4 Things You Should Be Prepared To Discuss When Investing In Professional Food Photography

By Gwendolen Squires
April 8, 2021

This week’s post comes to us from Gwendolen Squires, a food and product photographer who specializes in creating custom photography for gourmet packaged foods. Based in Los Angeles, she works to bring the transformative power bold, beautiful imagery to packaged food producers big and small.

Congratulations - you’re at the point where you're ready to start investing in your brand by hiring a pro to capture your brand and make it stand out from the crowd. Your images are going to be scroll-stopping, loyalty-building and oh so beautiful, but before you get on the phone or start reaching out to your favorite product photographers, there are four things you should be prepared to discuss. a few things that you should make sure you are ready to discuss. Knowing where you stand on these topics will ensure you can get the best return on your photography investment.

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photos by Gwendolen Squires

Make sure you know how and where you want to use your images

You should be prepared for your photographer to bring up licensing and usage. More often than not, when I ask client’s what they plan on using the images for they say ‘everything’. At first, it sounds great to have full licensing rights, but if you understand how licensing works you’ll know this can mean your incurring additional unneeded costs, since images rights are billed based on the usage and the estimated number of views each image could have. For instance, if you plan on using this image on your sell sheet, there will be a lot less views of it than there will be for a billboard image facing rush hour traffic in a major city. So telling your photographer what you’re going to use the images for means that they don’t have to assume that you’ll be needing those billboard rights. This means that you’re going to save money if you can be upfront with what you plan on using the images for, and remember that you can always pay for additional licensing if you need it in the future.

An additional benefit of making sure your photographer knows how you plan on using the images, is that they can tailor the creation of your images (both in setting up the framing, shooting, and while editing) to ensure that the images do what you need them to do in the locations you plan on using them. For instance, if one of your goals is to update your website banner, your photographer will need to shoot in a horizontal format, and style all the components of the image to fit within a 16:9 aspect ratio (or whatever sizes your site uses!) - which is far narrower than a typical horizontal image.

Social media uses are another common example where it helps to know your orientation in advance. If your photographer shoots your images in a 4:5 ratio, but you always post in square (1:1), you could end up cropping out significant parts of your image and possibly even your product, as you crop the image. I also like to bump up the brightness of my clients social media images so they stand out a little more as most people have their phone brightness lowered.

These are just a couple of examples why knowing the usage will save you time and money if you’re able to articulate them up front.


photo by Gwendolen Squires

Understand whether you need a stylist or not

You should be prepared to talk to your photographer about stylists - prop, wardrobe, food etc. Stylists are critical to big productions so if you’re planning on having highly produced images where every leaf and crumb has been placed just-so, or your idea includes multiple moving parts, it’s probably good to consider whether you can afford a stylist and whether your photographer is comfortable using a stylist. Plan on asking your photographer if they styled what is in their portfolio, or if they had help so you have a good idea of what you can expect. Some photographers really do do everything themselves - which can save you money - but a stylist will ensure that the food looks it’s best, that the props convey the feeling you’re going for and the clothes do not fit awkwardly. I once had a model show up in a stained shirt 2 sizes too big - let me tell you how much I had asked for a wardrobe stylist on THAT shoot. So, if you want to ensure that there aren't any calamities and you have the budget, a stylist might be a good fit.

Be able to communicate who your ideal customer is and what brand values you have

You should be prepared to talk about your target audience ideal client and the values behind your brand. Do you know who you made your product for? If you don’t, or if you can’t articulate it clearly, you and your photographer may not be on the same page. Photographers are full of ideas, but in order for them to execute your ideas in a way that benefits your brand, you’ve got to give them a framework. The easiest way to do this is by letting them in on the psychographics and socio-economic information, so the photographer can tailor their ideas to suit your specific market segment.

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photos by Gwendolen Squires

Make sure your product timeline matches your image needs

This one is a little tricky because the landscape shifts so much. I can tell you that if you do not have a package for your product, I would seriously reconsider whether you’re ready for a substantial professional photography investment. Being 2 steps ahead is great, but without your final branding and packaging, it’s going to limit your opportunities to use the images that are produced, or that you’ll need to update them in the near future. Additionally, if you haven’t had your recipe formulated by your copacker yet (this is specific to food brands), because the viscosity or color might change slightly which can impact your final images and might lead to a need to retouch or reshoot all your images once that process is complete.

While investing in professional photography can be intimidating, preparing these four things can help you feel more confident AND get exactly what you are looking for out of a shoot!

Thanks for reading these tips! I always love to hear from brands, so I invite you DM me on Instagram if you have any questions, want to connect, or want additional resources or ideas for your next shoot. If you’d like to know more about me or my work, feel free to check out my website Gwendolen Squires.