The following is a list of products, tools, and services that I regularly use in my food photography business. Bookmark this post as I will be updating it often.
The post may contain affiliate links to some products. Should you choose to buy the item, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Running Your Photography Business
1 – Contracts: Estimates, Invoices, Terms and Conditions, Model and Property Release Forms. Don’t worry if that totally freaked you out. I know it’s a lot but The APA (American Photographic Artists) Business Manual is here to help you. This is a free resource!
Please be very careful buying a “commercial photography” template from anyone. I’ve review several of these templates and NONE of them have what I need as a commercial photographer. All the ones I’ve seen so far that are pages long, don’t have any places to put the basic info we need to show all the expenses of a job.
The lawyers making these templates have no idea what is involved with a commercial photography job, especially a commercial food photography job. These attorneys also don’t realize that our ad agency clients DON’T sign our contracts! They take our contracts and make purchase orders from them that we then both sign.
2 – Price Yourself For Profit: If you are struggling with pricing, you are not alone. Pricing is something I get asked about regularly in my Food Photography Club membership site, and in the free Facebook Group I run. Check out these posts on pricing:
- How To Price Food Photography Photo Shoots Part 1; Who Are Your Clients?
- How To Price Food Photography Photo Shoots Part 2: What Are Your Costs?
- Food Photography Pricing Part 3; Pricing For Small Clients
3 – Zoho Forms: I use Zoho to make a form on my website for prospects to fill out about their jobs. I made the form, then used the code from Zoho to place the form on my website. When a prospect fills that out, I get an email with all the info. This is a free tool!
4 – Your Legal Team – This just needs to be mentioned. You will need an accountant (ideally CPA), and also a small business attorney who is familiar with photography. In addition, I have an internet attorney who is familiar with the state I do business in, I have a real estate attorney, and I also have a copyright attorney (Intellectual Property Attorney).
5 – Computer Rolling Bag/Backpack: I use my roller bag all the time. It goes with me to every job I shoot. I travel with it every time. If I am doing anything with photography, or just with my computers, I use my roller bag. The actual one I have is no longer made, but here are my requirements:
- It absolutely must fit a large laptop, AND let me get access to it really fast and easy so I don’t have to take the whole bag apart to get it.
- It must roll. By the time you get one, or even two laptops in it, my digital back or my 35mm camera system with lenses, this thing is heavy.
- It must fit in the overhead of a plane – international flights have much smaller limits – btw.
- The handles must be firm when extended! I’ve probably bought about 5 of these roller bags by now. Many of them, their handles are too flexible, so when you are rolling the bag around and it hits bumps or carpet, you’ll struggle with it.
- The one pictured above does have a handle.
6 – Dropbox: Online storage. An absolute must have. I use the $12 a month plan. I use this to upload high res files when my clients have several people that need to access the files from our job. I put files into folders, then create a link just to those folders.
7 – Wetransfer.com: If I only have to send one person our high res images from the job, then this tool works great. With the free version you can send up to 2 gigs of files to someone. What is great is that you will get an email when they get the notification they have files to download, and when they do download the files, you will get an email saying who downloaded it, and when.
8 – Phone.com: I spent months researching this one. You’re welcome. This service is great. You can get phone numbers, and use your cell phone to forward numbers to AND have the flexibility with voicemail, texting, emails with your voicemails on them, and a ton more. I went from $250 a month with a Verizon landline to $240 a year with multiple numbers.
9 – Bay Photo Lab: I now use this lab for all my fine art prints. I tested several labs and for the price, you can’t beat it. They also drop ship my prints to my customers.
10 – BackBlaze: This is one of my daily backup plans. I have three computers hooked up to it. It uploads all the time in the background while I’m working. It is cloud based, so no hardware. Heads up – it took over 4 weeks (24hrs a day), when I started with them to upload everything – no joke.
11 – On Site Back Up Systems – G-Tech Drives: These are my favorite drives – you know the saying, it’s not IF your drive fails, it’s when. Each photographer will have their favorite brand btw. I use the small drives for backing up as I’m shooting. Then I use the bigger drives for extra backups of data in the office.
13. Smith And Stilwell Payroll Services For Photographers: As you start to grow as a photographer, you will be hiring people to work with you on your jobs. I’ve been using Smith and Stilwell for years, and have been very happy with them.
14. Photography Business Insurance TCP: You MUST have business insurance. This is not an option to go without. You also must use insurance made for photographers. There are a ton of the larger companies trying to make a “photography” insurance package now. The problem with most of them is they don’t have the special endorsements we need as photographers. I’ve been with TCP Insurance for at least 20 years now. They will make a custom policy for you with very reasonable rates.
15 – Websites: Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, and Format. You know you have to have a website. My commercial site is currently with Photoshelter. I love their support, however, because they’ve been around for so long, they are behind the times. There are certain features I want to add to my website that they make very difficult to do. Like a simple popup form on certain pages.
So I am now seriously looking at moving to SquareSpace, or the dreaded WordPress. When I do make the move, I’ll be writing a blog post about that and share what I do.
Every website builder has its own weird bugs and issues, so just know that going in, and many times the builders are not intuitive. PhotoShelter was one of the easiest ones I’ve used.
16 – Get Your Own URL For Your Website! It’s shocking to me how many photographers have a website URL like this: www.NameOfWhatEverCompanyIsHostingTheirSite.com/photographer’s-name-numbers.
Does that look professional to you? Those are what the free websites will force you to do. If you are not willing to pay the nominal fee for a proper website name, and hosting package ($20-ish a month), please do NOT choose photography as your profession. The fee for your website each month is nothing compared to all the other expenses you are going to have.
Your website URL has got to be easy to say so you can simply tell anyone how to find it.
17 – Get A Professional Email Address! This goes along with number 16. It’s also shocking to me how many photographers do not have a professional email address. It should be coming from your professional website name. Not an @gmail.com address. People, just use Gmail for business – it’s called GSuite. It’s only $6 a month.
18 – Every photographer should have a printed portfolio book. To print your own portfolio, check out this post. If you don’t want to do that, you will need to use a Print On Demand service like Artifact Uprising and Asuka Book. You are looking for a hard bound book, or a layflat book.
19 – Promotional Postcards: Every photographer must market themselves. I love using postcards. The company I use for printing now is Postcard Mania in Florida. They have a great service where you give them your list, they print and mail it for you. You can also have them help you with creating a list, but they don’t understand the food photography business very well, so you’ll still be working on cleaning up the lists they find. They can pull lists for restaurants and food companies.
20 – Marketing Mailing Lists: This will be its own blog post because there’s a lot to this. For photography, we only have three options for purchasing lists that have been curated for us to find clients. There is Agency Access, Yodelist, and now Bikini Lists in the UK.
21 – Thank You Cards To Send To Clients: When I meet with prospects in person, and after I shoot a job for someone, I send them a thank you card custom made with one of my images on it. I use Moo printing for this because you do a small print run with multiple images, and the quality is great.
22 – Business Cards: I also use Moo printing now for my business cards. I have a food image on one side of each card. I have 10 different images for people to pick from, so it makes it fun handing out cards. They are like tiny little promo cards.
Photography Business Equipment
For photography equipment (cameras, lenses), I have a whole page devoted to that so go here.
24 – Photo Printers: You should have a printer that can print high resolution images on nice photo paper. I talk more about that on the blog post about photography portfolios. Canon makes a great printer called the Pro 1000, and Epson also makes a high end printer called the SureColorP800.
25 – Computers: No surprise, you will obviously need a computer to do your photography. I’m an Apple girl, so I have several laptops, and also desktop computers. I use the laptops for shooting on location, and I hook them up to a calibrated monitor. Then when I’m back home, I take my image sessions and edit them on my bigger desktop computer.
26 – iPad: I use my iPad in a few ways with jobs. One way is that when I shoot tethered, I use Capture One Pro, and there is a companion software app they make called Capture Pilot. Capture Pilot enables you to show your clients what you are shooting on your iPad. I use this a lot. I also use an Apple TV device to mirror what is on my iPad, onto the studio TV. So everyone in the lobby or client area can see what I am shooting on a large TV.
27 – Professional Color Sensitive Monitors: This is a must have. You need to work on higher end monitors that you can color calibrate when you are making images for clients that they need for their products. There are several companies that make great monitors. They are BenQ, NEC, and EIZO. Of course there are others, but you really need to compare their specs, and make sure they are made for color detailed color work, and not just watching movies.
I just purchased the BenQ SW2700PT you see on the left. It is the best quality monitor for the price. I will be using this on location, so I didn’t want to get a $1200 monitor that could get banged around.
I had issues getting this to hook up to a newer mac laptop. The cables that come with it do not have the new USB-C plug.
You will need an HDMI to USB-C cable to plug this directly into your laptop, OR you will need a multi plug port adapter that has its own power source. Using the non-powered adapters do not work with the cables that come with the monitor.
28 – Monitor Calibrator: To go with your high end monitor, you will need to calibrate it. I really like the ColorMunki Display calibrator. The tech support with X-Rite, who made the device is excellent. To learn more about calibrating your monitor, check out this post.
29 – Color Checker: This is also a handy tool to help you achieve a proper white balance in your photos. Simply take a picture with the color checker in it, then you use that image with your white balance tool in your editing software to help set your white balance.
Photography Software For The Studio And Office
These are some of the software products that I use regularly in my business.
30 – Microsoft Office: I use Word and Excel for making proposals, and Keynote for presentations and speeches.
32 – Accounting Software: This took me a long time to research. I actually have several Paypal accounts. Xero was the only online accounting package that could handle multiple Paypal accounts. If you only have one Paypal account, then you will have a lot more options available to you.
33 – Scheduling Software: I like to use Calendly to schedule calls with my students.
34 – Email Service Provider: I use Active Campaign to help keep my email lists organized, and to send out my blog posts and updates. I can tag my contacts to help segment my lists.
35 – Computer Security: I use Malwarebytes on my computers to scan for any bad spyware, and malware.
36 – Private Image Gallery Sharing: If you don’t have a way of making private galleries on your website or you don’t like how it looks, check out Pixieset. You can design a nice looking gallery for free that you can send to clients.
37 – Image Editing: Of course, I use Photoshop for all my image editing.
38 – Focus Stacking Software: I use Helicon Soft for focus stacking. This is a technique we have to use when the client wants everything in focus, but we can’t get that to happen with the lighting we are using, and the F-Stop we are using on our camera.
39 – PDF Editor: I often have to make PDF’s of image collections for clients. I will use Adobe Acrobat for working and editing these PDF’s. I also use it to make PDF’s smaller in size. This comes with the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
40 – Back Up Software: This is one I’ve been using for a while – Chrono Sync. I use this when shooting and after every single shot, before anyone touches anything on set, I do a back up with Chrono Sync.
41 – Image Capturing Software: For almost every job I shoot, I shoot tethered to the computer. My preferred software for that is Capture One Pro. It is much more stable than Lightroom, and if you are using natural light, you can do a live image preview on your computer that is super handy.
42 – Video Editing: I shoot a lot of video for the Food Photography Club. I use Adobe Premiere Pro for editing that content. This comes with the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
43 – iPad App For My Portfolio: FolioBook has been around for quite some time. It’s a bit tricky to figure out how to get your images into the app, but once you do that, you can make a portfolio on your iPad. I use Dropbox to hook it up to the app to get my images into the app.
44 – Image Enlargement Software: When I sell fine art images, quite often they have to be at a very large size. I find Exposure Software’s, (formerly Alien Skin), Blow Up a great Photoshop plugin for this.
Other Awesome Tools
45 – Color Management Tools For Clients: Many of my clients use PMS Pantone color books. Pantone colors are colors that are defined by numbers. We need this in our printing world in order for us to have a consistent color translation. These books are not cheap, but you need to have these for doing commercial work. Get the Color Bridge Guide Set | Coated and Uncoated for $355. DO NOT GET THESE FROM AMAZON. There are a ton of fakes, I’m sad to say. Get them directly from Pantone.
46 – Portable Sound: JBL Flip Speaker – This is what I use to play my music when we shoot on location. This little speaker sounds great. The charge lasts all day. Get the case because the two side panels are a bit delicate.
47 – Portable Phone Chargers: I always have these on me. You can’t have your phone die on you when you are in production on a job. These are rated by how many mAh’s they have. This one has 25000 so you can easily charge two phones with this one.
48 – Belkin 3 Outlet USB Surge Protector: I whip this thing out at airports and they think I’m a hero. For some reason every airport terminal still only has 5 plugs for 1000’s of people to charge all their stuff in. So I go to the crowded plug area and I ask permission to unplug one device, then I will plug it into my device and we’ve got an extra outlet to share!
49 – Battery Backup Systems: While we are talking about powering devices, this battery backup has been awesome to have. We are now getting a lot of power outages at home. So I have both my large monitors, and my computer plugged into this. Any time there is a power failure, this backup tells me I have roughly 15 minutes to work, and close everything down properly. No lost documents that I didn’t save in time before the power outage.
50. Other World Computing: Ok so this isn’t necessarily a tool – but these guys are awesome. They’ve been around a long time and they’ve been helping me keep my Apple computers up and running. I’ve upgraded many computer with their RAM, and their hard drives. They have great how-to videos of how to install the ram, and switch out the hard drives on your own. I’ve done both several times. They are just a great resource to have when you have Mac computer questions.
Let me know if there are any other great tools that you like to use in the comments below.
For more information on food photography in general, check out my ebooks by clicking on the image below: