281: The Business of Food Photography – Building a Food Photography Career with Christina Peters

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

An image of a camera and food on a table and the title of Christina Peter's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'The Business fo Food Photography.'

Welcome to episode 281 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Christina Peters from Food Photography Blog about how she has built a career out of photographing food.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Sandie Markle from SideChef about how their platform helps foodies and creators. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

The Business of Food Photography 

When you’re building your food photography career, you can face a lot of questions. Questions like:

  • What should my rate be?
  • How do I find clients?
  • What should a shoot look like?
  • How do I deliver top-notch service?

That’s what Christina is here to talk all about today! She has coordinated and prepped over 1000 food photography jobs over her career, and she’s here on the podcast to talk all about her strategies and tips that will help you build and grow your own food photography business.

A quote from Christina Peters’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'You have to be good at marketing yourself, marketing your business, and knowing who your clients are and targeting them.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Christina got started with photography
  • Why business is sometimes more difficult than photography
  • Qualities of incredible food photography businesses
  • How to build trust as a food photographer
  • How to find clients as a food photographer
  • How to deliver excellent service
  • What terms like “stand-in,” “hero,” and “usage fee” mean on a photo shoot
  • How to set a day rate
  • Tips for filling a photography portfolio


If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, and welcome to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Alexa, and I’m part of the Food Blogger Pro team here. We are all so excited that you decided to tune into the podcast today. Today we are interviewing Christina Peters, and she’s going to be talking all about building a food photography business. And it may seem like food photography is just one aspect of blogging and creating an online business, but Christina has actually made a business from the process of photographing food. It’s a really fascinating interview and she talks in depth about finding clients and what shoot days look like and how to set a rate and so much more. It’s a really good one. We’re excited for you to jump in. So, without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Christina, welcome to the podcast.

Christina Peters: Thank you so much Bjork. I’m so excited to be here with you guys.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Before we hit record, one of the things I was talking about was one of the reasons I love interviews like this is because I think it overlaps with the audience that we speak to, which is bloggers, right? We talk a lot about social media, we talk about blogging, but it kind of, I think for some people open the door into another area that could either compliment or be the area that they focus on, which is a career in food photography, which you’ve had for a long time now. You’ve been focused on food photography and this career of food photography for a few years. Tell us a little bit about your story and how you got into this.

Christina Peters: Yes, thanks. I actually have been taking pictures since I was a child. And then I went… I have two college degrees in photography, but I didn’t discover the world of food photography until I was actually assisting a lot of other photographers when I was right out of school. So, I took it upon myself, I thought technically I knew enough to do photography for a living, I didn’t know the business side. So, I was assisting a bunch of photographers and a few of them were food shooters. And so that’s when I really clicked in that world.

Christina Peters: I started getting some food clients, but I was really like the Jackie of all trades, man. I shot it all. I did headshots, I did product, I shot electronics…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: No weddings for me. I did one and it was horrible.

Bjork Ostrom: Hard line, hard line. Yeah, I have so much respect for wedding photographers.

Christina Peters: Dude, oh my God. That’s so hard. That’s an ultimate challenge right there. And plus I didn’t like that stress of like that most important day in their life in my camera, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of stress when you’re shooting like something that’s frozen and it’s melting, but it’s like a different level when it’s the first dance or a kiss after somebody gets married and it’s like, oh, it’s like two seconds and it happens once.

Christina Peters: I know. And if you missed it, you got to stage it. I just… I don’t like that stress. Yeah, the melting ice cream that’s stressful, but yeah, I don’t…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, different level. So you started to see, “Hey, this is something that’s a pretty good fit for me.” One of the things that you said that was kind of interesting is there’s the photography element of it, but then there’s also the business element of it. I think that’s one of the realities that we’re constantly coming up against in this world is for some of us we’re really business minded and we love that, and we kind of use the creative side as a way for us to build a business. For others, we’re really creative. We realize that maybe the business side is for a period of time a necessary evil until you can potentially bring somebody on to help with that if it gets to that point. For the students that you work with and maybe even for yourself, what did you find was harder? The photography or the business side?

Christina Peters: 100% the business side. Absolutely. There’s a lot of sort of mediocre semi-okay photographers who are amazing business people. They’re amazing at marketing, they are on top of mind of their clients all the time, you know? And so with any product, it doesn’t matter what we’re selling, right? You have to be good at marketing yourself, marketing your business, and knowing who your clients are and targeting them. Going after the clients that you want, no matter what the product is, but in our visual world, right? With photographers.

Christina Peters: When I’m working with a photographer who is confused about why… I have this great food blog and I want to do food photography. Obviously, I do food photography on the food blog, but people keep wanting me to develop recipes, you know? And so it comes around to how are you targeting your clients and how are they going to perceive you when they hit your world, hit your space? You know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: So, the business side, man, it’s tough.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. It makes sense. And I think people will resonate with that when they think about, hey, while hard developing a skill, an art, and a craft is difficult for sure. There’s this additional level of kind of breaking through and getting in front of people for the jobs that you have, getting paid what you feel like is an appropriate rate, which we’re going to talk about all of those things, but what I’m interested to hear is for those that you see succeeding, what are some of the rhythms that they have? What are some of the norms that they have? Because I’m guessing it’s different than when you think about content creators, the rhythms and norms are like recipe development, it’s doing photographs for the blog or for social, but it’s not as much kind of the sales world, it’s content marketing, and so the main thing is you’re creating content to kind of build a following and an audience.

Bjork Ostrom: But if you have clients, if you’re looking to do shoots, if you want to have a day rate, things like that, you kind of have to have a little bit of a sales mindset, which is something that we don’t talk a lot about. So, for those who are successful in that, whether it’s be students that you have or people that you’ve observed, or even for yourself, what are some of the things that they’re doing that are a part of the rhythms of their business that help them to be successful?

Christina Peters: Yeah. It’s a great way that you broke that down. So, when you have a food blog, it really is about creating a space where people are going to find you using your SEO, right? I mean, it really comes down to that. And so in my world and I think in the world with the photographers who are really successful, they’re selling themselves regularly, they’re very consistent with their marketing, and they’re going after their clients. I call it proactive marketing versus passive. So if you’re sitting there, you build this beautiful site, whether it’s a blog or a food portfolio, if you’re just sitting there waiting for the people to find you, it’s going to be a long wait.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: I’ve always been about making it that step between you and shooting a lot shorter and just going after the people that you want to target. So the people who are doing it well are constantly marketing themselves, they are getting in and having meetings with people, right? And now we do virtual meetings, so there are photographers who meet with agencies and we’re using Zoom. And so we can FedEx the book in, and then we have a virtual meeting. It’s about building a relationship with that client so they trust us enough to give us a lot of money to take some photos for them. It’s a huge ask really, to go to a complete stranger, “Give me thousands of dollars and I’ll take pretty photos of your food,” right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christina Peters: So you really have to start building that relationship with people.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s-

Christina Peters: And with blogging and that type of content, the trust is there from your blog where you’re emailing that hopefully they’re getting on your email list, they’re reading your posts. It’s a completely different way of building trust, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And it’s building trust around a different thing, which is the reliability of a recipe.

Christina Peters: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Like for when I think of Pinch of Yum, one of the things that we hear people talk a lot about is, “We know we’re going to go and make something off of Pinch of Yum and it’s going to be a reliable, tested, quality recipe.”

Christina Peters: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: I don’t think a lot of those people are thinking about what went into the photography process or the video process, because they are in the mindset of, “Will this recipe be a good fit for me, considering what I want to make tonight and will it be reliable?” And what I hear you saying is if somebody wants to add to, or focus as the primary thing in their business, food photography, as a food photographer working with clients, it’s not going to matter so much the reliability of your recipe, what’s going to matter is the reliability of you as a partner in the process that somebody’s going through to have a deliverable, which is a photograph, whether that be for a product or for a menu or for their own social account.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that you had said a few different times is you’ve used the phrase, “Going after.” Can you talk about what that actually looks like?

Christina Peters: Totally.

Bjork Ostrom: And for people who want to do food photography and work for clients, how do they go after people? What does that mean?

Christina Peters: Yeah. I’m a total hustler, man. I’ve been doing this a long time, and a lot of my colleagues are giving up their studios, they’re not shooting anymore. They’re in a completely different profession now. And so I’ve always, and this wasn’t taught to me in school, this just seemed sort of what I thought made the most sense. So, I go after my clients by thinking about, first of all, who are those clients? Which people do I think I would be a good fit with? I stock them. I look at everything they’re doing visually and see if that type of photography that they are using, obviously that’s what they like because you’re using it. Well, that resonate with me and my style. And so if I think that’s a good match, then they’re on my list, they’re on my target list. I’m going to go after them.

Christina Peters: And that means I’m going to be emailing them, I’m going to be calling them, and then I’m going to try and get in and show them my book. And I will also mail in postcards. So, I have multiple different types of touchpoints because these days you need like 20 for them to even remember who you are, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: So-

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s that proactive marketing. As opposed to kind of passive inbound marketing, it’s outbound marketing.

Christina Peters: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: In doing that, are you essentially trying to communicate, “I’m a food photographer and I can help you out with the skills and abilities that I have”?

Christina Peters: 100%. My emails are real short and sweet, and I just introduce… If it’s a total cold, like I don’t even know this person yet, it’s not a referral from somebody and I don’t have friends that know them in my industry, it’s total cold, cold, cold stone, then it’s like, “Hi, my name’s Christina Peters. I’ve been a commercial shooter for 27 years,” or whatever it is at that time, and then I give them a link to my portfolio, but then I also talk to them about a project they were working on.

Christina Peters: I also stalk them and find out what advertising campaigns they have worked on that got awards, what food packaging design have they done that has awards. So I really, they know when they get my email, “Oh, this chick’s been following me. She knows what we’re doing,” you know? I’ll talk about that stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s not a dear sir/madame.

Christina Peters: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Like you get those emails sometimes and it’s like, “Okay.”

Christina Peters: I know.

Bjork Ostrom: Especially, Bjork, which is like potentially one of those names where people don’t really know, it’s like, you don’t have to do too much work to figure out I’m a guy, but every once in a while I’ll get a mail that says, “Mrs. Bjork Ostrom.”

Christina Peters: Oh, nice, nice.

Bjork Ostrom: And it’s kind of an indicator for me that there’s maybe something I can dismiss with it, but there’s a level of personal connection and personal touch to those, and credibility comes along with that by saying, “Hey, I get you. I know you. I’ve been following along. I’ve done the work leading up to this, it’s not some kind of easy email that you’re sending out.” One of the questions that I have is, as you think about what it’s like to reach out to those people, what do you find is most important to include in those? Because sometimes we talk about this idea that it’s sometimes helpful to like give before you have an ask. Is there any type of give that can be involved with that? Or do you find that for this type of outreach the relationship really is, I have this service, the give is going to be a really quality product that you will get if you work with me?

Christina Peters: It totally depends on your type of client you’re going after specifically for food, right? So, if it’s an agency client, these people already know how photo shoot goes, they know the drill, they know that. So, there isn’t much I can teach them about that process, but I can tell them a little bit about my process. When I am doing my targeting emails, the entire goal is to get them to my website to see more. I don’t write these emails, even expecting to hear back from them.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: I will constantly hit them up. Sometimes it’ll take six months, sometimes it’ll take a year, but I make it so I’m top-of-mind regularly. And so with the pro agency type clients, the bigger brands, there’s not much I can teach them and they’re not going to be sort of around. They don’t really have a lot of time honestly. They’re producing jobs and they’re like slammed. If it’s a smaller client where there’s no agency, this is called client direct work, then that relationship is very different. You almost need to have more trust in that relationship because they’ve never probably hired a pro shooter before, they really don’t know what’s going on.

Christina Peters: So, I always suggest to make that front end content that is teaching them, “Hey, here’s how you hire a food photographer. Here’s the process of doing a photo shoot. Why do you need a food stylist?” So you can write articles and things like that, that could also be SEO driven, that you could let that person know, especially if you check them out and like you can tell they are not professionally styling their food and you’re like, “Oh Lord, I can really help these people.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: Just sort of drop little hints in there like if you’re curious, you might want to consider, or check out my article, I wrote about food stylists and why they’re amazing. They can make your product fly off your shelf or whatever, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yep. And so it’s almost, there’s an educational component involved with people who might not be as quick to understand the process with it. It’s interesting. I think of my friend, Nate, who is a videographer and I’ve been hanging out with him more because he has an office in the same building as we do. And he’s kind of educating me on his world of shooting video.

Christina Peters: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And some of these same things that he’s talking about are starting to come into the conversation. He’s talking recently about this agency that he’s connected with in San Francisco and they’ve hired him to come on and shoot for this really big Salesforce video that they’re doing, but he’s also, this weekend, he’s up at a resort in Northern Minnesota shooting for the resort with them directly, there’s no agency involved, kind of preparing to do some marketing video for kind of the fall and winter season at Bluefin Bay.

Christina Peters: Nice.

Bjork Ostrom: So client direct and then agency. And one of the things that he’s talked about is he’s gotten to the point now where, because of these connections he has and he’s established with these agencies, and the trust that they have with him delivering a reliable product and showing up and doing good work that that kind of is there’s a little bit of a, call it a flywheel or kind of a stickiness factor in like you said, being top of mind. So once you do make those connections, how do you continue to… Or I guess the question is this, what does good work look like then if you are with an agency or client direct? How do you as a food photographer deliver a service and a product that is excellent? What does that look like?

Christina Peters: With each job that I work on, even sometimes with the same client, it can be very different. And so what I always bring to the table is I definitely end up even educating my agency clients as well, because maybe they’ve not worked with food that much. And some of the agency clients they’re bringing in designers that don’t even have experience with food.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: You’d be shocked at how many huge brands I’m working with, where I find out this is their first food shoot and I got the job because I was the nicest and I seemed like the most low key, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Somebody that you would want to work with essentially-

Christina Peters: Right. And you know-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like, “Is this person going to deliver a good product and be a good person to work with?”

Christina Peters: And be fun. And so it’s shocking, there’s people I bid against a lot and I’ve get constantly told I got the job because they’ve never done food before and I seemed like I was going to be less judgmental and the nicest to work with, to learn how to do this huge job. And so when they are straightforward, because you can kind of tell, I have these qualifying questions that I’ll ask them just to sort of… And I’ll throw out like standing food. I’ll sort of say a few things to see what their response is like, do they understand the language I’m talking about? I can’t just come right and say like, “Have you guys ever done a food shoot before?” You know?

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right. Right. Yeah.

Christina Peters: Actually, there’s an agency in LA that does a lot of car work, and then they got a huge food account. And so this was one of those situations where I was bidding against somebody I bid against a lot. And during the phone call this other photographer actually said something like, “It sounds like you don’t have much experience with shooting food,” which was really offensive to the art director. And so, and what they do is it’s like a kind of before you get the job, they’re interviewing you on a conference call, right? And so they’re asking you questions.

Christina Peters: And so, I said, “Well, why don’t I tell you a little bit about my process?” And so I started mentioning, “We have a prep day,” and with this particular job, it was a week long job. So I said, “I’d be more than happy to come into the office and help you guys with the pre-production and really get our shot list tight. And then we’re going to sort of have to plan things on the prep day. It might be nice to work with some standing food for certain situations to make sure it’s going to work in the packaging.”

Christina Peters: And then all of a sudden they were kind of quiet. And I was like, “Do you guys have any questions?” And then the art director just said, “I’m going to be totally honest with you. I don’t even know what that means, stand in.” And I was like, “Oh my God, you guys, I’m so sorry. Okay, there’s some weird language here. If I say stuff like that, just let me know and I’ll totally teach you what that means.” And I was like, “It’s really fun. Like it’s crazy. It’s so crazy.”

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that? Because that was one of those terms for me too. I’m like, “I don’t know what standing food is.” Or the other day I was talking to a developer and he was talking about the bus factor. He’s like, “I’m just kind of concerned about the bus factor,” and I was like, “I don’t… Can you explain what bus factor is?” And he’s like, “Oh, it’s like, if somebody gets hit by a bus, then who’s going to take over their job?” I was like, “Oh, bus factor.”

Bjork Ostrom: Like that makes sense, bus factor. What is standing food? Is it kind of like a, when Tom Cruise has an actor who comes in and stands in for him?

Christina Peters: Yeah, 100%. When we’re working with foods that are really delicate, like salads and things like that, and we don’t really have our lighting 100% locked in, I’ll ask the kitchen, my food stylists, to create a standing with the dish that we think we’re going to use and the food item that we think we’re going to be plating with. And I do a rehearsal lighting on it with the client there in the studio or virtually. We’ll take pictures and send it to them via Zoom or email, whatever they prefer. And then I always say, “This is for position only, it’s called FPO, so this is what I’m thinking the light should be. And this is standing salad, this is not hero salad. And so we’re going to be really making a…”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you don’t have to dress it up.

Christina Peters: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Like it’s not going to… Yeah, it’s not going to go on the cover.

Christina Peters: It’s a handful of lettuce thrown in the bowl, you know? Literally.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: And then often what is really like on the backend, like it’s kind of a little bit manipulative, but when they see the stand in and we’re working it, I’m thinking like it’s just literally a handful of lettuce thrown in the bowl. And then they’re like, “Yeah, this looks kind of nice.” And I’m like, “Oh, people, this is just the stand in. Wait till you see hero.”

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right. Right.

Christina Peters: And hero comes in, they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s amazing.”

Bjork Ostrom: It is awesome. Yeah.

Christina Peters: Because they were just looking at the standing for an hour.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right. Right. It’s like the warmup band, where you’re like-

Christina Peters: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Maybe they have the settings off a little bit, so it doesn’t sound quite as good. And you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this next band is so awesome.”

Christina Peters: Totally. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So, you essentially, it looks like doing good work, which we could dive into the mechanics of doing good food photograph, what goes into that, understanding that. We won’t really get into that, that’s a given. Then there’s this other kind of, if there’s another art, if there’s the art and science, one of the arts is the art of being a relatable, helpful, kind person to work with. And I think that’s important to point out-

Christina Peters: Yeah, it’s huge.

Bjork Ostrom: And to be somebody that you want to work with. My guess is the other variable is being on time, delivering stuff on time, because in that world, I would assume it’s really common to need staff yesterday and to have a quick turnaround. So would you consider those to be kind of the three primary factors, the actual photography, obviously, who you are as a person to work with, and then delivering on time and being reliable? Anything else that I’m missing there?

Christina Peters: All of that is awesome, and also your production skills. When you’re pulling together a shoot like this, there’s a lot of moving parts. I’m actually a really good producer it turns out, but those that aren’t, they need to hire someone to really help them coordinate so that you can make like your third point, the deliverables on time, what’s necessary, there’s a lot of retouching involved sometimes with these agency jobs. You got to coordinate and wrangle all that stuff.

Christina Peters: So, it’ll really come down to the wire where there’s a deadline and there’s still retouching going on, but then the clients changing their mind and then the retoucher has to go in and work on it. That’s going to take more time, but our deadline doesn’t move, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: So things like that. So you have to be really good at juggling an enormous amount of hats, honestly, or hiring someone to help you do that if you’re not. Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I feel like I’m pretty good at because of having been in this space for a while is being able to quickly kind of crunch numbers around a website in a certain industry. So, I can say like, “Okay, if you’re getting started, maybe you want to, if you’re shooting for the hundred thousand dollar mark, at that point, you can start to work with an ad network, you might get like 10 to super high-end $25 RPM. That would be a thousand to twenty-five hundred dollars, you can layer in affiliate, like to start to do these number-crunching kind of exercises with a blog, but when it comes to working with an agency, when doing client direct work, the idea of a day rate, again, this is something that Nate’s talking to me about, he’s like, ”Yeah, 10 years ago, I could never imagine having a day rate at this period of my life to be able to go and shoot video. And it’s awesome.”

Bjork Ostrom: What does that look like for somebody who’s getting started in food photography with that as their profession in regards to realistic income that they can make from that? And is day rate kind of the equivalent of a blog RPM for ad? Does that kind of the number that you go to as kind of the base number for how you create an income?

Christina Peters: Yes. So your day rate typically is your creative time on that project, and then you’re charging all of the expenses on top of that. When I’m being approached by a client and they’re asking me, “What is my rate?” That means they’re probably working with a junior shooter in the past, who has charged them an hourly rate or a flat fee day rate, meaning all-inclusive it’s going to be this. And I don’t work that way. And with bigger jobs, you just can’t.

Christina Peters: And so with pricing, when someone is talking about their day rate, so my rates for advertising work typically start at $5,000 plus usage fees, plus all the expenses.

Bjork Ostrom: What is a usage fee?

Christina Peters: So really small job… So a usage fee is totally based on where the client is going to be showing those images.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: And the usage fees are based on really how many eyeballs are going to see it, and at the end of that question is, how much product can they potentially sell from my image, the way they’re going to use it?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: So if that usage is a lot, then I need to be compensated for that because it could potentially be selling a lot of that food product, but we don’t deal with royalties, right? So we have to estimate and guess on the sort of beginning part, “All right, this is a really huge usage, this is for a nationwide magazine ad, this is going to be in all of their stores like if they’re a franchise, for example, and my day rate’s going to be this, and then the usage is going to be this per image for this length of time,” it gets really specific quite quickly. And the agencies rattle off all types of different usage for you when you’re doing your estimate, or they ask for the mothership of usage, which is unlimited usage forever.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right. Which you need to appropriately be compensated for that.

Christina Peters: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting, I think about parallels in the music world, and like you had mentioned royalties, but this idea of like every time your song is played in different places, you get compensated based on where that is, how it’s played. If a band covers it in an arena versus if it plays in a bowling alley, versus if it plays on the radio, versus the background of a TV show, all of those you get royalties for. And so it makes sense when you think about it with other creative art that you’re creating, you need to take that into consideration.

Christina Peters: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a value that you get depending on the value that they’re getting from using your work. Is there any type of like equation that you use for the ad, or is that the agency coming to you with that? It feels like there’s a lot of potential wiggle room with what that looks like.

Christina Peters: There is. And unfortunately, there’s so many food bloggers who when they started getting on the scene they were just giving up their copyright for nothing. And so then it created what I call a very predatory practice with the brands, where they’re like, “Oh, we don’t have to pay Christina this much. We can just get that food blogger over there. And we’ll give her a bag of potatoes, we’ll take her copyright. Awesome.” You know? And they’re excited to do it-

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Christina Peters: And it’s just like completely flip things around. I’m a massive copyright advocate, and I don’t want people to sell their copyright. And when brands start demanding that, I don’t work for that brand. I mean, even McDonald’s, Burger King, talk about all of these huge, huge, have never asked for my copyright because it’s going to cost them a pretty penny. And they understand that. So, we negotiate usage. And the reality is, it’s food. They’re going to be re-shooting that recipe, or redeveloping that recipe, within a year’s time. So very rarely do they need to have that type of usage.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: And so, I think some attorneys are getting into the ears of these brands and they recognize, “Oh yeah, these desperate photographers will just give it all up. So, let’s get that.” And then they can sell your stuff, and you have nothing to do with it. So, the music industry really has helped protect their artists, their photography industry. We don’t have anything like that. You know, we do have copyright law in this country. Every country is a little different. Our copyright laws are not acknowledged outside of this country. Sometimes they are and stuff like that, but so it gets complicated pretty quickly when you’re talking about usage versus giving them full rights. I hate that term, I never use that language.

Christina Peters: I want us to outline exactly where the thing’s going to get used and you need to pay me accordingly what’s appropriate.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: And there’s no real, you were saying a calculator, it’s all about how big is that brand? How much money can this possibly bring in for them? And then it’s just based on, here’s our budget, sometimes.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: This is what we’ve got. Are you cool with it? And it’s yes or no. You know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Like they come to you and they say, “We have a budget. Here’s what it is. What are you able to provide given this budget?”

Christina Peters: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense.

Christina Peters: And if they want the moon and that budget isn’t going to allow for that, then I will turn around and I’ll say, “We can’t do what you’re asking here, but here’s what we can do.” So, instead of a hundred shots, we could do 50, or whatever. Right?

Bjork Ostrom: That makes sense, yep.

Christina Peters: So give them an alternative if what they’re asking for is inappropriate or their budget just isn’t enough. And then of course, there’s the crazy, like we’ve got 200 images and our budget’s $200, and we want to shoot at 15,000 different locations and all the food is included, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, which-

Christina Peters: Then there’s those.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, which is, my guess is an easy no. But at the same time, one of the questions that I have is for those who are getting started, I think of our journey with, it’s sponsored content, so it’s different, but terrible in that we now have some pretty strong opinions on brands that we work with, things that we’re okay with. We’re not okay with a brand really controlling the voice of the content, we’re not okay with putting a bunch of links in. Kind of in the same way that you’ve developed some strong opinions based on probably good experiences and bad experiences, we’ve done the same with sponsored content, but it took us in those early stages like working for a bag of Paula Deen’s frozen vegetables, and like doing a piece of content for $250, that wasn’t a good fit and realizing this was so much work and we shouldn’t do it again.

Bjork Ostrom: So, let’s say somebody is interested in doing this. They start the process of being top of mind or trying to be top of mind for agencies, they’re networking, they’re reaching out, they’re following brands, they’re understanding the work that those agencies in those brands are doing. So they’re doing that work, and at some point there’s an email that comes in and it says, “Hey, we’re interested in working with you. We want to hire you as a food photographer.” How do you do that? Like what does that first potential job look like? And how do you deliver something confidently that’s not going to be so overblown that it rules you out from working with that agency or that client?

Christina Peters: Right. As soon as I get approached by an agency and I get that email, I don’t respond right away. If I don’t know them, if I haven’t been targeting them, then I start, I totally check them out. What are they working on? What clients do they have? If they let me know what the client is in the email, then I will go try and find all the creative. What have they done in the past? What type of photography have they done before? Are they using pro shooters? Are they using food stylists? Are they using prop stylists? I try to gauge the size of the client and what type of production they’re used to. Are we dealing with a $5,000 total all-in production or a $90,000 production for one day?

Christina Peters: So I try to determine who they are, and then I just start asking them questions. And I try to get them on the phone, actually. That’s usually what I… If they’re younger, sometimes they don’t like to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure.

Christina Peters: They’re all about like the email and stuff like that, but so I’m 50, so like if the people reaching out to me are like at my age group, that type of thing, we love talking on the phone, but if they’re younger, they want to be all email and stuff like that. So, it might be a lot of questions and asking them things back and forth to determine what type of budget are we dealing with? And many times I’ll just come right out and ask them, “Do you have a budget? Do you have a budget in mind?” You know, and some photographers feel you never do that, but there’s a saying the first one to list a number is the loser, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised when I have asked this question like even very recently.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We do a similar thing. We kind of have a type form onboarding for sponsored content where we just have some budget levels.

Christina Peters: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it helps to know if somebody is coming in with a $2,000 budget, that’s not bad by any means and there’s going to be lots of people who will be, it’ll be a good fit, but for Pinch of Yum, the type of content partnerships that we’re doing are above that. And this kind of helps to shape that a little bit. So it is something that we’re asking and doing whatever we can then to fit… It’s something really quality and awesome if it is a budget that it makes sense for us to work with them on. So, I think that’s-

Christina Peters: So you were talking about, like I like to call it like the sliding scale of experience, right? So what I’m going to charge on a job, someone who has only picked up the camera a couple of years ago and they’re starting, they’re not going to charge the same thing that I am. And the client is aware of that and the agencies are aware of that too. I’m very open when I talk about pricing, I don’t mark stuff up and pad extra crap in there to make extra money off the client, that’s a huge practice in this industry.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: I think it’s actually not very honest at all. And so, I talk about that, I talk about my estimate, how it’s going to break down, the costs you see in the expenses are exactly what I’m paying. I’m charging enough of my fees so that I don’t have to mark any of this stuff up. Just know when you’re comparing my bid to others, you might see some different numbers in there, ask them, are they marking it up? So I have this kind of a conversation, so they’re like, “Oh, this broad’s actually being pretty honest with me,” you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah.

Christina Peters: And sort of open that relationship. So, if you’re just starting out, your day rate might be starting at 2000 for something where I might be charging 3,500, 4,500 for something like that. You know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: So, it all depends on the client.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that makes sense. Let’s say you get into this and you start to have some of these jobs coming through, you start to get some traction with it, and you start to say, “Hey, this is something that I kind of want to focus on.” What does that look like from a portfolio, from a social media perspective? What are the things that maybe need to shift a little bit for people who are shifting from focusing on just blogging, getting page views, building a following for their blog, versus, hey, maybe I’m going to do like blogging and I’m going to have this as an additional component of it, or maybe just shift entirely and say, “I’m going to focus on food photography as my business.” How do you do that well from an online presence perspective?

Christina Peters: Yeah. That’s a great question. I like that you use the word shifting because it is a shift in mindset. It’s very, very, very different going from sponsored posts blog content, to creating visuals that are going to be used in advertising, maybe some online content in-store promotions. Like I always love Panera. Panera Bread’s a great example. They have beautiful photography in their stores, right? So if you want to do that type of work, that pays very well, by the way.

Christina Peters: So, what you really need to look at your sort of your brand, as let’s say, you’re the food blogger, you need to set up your website in a manner where you have a whole area dedicated to the pro food shooter in you, right? So, if you do have a blog that has a very, like a typical food blogger name and it’s very obvious when you hear the name of your website, it’s a food blogger, then you’ve got just a little bit of extra work cut out ahead of you because you have to have a dedicated section for your pro food photography. So, you have to talk about that, you have to talk about, “This is what I do for these types of clients, this is the type of work I offer,” and have a portfolio of images.

Christina Peters: Again, always keeping in your mind, who are you targeting to do food photography for? Those people want to see the images they’re going to hire you for already in your book. They want to see it over and over. They want guaranteed repeatability for results. They want to see the image they’re going to hire you for already in your book. So you put together your food portfolio with that in mind. And it’s really important with that food portfolio, you got to show finished beautiful prepared food shots, right?

Christina Peters: There’s a lot of bloggers who they might not feel they’re that good at food styling, and they have beautiful, I call them ingredient shots, where it’s fruits and vegetables that are in their natural state. You have to show prepared foods, finished, cooked dishes, like what you, what Lindsay, what you guys show on Pinch of Yum. You always feature a nice, gorgeous shot of that hero food dish, cooked, ready to eat. That’s what you have to show, and also the ingredient shots.

Christina Peters: And if you do process shots for your blog, that’s great for cookbook photography. So start breaking things down in a series, in a sequence to show like, “Oh wow, this girl’s a baker. However, look at her photography. She really knows how to showcase the recipe, which is great for cookbooks,” you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And one of the things that you had talked about earlier was just being really intentional to go after the clients that you want to work with and not imagine in building out that portfolio, you want to build it out in a way that it aligns with the people that you want to work with. So it’s like, if you want to do food photography for candy, like don’t have a bunch of salad shots, or if you want to only shoot keto recipes or whatever, it’d be like, what is the genre that you want to focus on and the people that you want to work with? And building your portfolio around that.

Christina Peters: 100%. Because the way I teach this is very different with my students. They basically get told all the time, “Take all kinds of beautiful photos, make them amazing. All different photos. Shoot all different things. Then put together a website. Now go get clients.” Like no, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. It’s absolutely important to shoot all kinds of things for yourself to discover what you love and don’t love to do. Right? Because it is weird. You go on my website, it’s pretty clear what I do. However, I’ll get people who like how the food photography looks and then they’ll ask me to do like some lifestyle stuff with people. And it’s like, “Did you look at my website?” I mean, I appreciate that. I don’t shoot that. You know, that’s not my jam.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Christina Peters: So, that can’t happen, but you know, so then I’m able to turn that job down because I don’t like doing that kind of work. And some say, “You know, I’m so sorry, I’m not the photographer for you, but here’s some good buddies of mine who are really great at lifestyle photography. That’s what I suggest,” you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And I think that, what’s great about that, to tie back to something you said earlier is there’s a process to get there and you will learn by doing, and it’s not without doing that you start to bump up against some of those walls where it’s like, “Wait, this isn’t where I want to be,” and you can refine that, but it requires people to just show up and to start doing it, which sometimes is the hard part.

Christina Peters: Right.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ve kind of talked through at a really high level, the different stages, getting started, some of the considerations, how to get clients, what it might look like to actually do a job, what you can expect from a payment perspective in terms of a day rate and kind of some general pieces of what might go into that. Can you tell me a story about whether a student that you’ve worked with, or a story of your own of somebody who… Of a process kind of start to finish and what that looked like? Because I think it’s helpful for people to hear, hey, what is it like to actually do this with a client and to go through the process of doing the shoot? Share the name if you can, otherwise you can kind of share the general area that they were.

Christina Peters: Oh, sure.

Bjork Ostrom: But I’d be interested to hear kind of a quick story around what that actually looks like in practice.

Christina Peters: Yeah. So there were some clients that I shot for regularly, like a local high-end grocery store, right? I shot for Bristol Farms for many years and also Gelson’s Market in Southern California. And so the process became, we were like an oiled machine, so the client reaches out, “Hey, we’ve got a photo shoot, are you available next week?” Or sometimes even like Wednesday. You know, if it’s Monday.

Bjork Ostrom: Tomorrow, yeah.

Christina Peters: Yeah. “Hey, we’ve got this advert coming up and we realized we need to get something new shot.” So I was like, “Okay, that’s great. Do you have a shot list?” And then they’ll say, yes or no. And then, “Well, I want to talk to you about it and see what we really might need,” that kind of thing. So, there’ll be a lot of preproduction phone calls is what I call that, so the production hasn’t happened yet, we’re pre-planning our shoot, and I’m making sure the day of the job, we know exactly what we’re going to be doing or at least we have an attack plan where we have a shot list and might be the case where if we don’t cover everything on the shot list, we have our priority shot list, is what I call it, sometimes when the client wants to make sure, “Hey, throw these in if we have extra time.”

Christina Peters: So, the pre-production is figuring all of that out. And then once I’ve agreed with the client what we’re doing, we have like a final shot list, then this is when I start like going to the food stylist and the prop stylist, “Okay, hey, hey girls, this is what we’re doing.” I give them the shot list. “And these are the prop requests from the client,” and sometimes we’ll get visuals. Some clients even make you a deck, it’s a laid out plan visually of everything they want. And that’s awesome. So then I share the deck with my food stylist and my prop stylist, and then I say to the food stylist, “Any food questions, let me know immediately because we want to get all of her questions answered, so on the day of the job, we are not missing some food product that we need and there’s no mysteries on set about what we’re going to do with that.” Right? So, that all happens way before the shoot.

Christina Peters: And then I always do a pre-production day, I do a prep day, before the job, and I honestly do this whether I’m paid or not because it just makes it so much smoother the next day. Typically, I try to charge half of my day rate for prep day and then the expenses. And sometimes my crew will join me on the prep day if it’s a big job. So the food stylist will come in, she’ll bring all of the stuff she was able to pre-shop.

Christina Peters: The prop stylist will come in, she’ll bring in and set up all the props. So we’re each sort of working in our own little department in the studio. I’m building the set, I’m working on lighting, I’m preparing the computer for shooting digitally, and I might even do some test shots on the prep day, send them over to the client and say, “Hey, heads up. This is where I’m at. When you walk in tomorrow morning, this is where we’re at, but if you don’t like the direction I’m at right now, let me know, and then I can tweak it, and then we’ll be really full-steam ready to go in the morning.” And they love that.

Christina Peters: So, I create a little gallery of images, I send that to them towards like four or five o’clock in the day, say, “Hey, if you don’t mind, just check these out before you come in tomorrow so we have a plan of attack.” Then shoot day happens. Everyone shows up at the studio, or if I’m shooting remotely, I sort of, I’m emailing everybody what my schedule is going to be like for the shoot day. We’re going to try and do this dish at this time, this dish at this time, we try to get two or three shots done before breakfast, or sorry, before lunch, sometimes that doesn’t happen. We break for lunch and then we do our afternoon.

Christina Peters: And so throughout the day, if the clients are there, I’m a huge fan of making a really nice client area. So, they have a large television where I’m actually screen-sharing what I’m shooting on the computer. So they’re working, they have their laptops, they’re all working in the client area.

Bjork Ostrom: Oversee, yeah.

Christina Peters: So as I’m shooting, it’s popping up, and then I walk over, “Hey, just heads up. That’s where we’re at right now. Do you like it? Do you want to change it?” And then-

Bjork Ostrom: And are you just tethering over from your computer?

Christina Peters: Yeah. I’m using Capture One Pro, so Capture One Pro it gets a little wonky, but it works. Capture One Pro has an app called Capture Pilot.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Christina Peters: And so that app is on your iPad, and then that iPad is mirrored to your Apple TV.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Christina Peters: And that’s plugged into your television through an HDMI cable. So, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s great. It’s like that type of stuff just as like a tech nerd, like I love the idea of like all of these things kind of connected together…

Christina Peters: I know, right? When that first came out I’m like, “Oh, look what we can do.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great.

Christina Peters: Now I have to buy a bigger TV in the studio.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right.

Christina Peters: Not really, but I just think I do.

Bjork Ostrom: Right. Right. Nice excuse to do that. Are there any other tools that you are especially interested in or excited about or an important part of your workflow from a photography perspective?

Christina Peters: My core stuff that I just love, I have my computer, my Apple tower, I have that as an editing bay station, I work on two very large monitors here. And then when I’m on location, I have an Apple laptop. And then I also bring an external monitor if it’s an agency job. If it’s a restaurant job, I’m not doing that. And then really, I have different types of cameras for different types of jobs, depending on what those are. And yeah, I mean, there’s so much software that’s amazing.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah, that’s right. Right. We could go on and on. Do you use Lightroom? Is that your primary? Or Photoshop or…

Christina Peters: No, I never use Lightroom. I use Lightroom when I’m teaching the students because Adobe has dominated the market with the Lightroom and so everybody thinks that’s what you have to use. It’s very unstable, it crashes a lot, and I hate it. I actually use Capture One Pro.

Bjork Ostrom: How do you really feel about it? Yeah, so that’s the editing suite that you use? Okay.

Christina Peters: Yeah. I use Capture One Pro, it’s just like Lightroom in functionality, however, it doesn’t crash every five minutes and it doesn’t stall. And its color editor is amazing, and you can tweak it quite nicely on set with your client right there, and then process out. And then I use Photoshop to finish everything.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Christina Peters: That’s my process. Capture One Pro, shoot, minor edit tweaks in Capture One Pro, and then process out to Photoshop, and then just finish everything there. And if it’s agency work, then my TIF files go to my retoucher, and then he really does whatever the client wants at that point.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. Got it.

Christina Peters: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a lot of stuff that we covered here-

Christina Peters: I know.

Bjork Ostrom: And I know that there’s going to be a lot of people who’ll listen through this and they say, “You know what? Like this it’s tip of the iceberg,” we kind of covered a lot of things at a high level, and they’re going to be really interested I think in diving deeper into this world. I know you have a lot of resources that you’ve built around it, you have something that people can download about day rates. Is that right?

Christina Peters: Yeah, I have a free little gift for everyone, it’s called the 4 Figure Day Rate Plan. It’s a 10 page PDF where I break down sort of the three main topics of getting your photography up in price, up in value. We talk about pricing, we talk about your portfolio, and then we talk about getting your client’s marketing. That’s a little freebie there. You can just go to foodphotographyclub.com/pinch.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That’s great. And we’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes as well, so people can check that out.

Christina Peters: Perfect.

Bjork Ostrom: And then how about anywhere else that people can follow along with what you’re up to, if they’re interested in learning more? Any other social handles or sites that you want to plug?

Christina Peters: Sure. Thanks. So, my blog is super fun, I write on that as often as I can. It’s foodphotographyblog.com. And then you can check out my commercial site at christinapeters.com. So, you can see how different my blogging content is to my commercial photography content. There are two different worlds entirely.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.

Christina Peters: And then I have tiny little Instagram at thefoodshooter.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool, awesome. We’ll link to those as well.

Christina Peters: Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: Christina, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate it.

Christina Peters: Oh, thanks so much. It’s wonderful chatting with you today.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that’s a wrap on this episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Thanks again for tuning in today. We hope you enjoyed this interview with Christina. And as they mentioned, there are a lot of links mentioned there right at the end. So, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/281 to snag all of the links that they talked about.

Alexa Peduzzi: And I wanted to let you know that we are actually in the midst of our last sale of the year, this is for an annual Food Blogger Pro membership, and it’s called the Gobblepalooza Sale. I love that name seriously. I think you should try saying it out loud because it’s super fun, but during this Gobblepalooza Sale that lasts till this Thursday, December 3rd, you can get an annual Food Blogger Pro membership for just 279. And that is actually over $70 off of our current pricing, so it’s a fantastic deal. And if you’re looking to get access to instructional videos, step-by-step instruction on what you need to do to build the strongest blog that you can as well as get access to deals and discounts, a community forum where you can ask your questions and collaborate with others, I really suggest you checking out this deal.

Alexa Peduzzi: You can actually learn more at foodbloggerpro.com/sale, or you can just email us at [email protected] if you have any questions, but just to wrap up today, I wanted to actually end the episode with a little bit of a testimonial from a past member named Debra. And she said, “The value that you have offered with this program is way more than even what the actual price is. My blog is not a food blog, but I decided to purchase the program because I felt like I could learn all the ins and outs of blogging with this program. Thanks to you, I know that I will succeed with my blog. I actually have no doubt about it. You have given anyone who purchases this program a real shot at creating a blog that will flourish if they simply follow your lead and work hard to provide good content.”

Alexa Peduzzi: And I love that testimonial because I think it captures the spirit of Food Blogger Pro and our membership so well. So, again, that URL, check out the deal, and to learn a little bit more about it is foodbloggerpro.com/sale. And it’ll be an active sale until this Thursday, December 3rd, at 1:00 PM Eastern or 12:00 PM Central. So, that does it for us this week, we appreciate you so much, and we’ll see you next time. Until then, make it a great week.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.