Food Photographer: Job Description and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a food photographer. Learn about the education and training requirements and discover some other tips that can help you pursue a career in food photography. View article »

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  • 0:01 Food Photographers
  • 0:33 Career Information
  • 1:21 Step 1: Earn a Degree
  • 2:10 Step 2: Take a Workshop
  • 2:57 Step 3: Build a Portfolio
  • 3:32 Step 4: Join an Organization

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Video Transcript

Food Photographers

Professional food photographers work alongside food stylists to create images of food for use in advertising, menus, cookbooks and other media. Prospective food photographers must be proficient with a digital camera and related technologies. They also need a creative and instinctual expertise in arranging food in an appetizing and appealing way. Photography jobs are typically freelance-based and highly competitive.

Career Information

Degree Level None; bachelor's degree or formal training may be helpful
Degree Fields Art, photography
Key Skills Creativity and attention to detail; technical photography skills and experience with digital cameras, computer editing software, and digital printing; interpersonal, business, and marketing skills
Salary $31,710 (2015 median annual wage for all photographers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Food photographers should be creative and detail oriented and experienced in the use of digital cameras and printing and the use of computer editing software. A knowledge of business and marketing and good interpersonal skills can also help them succeed in the field. While not necessarily required to work as a food photographer, a bachelor's degree or formal training in art or photography may be helpful. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), photographers in general can expect a 3%, or slower-than-average increase in job openings from 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, they earned a median annual salary of $31,710. Let's take a look at the steps that can help you pursue a career as a food photographer.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

While not a requirement for employment, earning a degree in photography helps aspiring food photographers acquire skills and experience. Undergraduate degree programs in photography, available at community colleges, technical schools and universities, teach students how to creatively arrange and frame a photograph and properly operate a digital camera. Photography courses typically include topics in lighting, composition, editing and printing. Graduates of photography programs may have a competitive edge when seeking employment.

Take Business and Marketing Courses

According to the BLS, photography students interested in freelancing or self-employment may also benefit from accounting, business and marketing courses through which they can learn how to manage and promote their own businesses.

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Step 2: Take a Workshop

Food photography workshops can serve as an alternative training route, but aspiring professionals with degrees may also participate. Taught by professional photographers, workshops focus solely on how to photograph food in a visually appealing way. Some food photography workshops might function like traditional classes and meet weekly, while others are destination-workshops that include lodging and daily class meetings. Some are event offered online.

Practice at Home

Even introductory food photography workshops require a basic knowledge of how to operate a digital camera. Before enrolling in a workshop, prospective food photographers should practice at home and familiarize themselves with the basic functions of shooting a digital camera in manual mode.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio

Food photographers should always have both a print and digital copy of their portfolios, or a collection of their best work, to show potential clients or employers. In addition, creating a website showcasing previous work may also prove beneficial when seeking employment.

Take High Quality Images

Images used in a portfolio should always be taken in high resolution to be of the highest quality and clarity.

Include Some Variety

Portfolios should include photographs of a variety of foods taken at different angles, which can demonstrate versatility and uniqueness of style.

Step 4: Join an Organization

Joining an association, such as the International Association of Culinary Professionals - Food Photographer and Stylist division, provides professionals in the field the opportunity to attend networking and development activities, as well as stay current on trends in the industry.

If you're still interested in pursuing a career as a food photographer, earning a bachelor's degree in art or photography and/or attending a food photography workshop may help you succeed in the field. As noted by the BLS, photographers in general earned a median annual salary of $31,710 in May 2015.

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