and promote their products through your photography. Usually to including how you use it or creating a recipe.
Like affiliate promotions, always promoting others products can devalue your brand. Best to come at this with a ‘less is more’ approach. Do less sponsored posts and charge more. Remember to add value to your audience and clients.
#7 – Editing Services
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now thinking, don’t most photographers outsource this? Ah exactly!
If you love editing, and… well I do, (that’s why I created my Lightroom Magic e-course the EDITING SECRETS to create food photography you’re proud of), then you can pick up editing work through site like UpWork.
I have taken on editing work from time to time. Usually work that I enjoy, either simple post processing or photoshop alterations/manipulations to keep my head in the game. This is especially good if you’re a part-time freelancer who needs a little steadier income. Teaming up with a busy photographer to take over their editing can fill this void. This isn’t for the ‘just cause’ crowd. Most photographers will want to keep and maintain a relationship. It’s for the long haul.
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#8 – Royalties
Harder to come by but certainly can be part of your income mix. Occasionally jobs will come up for recipe/cookbooks where the upfront budget is tight until some cash comes in. You can enter into an agreement to waive an upfront fee in return for royalties down the track.
The percentage usually seems laughable, but multiply that my thousands of copies sold and you could be looking at a decent commission for the next couple of years. It comes with an aspect of risk, being dependent on the quantity sold, but it can pay off too.
The first cookbook I ever shot was paid through royalties and it’s provide myself and the author with a nice 5 figures for the last couple of years. Bonus money I call that!
#9 – Workshops
It seems that everyone is doing them these days and if you do them for the money, then you may be shocked to know that most workshops don’t return a whole chunk of money. They usually cost a lot to run, and there are certainly overheads with running a food photography workshop. (Big wig photographers can charge a mint because of their status and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be prepared to wait a few years before you see that kind of return)
But they are a great way to connect with your fellow creative and make a few extra dollars. You may even have another special talent that you can teach. Like a fellow creative Laura E Patrick. Killer food photography and calligraphy artist. Now if there isn’t a workshop idea, I don’t know what is.
#10 – Coaching
Indeed is different to workshops. Coaching services are more lucrative as they tend to be one on one style and provide tailored advice. Which means….you guessed it. More of those dollar, dollar bills y’all.
You will always have fans or admirers of your work, people who want to learn exactly how you do things. With the ease of the internet and connectability, don’t be surprised if someone reaches out to you for a session.
Just be sure to remember that more money should always mean more value. Where that is tangible or not, you’ll want to make sure your students or mentees get value from you.
And coaching can go beyond the internet. Maybe people still want photography tutors?
As you continue on your freelance photography journey, you’ll start to notice that you have more income streams than you realised. The key is the take a look at the ways to make money that as correlated with the least amount of effort.
Any that are a real pain and energy drainer may not be worth it. Then you can eliminate those and focus on the ones that are worthwhile (and that you enjoy doing).