I run a fun and active Facebook group called The Food Photography Club. It’s in this group that I’ve learned that many of you that want to be professional food photographers are actually doing food photography jobs for free, or for hardly any money at all.
Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about the hobby photographer, and I’m not talking about the bloggers who are not doing this for a living. I’m talking about all of you who are trying to become professional food photographers and professional food bloggers, and get paid to shoot.
Learning that this was happening to Club members really broke my heart. I got very upset by this whole thing. I started asking why people weren’t charging for their food photography, and then I realize something very sad.
Every person who is not charging for their food photography work, doesn’t have the confidence to realize that their photography is worth paying for.
This is extremely common for women to think this way about their work. It has been a problem since we joined the work force during world war II, and it’s so sad to me that this is STILL a huge problem today.
Are You Saying Any Of These Excuses (Limiting Beliefs) To Yourself As You Read This?
Do you know what a Limiting Belief is? Here’s a very broad definition: A limiting belief is a thought that you have that is holding you back, an excuse for why you are not doing something.
We all have limiting beliefs that sneak in there. They are statements that we say to our selves that are based on fear. It’s human nature. Here’s just a few. I guarantee you that one of these (or more) is operating on your brain RIGHT NOW.
- Fear of failing
- Fear of judgement
- Fear of getting hurt
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of change
- Fear of the unknown
I know what you are thinking. Trust me, I’ve heard them all, AND I’ve been there myself when I was starting out! I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE THINKING. Just because I’ve been doing this for 25 years now doesn’t mean I don’t remember what it’s like starting out.
And I STILL struggle with limiting beliefs every day about all sorts of things.
So some of the limiting beliefs I mentioned above can manifest in your cute noggin as one of these excuses:
“But Christina, I don’t have a portfolio of good images yet to get work, so I HAVE to shoot jobs for free until I have more images”.
I bet that you have several great images right now and this is your excuse because it’s 10 times easier to shoot for free. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PROMISE FABULOUS IMAGES if they aren’t paying for them. Am I right?
Shooting for free takes the pressure off of you. You feel less pressure to perform. So if you F!@K it up, it doesn’t matter, right???
This is because you don’t have your confidence yet about your work.
The ONLY way you build your confidence is by tackling this demon (limiting belief) – this is the demon called “I am not good enough”.
You gotta just do it!!! You gotta start charging for these jobs (assuming your business is set up properly). Stop shooting jobs for free.
The more jobs you do, the easier this gets. You have to trust me on this one.
Later I will address how you CAN shoot images and build up your portfolio without giving away your livelihood.
Or, maybe you’re saying this, “I don’t have enough experience to charge for my food photography because I’m still learning”.
Guess what?? I’m still learning too! You will never stop learning and you will never have the perfect portfolio.
Have you ever been to a new restaurant and the food and service was horrible? I bet you still paid for the meal didn’t you? Ok, maybe they offered you a discount, but you still paid something. They didn’t have the experience yet but they still charged you for it. If it was bad service and food, you just don’t go back.
This is how you learn. There are all levels of service in every industry, so someone starting out isn’t going to charge what I charge for a shoot, but you better be charging something! You have got to start somewhere. Stop shooting jobs for free.
You need to learn that your time has value. Again, most women just give this away. I know I do this and it’s a constant struggle. The key is learning when you ARE doing this and stopping it.
This comes from the same limiting belief I mentioned before – that you think you are not good enough, you are just calling it, “I don’t have enough experience yet”.
Maybe you are just going straight to the fear of this limiting belief, “My work isn’t good enough to charge for it.”
This one really hurts my heart when my students say this. I know several food photographers who are starting out that are in the Food Photography Club membership site, and in the Facebook group who have said this to me, and their images are great!!! They just needed me to tell them so.
Again, it’s about building your confidence about your work. If you are unsure about your work, you have to start sharing it with others to get feedback. Yes, you are putting yourself out there, and that’s part of the business.
You cannot do this by yourself. Look for guidance. Look for a mentor. Heck, join the Food Photography Club for crying out loud! I’m helping people every day with their confidence in their photography. That’s what I am here for. To help you.
How about this one, “Oh, well I don’t have my insurance or business license yet, so in the meantime I’m just going to keep practicing (for free) to get better”.
Now you are using the fact that you haven’t set up your business properly as the superficial excuse to shoot for free. Nice crutch. Nice try. That ends now.
So I have one question for you – Why haven’t you set up your business properly yet? What is your fear in doing so? Are you letting the thought, “I’m not good enough to be in business”, sneak into your head?
KNOCK IT OFF!!! (said with love and support)
If you get a business license (if required in your area), and your business insurance, then this means you better start making some money, right? That this Sh!t just got real. So what’s your fear with moving forward with this? Be totally honest with yourself. Write it down.
What is holding you back from setting up your business? It’s a big step so be honest about your fears with this, because my friend, you are being afraid of something here – what is it? Tackle it. Take it down and move forward. Shift your brain about this.
Something is holding you back. Which excuse or limiting belief are you using right now?
Tell me in the comments below. As soon as you recognize this, put it in writing and figure this out, then you will be able to overcome this. This is an empowering process.
Here is a great article about how to tackle your limiting beliefs.
Here’s a great article about some common limiting beliefs.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T SHOOT PHOTOGRAPHY JOBS FOR FREE
Now, let’s turn this around a little bit. Here are all the reasons WHY you should not be doing food photography jobs for free. These are jobs where, if you weren’t around, they would have to hire someone to shoot for them.
- The people who pay you for your work will value your work. If we get stuff for free, we feel it’s not worth very much, right? So not charging for your services means that even you don’t feel it’s worth very much. Knock it off.
- If you are not getting paid for your work, you will not get the necessary money to invest in yourself and your business, which will forever limit you with what you can do.
- If you are not getting paid for your work, you won’t be able to invest in more training to improve your skills. You are never done learning anything. You must work to improve your skills.
- If you are not getting paid for your work, you won’t be able to buy new necessary equipment. ‘Nough said about that. We ALL want new gear, am I right???
- If you aren’t getting paid for your work you won’t get new clients because you won’t have the money to do any marketing – you’ll be stuck exactly where you are and I know you don’t want that.
- If you aren’t getting paid for your work, you will not improve your skills nearly as fast as you could by doing jobs for pay. Every paid job will teach you something new that you must learn, and will give you the resources to invest in yourself, and your business.
WHEN YOU CAN SHOOT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR FREE
Notice, I left out the word “Jobs” above. Any time when a person you don’t know is asking you for your food photography, and those images that you would take would help them sell a food product, you need to charge for that.
Here are the times when shooting for free is ok:
- Testing Work: You are testing with a food stylist, or chef at a restaurant for YOUR portfolio. If you find a chef or a food stylist to collaborate with, shoot with them! This is a great way to get images for your portfolio, and is very fun, AND will teach you how to work with a chef and a food stylist on a project.
I have approached several chefs to shoot for free. The deal is, we shoot the images I want to shoot of their food. Meaning, they can’t start adding a bunch of shots of portraits of them, or restaurant interior shots, unless I want that for my book.
So I have total control of the shoot, I dictate what we do, and what I’m willing to do so that I make sure I get images that I can use. Of course, it’s a conversation about limiting expectations, and making sure that both of us are happy with the images that I am going to take.
2. Pro bono work – I shoot for free a lot for non profits that I love and want to support. I’ve been doing this for years. I highly suggest you do the same with your business.
3. Shooting for your friends WHEN they are not taking advantage of your friendship. I have shot for many friends of mine over the years either for free, for a very discounted rate, or for a fun, fabulous trade.
If my best friend were to open a cup cake shop tomorrow, you better believe she would get some rockin’ food photography from me for free. Then as her business grows, we’d work out some form of payment because my images are helping her sell cupcakes and grow her business.
4. For a really good trade – NOT FOR FOOD. I’ve shot for a company who hooked me up with some awesome kitchen cabinets. That’s a good trade. When my time was worth the trade I was getting in return, I’m all over it. FYI, you have to claim it on your taxes as income and pay tax on it! So it better be worth it.
I’ve probably been asked to shoot for free over 100 times for a total stranger who owns a restaurant and just wants to pay me in food. I usually respond with an email asking them if they would cater a party for 200 people for free, then I would consider doing it. Always the response is “No”.
STOP SHOOTING FOR ALL THOSE COMPANIES THAT ONLY PAY $50 FOR 10 SHOTS OR $150 FOR 200 SHOTS!!!!!!
There will be another post about pricing food photography jobs.
I have to mention here that if you think you can make a living by shooting for all those companies (and there’s a bunch), the food delivery services, the weekly menu delivery companies, and others that are exploiting photographers by paying them next to nothing for their food photography, YOU ARE DEAD WRONG.
The problem is that you haven’t figured out yet the REAL costs of being a food photographer. That’s why this needs to be another post. Every job is different, but please know that you will fail as a food photographer if you keep working for all those companies that pay $50 for 10 shots or $150 for 200 shots!!!
Just the thought of that is absolutely disgusting to me, and I’m so sad to say that this new “business model” is here to stay because so many of you are willing to work for next to nothing, or worse, free!
STOP SHOOTING FOR THE FOOD BLOGGERS THAT ARE ONLY PAYING YOU $25- $50 PER POST!!!!!!!!!
When I heard that this was going on – I really lost it. If you are one of these bloggers, bring it girl! There is nothing you can say that can justify this.
If you are a food blogger exploiting other food bloggers to do YOUR blog posts for $25-$50, SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!! How dare you treat your fellow food bloggers this way. It is absolutely disgusting. You wouldn’t work for that rate, so why should somebody else?
Just do the math on the hours it takes to do a food blog post and you will see that it will actually cost that poor blogger money to do that post for you for $25-$50.
Don’t you dare say, “oh look at all the exposure they will get”. You won’t even give them photo credit, AND it’s common practice that you say, “your fellow food blogger” must give up all their rights for this measly $25 job!!!
Are you kidding me??????? Even McDonald’s does not get my copyright for a day rate of thousands of dollars, so how dare you demand this of the people you are exploiting. Shame on you!
Honestly I just can’t scream this loud enough. This is women taking advantage of other women because they know there will be several food bloggers lining up to take the job because they don’t realize their own self worth.
This is the worst kind of abuse in this industry, by far. Absolutely disgusting.
If you are the food blogger signing up for this bull sh!t contract – I need to ask you right now – which limiting belief do you have? Are your images not “good enough” to charge what you are worth? Or the “I need more practice” blogger. These are you limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
I am here to tell you – your photography is just as good, if not BETTER than the blogger that is exploiting you for your photography!!!!!!!! That is why she hired you! So stop doing this work right now. You are wasting your time that could be used to get REAL paying clients.
So, you really need to look inside and figure out why are you letting these bloggers do this to you, and use your work for so little money? You will never be able to make a living as a food photographer, OR professional food blogger by working for these people.
Ok, so those were harsh words that quite honestly had to be said. I say them with love and a huge hug. No one else will tell you this.
You are worth so much more than you think.
So, what is your next step? What is your next goal? What are the jobs that you want? Write this down and make these jobs your goal!
If you know someone who is working for free, or for not enough money, please forward this to them.
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