Guest Post: When To Hire a Food Photographer
I recently met Sarah E Crowder through Brooklyn FoodWorks, where we both mentor food entrepreneurs. She has skills in an area I'm rather clueless, food photography, and made me feel smarter about the topic in a matter of minutes. So, we thought it would be fun to have her do a guest post on food photography and how to think about the process for your food business.
When to Hire a Food Photographer
When I’m chatting with or mentoring food entrepreneurs, one of the most frequently asked questions is: When should I hire a professional photographer? My short answer to that question is to hire a food, product, or brand photographer as soon as you can, but I think my longer answer is much more helpful.
As a business owner, you are ultimately responsible for deciding when to invest in high-quality images, but I can give you some guiding questions to help you confidently make that decision. Here are some factors to consider:
Do you have a clear brand identity? Before hiring a professional photographer, you need to get clear on your brand’s visual presence and voice. While these may change over time, going through an initial branding process will help your photographer create cohesive images to represent your business.
What is your marketing strategy? If you can’t answer this question yet, you’re not ready to hire a photographer. Work with a marketing professional or do your own research to nail down your target audience, positioning, and social media marketing strategy. These, combined with your brand platform, will inform the look and content of your photos.
As with branding, your approach may evolve as you learn more about your customers, but having a starting point will help you get the most out of the images. Oh, and along with that marketing strategy make sure you’ve defined your marketing budget! This will help you decide how much you can invest in professional photography.
Where are you selling? Are your products sold predominantly in retail stores or e-commerce? Maybe you’re currently selling one way but want to make a shift. The point here is that you may be able to get away with amateur photography a little longer if you are selling in a brick and mortar store, since customers can see and touch the product in person. If you're selling online, you probably want to invest in high quality images earlier, since that's the main thing your customers will interact with when buying.
Keep in mind that people enjoy looking up and keeping in touch with brands online, so your visual presence there can affect the impression of customers shopping in physical stores. If you’re selling online, the images displayed there may be the only visual potential buyers have to influence their decision. Professional photography will make your product look as good as (or even better than!) it does in person to help you make the sale.
Can you create beautiful images in-house? Do you, or does someone on your team, have the time and inclination to learn about food or product photography? Do you have a social media intern who’s skilled with a camera? Some photographers, like myself, even offer company photography training. I’ve met food entrepreneurs who love and have a good eye for taking photos for their brand and therefore outsource it last. Others hire a professional photographer at the outset, so they can use that time and energy to grow the business in other ways. Also consider you may choose to use a combination of professional and internally-produced photography on your website and social media.
These questions, in combination with your unique circumstances and goals, can help you make an educated and assured decision on when to hire a professional photographer for your food brand. Whether you’re excited or apprehensive about making the investment, in my experience the ROI of an impressive, professional visual presence online and in printed marketing materials is invaluable.
Have other questions? Want to learn more about a specific part of food photography mentioned above? Leave a comment below!