When I started food photography, I knew it was an expensive hobby. What I didn't know was, what can await me in the future, so I could have prepared myself to do the right investment. Did you also discover food photography and you wonder how much does a food photography costs? How much you would need to invest now or soon in the future? What will you need to start learning this journey? And the biggest question is how and where to start?
This is what I want to cover in this blogpost, to help you get more clear about what can be the right investment for you, and help you understand, the next steps you can take (in terms of using or upgrading some equipment) from where you are now.
When I started, at the beginning, I was trying to avoid some subscriptions or buying some things. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, mainly because I don’t know if I fall in love and continue with food photography later or you won’t. One of the few things I did invest in: was upgrading my Adobe subscription from a free mobile app to a desktop & cloud sync. And I also invested in some courses. And guess what? Deciding to do these things was one of the best decisions and helped me grow into a professional photographer that I am today.
Most people when starting out, start shooting with their mobiles. I, too, started my food photography journey with a mobile phone, like most of my students. Hence, I will cover the necessary investment you need to do to continue shooting with your mobile. And part 2 of this blog post will be about upgrading to a professional DSLR camera.
Summary of this blogpost:
How much does a food photography cost when shooting with mobile
MOBILE PHONE - 0 €
As I consider you already have a mobile 🙂 Latest mobiles have a great quality camera built-in, and such a camera is just perfectly enough to create beautiful photos. The beauty of food photography images is not in the equipment (it however does its part, I can't say it doesn't), however it's all about how you work with light, and what composition you create. Just use this period of shooting with mobile to dive into photography aspects such as composition, learn about light, or colour schemes.
Consider this period as a creative exploration of different styles and experiment as much as you can. This will help you build these creative skills, so then, when you upgrade to a professional camera, all that is left is just technical part.
Because, you need an extra time to figure out how the professional camera actually works. There is the manual mode, lenses you need to understand, and it can be just too overwhelming at the beginning if you do it together with all the other aspects (as light, composition, etc..)
If you doubt about the quality of images taken by a camera, don't. Nowadays, mobiles have fantastic cameras built-in, you can definitely try shooting with that. You are not the only one who would shoot with their mobile, so if you think you won’t create amazing food photos, let me convince you: Yes, you can!
Just an example of one of my member of our Members' Club: Johncie. She was shooting with her mobile while learning about composition, light, and other photography aspects. Then, she upgraded to a DSLR camera. However guess what? Her mobile photos won a photography award of Pink Lady in 2022! Amazing, isn't it?
ADOBE LIGHTROOM MOBILE - EDITING- 0 € (eventually 12 €)
When shooting with your phone, you can use the free version of Adobe Lightroom Mobile. The app is for free and has great features already. In the app, you can find lots of tutorials about how to edit your images. It offers great free options for editing of your images. However, the more you dive into food photography, the more you will want to edit & experiment with editing. So, you might come to the point when the free version is not enough for you.
If you want to use the same app on your desktop (maybe because you are as me, I jsut prefer editing images on a large screen), you will need to purchase the subscription which is about 12 €. After purchasing this, your images from mobile app will sync with teh desktop app, so you don’t need to move them manually.
Adobe offers two similar programs of Lightroom, one is just simply: Lightroom, and the other one is Lightroom CC (Classic). Lightroom CC is more advanced and more complex than Lightroom. However, it doesn’t offer cloud sync. so, for now, I would just recommend editing with Lightroom app (on your mobile) or via desktop (if you are ready to pay 12 €/month) and edit your photos on a larger screen.
IMAGE STORING - US$9.99/mo
When you shoot with your mobile, you don’t need to buy hard drives. Considering you shoot with Lightroom APP, even if the app is free to use, however, from the image storing point of view, upgrading the Adobe plan is necessary. This will give you lots of space to store your images in the Adobe cloud service. This comes with additional benefits, and one of them is synchronising your mobile app with the desktop app. This means, Lightroom saves your photos to a cloud, and this is the way to backup your files. And, you can access these photos from your mobile, computer, and literally from any computer in the world, once you sign in your Adobe account.
And, I know “backup” is another new word for you, which is so important in the photography world. Imagine your mobile stops working, and you loose all the photos you have inside. Using Adobe cloud service (or any cloud in general) serves as a backup and makes sure you will have these files no matter what happened with your phone.
As we mentioned before, upgrading your Lightroom version comes with lots of storage space. Lightroom offers 1 TB in the paid version, which is more than enough space for storing your images.
Now, you might start thinking but what will happen in the future. Will you keep using this one app? or you wil need more? what about upgrading? What about extra space for the future? And, it’s a good question to ask.
I know many professional photographers who continue editing their photos with Lightroom (desktop app) because of the cloud sync. They don’t need their hard drives to wherever they move. But, as you grow, you might need a Photoshop to retouch your photos.
At that point, have a look at this site where you can learn more about different Adobe plans:
Generally speaking, you don’t need to do much retouching when capturing images, unless you have a client work. And, as this client work brings you some money, you can afford upgrading your Adobe subscription for Photography (1TB) plan, which comes at US$19.99/mo.
This is a good solution only if you want to continue working with Lightroom app. Otherwise, a simple, 20GB Photography plan is enough and you will edit your images with Lightroom CC app & storing them on external hard drives.
EDUCATION - starting at 42 € month
Investing into some course - this might be so scary! It was for me. I saved some extra money from my work, and I was wondering if investing into some course is a good decision. Yes, it is. Joining a course will speed up your learning process a lot. You will learn things that otherwise, you keep on guessing and questioning. Courses will help you understand so many things, brings you clarity and you have other peers you can interact with and ask for feedback about your images.
I do strongly recommend starting with some courses - it will help you move forward much faster!
At this point, I strongly recommend our Members’ Club. This is a membership and it is at 42 e per month. Inside, you find courses about food photography, masterclasses and everything you need during your whole photography journey.
TRIPOD & adapter - 30 € - up to 110€
even if you shoot with your mobile, sometimes, it’s just necessary to have a tripod, so your hands are free! This is great for capturing your hands in the frame, creating some action or even a filming a new reel about your recipe.
Tripods don’t have to be expensive, I bought my first one on a flea market for 17 euro. And, I used it 1,5 years before upgrading to a new one. Plus, I bought this mobile adapter, https://www.amazon.it/Manfrotto-MCLAMP-Attacco-Smartphone-Nero/dp/B0169SORDW/ref=sr_1_6?crid=1R92MNHSBGTV5&keywords=adapter%2Btripod%2Bmobile&qid=1677496128&sprefix=adapter%2Btripod%2Bmobile%2Caps%2C97&sr=8-6&th=1
which costs about 9 euro.
For buying a tripod, have a look at some flea market, or second hand shops. Or, website where you can buy such things, or some marketplaces on Facebook for example. make sure that the used tripod is a good quality, it doesn’t have any broken pieces, or a signs of damage.
And, if you want to invest in a new tripod already now, https://www.amazon.it/Neewer-Treppiede-monopiede-panoramiche-191-centimeters/dp/B0734ZZN61/ref=sr_1_8?crid=3LXJNRWANVGTX&keywords=neewer+tripod&qid=1677496291&sprefix=newer+tripod+%2Caps%2C113&sr=8-8 this one is a good choice. I bought it after, as an upgrade from my second-hand vintage tripod 🙂
Lighting - natural light - 0-10€
At the beginning, I strongly recommend shooting with natural light. It’s not always easy, but natural light has its beauty.
Download this freebie inside our VIP e-library to learn more about how to work with natural light. Then, you will need a few tools to manipulate light - you can get them for 4 euro A PIECE in a DIY store.
Props & BACKDROPS - 0 € -as much as you can afford :))
Let's recap how much food photography would cost a beginner shooting with mobile:
- a mobile camera (considering you already have one) = 0 €
- a mobile editing app (Adobe Lightroom) = free version 0 €, upgrading for more editing features or for desktop editing = 9-12 € / month
- cloud service - included in the upgraded version of Adobe Lightroom
- tripod & mobile adapter = 30-110 euro
- natural light and gear to manipulate light = 10 € -
My gear as a professional food photographer
If you are curious about gear do I use as a professional full time food photographer, have a look at this blogpost. I listed everything I use nowadays when it comes to camera, lenses, stands & tripods, and other equipment.