How to Maximize the Return on Your Photography Budget

How to Maximize the Return on Your Photography Budget

Photography can make or break a food brand. Your photos set customer expectations and help create appetite appeal when you aren’t there to sell your brand or offer someone a sample to try.

Photography can be an expensive investment, yet powerful images are vital for your brand’s message. When you finally decide to invest in new images, ensuring that these photos will serve you for several seasons and reasons is also a must.

Understanding how and where you will use your images beyond the immediate project can help you maximize your return.

Creative freedom and terms of use are on the pricier end of the spectrum. But there are affordable services you may use in the market, too. Hence, the emphasis on careful planning when allotting a chunk of your budget to marketing materials. 

In this episode, I cover 3 sources of food photography, give a range of cost expectations, and provide tips to consider how, where, and why to spend on each type of imagery. From online services for catalog photos to hiring a studio photographer or collaborating with food bloggers, I got you covered!

Virginia Foodie Essentials:

  • Evergreen content is anything you create that can live beyond a single use. - Georgiana Dearing
  • When planning your budget and deciding how to invest in your marketing assets, be sure to consider the life of the content. - Georgiana Dearing
  • People love to support craft beverage brands by making work-in trade. What you need to remember is that nothing is really free. - Georgiana Dearing
  • A pro photographer should be the person you turn to when trying to capture lifestyle imagery and very specific brand messaging. - Georgiana Dearing
  • Hire food bloggers if you’re able to use them for recipe development or if they’re able to provide content that is customized for you. - Georgiana Dearing
  • When you’re considering investing in photography, take a moment and plan how you can use the imagery on all the content streams you control. - Georgiana Dearing
  • Invest in a cloud storage system with unlimited backup, and then create a file naming convention for storing your photos in an organized manner. - Georgiana Dearing

Key Points From This Episode:

  • You control content in these 5 places:
    • Your Website
    • Your Packaging
    • Your Sell Sheets and Catalogs
    • Email Marketing
    • Social Media Streams
  • Evergreen content is a way to make your marketing budget stretch further. Evergreen content is anything you create that lives longer than a single campaign.
  • The opposite of evergreen content is trending content, or anything with a limited lifespan in your communication channels. 
  • Planning photography beforehand ensures you can get the most use out of the photos you purchase. Plan your photoshoots before you seek quotes.
  • Catalog photography is necessary for eCommerce and your sell sheets and catalogs.
  • Catalog photography can also be used in social media and email marketing, especially if you are able to change the background to a more exciting, topical style.
  • Professional photographers are your most significant investment, giving you the broadest creative control.
  • Hire Professional photographers for lifestyle photography and photos that convey a brand message. 
  • Food Bloggers are another resource for photography, but they give you limited creative control.
  • Use stock photography and copyright-free images thoughtfully and with caution.
  • Read the fine print of your contracts and licensing agreements.
  • Hiring a photographer can be complicated and expensive, but you can get the most potential out of your product.
  • Food bloggers can provide an interesting point of view of your product or brand, but the content should fit theirs instead of your business.
  • Beware of favor photography as there are definitely some trade-offs for the service.

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      Full Transcript:

      Note: We use AI transcription so there may be some inaccuracies

      [00:00:00] Georgiana Dearing: Create a file naming convention for storing your photos in an organized manner. I've heard people tell me that this is too much work. The 15 minutes you spend filing images after you receive them, saves you 15 minutes of hunting every time you need a photo. Every time you wanna use that photo again for some evergreen content.

      [00:00:26] Welcome to the Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered how did they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business?

      [00:00:45] Then we've got some stories for you.

      [00:00:50] Hello and welcome back, my Foodie family if you're new to the podcast and welcome and thank you for spending some time with me. I'm George Dearing and I provide marketing strategy and coaching for good food brands, and today is another marketing Monday episode. It's another day for me to share insights and tips about marketing for packaged good food brands In my coaching group, marketing Made Easy.

      [00:01:15] We focus on the five items, good brands need, and a healthy marketing platform. That's your sales strategy, your annual marketing plan, budgeting for both time and money management systems and evergreen content, and I'd like to talk about that last one, evergreen content. An important way to get the most out of your marketing budget is to be sure you're leveraging evergreen content.

      [00:01:43] And if you haven't heard the term before, evergreen content is anything you create that can live on beyond a single use. So the opposite of evergreen content is trending content. So here's an example of the difference. Your catalog photography is evergreen because you can use it for the life of your product, or at least for the life of your package.

      [00:02:05] But trending content is adding that package photo to a chair next to an image of Bernie Sanders bundled up in those epic mittens. Of course, you wanna use trends when they're appropriate for your brand, but you shouldn't spend too much time or money on fleeting messages. When planning your budget and deciding how to invest in your marketing assets, be sure to consider the life of the content you wanna make sure you maximize your.

      [00:02:35] On the evergreen components of your photo and video, spend any paid content that you might hire for, and your website copy. Your website is a pretty expensive investment, and so you wanna make sure you get the most out of that. But today I'm gonna talk about that photography or video investment because photography is the very first place a packaged food brand knows it needs to spend.

      [00:03:01] But I always hear this from my clients, especially from emerging brands. Photo shoots are really expensive. You know, you need photos, but they also take a big bite out of your budget. So today I'm gonna explore three kinds of photography investments, and I'll share how you can make the most of your span on catalog photography, hiring a professional photographer and photos from food bloggers.

      [00:03:29] Catalog photography. That's probably the first thing you think about. Getting the cost range for that is gonna run you between 50 and $150 in image. Now, you may be using a local photographer, but there are budget services online like Sunna Studio, Nula Trend Owe places where you ship your photos and then you choose from a packaged set of imagery for your.

      [00:03:56] And so what do you expect for that 50 to $150 per image spend? Well, here's what you get. You're gonna get standardized imagery, standardized formats. You're gonna get limited creative direction, especially with those packaged online companies. You're gonna get limited environments or props, and then hopefully you'll get background removal and images on white sweep.

      [00:04:23] Now that standardized format in standardized imagery, that is really important for e-commerce because what you want is for all of your packages to be consistently lined up and in this same proportion to each other. So when someone is scrolling through your site, they're getting a way to compare one product to the next, and things are jumping all over the place.

      [00:04:46] The other thing you wanna do is make sure you are hiring for professional catalog photography, because the last thing you wanna do is have dark, dim, and dingy imagery on your site, cuz that's a real turnoff for sales. Now when you hire those online platforms, there's a lot of things that you also won't get.

      [00:05:07] And at that 50 to $150 price, you won't get full creative control. You're not gonna get unlimited revisions, and you're not gonna get unlimited storage of your photos. You're not gonna get much file management either, and you're definitely not gonna get cooking. So catalog photography is pretty standardized.

      [00:05:26] And at 50 to $150 in image, it's probably one of the lower price points for photography that you're gonna. So when you're looking at that, one thing you want to do to maximize this opportunity is to opt in for any add-ons like gifts, gifs, or video, any motion that you can add on to that. You wanna go ahead and invest in that extra spend because you've already spent for shipping it.

      [00:05:50] You've already spent the time sort of planning your photo shoot. You've done all these togethers, and usually you can add on a gif or a video. For not much more like a 10, $20 or something like that. And so here's a big tip before you start your catalog photography. Project, and that is to write down your photo needs first, and then check your budget before signing up and getting a quote.

      [00:06:18] Because I want you to also get a quote for someone local too. You may have a big enough need to hire somebody nearby for half a day, and there are people who could do catalog photography for maybe $600 for a half. That are, would be local to you, and as long as they're able to standardize their photography and give you that white sweep and some background and removal, you may find that it's a breakeven cost.

      [00:06:44] So that's the first thing. Make sure you know your entire list of needs before you go to those online services. Now, online services are great if you're doing onesie twosies because that's a really affordable way to get decent and. E-Commerce catalog photo. The next kind of photography I wanna talk about is hiring that professional food photographer.

      [00:07:10] So when I talked about hiring somebody local for $600 for a half day, that's typically a small business photographer who's sort of being a jack of all trades. One of the trade-offs with them is that you are going to have to pay attention to the tools they are using when they go to shoot your photography.

      [00:07:29] And an important one is like locking down that. That's why if you're not experienced at hiring photography, I would say go to one of those online e-commerce services first to get your product photography. But a professional food photographer is someone who makes their entire career out of shooting food, and they're a person who's gonna devote a day or half a day for you.

      [00:07:53] And this used to be the only way to get your photography. But now there are people who are very specialized in this. Now the costs are gonna range at the very low end, maybe $2,000, and all the way up to five to $7,000 a day, and a minimum charge is half a day. What you get for that spend is you're going to get a photographer, all of their lighting and equipment, possibly a stylist or an assistant who's working with them.

      [00:08:21] You're gonna get what I consider full creative direction and that you. Express to them your needs and what you're trying to do. But you will be hiring a photographer who has a particular style that they work in. So you wanna make sure you're not asking for a direction that they may not be comfortable providing, but you will be able to say, I want this, this, and that shot in this way, which is a lot more creative.

      [00:08:48] Then when you're hiring those budget online services, you also will get some follow up support. There'll be image, touch up and image approval, and you can expect to get 10 to 20 photos out of that day's shoot. And that ends up being about 200 to $500 per image, depending on where that falls within the quoted price and the services that they're.

      [00:09:14] You should also make sure that you get unlimited use rates. There are still some photographers who are trying to track the life of a photo before a small brand and an investment that steep. You wanna make sure that you aren't responsible for saying, oh, here is the second anniversary of this photo and I need to stop using it.

      [00:09:35] Now, there's some things that you won't get for that big spend, and one of them is unlimited revisions and unlimited storage of your photos. You're hiring them for their service for a day, and you need to get everything back and manage it yourself, and so you won't get file management. You also won't get location rental fees unless it's specified in the.

      [00:09:58] So it really depends if you're gonna shoot on a particular location or if you're gonna meet them somewhere that there also might be travel fees if they have to move. You won't get props and dishes unless it's specified in the contract. And if they're included in the contract, generally expect they're gonna be pulling from a library of props that they have built up over the years.

      [00:10:21] So make sure that you understand what the styling is going to be like before you show up for the shoot. You also won't get cooking unless it's specified in the contract. So a lot of professional food photographers work with a stylist or someone who actually maybe has a home economics degree where they are a professional recipe creator or someone who's really a pro in the kitchen.

      [00:10:48] If you are doing the cooking or the styling plan to cook multiple options so you can shoot the most attractive version. There are a whole bunch of other tricks about making your food look as luscious as possible that a food stylist would be really helpful for. So if you're making this investment into very much high end food photography work, then you want to make sure that your food is ready for its close.

      [00:11:17] The biggest tip, plan ahead. This is the most expensive option for acquiring food photography, so make sure you have a detailed plan before you even begin the quote process so that you're comparing apples to apples. And tip number two, make sure you ask for different angles. Ask for horizontal and vertical shots and ask about video.

      [00:11:40] These are all things that should be included eyes. So many times I have seen somebody make a very big spin on a photo that can only be used in one vertical format, and now you have limited the ever greenness of which should be evergreen content for you. Content you can use on multiple platforms. The other thing I wanna talk about here is the favor photographer.

      [00:12:07] Lots of regional brands have super fans who are photographers, especially in the crack beverage industry or any of the fun foods. People love to support these brands by doing work in trade. So what you need to remember is that nothing is really free. So if you accept favor, photos, or heavily discounted photo, Make sure you have a plan and an understanding of what will happen that day.

      [00:12:36] Like it may be that you are getting a high-end photographer to come to your place, but they're not bringing their assistant or their stylist, and that lands on you. So be prepared to be the cook and the stylist and the studio assistant if you're getting a favor of photography. The third option for food photography is a food blog.

      [00:12:59] So typical costs of working with a food blogger is about 1500 to $5,000 a post. And so what you get from that is you're going to get a unique article and a set of photos that use your product. You're gonna get back links from their site if it's a post for their blog. And you get an opportunity to define the topic, so you'll be able to set the expectation for the project.

      [00:13:27] But what you won't get is full creative control. You're hiring a blogger for their point of view and their brand comes first, and then your product is how it fits within their brand. So you won't get full creative control, you won't get unlimited revisions, and you won't get unlimited storage of your photos or file manage.

      [00:13:48] You won't get specific recipes or cooking styles unless it's specified in the contract, and you won't get extended use rights of the actual text or recipe and the images unless it's specified in the contract. So this is kind of a blurring of lines between writing and photography, and a lot of food bloggers also do food photography on this side.

      [00:14:12] So you could explore like, what does it take to just get photography from this person? But upfront, you should ask the blogger about your use rights before you sign any contracts and ask for use rights for the recipe. Ask for use rights for the photographs, and ask for the option to purchase B-roll or additional photos.

      [00:14:34] Because a typical blogger, if they're writing a blog about a recipe using your product, you. Get three, maybe four photos that have your product in it. It really depends on how it's being used in the recipe, whether you're sort of an ingredient product or if you're a flavor product, you know, like an accent product.

      [00:14:54] So you wanna understand that you're gonna spend this money and you won't actually get a lot of photos out. And especially you wanna make sure that they are granting you the rights to use those photos on your platforms. So you wanna make sure you're reading those details. Now, one other type of photography, I just wanna have a word in here, and that is stock photography.

      [00:15:19] A lot of people use this, and just for clarity, stock photos are images from sites like Unsplash, iStock, and even Canva. Now, I talk about Unsplash a lot because it's a great resource, but some sites like Getty and iStock have nominal fees and others are free to use. That's the Unsplash, PXA Bay, pxa.

      [00:15:39] There's a whole bunch of them out there, but in general, copyright free image licenses do not cover the use on things like packaging. Any item that's for sale, like if you're gonna add recipe cards or t-shirts to a holiday bundle, you can't use stock photography on them. You can't add your product to an image that has a model in it.

      [00:16:02] This is called implied endorsement, and the person who agreed to have their image captured and resold as stock. That is where their agreement ended is between them and the photographer and the photography platform. They did not say, oh, and I also wanna endorse this pasta brand that's implied endorsement, and you can get in trouble for that.

      [00:16:25] So if you've got a great photo of someone cooking, don't be tempted to slide that box of your product right in front of. The other thing, stock photos don't cover on that copy rates free low or no fee site is print impressions. Over 250,000 quantity, and that may sound like a high number, but 5,000 catalogs and a thousand sell sheets, plus 25,000 postcards equals 31,000 impressions.

      [00:16:51] And if you're a big enough brand that you're doing that a couple years in a row, you can really easily creep up on that 250,000 impressions pretty quickly. So most licenses in that free or no fee space will approve unlimited digital use. That includes social media. Email campaigns and website pages. So that's the great place to consider using these tools.

      [00:17:17] Now, I mentioned Canva, but they have some very specific rules. They source photos from a few places, including API Bay and Pexels. So if you use photos from the Canva Pro Library, you need to read the fine. The other thing you need to be aware of is copyright free image licenses require a credit line to the photographer.

      [00:17:42] So my big tip is to rename the purchased or downloaded stock images. To include the photographer credit. So if you're adding them to your library, you always have that credit line right in there. And then you can always say, you know, photo by image by, or the little camera icon in your social media post with the handle of the photographer.

      [00:18:04] This may seem like a super fine detail, but I'm gonna tell you, I worked with a regional food brand years ago. This is someone that is sold all up and down the southeastern United States and on up into New England on the coast, and they had to pay a photographer, a very large sum of money. Because the agency that managed a package design project did not specify that the photos would be used on packaging, and so they did not pay the extended use rates fees to the photographer or their photo service for a packaging project.

      [00:18:41] That photographer walked into a store and saw a row of products with her image on them, and she immediately called the company to collect her fees. It was a pretty big. So where should you use copyright free imagery, social media, email campaigns, and only as appropriate for your brand. So you could use them to illustrate your seasonal letter from the owner, or a holiday promotion or other seasonal news things where you're talking about the essence of what's happening with your brand, but you don't need to be very specific about your product.

      [00:19:19] So let's do a little recap of where to invest in. Other paid photography sources and why you should invest in these places. And that first one is catalog photos and you should spend for the most professional photography that you can get because you're gonna use them on your sell sheets, on B2B selling dashboards, your e-commerce site, other e-commerce sites like Amazon or fair, all those places where you want to convey very.

      [00:19:51] Product information. Then you can also use them in your email marketing and in social media, particularly if you've got that background removed, you can layer them over exciting trending content, video things that would kind of make these be used further, like you've paid for this image and with a tiny little tweak, you can use it on other platforms, you could use it on point of sale pieces as.

      [00:20:18] How and when should you invest in professional food photographers? A pro photographer should be the person that you turn to when you're trying to capture a lifestyle imagery and very specific brand messaging images where you want people to capture a mood about your product. And product launch is a great time to consider making that investment because you want to come out of the gate with this new product with the best impression you can.

      [00:20:45] And then you should consider making regularly scheduled library editions with a pro photographer. If you have the budget, do it seasonally four times a year and think about capturing other images from your product line, or gatherings or holiday theme things. Things that you could use over and over again from year to year.

      [00:21:05] If you can't afford seasonally, then try for twice yearly or even just an annual photography week, and you're gonna plan it and schedule it, shoot it, and get it all knocked out so that you are adding to your library of these great mood and inspiring photos that gonna really give a sense of appetite appeal to a product that a person can't actually.

      [00:21:32] The third category is food bloggers and things are places you should spend when you're considering influencer marketing, which means you're gonna get some photography and you're also gonna get traffic that is driven directly to you. Hire food bloggers if you're able to use them for recipe development or if they're able to provide content that is very custom for you.

      [00:21:54] And then after you make that initial investment into professional photography, food bloggers are also a way to augment that sort of seasonal spend on photography. And so you may find a balance between a full day of shooting with. The full-on studio photographer and with some regular relationships with food bloggers.

      [00:22:16] So you want to make sure that you are getting some really high quality photography injected into your library throughout the year. But as you are planning for it, always remember to spread this band. You want to think of the evergreen life of your photography. You know, your catalog photos can be repurposed for social content, especially if you get that background removal.

      [00:22:40] Lifestyle images can live in as many places as you can post them with a reasonable message that's supporting them. So definitely social media, email, online. You could use 'em in point of sale. You can use 'em on their sell sheets. If you have a printed sell sheet that you're handing out at the Fancy Food Show this summer.

      [00:23:00] Go ahead and create a PDF version that uses a different lifestyle image. Sending digital copies in follow up emails with new imagery is another way to get attention onto your brand. Again, it'll capture those buyer's eyes like, oh, what is this? Because they won't be seeing a repeated. You can use seasonal recipes in your email marketing for years to come too.

      [00:23:27] So those blogger investments are great and they use 'em over and over again in your social streams. I see brands churning out new original content every single day for social media, and this can quickly become overwhelming to manage and expensive to hire. So when you're considering investing in photography, take a moment and plan how you can use the imagery on all the content streams you control, and that's your website, your sell sheets and catalogs, and point of sale, your packaging or your shopping cart, galleries, email marketing, and of course your social media streams.

      [00:24:07] Some practical advice to maximize the return on your photography budget. Is to also invest in a cloud storage system with unlimited backup and then create a file naming convention for storing your photos in an organized manner. I've heard people tell me that this is too much work. The 15 minutes you spend filing images after you receive them, saves you 15 minutes of hunting every time you need a photo.

      [00:24:35] Every time you wanna use that photo again for some evergreen content. And I'm gonna tell you, I know that I personally have earned a lot of money over the years that were built out in 15 minute increments because somebody on my staff was spending time tracking down the right photo in a pile of disorganized assets.

      [00:24:58] So protect your budget by protecting your assets, and if you need some help planning your next photo shoot or figuring out that file naming convent. Reach out to me on Instagram or LinkedIn, send me an email. I am happy to have a free half hour call to help you sort your way through your photography spin and that my friends is a wrap on another Marketing Monday.

      [00:25:23] And if you enjoyed this episode, please hit that like or share button. It's the easiest thing you can do to support small businesses. And please also subscribe to the Virginia Foodie wherever you stream, and you won't miss another bite of good food marketing. Thanks for listening, and if you wanna learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My

      [00:25:49] If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at VA Foodie on Instagram, Facebook, and. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.