It’s been almost four years since I left my office job, and it has been a wild ride. I’ve learned a lot since starting my food photography business. I’m not going to lie and say that the road has been smooth sailing because it hasn’t. Running a business was never something I planned to do. Sure, I would scribble down potential business ideas from time to time. But at the end of the day, I’d always come back to my office job. Through the years, I’ve experienced so many ups and downs and learned so many lessons that I’d like to share with you.
There’s a difference between being an artist or photographer and being in the photography business. You need to be creative but also have a business sense. Taking management courses helped me understand how to run a business, and it helped me create accurate quotes for my leads.
While you need to make sure you’re building your portfolio and marketing yourself, you also need to remember other aspects of running your own business. You need to make sure you’re staying on top of finances, keeping good records of all the income and expenses going into your business, and ensuring that everything is running smoothly.
Unfortunately, some companies will not think twice about taking advantage of young and aspiring photographers. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, there will always be a company looking to under-value your work and underpay you.
Food photography is a heavily saturated market, and because of this, there are companies out there looking to exploit photographers. They want high-quality images, but they don’t want to pay you your worth. As far as they see it, there’s always another photographer who will do it cheaper.
Trust your instincts and walk away from anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve. If you feel like you’re getting exploited, you probably are.
Get clear on what your time is worth and stick with it. If a client wants a rush job done for less than the standard rate, say no (politely). Do not let clients talk you down in price because they want something done quickly. The reality is you have to be able to pay your bills and live your life – which means charging a fee that will earn you enough money from each assignment.
Start networking! This industry is very small, and everyone knows everyone else at some point. Even though there are many food photographers in this market, it’s still a word-of-mouth industry. Meaning, yes, I get clients who find me on Google, but the majority of my jobs come from word-of-mouth recommendations. That wouldn’t happen without building relationships with chefs, stylists, art directors, and production companies over the years.
Burn out is a real thing, y’all. If you don’t take the time to rest and fully recharge your battery, you will burn out fast and hard. So make time in your schedule to spend time with your friends, exercise, eat healthily. Take care of your mind, soul, and body.
When you run your own business, you need to take care of yourself first. That does not mean putting yourself first at the expense of others. Rather, it means setting boundaries and making sure you live a balanced life to be at your best in all that you do.
To conclude, I’ve learned a lot since starting my business four years ago. Running a business is harder than you’d think, but it’s also at the same time quite liberating, and the joys far outweigh the difficulties. I deeply enjoy working for myself and doing what I love.
The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you treat your business like your business and not a hobby, then it will grow into something spectacular.
Do you want to make your food look delicious? You’ve come to the right place. Austin Food Guide is a full-service commercial food photography agency specializing in high-quality photos for restaurants, cookbooks, and CPG brands. Check out our portfolio and contact us to get started.