What do I need to know before asking for an estimate?

There are some questions I will ask every client who requests a quote or estimate.

We can go through these questions by phone or I can send them by email, whichever is more convenient.

The reason why I ask these questions is because I need to know the size of the project, the time it will take or the related expenses. Most importantly, I need to understand your vision and what you really want or expect from your photographer. This way I can delivered a product that meets and hopefully exceeds your expectations.

So, let’s start.

What type of images do you want?

Let’s say you are looking for photos for your restaurant. You may want photos of the plated dishes, of the restaurant interior, photos of the chef, photos of drinks and cocktails or perhaps you want lifestyle images, etc.

Action shots

Food photography levitating waffle with melted chocolate

There are some photos that are more difficult to produce than others.  For example, if you want a photo where a liquid is being poured onto something or maybe a photo of flying food, then I’ll need to take that into consideration, because these types of shots take longer to execute and edit than static food photos.

There are a lot of options here and you should have a clear understanding of what you want me to capture.

How many photos do you need?

Perhaps you don’t have an exact number of images yet, but I strongly recommend to take the time and calculate an approximate amount. It’s is not the same to quote for 10 images than for 40.

How many products or dishes are going to be photograph?

If you are a restaurant, you should know how many dishes you want me to photograph and if you are a brand, how many products.

How many scenes per dish do you need?

By scene I’m referring to setups. For example, let’s say you want a bowl of soup to be photograph on a dark background with dark props at a 0° angle, but also want a photo of the same dish on a white background, with light props at a 45° angle. In this case you are asking for two different setups. It’s different and takes more time to photograph a dish/product with two setups than one, since you have to change everything around the subject.

Do you have a shot list?

What is a shot list?

A shot list is a checklist of the images you want to capture during a shoot.

I need to know exactly what I will be shooting in order to estimate how long the shoot will take. It is ok if you don’t have a list yet, but you should know that if you don’t have it, I will need to make it and give it to you for approval to ensure that everything goes smoothly the day of the shoot. This adds pre-production time.

What is the food to be photograph?

Is it burgers, sandwiches, ice creams, cakes, sushi? Some foods are trickier to photograph than others and can make a shoot take longer than expected.  

What props are needed for the images and who is supplying those props?

What are props?

Props are supporting elements that add meaning to the main subject in a photo. For example, surfaces, plates, silverware, linens, etc.

I need to know what props you want to include in your images and who is providing them. Keep in mind that if you want specifics props and I am suppling them, I will spend time hunting and buying them, which increases the costs. 

Who will be styling the food?

What is a food stylist

A food stylist is a professional that prepares food for photographs. They make food looks as perfect as possible for the camera using styling tools and techniques, and in some cases, they prepare and cook the food as well.

Food styling itself is an art, as is photography as. It requires knowledge and education in culinary science and design. Although I know and can apply some food styling techniques during a photoshoot to correct or improve something I see out of place, I don’t consider myself as a food stylist.

Depending on the type of food, the budget and the results you want to achieve, you may or not need a food stylist.

If you have the budget and want the food to look as beautiful and delicious as possible, I recommend you hire a food stylist.

If you have a tiny budget or if the chef is very good at plating the dishes you probably won’t need a food stylist.

Serving food for clients and serving food for photography are two different things. Some foods like burgers, sandwiches, ice creams and meats are difficult to style and if you want them to look awesome in the photos, you should hire a food stylist. I guarantee you will notice the difference.

My rates don’t include food styling services. I can recommend some professionals from the area, but I don’t work directly with them.

What is the intended use for the images?

You should know what will be the use for all your images. Are they going to be used on Instagram, Facebook, your printed menu, your website, maybe on a package, etc. The reasons:

Aspects ratios and sizes

Different uses usually mean different sizes and aspects ratios. For example, if you want an image to be use on an Instagram post the aspect ratio will be 4:5, but if you want to use the same image for a Facebook ad the aspect ratio will be 9:16, for vertical shots. The dimensions for images meant to be used on a website are different than images for social media usage.

Horizontal or vertical?

Another example is a dish/product image that is going to be used as a website banner. That image probably needs to be shot horizontally and because of the aspect ratio, the composition or placement of the elements into the frame needs to be different in such a way that everything fits well. Let’s say you want an image of the exact same dish/product, but in this case for use as a part of a menu (digital and printed), then I will probably need to shoot that image in a vertical orientation (depending on the layout of the menu), which means to crop the image at a different aspect ratio.

As a result, I will need to compose, shoot and edit those images separately, which increases the time I will spend producing it, even though it is the same dish/product.


Now, let’s say that you want to put a text overlay on the images for an ad flyer. In this case I will need to leave a certain amount of negative space for that text while taking the shot. If I don’t know that information beforehand, the chances that the text will fit correctly are lower.

The format file of the images could vary depending of the usage as well. You designer could need the images in PNG, JPEG or TIFF format. So, ask to your designers beforehand or tell them to communicate with the photographer directly.

As you can see, the more information you can give me about the uses of the images, the more likely it is that I will deliver a final product that meets your needs.

Usage rights

This is a complex subject, so I will be explaining it in another post.

What is the budget for your project?

I know this can be an intimidating question and the chances the majority of clients want to answer it are low. The deal is that if for example you are asking for 40 photos of burgers and sandwiches, with 2 different setups each and your budget is $200 I will immediately know that you are not a good fit for me and that could save us a lot of time going back and forth. On the other hand, if you tell me that your budget is $200, I probably will tell you what I can offer you for that price and we can negotiate from there; in this way you can decide if I am a good fit for you, and again save us a lot of time.

When do you need to shoot by and when do you need final images?

The pre-production phase for a photoshoot takes at least one day and the editing time of the final images takes a few days. If you expect the photos to be shot the next day you contacted me and be delivered within one day after the shoot, I probably won’t take the job due to the of the lack of time and because I don’t want to deliver a low-quality job.