Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract

The post Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract

If you’re any level of a photographer working with clients, you need to have a contract.

When photo jobs go awry, it’s often due to a lack of communication.

A contract protects not only you but also your client in the event of any unmet expectations.

Here are some inclusions you may want to consider.

Who is the agreement between?

First of all, you need to state clearly who the contract is between and identify each party. You can identify yourself as “the Company”, and your client as “the Client.” The photo shoot itself can be referred to as “the Event.”

Note that the agreement supersedes any prior agreements between the parties, and that the only way to add to the agreement is to do so in writing, and that this amendment must be signed by both parties.

In short, if anything changes between the signing of the agreement and shoot day, you’ll need another contract.

What are the reservations?

You should have a section on your contract about the Reservations.

This means you note the date the shoot is scheduled for, and your policies about rescheduling, postponement and cancellation.

Make sure the client is very clear on the consequences of any of these changes.

For example, many photographers require a 50% non-refundable deposit in case of cancellation, so they don’t miss out on potential work that could have been booked that day.

Photography Contract - Darina Kopcok-DPS


I recommend having a section that notes that you as the photographer/company have the right to terminate coverage and leave the location if you experience inappropriate, threatening, hostile or offensive behaviour from a person at the event that calls your safety into question. This may be a rare occurrence, but it’s worth putting into your contract so you can assert your rights in case you’re a victim in an unsafe situation.

This could be relevant to a female wedding photographer being harassed by drunken guests, for example.

Shooting time and additions

Note that shooting time commences at the scheduled start time and ends at the scheduled time, regardless of when the client shows up. If a client is very late, then the shoot goes to the agreed upon time and no later.

I also highly recommend that if you’re a commercial photographer, that you state clearly that the client or a representative from their company must attend the shoot to provide creative direction and approve the final images.

You’re not responsible for the final aesthetic if they are not there to provide feedback and approval.

Furthermore, reserve the right to cancel the shoot and retain the deposit if the client or their representative does not attend.

Seriously. This happens.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Expenses incurred

This is where you might note that there could be additional expenses incurred that may not be part of the original quote, such as parking, props on a fashion or product shoot, or groceries on a food shoot.

These kinds of expenses are usually TBD (to be determined) and not part of the initial estimate. This should be made clear up-front so you don’t end up taking a cut from your earnings to cover these things.


You are responsible for a lot on a shoot, but certain things are unforeseen and out of your control. Things such as obtrusive staff, lateness of the client and staff, the weather, schedule complications, incorrect addresses provided by the client, or restrictions of the chosen location.

Venue and Location Limits

Unless you’re shooting at your studio or a rental, the client is usually responsible for providing an appropriate place for the photographic work to take place.

If the venue is found to be limited in space or otherwise hinders you from carrying out your work in a safe manner (or one that doesn’t allow you to produce the desired result), reserve the right to request moving to another location or cancel the shoot without penalty.


Who is responsible for securing permits?

The second you put a tripod down in a public place, you can very likely get asked to move along by a police officer or other type of city official. This can be disastrous on a commercial shoot where the location has been scouted and is essential to the storyboard or narrative of the final images.

Permits can take some time to secure, so keep this in mind if this job falls on you.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Film & copyright

The photography you produce for a client still belongs to you, as the creator of those images. A lot of clients think the images belong to them because they are paying you money to produce them. They need to be educated on copyright.

In the commercial world, clients commission you to produce photos that align with their brand. They then pay you a separate fee to license those images for a specific use and time frame.

You should have a separate Usage Agreement in addition to your contract that outlines usage parameters.

Limit of liability

In the unlikely event that you are not able to perform to the guidelines laid out in the contract due to injury, illness, an “act of God,” or another event outside of your control, you should not be held responsible.

You should, however, make every effort to reschedule the shoot. If this isn’t possible, then ordinarily all payment received for the event should be returned.

If digital files are lost, stolen, or destroyed beyond your control, including but not limited to hard drive or equipment malfunction, your liability is to return all payments.

The limit liability for a partial loss of originals should be a prorated amount of exposures lost based on the percentages of the total number of originals.

Capture and delivery

You are not liable to deliver every image taken at an event or shoot.

The number of final files to be delivered is up to the photographers discretion or is based on an agreement made between the photographer and client before the signing of the contract.

In this section, you can make a note of when you’ll be delivering the files by and how they will be delivered, such as JPG or TIFF files.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Post-production and editing

The final post-production and editing styles, effects, and overall aesthetic of the image are at your discretion unless you’re working on a specific type of job where the editing will be done in-house, say by a magazine or ad agency.

Nothing is worse than working hard on editing and then having clients put crazy Instagram filters on your images. Prohibit any alteration to your photographs unless there is an agreement with the client as to what those alterations will be, like putting text on a photo.

Payment schedule

If you’re asking for a deposit (and I hope you are), make sure to put that in your contract.

How you manage payment for the remainder is up to you. Many photographers allow thirty days for receipt, however, any late payment after that is subject to interest – usually 15-18%.

Also, note a policy around any NSF charges and if there are any consequences the client needs to be aware of in terms of not paying on time.

For example, you can state in your contract that non-payment after three months is subject to legal action.


At the end of the agreement, I suggest that you lay out the agreed upon pricing.

If you don’t have a separate usage agreement, you can include the usage terms here.

For my commercial work, I typically don’t give my clients a usage agreement until the images have been paid for in full and prohibit the use of my images until then.

I find this works well for me. Clients should not be using your images publicly unless they have paid for them, or it is a violation of your copyright.

I even state this term on my invoices and draw their attention to this in my email communication upon sending it.

Some clients can take a long time to pay you unless you draw specific boundaries around payment and the use of your images.

Photography Contract -Darina Kopcok-DPS

Signature field

There should be an area where both you and the client can sign and date the contract.

It’s best if you use electronic signature software such as Hello Sign so that clients don’t have to spend their time physically downloading and scanning a signed contract back to you. Everyone is busy, right?

If you use a CRM software, it may already offer such a feature. For example, I use Dubsado, which is a CRM system for creatives. I can send clients emails and contracts directly from within the user interface.

I have all the other features of a client management system for around the same price I would have to pay for signature software alone.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this has given you some idea of what you can put in your contract.

Be sure that your contracts are dated and signed before you consider a job booked.

Go over them with the client and make sure the terms and conditions are understood. A lot of people don’t bother to read stuff before they sign it and you don’t want to deal with any surprises.

Please note that this post is for educational purposes only and doesn’t constitute legal advice, as I am not a lawyer and cannot advise in that capacity.

To make sure that any or your contract or written agreements are legally binding, and will cover you in an event of a discrepancy, please contact an attorney.

The post Guidelines for Creating Your Photography Contract appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Time Management Tips for Photographers

The post Time Management Tips for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Photographers these days need to wear many hats. Not only do you have to shoot and edit your images, but you also need to spend time on social media, market to clients, and keep up with all of the day-to-day administrative tasks of running a business. It’s enough to give even the most organized person a headache. To top it off, time management can be something that creative people often struggle with.

As a creative person, who prided myself on my productivity until I started my own business, it’s taken me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to get the most out of my day without a ton of stress and overwhelm.

If you’re tired of feeling busy but not productive, here are some helpful tips.

Choose three priorities for your day

Most people don’t have a great sense of how long a given task will take them. They overload their calendar with to-do’s and then feel inadequate or frustrated when they don’t check them all off at the end of the day.

Of course, this tip will depend on what you need to get done. You may have a shoot day or need to spend the whole day editing, and therefore will be focused on one task. However, you’ll also likely have a couple of small things you need to complete in a day, like send an invoice and return a few emails or phone calls.

The point is that you should focus on three priorities a day, and tackle them in order of importance.

This tip is also known as The Rule-of-Three from the book Getting Results the Agile Way, and it’s meant to prevent you from running from task-to-task without a clearly defined outcome.

In the Rule-of-Three, you define three tasks to do in a day, three tasks for your week, and also three tasks for your month, and your year.

Start each day by defining the three things you will focus on and make sure to check in with yourself about staying on track. Pay attention to how long it takes you, and notice any patterns that emerge in working on certain tasks. That will give you more information to refine your time management strategies.

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Track your time

When you get started with trying out different time management techniques, be sure to track your time.

For the first year-and-a-half of running my photography business, I wrote down everything I did in a day in a small notebook, as well as how long it took me.

If this sounds like a super time-consuming and anal thing to do, it’s actually not. It really takes a second to check your watch and make a note consisting of two or three words describing your task.

Even better, you can use a time-tracking app like Hours Tracker.

The  information you get from tracking your time is gold.

If you find that you’re spending a lot of time on certain tasks that are not completely necessary, you can take steps to reduce the time you spend on them, or cut them out altogether.

For example, if you think you’re only spending a half an hour a day surfing the web, you might find you’re constantly going down the rabbit hole and that it’s closer to two hours.

Use an online calendar to schedule time blocks

One of the most effective ways to increase your productivity is to work in time blocks and schedule them into an online calendar like Google.

Organizing your schedule instead of working off a to-do list helps to apply discipline and order to your tasks.

You dedicate specific time windows to your tasks, thus making them a priority and the only focus during that time. It helps to minimize distractions and the mental burden of switching tasks.

Use an online calendar to schedule your tasks as non-negotiable events. If you’ve been doing things the analog way – writing out to-do lists or keeping a paper journal – you might find using an online calendar much more effective.

An online calendar can help you schedule meetings and send out notices to invitees. You can create recurring events in your online calendar, set up reminders, and you can access the calendar from multiple devices.

Make sure you schedule breaks into your calendar. It’s a really bad idea to sit in front of your computer screen all day without getting up regularly to stretch, eat a proper meal, or just take a few minutes for some R&R.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Use a CRM System

There are so many apps and productivity tools to help people manage their time, projects and life better. You may even be using some of these already.

However, if you’re not already using a CRM (client relationship management) system, you can be missing out on a massively helpful tool that can cut out the necessity of having several apps for several different uses.

A CRM system is a client management and relationship building tool that will help you keep track of your clients and projects. You can do things like record the dates you last communicated with a client and set a reminder for follow up.

However, most CRM’s offer so much more, including accounting tools and contract writing capabilities.

I use and recommend Dubsado, which is a CRM system for creatives. You can create branded contracts you can send out for electronic signature, send an email directly from the user interface, and keep track of all your prospects and clients in a visually pleasing and easy-to-navigate system. It even integrates with your Google calendar.

If you’re using contract signature software like Hello Sign or Adobe, you can get the same function in Dubsado with all the other benefits for a similar price tag.

Other options are Nutshell and Insightly.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Nix Multi-Tasking

The research is in: multi-tasking is way overrated.

Multi-tasking tends to be viewed positively, but the latest research shows that it is detrimental to your productivity and quality of work.

High-quality work is dependent on how much time you spend on a task and the intensity of your focus. If you can increase your focus, you can get done more done in less time.

Working on several tasks at a time overloads the brain. When you work on several things at once, you’re switching mental functions, which ends up being counterproductive.

According to Gloria Mark, researcher and author of Multi-Tasking in The Digital Age, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes. Once distracted, it can take nearly half an hour to resume the original task. That is 30 wasted minutes because you checked your email and responded to a message.

No wonder the average worker works for three hours out of a typical eight hour work day – even if they’re not constantly looking at Instagram or Facebook.

Put away your devices

So as you can see, one of the biggest ways to ruin your productivity is to constantly check your email and social media throughout the day. Those seconds or minutes can add up to huge amounts of time wasted and ruin your focus on the tasks on hand.

Put away your phone, close the browser window with your open inbox, and concentrate on the task that is in front of you.

Decide on a couple of times a day when you will check and respond to emails and Instagram posts and stick to it.

When I combined this with blocking my time, I was astonished by the result. I literally accomplished three times more in a day than I did when simply floating from task to task, responding to each text and email as I received it.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Try the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Technique is a hugely popular time management tool designed to keep you as productive as possible.

In this method of time management, you choose a task you would like to get done and set a timer for 25 minutes to work focused and without interruption.

You can do this for 25 minutes, right?

When the timer rings, take a short break that is non-work related, like stretching or having a snack.

Once you have done four “pomodoros,” you can take a longer break, like 20 or 30 minutes. Your brain will take this time to assimilate new information.

Set one day aside for errands and admin

This is another productivity hack that works wonders for some people. Have one day set aside in the week where you will attend to all of your personal errands or business admin or a combination of both.

There may be things that you do on a weekly basis, like meal prep or laundry, that can all be relegated to one day, allowing you to focus on business tasks for the rest of the week.

You may want to have one day of the week put aside when you schedule all your meetings or medical appointments. Alternatively, you can do all of your admin like invoicing, accounting or even scheduling your social media.

To sum up

There are a lot of time management techniques and tools out there that can help you boost your productivity and reduce stress and burnout.

No all of them will work for you, but these are some of the more popular ones that you might want to try.

Whether you’re a hobbyist photographer or a pro, chances are you have a ton going on every day.

Finding ways to be more efficient can end up adding hours to your day and even help you sleep better.

The post Time Management Tips for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

What was once a weird little niche in photography is now a worldwide phenomenon. Food photography is only growing in popularity if the 32 million posts currently on Instagram are anything to go by.

Food photography is here to stay, but it’s not an easy genre to master.

Our guide gives you some of the top tips and tricks to help you get mouth-watering results.

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The first thing to think about when you’re on the hunt for a new camera body is the size of the sensor.

Whether you decide to buy a camera with a cropped sensor or invest in a full-frame, your budget will likely determine your choice.

The important thing to know is that your camera and lenses behave differently when they have a cropped sensor than a full-frame.

Every camera has a crop factor. This is a number used to describe how much the camera is cropping your image in relation to the standard 35mm.

A full-frame camera matches the 35mm cropped standard of a traditional film camera. It has a sensor size of 24mm x 36mm. A cropped sensor is smaller than this and is therefore cheaper for camera manufacturers to make. It doesn’t match a lot of lenses and the final images look different.

The Canon Rebel, for example, has a crop factor of 1.6. This means that you multiply 1.6 times the focal length of your lens to get the actual focal length that it will look like your pictures were taken at.

On a full-frame camera, a 50mm lens behaves like a 50mm. Put that same lens on a camera with a cropped sensor, it behaves more like an 80mm.


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Lenses are where you should spend the most significant part of your budget. You should look at them as a long-term investment in your craft.

Here are the factors to consider:


Your biggest concern when shopping for a lens is sharpness.

Prime lenses are preferred when shooting food because they are sharper than zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses have more moving parts that enable the zoom to function. This tends to result in lower image quality and sharpness.

Prime lenses are usually ‘faster’. They have a larger maximum aperture, which enables quicker shutter speeds.

They also give you a much tighter depth of field, enabling you to isolate your subject and get that really nice blurred background we all love in food photography.

The 50mm Lens

The 50mm can also be a useful lens, especially if you don’t have a zoom. This lens is good for overhead shots and tablescapes. However, it can give you some distortion when taking a portrait-style shot. In food photography, the 50mm is actually considered a wide-angle lens.

The 50mm f/1.8 is often referred to as the “nifty-fifty” because it gives you decent results for a very low price. If you’re just starting out and your budget is tight, get this one.

The 24-70mm Lens

Although primes are ideal, it’s actually very useful to have one zoom lens in your kit, such as a 24-70mm.

It’s very sharp for a zoom lens, and really versatile. Many food photographers consider this a staple in their kit.

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The 60mm Macro

If you’re shooting with a cropped sensor, then a 60mm macro is a great choice.

On a cropped sensor, it’s more like having a 100mm. If you upgrade to full-frame, you can use it like you would a 50mm.

This lens allows you to get 3/4-angle view shots of your subject with a nice bokeh on a cropped sensor.

You also won’t get the distortion at this angle that you would when shooting with a wider focal length, like a 50mm.

The 100mm Macro

An excellent lens to have in your kit is a 100mm macro lens. This lens is not only for macro or close up shots, although it’s great at these, too.

By pulling further away from your set, you can get very nice portrait-style shots as well. The focal length will give you a great blurred background.

If you go for the 100mm/105mm macro lens on a cropped sensor you will be shooting at a focal length of 150mm.

This will be a very tight crop, which can be a problem if space is an issue.


A tripod is a must for food photography. It helps you create consistent images and frees up your hands to style according to what you see through your camera.

The biggest requirement in a tripod is stability. A tripod needs to be able to handle the weight of your camera and lens.

When shopping for a tripod, look for one with both adjustable height and orientation. This is where you have a center column that you can move.

Make sure that it has rubber feet to avoid slippage, and that it has a high payload.

Payload refers to the amount of weight the tripod is able to withstand. It needs to bear the weight of your camera, lens, and any other additions such as a bracket or extension arm.

Food Styling

The objective of food styling is to make food look it’s very best. Most food needs a bit of doctoring to make it look presentable for the camera.

Here are some things to consider when approaching food styling:

Use the freshest food possible

The food you shoot needs to be as fresh as possible so that it looks appealing in your images. When shopping for your ingredients, take care to buy the freshest and best-looking items available.

Always have your scene, lighting, and camera ready before placing your food on set.

When you’re adjusting with your lighting and camera settings, use a substitute in a similar color and shape as your food as a stand-in. Replace it with your “hero” (your main food subject) at the last moment, so that it looks as fresh and appetizing as possible.

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Buy more than you need

When shopping for groceries, be sure to buy more than you think you’ll need for the shoot. Food dries out, melts, goes brown, or otherwise begins to look unappealing within a short time frame.
It needs to be replaced with fresher items.

Depending on the food, you may also need a lot of the items to fill the frame.


The most important factor when choosing the dishes on which you will present your food is the size.

Objects can look very different to the camera than to the eye and often look bigger than we expect. For this reason, it’s a good idea to choose smaller dishes than you would ordinarily use.

Present your subjects on salad plates or smaller dinner plates. Large plates can dwarf the main subject and dominate the frame.

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Herbs and spices, and items such as croutons, can enhance your food shots.

Sprigs of various herbs like rosemary can be tied together with kitchen string to make little bouquets you can use to add context to your food story.

You can enhance a plain bowl of soup with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

The key is that your garnishes should make sense within the wider context of your scene. If you’re shooting salmon with a lemon dill sauce, then don’t garnish it with basil.

When using herbs, use the freshest possible and replace them as you shoot. They wilt or oxidize quickly. Cut herbs can be kept fresh in the refrigerator much longer when wrapped in some wet paper towel.

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You need to have a collection of food photography props.

A prop is any item you use on set to enhance the image. In food photography, this is typically kitchenware, like plates and flatware, serving bowls and utensils, and linens.

When selecting your props, think about your food photography style and what types of props would complement it.

If your style is really clean and elegant, or more refined, such props would not make much sense and you’d be better off with more delicate pieces.

In general, stay away from very bright colors and bold patterns, as they distract from the food. Colorful pieces can add a point of interest, but they need to work with the overall composition and feel of the photo.

Don’t use a lot of props. A couple of the right props can have a lot of impact in telling a visual story, but too many will distract the viewer and dominate the image.

When selecting your props, start with one or two pieces, perhaps a neutral salad plate and a vintage knife or spoon. If in doubt, keep it simple.

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You’ll need a variety of interesting backgrounds on which to place your food.

Use a variety of items for your backgrounds, like fabric, craft paper, or large floor tiles. You can also get creative and make your own.

Buy sheets of wood and paint or stain them yourself. There are also some great online resources for buying professional food photography backgrounds and they ship worldwide.

When shooting food, neutral or cool-toned backgrounds like blue generally work best.


Lighting modifiers

Whether you use natural or artificial light, you’ll need to modify your light source.

One important item in your kit is a diffuser. This is a panel of sheer white material that you place at the edge of your table to soften the light that hits your scene.

You’ll also need some simple tools to bounce and absorb the light. You can buy a professional 8-in-1 reflector kit, with foldable discs in a variety of materials to use in your shoots, as pictured below.

The silver reflector, for example, can brighten your food, while the gold reflector will add warmth. It usually comes with a diffuser as well.

For a DIY version, you can also use simple black or white cardboard purchased from a craft or dollar store. White brightens your scene, while the black absorbs the light.

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Lighting styles

You should have an idea of what you want your final image to look like before you pick up your camera. Do you want the light to look soft and dimensional, or are you looking for striking contrast?

The greater the contrast between light and dark, the more dramatic your image will be. Often, your subject will dictate the light you choose.

The next time you shoot, photograph your subject in both soft and hard light and note the difference. How does each approach affect the final result? Many photographers tend to gravitate to one or the other as part of their style.

Side lighting

This is when your light is coming from directly beside the food.

Side lighting is a good approach for a lot of your food photography. It works for most set-ups and is easy to use.

Place a reflector or bounce card on the opposite side to the light. Depending on how much shadow you want on the side of your food, move it closer or farther away, or use a smaller or larger reflector.

When shooting white and airy scenes, you still want some shadow to add dimension.

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Backlighting is when you position your light behind your food.

If you imagine the face of a clock, it’s at 12 o’clock. This is an ideal position for beverages or soups, as it adds a sheen and highlights the liquid properties of food.

In general, backlighting is very flattering to food. It makes it gleam and brings out its texture.

However, it can be tricky to work with because it can cause your image to be too bright at the back, and too dark at the front. Too much contrast means the back of the photo will be blown out, with a loss of detail blurring into the main subject. Not enough contrast will result in a blown out photo or one that looks washed out, which is what happens when you shoot with too much light.

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Side backlighting

Side backlighting is a combination of the first two types of lighting. It’s the best of both worlds and the easiest to work with. Here, our light is placed between 10 and 11 o’clock.

With this lighting style, you get the surface shine provided by backlighting without the risk of overexposure. You also don’t have to reflect as much light onto the front of the food because the light is coming at more of an angle.

When using side backlighting, you’ll have to play around with the height of your light relative to your scene, depending on how you want the shadows to fall.

The closer your light source is to your set, the softer the fall-off will be.

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Camera Angles

Camera angle can have a powerful effect on your final image.

Before you pick up your camera, you need to think about what kind of food or dish you are shooting and which camera angle will help bring out its best features.

There are three main camera angles used when photographing food: overhead, 3/4 angle, or straight-on.

The 3/4 Angle

The 3/4 angle is when your camera is placed anywhere from 25 to 75 degrees in relation to your subject.

The 3/4 angle is a popular angle because it’s so versatile. You can usually show the front and surface of the dish, as well as the sides.

You see this angle a lot in commercial food photography.

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The Overhead Angle

The overhead angle is the 90-degree angle. This has become a very popular angle lately due to Instagram.

This angle definitely has several positives. It’s good for fitting several elements into a scene, like in a tablescape. This also makes it a great storytelling angle. You can see a variety of props, ingredients, or dishes of food in the frame when you shoot from overhead. It is also often easier to compose your shot using this angle than a 3/4 angle or straight-on.

However, the overhead angle doesn’t work for every type of food shot. It eliminates depth, which gives a more graphic pop to an image but is not suitable for every type of food.

With the overhead angle, what you most emphasize is the shape of the food and various elements of the scene.

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The Straight-On Angle

This straight-on camera angle is most suitable for “tall” foods, like burgers or stacks of brownies or pancakes. It emphasizes the height of a dish.

When you’re shooting burgers and sandwiches, the bun or the top piece of bread hides what is inside, so taking the shot from anywhere above the food doesn’t make sense.

Remember, the objective is always to focus on the best features of the food.

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Compositional tools can help us make better photographs, however, not each tool will work for each image.

Before you begin to shoot, know the goal of your image. What is the mood?  What is it that you want to convey? What is the purpose of your shot and how will it be used?

Good food photography evokes the viewer’s emotions. Composition is one of the main tools that help us do this.


Line is the most basic element in visual composition. Lines lead the eye through a photograph to key focal points and elements and keep the viewer’s eye focused on the image.

There are a couple of things to be aware of when working with lines. When using lines to direct the viewer’s eye, they should point to the main subject, or into the frame.

Lines should also never point outside of the frame, as the eyes will be forced to leave the image. This weakens the image and can cause the viewer to lose interest.

Rule of Odds

The rule-of-odds states that when photographing a group of objects, having an odd number of elements in the frame is much more visually interesting than having an even number of elements.

Odd numbers create a sense of balance and harmony and provide a resting point for our eyes, whereas even numbers of objects can divide our attention and compete with each other.

When there are more than five elements in an image, it becomes difficult for the mind to register the higher number. For this reason, it’s a good idea to compose many elements into groups of odd numbers whenever possible.

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Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is intended to help you place the main elements and focal point within the composition.

Think of an imaginary grid that divides the image into nine equal parts, like a tic-tac-toe grid. The ratio is 1:1 per rectangle.

Rule of Thirds is a great place to start. It helps add harmony to your images and helps you take the first steps in composition as a new photographer. In fact, it can work for many images, particularly landscapes.

When it comes to food photography, however, this rule can be limiting. You can end up making images that are unbalanced and awkward.

The Phi Grid is a similar concept that is more powerful than the Rule of Thirds. Both grids look almost the same, but the centre lines of the Phi Grid are closer together.

The Phi Grid

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Phi Grid

The Phi Grid is an expression of the Golden Ratio. It helps you create a balanced and naturally pleasing image.

The Phi Grid follows the ratio of 1:1.618, a ratio that is a constant in nature and one we automatically gravitate toward.

It appears throughout the natural world, from a nautilus shell to the number of petals in a flower.

You can find the golden ratio everywhere in the world around us, though no one can explain exactly why it exists this way.

You can use this knowledge in your photography. Thinking about how the eye moves through an image and incorporating some expression of the golden ratio will help you create images that the brain will recognize as aesthetically attractive and harmonious.

Negative Space

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Positive space is the space taken up by your main subject. Negative space is an area where your eyes can rest. It provides balance, a bit of breathing room, and emphasizes the subject.

Negative space can portray movement and give context to an image. It may also give the viewer the idea that there is a story beyond what the eye is seeing.

In food photography, there is a tendency to shoot with a lot of negative space due to text placement, particularly when it comes to magazine work, product packaging, or advertisements.

When an image doesn’t make use of negative space, it can feel a bit claustrophobic and cluttered. Also, when there is too much going on in an image, the viewer is unsure of where to look.


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Repeating elements also add interest to an image. Repetition can occur spontaneously in the subject or can be created by added elements such as props and supporting ingredients.

Sometimes patterns can become monotonous, so breaking up a pattern can create a stronger photograph.

There are various ways to create a break in pattern, such as with a break in color, shape, size, or texture. Where you place this break is crucial; you want to place it in one of your focal points or along intersecting lines.


Color is an important part of a composition. It evokes emotions and creates a sense of mood within an image.

Cool and dark colors such as navy blue and black recede, while light or warm colors like yellow bring objects forward.

Backgrounds and surface colors that are too bright can detract from our subject; they should be chosen according to the mood you want to create, as well as in harmony with your chosen elements.

Color combinations can be monochromatic when they are tonal variations within a single hue. This approach has its place, but utilizing complementary colors is a great technique to apply to food photography.

Complementary colors appear directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green, or blue and orange.

The color scheme you choose to work with will, in part, be dictated by the food you are shooting.

Your colors should also be balanced in terms of not having too many colors in a frame, which will appear chaotic.


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One of the best ways to add interest to your photographs is with texture. It adds contrast and detail and enhances food subjects.

Texture occurs naturally in food, but can also be used effectively in backgrounds and surfaces, and your props and linens, as long as it’s not overdone.

Lots of texture in the food, linens, and backgrounds composed together can look too busy and overwhelm the viewer.

Editing Your Images

Adobe’s Lightroom is an excellent post-processing program. It’s more intuitive and easier to learn than Photoshop.

I recommend using Lightroom to do your global adjustments and then to fine tune your image in Photoshop if need be. For example, if you need to work on specific areas of the image.

Let’s look at the most important tools:

The Histogram


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It’s important to have a basic understanding of the histogram to make the proper adjustments to the exposure and tones in your image.

A histogram maps out the tonal range of an image. Brightness is graphed on a grayscale. Every pixel in the image is assigned to a value.

Black is on the left, while white is on the right. You can find the shades of grey in between.

The distribution of the tones in the histogram will tell you about the overall exposure of the image.

A big peak in any of these regions means that the image has a lot of pixels at that particular density. An open gap in the histogram means that there are no pixels at that density.

Check if you have a strong peak at the black or white end of the histogram. If you do, your image could be underexposed or overexposed.

Generally, most images look best if they contain both dark and light values. Otherwise, they may lack contrast and look flat.


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It’s a good idea to crop and straighten your image before you start making global adjustments.

To straighten an image, start in the Transform panel and click on -> Auto.

If this doesn’t work, you can try one of the other settings, or do it manually under the Crop Tool.

To access the Crop Tool in Lightroom, click on the grid symbol under the Histogram in the top panel. Or hit R for the keyboard shortcut. This will allow you to crop your image by bringing in the corners with your cursor.

Note that when the lock is closed on the lock symbol, the tool will crop each side of the image evenly.

If you would like to freeform crop, simply click on it to unlock it.

White Balance

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White Balance in a very important aspect of post-processing your food pictures.

I recommend shooting with a grey card and adjusting your white balance in post-processing. This removes incorrect color casts and ensures that your whites are truly white.

A grey card is a piece of grey plastic you can buy at a camera supply store. It is exactly 18% grey, which is what your camera looks for when metering a scene.

Take a picture with your grey card in the scene. In Lightroom, take the White Balance eyedropper and click on the grey card. It will automatically read the proper white balance.

The Basic Panel

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This panel is where you may end up doing a lot of tweaking before you settle on a final look.

Exposure affects the brightness of the range of tones in your image, however, playing with your shadows and highlights, and your whites and blacks will give you a more precise balancing of tones than simply relying on the Exposure slider.

Check if the bright areas look muddy, or the shadows still need more light. Move the sliders to points where the image looks good overall.

You will likely need to go back and readjust your exposure slider once you have made edits with the other sliders.

Vibrance & Saturation

Vibrance is also an important slider in editing food photography.

It’s a better editing tool than Saturation because it’s more subtle. It adjusts the less saturated colors without intensifying the already saturated ones.

Vibrance will first boost the saturation of the muted colors and then the other colors.

Whether you actually use the saturation slider depends on the image. In general, a conservative approach is what works best when editing food photography.

If you decide to use this slider the slider, nudge it up a tad, to about +5 or +6.

Tone Curve

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New users often find the Tone Curve challenging,  but it’s one of the most powerful tools found in Lightroom.

The Tone Curve is a graph that maps out where the tones in your images lie. The bottom axis of the Tone Curve starts with Shadows at the far left side. It ends with Highlights on the far right end. The mid-tones fall in the middle, in a range from darker to lighter. They get darker as you move lower, and brighter as you move up the axis.

You can control the lightness and darkness of your tones. Adjust the Point Curve itself or the Region Curve.

The Region has sliders for each part of the tonal range. As you drag each slider, the curve, and the image both change.

To make adjustments with the Point Curve, click on the area you want to affect. This will create an anchor point at which to control the tone.

Dragging the point up lightens that tone; dragging it down darkens it.

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Assess the mid-tones in your image to see if they are already bright.  If not, click on the middle of the tone curve and bring the point up.

If they are too bright, bring the curve down. Check the other parts of your image.

If you’re just getting started with learning the Tone Curve, play around with the Region sliders first. Take note of how the various sliders affect the curve.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to watch the histogram as you make changes. This way you’ll make sure that you are not losing important detail.


HSL stands for HueSaturation, and Luminance. This is where you balance the colors in Lightroom.

Color adjustments are usually more subjective than tonal adjustments. This is because color gives a photograph a sense of mood.

There are two ways to make color adjustments in this panel. You can adjust them all at once under HSL/All. Or each color individually under the Color tab at the top of the panel.

The Hue tab or section at the top of the panel is where you choose how warm or cool you want each color in your image to be.

For example, I find that greens almost always look off. I slide the greens slightly more towards the left or right to get them looking more realistic.

To add more warmth – meaning more yellow – to your greens, slide it to the left. For a cooler hue, sliding it to the right adds more blue.

The Saturation slider in the basic panel adjusts the color of the whole image. But the saturation sliders here adjust each color individually.

If you adjust a color to be more saturated, this will affect the saturation of that particular color throughout the whole photo.

Whether you’re working in the basic panel or the HSL panel, saturation requires a light hand.

Lastly, Luminance affects the brightness of the color. These sliders are more valuable than the saturation sliders, so work with these first.

Editing in Lightroom is all about balance. The same goes when working with Hue, Saturation, and Luminance adjustments.


Sharpening should be the last editing step. It adds contrast between pixels and edges, which creates definition and a more refined look.

However, you don’t need to apply sharpening to the whole image because, in food photography, there is not much point in sharpening the props and the background.

The focus is on the food, so that is what you sharpen.

To do this in Lightroom, mask out the image to select the areas of the image you want to sharpen. Hold down the Alt/Option key while clicking on Masking in the Sharpening panel.

Lightroom will show you where the sharpening is being applied in white. Your image will look like an x-ray.

Slide it to the right. The further right you go, the less the image will be sharpened.

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You will find that you will be in the +70-80 range for sharpening for food photography.

In Conclusion

There is a lot to learn when it comes to shooting food, but hopefully, this guide has given you an overview of what’s involved and some ideas about how you can improve your images.

The more information you have, the more empowered you can be in your creative decisions.

Above all, lots of practice is what is going to take you to the next level in your food photography.

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Your Guide to Photography User Agreements

The post Your Guide to Photography User Agreements appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Copyright and image usage can be a complex and confusing arena even for experienced photographers.

When you shoot for a client, you not only need a contract outlining the deliverables, but you also need a user or licensing agreement. You also need a user agreement if a brand or organization comes across one of your images on the Internet and wants to use it in some way.

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So what exactly is a user agreement and why do you need one?

A user agreement is a type of contract in which you as the photographer grant specific usage rights to a client or collaborator. They may only use the image within the bounds of this agreement.

Under most copyright laws, photography is as protected as any other artwork. In photography, you’re not “selling” your image or giving up your copyright. You’re giving someone a license to use the images for a specific purpose and time frame. In effect, you’re the “lender,” and they are the “borrower.” This is basically what happens when someone purchases stock photography.

The two types of licenses

There are two types of licenses: exclusive and non-exclusive.

An exclusive license does not allow the photographer to license the image or images to other third parties during the duration of the agreement.

A non-exclusive license allows the photographer to license the same image to other third parties under separate agreements during the same time frame.

Clients often want an exclusive license to ensure the images created for their brand don’t appear elsewhere. In some cases, so they don’t end up being used by their competitors.

However, be aware that they should be required to pay a premium for this exclusivity. This is why usage rates can go very high, depending on the client and their visibility in the marketplace.

When you give exclusivity to a client, it prohibits you from earning more income from your images by licensing it to other third parties, or through stock photography.

For example, I license my images through Offset, a division of Shutterstock. They offer high-quality stock photography for a much higher price point than microstock agencies.

I make a decent side income from being a contributor with them, without having the thousands of images required by other agencies to make stock photography worthwhile. Since most of my commissioned clients want exclusive usage, I don’t submit the images I license to them to stock also. Instead, I submit non-similar rejects from the shoot and even shoot specifically for my stock portfolio.

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What should go in the user agreement?

When you’re writing up a user agreement and setting your price, it’s crucial you consider the end use of the image and the visibility of the brand using it.

Licensing an image to a nationwide restaurant chain should have a different price and terms than the mom-and-pop taco joint down the street.

One example of how the details of a user agreement can become critical is when you’re dealing with a start-up or a growing small business.

If you provide licensing for several years or in perpetuity (forever ongoing), what happens if that business suddenly takes off and gains extensive exposure? Your image will become worth a lot more, but you won’t see an extra penny if you’ve given perpetual usage away.

The rule for user agreements is the wider the audience for the image, the more the image is worth to the brand.

When faced with a client who has good prospects to grow, keep your licensing period shorter and track when it expires via a spreadsheet.

The user agreement should also specify whether the license is exclusive or non-exclusive, and describe its intended use.

I don’t recommend granting unlimited use for an image; otherwise, a brand can use it across every conceivable platform – in advertising, on billboards and for product licensing.

Be very specific about how they can use your images. More and more clients are asking for universal and unlimited rights. If this is the case, they should be prepared to pay for it.

Specify the time frame in which the licensee is allowed to use the image. If they want to use the image beyond this time frame, they will have to purchase another license from you.

Another important tip is don’t provide a user agreement until the images have been paid for in full. Let the client know this policy and state on your invoice that the images cannot be used publicly until you have received payment in full.

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Educate your clients

As with other types of contracts, a user agreement protects you as the creator of an image. It also prevents misunderstandings between you and a client that can lead to bad feelings and legal hassles if someone feels their expectations haven’t been met.

Unless a client has worked with photographers before, they may not understand the ins-and-outs of copyright law or why they need to sign a user agreement. Educating the client is vital.

If someone is questioning your contracts, they likely are not understanding the process.  A local small business or startup brand may need your help in understanding the transaction.

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When negotiating a user agreement, it’s important to communicate with self-confidence and to recognize your work has value to your clients.

At the same time, remaining respectful and professional can lead to building a mutually beneficial relationship – with more opportunities and income down the line.

If you have any other licensing and user agreement info you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.

The post Your Guide to Photography User Agreements appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Develop Better Black and White Photos in Lightroom

The post How to Develop Better Black and White Photos in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Achieving great looking black & white images in Lightroom is not about converting your colour images to grayscale with the click of your mouse and calling it a day.

Black & white photography is subtle, and it takes experience to see and understand its nuances. Lightroom has a fantastic set of tools to help you create stunning black & white images.

Here are some tips and some mistakes to avoid.

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Converting to black and white

There are several ways to convert your color images to black & white in Lightroom.

You can use one of Lightroom’s presets or completely reduce the color saturation.

Or you can convert your color image to grayscale in Lightroom by simply hitting “V” on your keyboard, or clicking on Black & White under Color Treatment in the Basic panel.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you will have to make some tweaks in Lightroom to get the best possible result.

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Using Black and White Mix

Once you  have converted your image, a panel called Black & White Mix will appear under the Tone Curve panel.

The sliders here give you control over the way colors are translated into grey tones in Lightroom. When you convert to grayscale, all the colors will be at zero.

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Making some simple adjustments in this panel can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your photos.

For example, if you’re working on a landscape image, using the blue sliders will help you adjust the sky.

If you’re new to black and white processing in Lightroom, play around with the sliders to see how each of them affect your photo. With a bit of experimentation, you’ll get a feel for which sliders alter the various tones in your image in a way that helps you achieve the look you’re going for. You’ll also develop your signature black and white editing style.

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Boost Tonal Contrast

In addition to tweaking the Black & White Mix sliders, you should make other manual adjustments in Lightroom to adjust the tonal contrast in your photograph.

Tonal contrast is the differences in brightness throughout your image. If there are stark differences between your tones – say, a very light subject against a dark background, then we would say the photo has a lot of tonal contrast.

One benefit of actually shooting in black & white is that you don’t have to ignore color and try to understand your scene in terms of light or dark tones. Shooting with your DSLR camera in Monochrome Mode will help you with your composition, especially if you’re new to black & white photography.

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Boost texture in your images

A key way to enhance your black & white photographs in Lightroom is to boost texture. Bringing out the texture emphasizes the details in a photograph.

One of the easiest ways to enhance texture in your black & white images is with the Clarity slider.

Clarity increases the contrast in a photograph, but not as drastically as the Contrast slider does.

You have more leeway with clarity in black & white than you do with color.

In Lightroom, there are to ways to work with clarity. One is to use the Clarity slider in the Basic panel. This is a global adjustment that affects the entire photo. You can also selectively add Clarity with the Adjustment Brush.

You want to do this when it makes sense to boost the texture in a certain part of the photo.

If you have an image where the subject is in focus but the background is blurred out, there is no point in adding clarity to the whole image. Focus on the area that you want to enhance. This will increase sharpness. Since the eye tends to go to sharper areas first, it makes sense to boost sharpness selectively. Adding clarity is one way of doing that.

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Mistakes to avoid

Common mistakes that photographers make are related to misuse of texture and contrast.

If you’re converting your color images to grayscale, you’ll notice that they look a little flat. You need to add some contrast, but the problem is that it’s easy to go too far and lose details in the highlights and shadows.

Look closely at your images. Are they too dark in the darker areas? Do they look muddy, or even “crunchy”–with angular rather than blurred edges?

This gives images an over-processed HDR look, which is not desirable in most cases.

Do add contrast and clarity, but fine the right balance for each particular image. The same goes for clarity.

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Again, the amount you add will really depend on the photograph. For example, you may want to add clarity to a portrait of a male to bring out the textures in the skin and hair, but use negative clarity to smooth the skin in a female portrait. Clarity can bring out wrinkles and imperfections in the skin and make the subject look older if not applied with care.

Another mistake photographers make when editing their black & white photos is to over-sharpen them.

When sharpening, I recommend using the Sharpening Mask.

To do this, choose the sharpening level you desire in Lightroom. Hold down the Alt/Option key and slide the Masking slider. You’ll see the image change to look something like an x-ray. This is showing you where Lightroom is intelligently sharpening your photograph.

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In most photographs, you don’t necessarily want every single bit of the image sharpened, the same way you don’t need texture in every part of the image. By using Sharpening Mask, you can apply the sharpening to the most important part of the photo. I often leave mine in the range of 70-90.


There are a host of plug-ins available for Lightroom that can really enhance your images and your editing process, such as Topaz Black & White, or Perfect B&W.

However, a lot of black & white photography photographers say the gold standard of plug-ins for black & white photography is Silver Efex Pro.

Silver Efex Pro has a tool called Structure, which works in a similar way to Clarity in Lightroom, but has four sliders that help you tweak your tones with a great deal of control. If you shoot a lot of black & white photography, or plan on doing so, this is definitely one plug-in I would recommend that you purchase.

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In Conclusion

To achieve better black & white photos in Lightroom takes a subtle hand and training your eye to look at tones instead of color.

The good thing about Lightroom is that your files are non-destructible, so feel free to tweak your images to your heart’s content. Everything is undoable with the click of your mouse.

With a bit of practice and experimentation, you’ll be developing brilliant black and white images in no time.

If you have any other tips or black and white photos you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.

The post How to Develop Better Black and White Photos in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider

The post How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

There are a variety of ways to quote on a commercial photography job. Every photographer has their own approach.

If you’re new to working with clients, or even if you’ve been at it for a little while, putting together a formal estimate can be a daunting process. The bigger the scope, the more variables there are to consider.

Here are some line items to consider.

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Creative fee

When you’re putting together an estimate for a commercial photography job, I recommend charging a Creative Fee for your labor. This creative fee is the time you spend shooting, but it can also include some post-processing.

Some photographers charge a day rate or a half-day rate. I don’t advise charging by the hours, but I determine how many hours you think you may need to execute a job and multiply it by the hourly rate you would like to receive for it. You may want to top that up by up to 25%, as you’ll find most jobs take longer than you think they will.

As a new photographer, I tried a variety of ways of estimating jobs. When I charged a half-day rate, I often found that there was no such thing. By the time I set up, did all the project management to pull the shoot together and hire the help I needed, it was a full day of work and then some.

Think about how much work you have to do behind the scenes and factor that into your creative fee as well.

One thing I don’t recommend is lumping all your expenses together and presenting it to the client. Giving them one big total can lead to sticker shock and confuse your potential client. They won’t know what they’re paying for exactly.

Breaking it down for them is a good business practice and helps the less experienced clients – say, those with a small business – understand all the work that goes into producing a commercial photo shoot.


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Some photographers like to have their own equipment they bring to photo shoots. This not only means a couple of cameras and Speedlites, but it can also mean monoheads, stands, and a variety of other gear.

You may have everything you need to bring to smaller shoots, but on bigger productions, you may need to rent extra gear, like several lights and lighting modifiers. You should not absorb this cost. It goes into the estimate.

Therefore, you need to get all the pertinent information up front about what the shot entails, so you know what to take. Make sure you get a shot list and ask all the necessary questions up front.

If you do have your own gear, you can include it in your creative fee and mention it as a footnote on the estimate that it’s included. Alternatively, you may decide to separate it.

You should charge at least a nominal fee for the use of your equipment. This way you can put money aside for any replacements and upgrades you need to do over time.

If a client were to go to a rental house and rent the equipment needed to pull off a commercial production, they would pay hundreds of dollars. And that is just for the tools. What about the skill of the person to handle those tools?

Don’t be afraid to charge appropriately for your services.

Studio rental

Photo shoots can take place in a variety of locations, but if you need to shoot in a studio, make sure that you put a cost for the studio rental in your estimate.

Be familiar with at least three studios in your area that can be rented out and what they charge per hour or day. If at the time that you write your estimate you’re not sure which one you’d be shooting in, put the most expensive one as the cost.

Once you get the go-ahead you can see what is available on the date you’ll be shooting and book the available studio.

Editing & post-production

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When working on a commercial level, you may not be the person responsible for editing the photos. If you’re working with an ad agency or sometimes even a magazine, they may have someone in-house to do editing according to specific parameters.

Alternatively, you may be expected to do the basic editing, but someone else may be responsible for further refinement. Be clear on the outset about the expectations around post-production.

The Photoshop required may be complex and require the expertise of a professional retoucher. In this case, you must get a quote from a retoucher and put that as a line item in your estimate.

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Archiving fee

Some photographers charge an archiving fee as part of their post-production process.

There is the time associated with uploading and storing images and the process required to back them up. Since you should be charging for all the time you spend on a project, it makes sense to include it in the scope. You can have it as a line item or include it in your creative fee.

Digital Imaging Technician

Depending on the genre of photography you shoot and the nature of the production, you might want to hire a Digital Imaging Technician. Also known as a DIT, they are responsible for backing up everything as you shoot, and for doing quick color treatments or composites on set.

For example, as a food and still life photographer, I always shoot tethered to my computer so I can see a large, more accurate rendition of my image than I can get on the back of my LCD screen. I also sometimes have to work with overlays if I’m doing product packaging, so I can see how the image fits with any text or artwork. A DIT can help with this process.

Photo assistant

I have used a photo assistant since the day I started shooting professionally.

A good photo assistant is indispensable and worth every penny. A photo assistant can help you carry all your gear, work your lighting and run out on errands. Having one on hand saves you time, which in the end is saving you money.

There are professional photo assistants whose sole work is assisting other photographers. However, there are plenty of photography school grads that start their careers assisting and have a lot to offer in terms of technical knowledge and eagerness to gain experience.

Many of them are not even that expensive, so if you can’t get the extra expense approved, I suggest taking a cut for yourself to have one help you out.

Stylists and makeup artists

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Depending on the niche you’re shooting in, you may need a stylist. This may be a wardrobe or fashion stylist, or a food stylist.

Food stylists are responsible for shopping for the food and ingredients required for any food shoot and preparing it for the set. Food styling requires particular skills and are an essential part of any team producing food photography. It is not the photographer’s job, as it’s a different occupation and should be treated as such.

Food stylists usually charge by the hour or a day rate, as well as for prep, and often have their own assistants.

Similarly, wardrobe stylists are responsible for the clothing and related props on fashion shoots.

Makeup artists are required for fashion shoots as well, and sometimes on commercial portrait shoots.

Image usage

Image usage is the trickiest part of a photography estimate.

There is no right or wrong answer for how much you should be charging for usage.

When you are hired to shoot for a brand, you still own the copyright to those images. The client does not own them. The creative fee is for the labor to execute the commission, the usage fee is a license that allows them to use the image in a defined way for a specific time period.

How much you should charge is dependent on your market, the visibility of the brand, and how they want to use them.

The Getty Pricing Calculator is a free tool that can give you some idea of what to charge for usage.

However, I have found that there is what photographers should charge, and then there is reality. There is no point in charging a client hundreds of dollars per image if the client is small and cannot pay that.

I always recommend separating image usage from the creative fee. However, often you need to educate the client up front about copyright and what usage refers to. This can be tough if you’re dealing with a small business owner who thinks they own the images because they hired you to shoot them.

Give them an agreement that outlines the usage and make sure they are clear on how and where they can use the images.

In Conclusion

If you’ve been struggling with how to price your photographic services, hopefully, you now have a better idea of the types of things you can charge for.

The post How to Quote Commercial Photography Jobs: A Few Important Line Items to Consider appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

What is a Tech Scout and Why You Need to Do One

The post What is a Tech Scout and Why You Need to Do One appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

When talking about photography, a Tech Scout is a term borrowed from the film industry. It refers to finding a location that will match the setting or scene of a story.

LIke filmmakers, photographers need to do tech scouting (also referred to as a location scouting or a location recce).

The importance of a tech scout is often underestimated. Sure, you may find the most amazing location to photograph a newly engaged couple, but if you’ve overlooked some potential problems, it can end up ruining shoot day.

ech Scout-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Why you need to do a tech scout

As a photographer, a big part of your job is making sure you’re prepared. Cameras stop working, software crashes, and you realize that you forgot to charge the batteries for your Speedlites.

Unfortunately, technical difficulties are a part-and-parcel of the job. However, many various other issues can crop up when you’re on location. That location can even be a studio that you’ve never worked at before.

It’s part of your job as a photographer to ensure that the environment you’ll be shooting in is conducive to getting the desired results for you and your clients.

For example, as a photographer who shoots food, I always make sure that there is a kitchen in any studio I rent out for my jobs. Doing so narrows down the available studios that I can shoot in quite a lot. Food stylists work in all sort of conditions and can sometimes make do with a hot plate. However, why not rent a studio with a kitchen if it’s as easy as renting one without it?

Whenever I have to shoot on location, such as in a restaurant, I do a tech scout too. I visit the restaurant beforehand to find out where I’ll be able to shoot as unobtrusively as possible. I also want to see if there is enough natural light coming in from some windows. If not, I plan to bring in a strobe or a speedlight.

Becoming familiar with the environment you’ll be shooting in will help you not only plan your lighting accordingly but also anticipate potential snafus that can prevent your shoot from going as smoothly as expected.

ech Scout-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Working with clients on a tech scout

If you shoot retail photography, for example, families or couples, you don’t necessarily need to share details or images of the chosen location or locations beforehand. Perhaps your client may be familiar with the setting or has suggested it themselves.

For commercial clients, however, you may be responsible for scouting several locations and presenting them to the client for their decision.

The client will approach you with a creative brief or some ideas of what they are looking for, but it’s up to you to find the ideal location. Your job is to present at least two or three locations based on the brief or mood board or other consultation from the client. It may mean coming up with a list of possible options before narrowing it down to the ones you will actually go check out and photograph.

Tech Scout-Darina Kopcok-DPS

How to do a tech scout

To do a successful tech scout, you need to define the scope of the project.

Be clear on the following:

* who and or what are you shooting?
* how many images are required?
* how and where are they to be used?
* what is the budget to shoot these images?
* what does the client intend to achieve?

You may have some locations in mind, or you might have to start with a virtual scout, a search using Google Maps and street view. You can use Google to search for iconic buildings, structures or other important locations.

Once you have feedback from the client, visit each location with your camera and take some pictures. If possible, do your scout at the same time of time you’d be shooting the final images. An app like Sun Seeker or Sun Surveyor can help you determine where the sun will be at that time, which may be a big factor in your decision-making process.

Send the client a gallery of some of the best images with a color treatment that somewhat reflects the desired results.

Tech Scout-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Potential pitfalls

There are some potential problems that can get in the way of your shoot. Some may be disastrous for you if you haven’t thought ahead, especially on a commercial production where the budget is high.

One such pitfall is permits and licenses. People take images in public all the time, but as soon as you put a tripod down, or have a crew with you, you’ll likely be asked to move along if you can’t provide the proper permits.

Make sure you have the required equipment to shoot in the conditions you’ll be working. This can mean having the right accessories to protect you and your gear from the rain, and even having a large enough vehicle to transport bulky equipment like c-stands.

Parking is another issue you should determine ahead of time. Are you and your crew or the client going to be able to access the location easily, or you will have to walk a bit. If so, how are you going to transport your gear?

Lastly, if you’re shooting outside all day, what are you going to do about bathroom breaks? It may sound funny, but you won’t be able to leave thousands of dollars of equipment and the talent sitting around while you search out a loo. This is a scenario where having an assistant is a must.

Bathroom breaks and meals/snacks are something that needs pre-planning.

ech Scout-Darina Kopcok-DPS

In Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve learned more about how useful it is to do a tech scout and the best way to approach one.

Proper planning can make or break a photo shoot. No matter how small your shoot or who you’re shooting for (even if it’s for yourself), checking locations out beforehand can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.


The post What is a Tech Scout and Why You Need to Do One appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow

The post How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Although it is sometimes overshadowed by its powerful cousin Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom is a robust post-processing program in its own right.

Lightroom is designed with simplicity in mind, however, it still offers a lot of options and can be confusing to new users.

This article assumes you have a basic familiarity with the appearance of the various panels in the Lightroom, and gives you some tips on how to customize your Lightroom workspace for better workflow and productivity.

Lightroom Workspace in Grid View-Darina Kopcok-DPS

The Lightroom Workspace in Grid View


Lightroom is organized into seven Modules: Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web.

You can find these modules in the uppermost right-hand corner of your screen. This panel or bar is called the Module Picker.

Customize Lightroom Workspace-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Each of these modules contains a set of tools that work specifically within that module.

For example, if you want to design and print contact sheets of select images from a shoot, you would navigate to the Print module, where you would find the required tools to do that.

You will find, however, that there are some modules that you rarely (or even never) use.

Most users of Lightroom spend the majority of their time in the Library and Develop Modules. Therefore, Lightroom gives you the option to hide these modules from view if you wish.

To set up which modules you would like to remain visible, right click on the module panel to bring up a pop-up menu:

Module Panels in Lightroom-Darina Kopcok-DPS

The panels that are visible are noted with a checkmark. To make the module invisible, simply click on it to uncheck it in the menu.

For example, I never use the Book and Slideshow modules, so I have those checked off in my own Lightroom workspace.

The missing modules are still available under the Window menu; you can use keyboard shortcuts to open them.

Keep in mind that if you do this, Lightroom will automatically add the missing module back to the Module Picker.

Window View Lightroom-Darina Kopcok-DPS


Lightroom Panels-Darina Kopcok-DPS

In the above image, the following are noted:

A. Library Filter bar
B. Image Display area
C. Identity Plate area
D. Panels displaying photos
E. Filmstrip
F. Module Picker
G. Panels for working with metadata, keywords, adjustments
H. Toolbar

There are four panels in each of the Lightroom Modules. Only two panels – the Module panel and Filmstrip panel – appear in all of the different modules in Lightroom.

For example, the Library module has a top Module Panel, the Navigation panel is located on the left-hand side. The right-side panel is mostly for Metadata, while the bottom panel is where the Filmstrip appears.

Develop Module has Develop and Preset panels instead of Navigation and Metadata.

Tabs are small panels inside of panels.

Below are the various tabs in the Develop panel in the Develop Module in Lightroom:

Tabs in Develop Module Lightroom-Darina Kopcok-DPS

You can customize your workspace to display only the panels you want.

  • To open or close all the panels in a group, hit -> Command-click (Mac) or Ctrl-click(Windows).
  • To open or close one panel at a time, simply Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (Windows) on the panel header.
  • To show or hide both side panel groups choose Window ->Panel -> Toggle Side Panels, or press the Tab key.
  • To hide all of the panels, including the side panels, the Module Picker and the Filmstrip, choose Window -> Panels -> Toggle All Panels, or press Shift-Tab.

Lightroom Panels-Darina Kopcok-DPS

If you don’t use a panel often, you can hide it form view: Control-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (Windows) on any panel header in the group and choose the panel name.

Change the Screen Mode

You can also change the screen display to hide the title bar, menus, and panels.

Choose -> Window -> Screen Mode, and choose an option from the drop-down menu.

Full Screen Mode Lightroom-Darina Kopcok-DPS

When in Normal, Full Screen with Menubar, or Full Screen Mode, press the F key to cycle through them.

If you’re on a Mac OS, note that Full Screen mode and Full Screen and Hide Panels mode both hide the Dock. If you don’t see the Minimize, Maximize, or Close buttons for the application, press the F key once or twice until they appear.

Press Shift-Tab and then the F key to display the panels and menu bar.

  • Command+Option+F (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+F (Windows) to switch to Normal screen mode from Full Screen with Menubar or Full Screen Mode.
  • Shift+Command+F (Mac) or Shift-Ctrl+F (Windows) hides the title bar, menus, and panels.

To dim or hide the Lightroom Classic CC workspace, choose -> Window then -> Lights Out, then choose an option. Press the F key to cycle through the options.

Identity Plate

You can brand your Lightroom with the logo of your photography business through the Identity Plate Setup.

It’s not going to impact your workflow in any way, but this is a cool customization you can make to appear more professional when working with clients and utilizing tethered capture.

Identity Plate Editor in Lightroom-Darina Kopcok-DPS

To access the Identity Plate Setup click on a Mac -> Lightroom and choose -> Identity Plate Setup from the drop-down menu. For Windows, go to -> Edit and choose -> Identity Plate Setup.

Under Identity Plate, choose -> Personalized and Custom.

Click on -> Use a Graphical Identity Plate and then -> Locate File to navigate to wherever you have your logo saved on your computer.

However, if you don’t have a logo, you can still customize the text that appears in Identity Plate by changing the font, size of the font, and the color of the module names.

To sum up

A customized workspace can help you improve your workflow and therefore efficiency when working in Lightroom.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you navigate Lightroom a bit more easily and has given you some ideas on setting up the interface in the way that works for you.

The post How to Customize Your Lightroom Workspace for Better Workflow appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster

The post 10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Making Lightroom Run Faster-Darina kopcok-DPS

Lightroom is an excellent program editing and managing your image files. When it comes to organizing and developing your photos, Lightroom can’t be beaten. However, there are times when it slows down; like when it renders previews. To address this, here are ten tips that will make Lightroom Classic CC run faster.

10 Tips to Help Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Update Lightroom regularly

Let’s start with the simplest tip: update Lightroom regularly.

Word is that Adobe has been working diligently behind the scenes on improving the performance of Lightroom, so it’s important to keep it updated.

To check for updates, click on -> Help in the top menu bar in Lightroom and then click on -> Updates to install them.


Optimize your Catalog

Lightroom continually updates the catalog file, but eventually, the data structure can become less optimal.

Lightroom has an “optimize catalog” option you can enable to improve performance.

To access this option, go to Lightroom -> Preferences and click on -> Performance.

Then click on -> Optimize Performance.

Set up Lightroom to back up on a regular schedule, and set it to optimize the catalog following the backup.

You can backup as often as you like. Ensure you always have the latest backup in case your Lightroom catalog becomes corrupt.

Be sure to discard previous backups to keep them from slowing down your computer.

More on this in a bit.

Optimize Catalog in Lightroom-DPS


Store your Lightroom Catalog and Previews on your main hard drive

Lightroom stores your catalog and preview files on your main hard drive by default.

To check where the catalog and previews files are stored, go to Lightroom -> Catalog Setting (Mac) or -> Edit -> Catalog Settings (PC).

The Catalog name is an .lrcat file and its location can be found under the -> General tab.

The preview file is an .lrdata file and it is stored in the same location.

Lightroom Catalog Location-DPS

Check your hard drive space

If your computer’s main hard drive is running low on space, Lightroom will slow down, as will any other programs that you’re running simultaneously, like Photoshop.

Your main hard drive needs at least 20% free space for Lightroom to run optimally.

Keep in mind that Lightroom can actually be one of the reasons you’re running low on space!

If you have Lightroom set to back up your catalog every day or every time you close it down, that can result in a lot of space being taken up by backup files.

Delete all of these backup files except the last couple of backups you have made.

It’s important to have the latest backup in case your Lightroom catalog becomes corrupt, but that is all you really need.

Convert your images to DNG when importing into Lightroom

DNG is short for Digital Negative. It’s a RAW file format created by Adobe.

When you convert a file into DNG, Lightroom ads Fast Load Data to the file, which results in a partially processed preview that allows Lightroom to render faster previews in the Develop module.

Adobe claims that a DNG file with Fast Load Data can load up to eight times faster.

Another benefit of converting to DNG files is that they are smaller files than other RAW formats and take up 20% less space on your hard drive.

You must enable this Fast Load Data under your Lightroom Preferences tab.

Go to -> File Handling and check off Embed Fast Load Data. Make sure you have DNG selected as the file extension.

Fast Load Data-Lightroom-DPS

Edit your images using Adobe’s recommended Adjustment Steps

The panels in the Develop module are organized according to a suggested workflow.

Adobe also recommends that adjustments in Lightroom follow a certain order to maximize performance. They are as follows:

  1. Spot Healing
  2. Lens Correction
  3. Transformations
  4. Global Adjustments
  5. Local Adjustments
  6. Sharpening
  7. Noise Reduction

Whenever you make an edit, Lightroom applies it and calculates the previous adjustments that have been made. The more adjustments you apply, the more Lightroom slows down.

This helps keep track of your edits but slows down your system because Lightroom is calculating adjustments as you edit.

I personally stick to this order, except that I start by adjusting my white balance.

I also leave detailed edits for Photoshop. For example, as using the spot healing brush repeatedly can slow Lightroom down significantly. You are better off using this tool in Photoshop, which is also more precise.

Also, editing your images in the order they appear in your Lightroom filmstrip can have an impact on speed.

Lightroom caches images for faster performance in the Develop module.

It will automatically load the next and previous images in the filmstrip below your photos in the memory.

In the screenshot below, the active image is highlighted with a lighter grey background. The images on either side have also been loaded into memory for quick access.

LR Edit Order-Darina Kopcok-EP

Build standard  previews on Import

Lightroom offers several preview settings for your images.

Although there are differing opinions as to which is the optimal preview setting, I suggest building standard previews on import.

This will slow down the import process, but it will make the Library module more responsive when you review the imported images. Lightroom renders the previews from your SSD, rather than building them from the RAW files.

Make sure your previews are set close to the width of your screen.

For example, I work on a 27-inch iMac with a 5120 x 2880 built-in retina display. This means my display should be set at 5120 pixels.

To make this adjustment, go to the -> Catalog Settings and choose -> File Handling.

Choose the previews size under -> Standard Preview Size.


Make your Camera RAW cache larger

Lightroom has a Preview Cache, which is stored with your Catalog file and used in the Library view.

It also has a Camera RAW cache, which loads the image date when you’re in the Develop module.

The default size for this is 1GB, which slows down performance due to Lightroom swapping images in and out of its cache while you’re editing.

I suggest setting the Camera RAW cache to 20 or 30GB.

To set this option go to your Lightroom -> Preferences and click -> Performance.

Set your desired maximum size RAW cache Settings.


Disable XMP Writing

Lightroom keeps track of the edits you make in the Develop module in its catalog. If something happens to this catalog, you can lose all your data.

Lightroom can be configured to write the develop setting data into an XMP file. This a small file that contains the edit information and is written to your computer’s hard drive in the same place as your original RAW file.

The problem is that writing changes into this file can really slow your computer down.

I suggest disabling this feature and make sure that you always have a current backup instead.


Pause Address and Face Lookup features

Lightroom allows you to look up image address based on the GPS data, or the ability to search for faces.

However, allowing these options to run in the background can slow Lightroom down. So it’s best to pause them while you’re actually editing your photos.

You can start them up again if they’re relevant to your editing process.

For example, as a food photographer, I don’t use these features so I have mine set permanently on “pause”.

To access these features, go to where your name appears in the top left-hand corner of the Lightroom interface and click on the arrow beside it to access the drop-down menu. Choose -> Pause.

In Conclusion

When it comes to archiving, organizing and all-around management of your photos, Lightroom is an amazing program.

Hopefully, these tips help you get the most out of the program and speed up its performance so you can spend less time editing and more time shooting!


The post 10 Tips to Make Lightroom Classic CC Run Faster appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media

The post Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Search Instagram for #foodphotography today and you’ll find almost 30 million posts.

Blogs and social media have turned what was once a weird little niche in photography into a worldwide phenomenon. From Baltimore to Beijing, there is no doubt that people love to take pictures of food.

However, as appetizing as your filet mignon may look to your eye, it may not to the camera. Throw in some bad restaurant lighting and a wide angle smartphone lens into the mix, and the potential for ugly food photography is high.

Here are my top five tips for great smartphone food photography for social media that will make your Instagram and other social channel images stand out.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Use Natural Lighting Whenever Possible

When it comes to food photography lighting is everything. The knowledge of how to use light is what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Although flat lighting has been a trend in food photography lately, food looks best when the light is natural and directional.

The reason a lot of food images taken in restaurants looks so bad is the fluorescent lighting, which is hard and unflattering. It is also often tinged with a green or yellow color cast.

When shooting food indoors on your smartphone, try to get beside a window.

Natural window light is what every professional photographer tries to mimic with complicated and expensive flash systems.

It is very flattering for food.

Just be sure that the sun is not too bright, as it can also cast harsh shadows that are unflattering to your dish.

When shooting food with a smartphone, notice where the light is coming from. It should be from the side or the back of your plate or set-up.

While front light is beautiful in portraiture, it will make food look flat and also can cast unwanted shadows.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Choose the Right Angle

Does your plate ever look like it’s sliding off the table whenever you shoot with your smartphone?

This is because the camera has a wide angle lens, so certain angles make your food look distorted.

To achieve the best results, shoot your scene at 90-degrees or straight-on. A 3/4 angle rarely works.

An overhead angle gives a graphic pop to an image because it flattens depth. You can also get a lot more into the frame than you would if you were shooting at 45-degrees.

It’s a perfect angle for tablescapes, but also more minimalistic compositions.

90-degrees is not a good angle for tall foods, like burgers or stacks of pancakes. You want to see those layers, so shoot these kinds of subjects straight-on.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Take a Minimalist Approach

Tablescapes are fun and look appealing, but they are oftentimes difficult to do.

It can take a lot of moving the various elements around to make a pleasing composition and by the time you get it right, the food will no longer look appetizing.

A minimalist approach usually works best, especially if you’re a beginner. After all, the focus should be on the food!

Look at it this way: if your food is nicely plated and styled, then you’re already more than halfway there!

All you need is an additional prop or two, like a utensil or a piece of linen tucked under the plate.

How you approach your propping will really depend on the food. In the image of the poke bowls below, the food is already bright, colorful, and full of texture. Adding more than a set of chopsticks would have distracted the viewer’s attention from the dish.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Heed the Rules of Good Composition

One problem you often see in food pictures on Instagram is that they look messy. Sometimes the food looks messy but also the environment in which the food is captured in.

The background is cluttered, or there are too many props that are distracting and don’t add anything to the shot.

Some of this can be solved with tighter shots and by taking some unnecessary elements away.

But you should also be aware of some of the basic principles of composition.

Try to have some negative space in the image. That is a clean area where the eye can rest for a brief moment as it moves through the image.

Resist the urge to fill every part of your image.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

If every area of your surface is covered with ingredients or a prop, it confuses the viewer and gives a claustrophobic feeling. Negative space provides a bit of breathing room and helps us focus on the main subject.

You should also be familiar with the rule-of-thirds. This is a compositional guideline that divides an image into nine equal parts, using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, like a tic-tac-toe board.

Rule of Thirds

The important elements in your scene should fall along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Smartphones already have a grid like this as an overlay when you turn on your camera. Use it to help you place your focal point. That is the area where you want to create emphasis and draw the viewer’s eye.

A focal point can be created with color, an area of contrast, or isolation. A garnish can serve as a focal point.

Tell a Story

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

I have stated that a minimalist approach is often best, however, be mindful that adding a narrative quality to your images can also be very powerful.

Everyone loves a good story. Give your viewer an idea of a wider story taking place beyond the confines of the frame.

For example, you can do this by partially cropping out some of the elements in an overhead table shot, or show someone’s hand serving food or holding a cup of steaming coffee.

This human touch has become wildly popular in food photography, and this lifestyle element has spilled over from Instagram into the world of commercial food photography because it creates a sense of atmosphere and relatability.

Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media-Darina Kopcok-DPS

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has given you some tips to improve your smartphone food photography for social media.

Whichever approach you choose, be conscious of consistency and developing your style.

If you look at the most successful accounts on Instagram and other social media, you will find that they have a specific look in terms of color treatment or palette.

Take a good look at your images for the consistencies in your style and work on developing them. This may mean you take a lot of bright and airy images, or maybe you do mostly close-ups of your food.

The more you hone your style, the tighter your feed will look and draw an audience that loves what you do.

I’d love to see some of your smartphone food photography, so please share in the comments below.



The post Smartphone Food Photography For Social Media appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

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