I styled and took my first food photo on November 22, 2020. If you would've told me then that I'd make 7K in year 1 of food photography, I'd probably be speechless and think you were joking. But here we are-- one year into food photography, and my revenue is over $7,000 this year. What?! Here's the first shot I took:
If you're an experienced food photographer, 7K is like pennies! But if you're new to food photography like me, you're probably wondering how I was able to generate so much revenue in just my first year. There are three ways I made money this year, ranked from most profitable to least profitable:
- Recipe Photography
- Brand Photography
- Sponsored Content
But before I jump into the numbers, I've gotta talk about something REALLY important.
a note on working for free
From the very first partnership I took on, I charged money for my food photography. Yes-- even when I was only doing food photography for a month! I've never worked for free or accepted products as payment for my photography. If I did, I wouldn't have made thousands of dollars this year.
If you think you can't charge for your photography because you're "too new" or "just starting out" or "don't know what you're doing" or "aren't good enough yet," STOP. Get rid of that mindset ASAP! All the reasons running through your head about why you can't charge money for your photography are holding you back.
Stop limiting yourself in that way. You don't have to work for free-- and I beg you not to do this. Your photography is valuable! I promise you! You can make money doing food photography too. I'm not special.
Okay. Now that we've covered this, let's get into how I made 7K in year 1 of food photography. I know that's why you're here.
Recipe photography was my #1 income source this year! Recipe photography entails taking photos of another food blogger's existing recipe. I make the recipe at home and take shots of the process and finished product. A lot of bloggers will hire me to take new photos of their oldest recipes that are outdated or need to be redone.
I had three recipe photography clients this year, and two of them were ongoing clients which made the work fairly consistent.
Typically, recipe photography does not pay anything extravagant. It's not where the big bucks lie, so to speak. However, over $5,000 of my income came from recipe photography this year. This was because of the volume of shoots I had and the consistent work I had coming from these clients. It all adds up!
recipe photography breakdown
17 recipe photoshoots = $5,000+ in revenue
As you can see, even though I made over 5K doing recipe photography, I had to complete 17 recipe photoshoots to get to that number. That's quite a lot!
The next biggest source of income was brand photography. This is currently my favorite type of work to take on because it's so rewarding to work with food brands and see my work being used to market popular food products!
For brand photography, the food company ships me their product(s) to photograph in my home studio. The photos are then used on the brand's website, social media, digital promotions, etc. The content for these jobs is not shared on my own personal platforms-- it's just for the brand!
Each job is different depending on what the product is and what the brand's marketing goals are, so it's fun to get something new each time. Typically, brand photography is what pays the big bucks. Brand photography is for commercial use-- meaning the photos I take are being used to sell products and generate revenue for the brand.
That means the payment for these types of jobs is much higher since the photos are directly increasing revenue for the company. If you're doing brand photography, make sure you're taking commercial use into account and charging the right amount!
brand photography breakdown
2 brand photoshoots = $1,650+ in revenue
The payout for commercial brand photography is much higher than photographing for bloggers. Understanding commercial licensing is important!
The last income stream (and smallest this year) was sponsored content on Instagram. I accepted my first sponsored content partnership in January 2021. That's just two months after I started food photography!
Guess how many followers I had on Instagram at this time? Less than 500. Yes, I was getting paid for sponsored content with less than 500 followers! I'm telling you, don't work for free. Even when you're super new, you can charge for your work!
Granted, I did not charge a lot for this first partnership for sponsored content. However, my second sponsored content partnership was in August when I had around 1,500 followers. I knew more about pricing at this point in my business, so I charged a few hundred dollars for this sponsored post.
Update 3/17/22 - If you're reading this in 2022, I recommend you charge way more than a few hundred dollars for sponsored work. Early this year, when I had around 5k IG followers, I charged over $1,600 for a sponsored post. Why am I sharing this? So you don't ask brands to pay you $50 or $100 for a sponsored post. Please, you can charge more than this, even if you have fewer followers than me. It's all about how you position yourself.
Even when I didn't have many followers in the grand scheme of "Instagram influencers," I got paid a fair wage. So please use me as proof that you can and should be charging for your photography and content creation, no matter how "small" you think you are!
sponsored content breakdown
2 sponsored posts = $300+ in revenue
I only promote products I genuinely use and enjoy, so I didn't take on a lot of sponsored content jobs this year and turned away the brands that didn't align with my values or audience. Still, I was able to make over $300 with this, so it all counts.
year 1 reflection
Between recipe photography, brand photography, and sponsored content, I've generated over $7,000 in revenue this year and I am super proud of that! Back in October, I was sitting around $3,500 in revenue and made a goal to hit 5k by the end of the year.
I'm beyond thrilled to not only have met my revenue goal, but I made 2k more than I thought! This isn't to brag or be boastful... but it's to show you that you can do this too. If you're not charging for your work or charging very little (less than $400 per job), then you need to increase those rates, my friend!
I think it's so important to talk about money in the photography industry. I see so many people drastically undercharging for their work and it makes me so sad!
Food photography is a very big industry and I am proof that you can be successful at this and make money doing this, even when you're just starting out in the field. Your work has to be impactful and high-quality, but if you put the effort in and treat it as a business, you are on the right track. I hope this blog post has encouraged you and helped you get over any mental hurdles you have about money!
other common income sources
There are so many other ways to make money in this industry, too. I've only talked about the three revenue streams that I personally had this year, but there are more. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- ad revenue
- affiliate income
- recipe development
Ad revenue (advertising revenue) is when a food blogger partners with an advertising network. The ad network places advertisements on the blogger's website and the blogger gets monthly revenue from this.
Most ad networks worth pursuing have a minimum requirement of 50K monthly sessions (number of people who visit your site per month). I just launched my blog in August, so I'm nowhere near this number quite yet. However, it's a big income source for many well-known bloggers with lots of traffic!
Many food bloggers and Instagram influencers are part of affiliate programs. The way this usually works is the blogger will promote a certain product and link to it in their blog posts/Instagram. For every person that purchases the product through that link, they get a commission of the sale.
I am not an affiliate for anything and I don't see myself doing this much in the future unless it's for a product I use all the time or would truly recommend. Unless you have a huge audience, affiliate income doesn't amount to very much, but it's still something to mention here.
Another way to make money in the field of food blogging is recipe development. Instead of doing recipe photography and taking photos of food, recipe development is exactly what it sounds like: developing recipes for a food brand or blogger.
I'm much more passionate about photography than I am about recipe development, so I haven't taken on any clients for this yet. However, if you're a big fan of creating recipes from scratch or have a background in this, it could be an awesome way to make some money!
goals for year 2
As I said, I'm thrilled that I was able to make over $7,000 this year. I was able to prove to myself that I can pursue this as a career, and I know it's only the very beginning!
As I look ahead to 2022, I have some big goals. Like, really big. I want to triple or quadruple my revenue from year 1 and start working with more brands since this is what I'm most passionate about. Perhaps I'll write another post like this next year, too!
I'd love to know what your goals are for the new year. They can be anything! Leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram anytime. I'd love to chat!
more food photography resources
I hope you found this post helpful and I hope it encouraged you to start charging a proper rate for your photography.
As I update this post in March 2022, I have some VERY exciting news to share. I am launching a course in summer 2022 to teach aspiring food photographers how to grow a profitable business in the food photography industry. We're covering everything from how to find clients, what to charge, understanding licensing and contracts, and ultimately how to have successful partnerships that make you a lot of money! Sound like something you want to be a part of? Sign up for my email list to be the first to know when it officially goes live.
In the meantime, you might be interested in signing up for one-on-one coaching with me, which allows me to help you immediately. You might find these food photography resources helpful, too! Check them out: