Approximately 132,100 photographers work in the United States, and more than 63 percent are self-employed. Many food photographers contract their work out with stock photo agencies, which sell photos to large publishers and other companies for general use. Others are hired by food manufacturers, cookbook publishers, food magazines, and restaurants, either full-time or on a contract basis.
Because it can be hard to find a full-time job or start working for yourself right out of school, most new food photographers choose to work as assistants to food stylists or photographers. In this position, you can learn the details of the job hands-on and make professional contacts for use later in your career. Some photographers never even end up becoming full-fledged photographers, but choose to continue to work as assistants for better-paying or more prestigious photographers.
A photography or culinary degree is not required to work in this job, but formal education will make it easier to break into the industry and attract clients and will serve as a measure of your skills.
Food photographers can advance in their careers by moving from working for someone else to owning their own business. They may also advance by increasing their client base and working for more prestigious magazines, publishers, or companies. Others become food stylists.
Tips for Entry
Start developing a portfolio of your work so that you are ready to begin looking for jobs once you graduate. Include only your best work.
Create your own Web site that showcases your food photography and advertises your services.
Join professional associations to access training and networking opportunities, publications, and employment opportunities.
Read publications to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers and study how food photography is used in advertisements and articles.