This week I sit down with Safia Shakarchi, food stylist, recipe creator, food photographer and founder of Another Pantry to find out what you need to know about being a food photographer.
What to do if you want to be a Food Photographer:
Safia shares how to get started, how to get work and what you could expect to be paid. We discuss including camera lenses, software and tripods and here’s the things Safia recommends.
If you’re watching on YouTube, find the specific topics at these markers:
0:00 Introduction and Safia’s story
6:30 How you can get started as a Food Photographer
10:30 What does a photographer’s assistant do.
12:00 Potential earnings
21:00 Photography Equipment
28:00 Editing Software
30:00 Top tip to get better photographs
34:00 What type of people are best suited to becoming a Food Photographer
36:30 The number one tip to make your photographs better
37:00 How to find a Food Photographer and how to get work as a Food Photographer.
42:00 What does a typical day as a Food Photographer look like.
If you are listening on a podcast these are all marked with chapter markers.
Useful Photography Recommendations by Safia
The best Camera Equipment
* = affiliate links
Photography is an expensive career/hobby once you start trying to get the kinds of photographs you see professionals taking.
Safia makes a point that getting good at the important aspects of photography can be done with any camera, including your phone. It’s worth doing this first, along with some work experience to see if it’s something you would enjoy and someone sees potential in you to get paid for, unless you don’t mind and can afford for it just to be a hobby.
But if you’re wanting to invest and need to get professional to get paid, then you’ll want a DSLR.
50mm lens * is the key lens for a food photographer.
The 35mm lens * is the other one you’d probably want to invest in next. For interiors and portraits.
Once you start buying lenses it gets even more expensive and they’re generally not compatible with different camera brands so you might want to do as Safia did and rent some different cameras to find out what you like using the most before purchasing. The rental company she uses is further down this page.
Tripod – Manfrotto 190 * (though she’s looking for a new one!) It’s currently 25% off at the time of writing! I’m tempted…
Best Photography Editing Software Options
Photography Rental Equipment
This is the site Safia has found to be reliable for photography equipment recommendations though she stresses there are others:
Remember to subscribe below so you don’t miss my list of food recommendations coming tomorrow!
Listen to the full chat on The Next Delicious Thing podcast, here:
Any questions or comments, please reach out!
Read the full interview transcript here
How to become a food photographer – Safia and Jen
Tue, 6/14 7:46PM • 44:42
photographer, people, food, restaurants, shoot, assisting, guess, assistant, camera, photos, photography, bit, paid, started, bakeries, big, budding photographer, tripod, editing, recipe
Jennifer Earle, Jen and Safia together, Safia Shakarchi
Jennifer Earle 00:00
Welcome to The Next Delicious Thing. This week, I am chatting to Safia Shakarchi about what it takes to be a food photographer. So, if you’re interested in potentially pursuing this as a career, or if you’re just a bit nosy like I am, then we’re going to ask her about what sort of person, like in terms of what kind of personality traits perhaps or what kind of skills are really useful to be a food photographer, where you would ,go about getting started, how much you can earn. And also, I’m going to ask her a little bit about what you might look for in a food photographer. So, if you have a food business, and you need food photography, and what kind of questions you might want to ask, and where you might find one. So welcome, Safia. Thanks for joining!
Safia Shakarchi 00:50
Hi, thanks for having me.
Jennifer Earle 00:52
Pleasure. I thought it’d be good to just start with finding out a little bit more about you. So you are not just a food photographer. So, for those of you don’t know, this year, Sofia launched Another Pantry, which is an incredible resource, I’m gonna call it for now, because it’s a website, but it will… it is so much more. And will be too, I’m sure. So there was a pop up in Coal Drops Yard where she curated the most incredible set of food and food related products. Which is kind of, as I understand it, the whole point of Another Pantry. It’s a curation, seasonal curation of beautiful and delicious things. About summarising.
Safia Shakarchi 01:35
Yeah, exactly. I mean, the pop up was kind of supposed to be a big like launch event to kind of launch the website, I suppose. But it had such great reaction that I’m hoping to do more of that. But yeah, the website is kind of bringing together the UK food world. It is trying to be like an online destination for everyone who loves food, whether you want recipes, or to kind of find out where to go, what to do, and, and all kinds of stuff. So yeah, hoping to kind of, like reinvent the recipe website, in a way the traditional recipe website and build a community around it hosts events, kind of just make cooking fun, and a little bit more thoughtful, I think then, then what many people look at it if so, recipes are released four times a year and a seasonal edit. And it’s to encourage us all to cook with the seasons. But also to just slow down a bit. I think one of the reasons why I also wanted to launch Another Pantry and to build it was, maybe it is because I’m a food photographer. And I have also been in like the styling world and the recipe development world. But I just know how much work goes into creating all of that food content. And I think I got to a point where I just felt like I was constantly being ambushed with food content, I guess, with social media. And I don’t know, there’s just so much around. So I felt like it was an attempt by releasing them only four times a year to slow things down. And to get everyone to kind of appreciate each recipe and the person that’s created that recipe,
Jennifer Earle 02:52
You have just mentioned what I was going to bring up: that your background is not just food photography, so I imagine some people come to food photography, by a photography, street photography, and perhaps portrait or weddings or something. And your background is in recipe development and styling. Do you want to just talked to me a bit about what your first job was and where it went from there.
Safia Shakarchi 03:14
Yeah, sure. After I went to university, I actually went to culinary school. So I was initially in the kitchen. I did pastry at Le Cordon Bleu then after that I kind of I don’t know, I guess I loved so many different aspects of food that I just wasn’t sure which I wanted to do. So I did work in bakeries for a while. My first job was actually at the Meringue Girls’ Bakery just off Broadway Market.
Jennifer Earle 03:34
Oh, that’s how you know them!
Safia Shakarchi 03:35
Yeah, it was honestly the best place to work. Alex and Stacey were such great, like women, I guess, to have as role models. I just remember there’s there’s one thing that they said. And it was always like supporting other people in business and other women in business will never affect your own business. And like that’s just something I’ve always carried with me. I loved working there. And then after that, I kind of dotted around it a couple of stages, did a short starge at Ottolenghi and was in and out of kitchens and kind of didn’t want to be tied to a kitchen I guess. So I set up a series of supper clubs with a friend of mine, and we used to pop up all around London. That was really fun. And I kind of from there went into freelance work, recipe development, styling, a bit of photography here and there and events and all kinds of stuff like that. I guess what I kind of hadn’t realised was I’d kind of been cooking since I was about 16. Anyway, it was at the time when everyone was starting a food blog. So I started a food blog when I was 16. I would kind of bake and take photos of it right? The recipes are doing the styling. And then I kind of had a moment a couple of years after I started working in the food industry professionally. Where I was like I think I’ve realised that actually my favourite part of that whole process was the photography. And I’d had a camera I was given a camera when I was 16 for my birthday. And so yeah, that was when I started and I’d kind of taught myself over the years as I kind of built connections and relationships with different restaurants and bakeries, they kind of gradually started asking me to take photos for them as well as style. I think the styling was really helpful because when you go when you’re the like, when you go into restaurants and bakeries and businesses on those kinds of shoots, it’s really handy to have the styling I guess, if you don’t have a food stylist to hand. So I think that was where it was really helpful. And then yeah, that’s kind of how it ended up funnelling and it was actually COVID as well, that ended up making it, the majority of what I do, I think, because I was able to do the photography from home and also have the styling experience and the recipe developed experience, I could kind of do all those things at home.
Jennifer Earle 05:38
That makes a lot of sense. I mean, they’ve effectively – when you have the styling background as well – then you’re kind of forgetting two for one, really, and then add in three for one, when you can also create recipes if required, or at least cook them. If it’s the food photography for a food magazine, then someone else has made the recipe perhaps. But if you’re not able to get to the same place, you can make it and they know that it’s going to be made well.
Safia Shakarchi 06:02
Yeah, exactly. It was handy to have all of those skills
Jennifer Earle 06:04
And the food styling, did you just learn that kind of on the job?
Safia Shakarchi 06:08
Yeah, I mean, food styling is kind of, I always describe it as being like a glamorous chef, it’s just basically being a chef on a photoshoot, sometimes even harder. So if you have the experience of having trained or like gone to culinary school or worked in restaurants, then you’ve got that basis, you’re just you’re cooking and making it look pretty. I mean, the Meringue Girls as well themselves, they were food stylist, so I ended up assisting them on a lot of shoots, and picked up some stuff. And then also did some bits that food magazines. But yeah, all of this kind of thing. I mean, you can, you can go and study it, you can go and train to become a chef and then end up in food styling, or you can go study photography and become a food photographer. But you can also learn them on the job. And as you’re doing them, which is what I did, apart from the food training.
Jennifer Earle 06:52
If you wanted to learn on the job, what would be the best way for somebody who has kind of currently no connections to the food world do you think to start doing that?
Jennifer Earle 07:01
Food styling or food photography?
Jennifer Earle 07:03
Either really, I guess in this episode, we’re kind of focusing mainly on food photography, but perhaps, I mean, perhaps it’s useful, even if they want to do food photography for them to request to assist even as a food stylist?
For sure. I mean, I guess the kind of the same thing applies to both, but just a really good thing to do. Yeah, assist, and also the power of just like reaching out to people. And if there are people that you really admire, like their work, whose people whose work that you love, or that you know, well, that you’d just love to work with, just send them a message or an email and see if they’ve there is an opportunity for you to assist them. Because then that not only gets you possibly into you know, get foot in the door, but then you start building the connections with people and relationships. And I think in the food world, that’s the most important thing, honestly. And it’s the best thing about the food world is the relationships in the community that you can build.
Jennifer Earle 07:50
And perhaps there might be an opportunity to look for even a minimum wage jobs, but it was in an organisation where you knew that you might be able to do some of that. So you’re at least getting some compensation, maybe not minimum wage, but something something rather than completely voluntary, which would kind of put it out of reach for a lot of people. When you’re working at Meringue Girls you were paid, presumably? Yeah, I was paid. Yeah. You were there to cook.
Safia Shakarchi 08:16
Yeah. I mean, I mean, I was there as a baker. But then because there were those opportunities to assist them on food styling jobs. I was also able to do that. I can’t remember if I was paid for those days, I probably was. But yeah, I mean, I did do my fair share of unpaid work at the beginning, I tried to balance it out with paid bits. So if there was something that I desperately really, really wanted to help with. But I would also try and make sure that I was still getting other bits and like there’s always you can always try and take work that maybe doesn’t, I know, it’s it’s not the best thing. But that doesn’t isn’t exactly what you want to do, like you said, like start in a company or start doing something slightly related, so that then you can kind of swerve.
Jennifer Earle 08:57
Yeah, I feel like there, especially at the moment, there are always jobs in restaurants. And if you chose a restaurant where the food was plated beautifully, then you’d at least have the option. You know, even just as you’re walking past to see how the chef’s are like making sure you know the odd numbers of decorations and like where they put things and if you just start being observant in that sense. And, like you say, practising if you can’t afford to do unpaid work, but practising at home, so you might work in something completely different, but, like you with your food blog, you could spend your evenings and weekends and I’m sure there’s plenty of YouTube tutorials on tips and in styling and photography.
Yeah, genuinely. I mean, if you love it enough, yeah, you’ll spend hours on YouTube and teaching yourself and just like reading and doing all that kind of stuff. There are always assisting jobs and people that do want help. And especially if you’re eager and really excited by it. Then even if you do actually get one assisting job like a month or something at a weekend like you will gradually build up to it.
Jennifer Earle 10:01
And what would an assistant be paid? Presumably, I mean, obviously, some would be voluntary, but I’m pretty sure most most people pay their assistants. So do you know what they’d be paid? Currently?
Yeah, I mean, it’s it varies. I’ve been paid like maybe £50 for a day and £100 in the past and the top end of assisting, I think there’s like £200, which is actually quite good. You can get decent pay off it. But I’d say about £100 ish is probably standard £100 to £250.
Jennifer Earle 10:30
And what would a photographer’s assistant do?
Help with everything, you actually learn a lot. It depends what kind of assisting you’re doing. If you’re doing something editorial, for example, like on a food magazine, shoot, you’ll probably be the one that’s like carrying the reflector or like changing – like helping – with the lighting, or like just checking. One thing that I always used to do, and what is an assistant is super, super helpful for, is going through every photo that the photographer takes as they take them, checking the focus, making sure everything looks good, and then even actually, like selecting them, and saying, which one out of the ones that has been taken is the best one or should be carried forward. That’s just something super helpful. Because if you know, when you don’t have an assistant, you end up with like, 1000 photos that you have to cull and go through and be like, Oh, God, which ones are the good ones? That’s probably the main stuff, just being a helping hand.
Jennifer Earle 11:18
And do you think it’s possible for anyone to develop an AI by doing enough assisting?
Safia Shakarchi 11:23
Yeah, for sure. I think also, depending on who you assist, you end up kind of adopting techniques and traits from that photographer, I sometimes I can see like, where someone’s assisted someone for a really long time. And I feel like their style is that they’ve adopted kind of elements of their style, which is quite nice. As with anything like you get better with practice, right? I think photographers do generally have a good eye, but I don’t think that’s necessarily something that you have to be like, you know, born with, I think you can practice and get better at it and learn to see what looks better, and what angles, you can approach things from, how the lighting comes in. Is it better from the side from the back from, you know, it’s all stuff that you kind of get better understanding.
Jennifer Earle 12:03
I guess, then my question would be what is the potential earnings? So for somebody who perhaps is thinking about changing careers, and might, you know, have financial responsibilities? So what if they, you know, put in their time in the weekends and evenings? What would the earning potential be? So, I guess I’m curious about kind of entry level photographers, average, and then your kind of David Loftus, Jean Cazal, like the people who are really at the top of their game. I don’t know if you know.
I do I feel like it’s a bit bonkers. So I guess it, again, it really depends on budgets. I mean, I know some really big publications that only pay like £250 a day, which isn’t a lot, because you also have to consider different photographers do it differently. You need to consider whether your day rate is going to include the time for post production for editing, or whether you’re going to charge two separate days and be like, Okay, well, I’m gonna be here for a day for the shoot, I also need to charge a day for the editing afterwards. So it totally depends. Yeah, I guess it can start from I mean, when I first started, I remember doing my first shoots for like £100, because I was like, I just want to do it. And I had no idea. And also, it’s it is really important to chat to other photographers and other people in the industry, I think we’re so like, none of us like talking about money. So it’s actually quite good to have this conversation. And then also, depending on whether you want to do a half day or full day, I do still do half days, and a lot of photographers don’t because actually, when you do a half day, you’re pretty much putting in the same amount of effort as a full day, like half day, I would say it’s four hours and a full day is eight hours. But if you’re making the journey, you’re going there and you’re taking all your equipment, and you’re setting up, really your half day rate should be about 75% of your full day rate.
Jennifer Earle 13:54
The opportunity costs as well, because you’d potentially then get an offer for a full day that you can’t accept.
Safia Shakarchi 13:59
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I don’t know, I guess a half day for like a mid range photographer maybe would go from like £350 to £550. Maybe probably more higher than that. £600. And then a full day, I’d say like a good yet mid range photographer probably £850 Upwards £800, £850, £900. But I know that businesses, you know, people will charge way more than that for businesses that can afford more. It just depends on budget or editorial actually is sometimes less. So book shoot might be £700 for a full day,
Jennifer Earle 14:37
Because you’re getting a multiple set of days in one go. Like it might be a month or so.
Safia Shakarchi 14:41
Jennifer Earle 14:42
A bulk discount.
Safia Shakarchi 14:44
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Because on a book shoot, you might be doing that three weeks. So that’s a strong chunk.
Jennifer Earle 14:50
So I guess some photographers who might charge £900 a day might accept less even £300 if it was for a big editorial like New York Times or something just because to say that you’ve been in the New York Times,
Safia Shakarchi 15:04
For sure. And sometimes that is how, unfortunately, it does work with bigger publications, they have lower budget, but because they’re huge, you’re willing to do it.
Jen and Safia together 15:13
Because of the “exposure”.
Jennifer Earle 15:17
Like if it’s something like where they actually have kudos and credit, and it’s going to genuinely make a difference to what you can charge people in future? I do understand this, they can kind of get away with that.
Safia Shakarchi 15:31
Yeah. Yeah. And it also depends, like, I try and be really flexible, just because I really love working with like small businesses and restaurants. And, and I know that they’re often strapped for budget, you know, so I always chat to people and be like, what can you do and like, try and try and make it work if it’s something that you really want to do, and something that you really care about. But also you have to make a living. So…
Jennifer Earle 15:53
That’s a really nice way to kind of run a business. And I know lots of people, you know, there are lawyers that do that, that will charge full rate to big businesses, and then be able to do free work or low paid, you know, at cost or a bit higher, for people who otherwise couldn’t, because we kind of live in quite a skewed world where the money flows.
Safia Shakarchi 16:19
Yeah, and I guess another thing to mention, as well is like, like travel, and timings, and like just actually taking things into account in your day. So for example, if I’m doing a shoot outside of London, I’ll charge for that extra time, I guess, that I’m travelling for. I’d try and get, you know, travel covered and all that kind of stuff. I guess, if you’re doing big shoot, and you know, you have an assistant, you also have to factor that into your pay. It’s usually the photographer that will pay the assistant rather than the brand. I mean, it works differently for different shoots.
Jennifer Earle 16:48
So that’s that kind of £850 amount would pay for an assistant as well? Would that also cover the editing time, would you say, in that case?
Safia Shakarchi 16:56
I’d add an assistant onto that, if I could. If budget allowed.
Jennifer Earle 17:01
And would that include editing as well?
Safia Shakarchi 17:04
Yeah, it depends. I try to put all my rate into one. And then I basically charge like overtime and say like basic round of edits is included. But if you didn’t send it back to me, and you’re saying that you need this, this and this change, and you want X number of photos more, then I’ll charge more for that. Some people actually charge like, they’ll say, my rate is £900 for the day, and I’ll only give you 30 photos, and they limit it.
Jennifer Earle 17:27
Safia Shakarchi 17:28
I don’t do that. Which I don’t know if that’s smart or not. But yeah, some people limit it. If it’s editorial, especially because with editorial, you’re setting up on a tripod or like on a stand. And you’re… The food stylist is involved, everyone’s involved in getting the perfect shot. And then you then spend hours editing that one shot and getting all the colouring, right and all that kind of stuff. But if you’re doing a shoot that’s a bit more free flowing and you’re in a restaurant, or it’s not so set up, then you don’t necessarily have to limit the amount of photos that you send the client.
Jennifer Earle 17:59
That makes sense. So would you say that then, as a photographer, people tend to focus on one style. So some might do more of like action shots, I guess, in in restaurants and sort of things, which is not a studio setup. And then others would do more like flat lay, studio, where you’ve got a team preparing everything?
Safia Shakarchi 18:20
I guess it depends, I think, like we were saying the higher end photographers, they’ll probably be the ones that focus more on their in their studio, or they’re in a studio. And I’ll focus more on editorial and commercial type stuff, from my experience anyway, and the people that I know. But generally, like I, for example, love doing both. And hopefully, will always be able to do both, like I love the editorial stuff, because it’s a lot more structured, and you can really, really get the perfect shot. But then I love the stuff where I’m actually on location and shooting something in a restaurant and something that’s happening. I actually feel that’s a bit more creative as well. I feel like you’re a bit more like just free to see what looks good and go for it. I guess it depends on the photographer, and what they like.
Jennifer Earle 19:01
Good to know, there’s options for people. Because, yeah, like portrait photography, you can do it in studio setting, or you can do it out and about.
Safia Shakarchi 19:09
I guess, yeah, the stuff in studios and the editorial stuff, like you said, you’ll probably get more than one day. So pay wise, that’s probably the stuff that you want. That’s the stuff that you do want more of. Whereas if you’re doing a one off, then that’ll just be that one day. So yeah.
Jennifer Earle 19:22
That’s interesting. So we didn’t get to what the kind of high end is.
Safia Shakarchi 19:26
I mean, I’ve heard like, like that really high end photographers can charge like crazy crazy amounts, like £6,000 to £10,000 a day. Which is just bonkers.
Jennifer Earle 19:40
Safia Shakarchi 19:43
Exactly. It’s something to work towards. Yeah. So that’s, that’s what I’ve heard anyway, that they can get. So it’s a pretty solid career option.
Jennifer Earle 19:52
Yeah, definitely. If people are telling you you’ve got talent and you love it then definitely. I’m thinking those kind of people who are earning that amount of money generally have been doing it for at least 10 years. And that the experience really compounds, I suspect that people would be willing to pay that kind of money if they know that… I guess you’re talking about studio shots where you can get a perfect shot. But if you are out on location, for example, like you really want somebody who’s definitely going to get some shots you can use because you don’t want to skimp on spending £600 a day for somebody, and then you like, Oh, we got paid for all the flights and everything, and we can’t use anything. So…
Safia Shakarchi 20:35
Yes, for sure. And they’ll also have mega equipment, Like a lot of time I hire in equipment, which is actually an interesting thing to talk about.
Jennifer Earle 20:41
Ooh, yes, I’d love to know, because that’s it’s not a cheap thing to get started in. I mean, maybe to get started, but like to get people to pay you money. You really need a proper DSLR I guess.
Safia Shakarchi 20:52
Yeah, well, actually, so I actually only upgraded my camera last year, I was using a pretty average camera for a long time. I went to a talk, I think it was a couple of years ago. But someone said to me that it doesn’t matter whether you have a really fancy camera or not. If you’re a good photographer, you’ll still take a good photo. So I was determined to just keep using my really average camera for as long as possible, whilst just getting better at being a photographer, I guess initially, actually, I don’t think it matters, what camera we use. Another thing is, if you do get a DSLR, the better thing to spend your money on is lenses. So you can get any kind of body, I say any, but a cheaper body. And then you can kind of go all out on what people call glass, which is the lenses.
Jennifer Earle 21:39
Didn’t know that. Cool term. Glass. How many lenses would a food photographer need to get started? I mean, obviously, you can get started with one but think really like, would you say? Yeah, well,
Safia Shakarchi 21:54
I mean, there is one lens that every budding photographer should have is a 50mm lens, there are two 50mm lenses, there’s, it’s called a pancake, I think a lot of people call it a pancake lens, which is like it’s much smaller, I don’t actually have my 50mm. But that’s like you can get that for about £150-£200. And it’s the best lens. A food photographers lens is the 50mm. The cheaper one is basically the perfect place to start. And then obviously, when you get a bit more advanced, you can then invest in the more expensive ones, which can be crazy expensive. But that one when I first did it, like 10 years ago, I bought it off Amazon and used it every day. And that, it’s just, it’s great for food, it’s not so great for like portrait and interiors and all that kind of stuff. So if you did want to have two: one for food, and for more like you know, closer in shots, it would be the 50mm and then a really, really good one. The one that I always use for interiors and portraits is 35mm. The lenses are pretty much what you need. And they’re prime lenses, so they don’t zoom or anything, but a lot of people, a lot of like amazing photographers that I know actually use Zoom lenses where you can get the range of both, I guess,
Jennifer Earle 23:04
Isn’t it a compromise when you have a zoom lens, on quality? I guess if you spending enough on it, perhaps not?
Safia Shakarchi 23:10
Yeah, if you get a good enough zoom lens, it actually doesn’t and like, again, if you know how to use it, then not really.
Jennifer Earle 23:17
I guess you save a lot of time then not having to switch out lenses.
Safia Shakarchi 23:21
Jennifer Earle 23:22
I mean, it’s not that big a deal. It could be annoying, if it’s an action, like live shot, then it is frustrating. I think if you’ve got a studio shot, perhaps not as important.
Safia Shakarchi 23:30
That’s the thing, when I am actually shooting on location, sometimes I’m like scrambling to quickly change my lens. And I’m like, arghhh, because I way prefer using prime lenses. Just because, I don’t know whether it is a good analogy, but it’s kind of like driving a manual versus an automatic. Like, if you really love photography, and you kind of love running up to things or like going further away and like kind of doing that manually, then prime lenses are really fun. Whereas zoom lenses are really good for travel as well. Because again, if you’re in that situation where you can’t carry three lenses…
Jennifer Earle 23:59
Do higher end photographers typically come with more than one camera?
Safia Shakarchi 24:04
Jennifer Earle 24:05
So then they can switch out like prime lenses without having to actually switch the lens or is it for another reason?
Safia Shakarchi 24:10
I guess a super super high end photographer might have to have the same camera. So yeah, they could do that. Or you know if you’re doing I guess this is more for video, but you might have different tripod setup or different stands set up with different people get different angles. Yeah, but usually like what you would have your camera and then you’d have the second one is your spare if your first one in the middle of a shoot. So I take my old camera as my second
Jennifer Earle 24:34
Okay, that makes sense. So let’s just recap just to start to be an assistant. You don’t really need just any kind of camera, but to kind of actually begin a career in it, ideally, you’d have the 50mm lens and a 35mm lens. And then, I guess you also need a tripod, do you need any of the reflectors or things like that?
Safia Shakarchi 24:56
You don’t need any of it, I guess ,but as you get a bit more advanced. And as you start doing more and more shoots, they’re useful to have tripods. Yeah, super, super, super handy in every situation really, you can totally get away with freestyling it and not doing it. And again, like some action shots are better without that, because then you can kind of get in on the action and get the exact angle, I used to actually never use a tripod because I found it so limiting. I found it just didn’t give me the option to go and get the angle that I wanted. But actually, they’re amazing, especially if you’re shooting in situations like low lighting and you really need the stability. A tripod is like your best friend. If you’re doing product shots where you want everything to be the same scale and really consistent: tripod. Overhead shots. If you’re again setting up editorial and commercial, you will need a stand or you will need a tripod definitely. And then diffusers and reflectors and stuff are just super handy. Again, you can get them quite cheaply on Amazon. And actually what they’re really helpful for is just experimenting, and figuring out what they do and how you can change the light and how you can increase the shadows. And how if you’ve got a really, really sunny day and you don’t want the sunlight, even though sunlight in photos is great, then you can trick it into just diffuse the light basically, and get a completely different look. They’re useful to learn and to be able to do many things depending on what your client wants and what you want.
Jennifer Earle 26:18
Would you… if you’re going to buy a tripod, then I guess it’s worth buying one that has the arm that can go horizontal as well.
Safia Shakarchi 26:27
Yeah, it’s handy. My tripod, the one I started out with a Manfrotto, which is great. It’s super sturdy, it lasts me ages. And they have a range of different kind of tripods that you can get at different prices. But then when you want to start getting like much sturdier, much bigger, much higher, they can get super expensive and probably start at like £500. Photography’snot cheap, which is I guess is also why your rate has to make sure that you’re covering the equipment that you’re buying, the software that you’re using.
Jennifer Earle 26:58
Yeah, I was just thinking that because when you’re talking cameras and lenses that go into the 1000s of pounds, and when you’re looking for multiples to make sure you’ve got spares, then you really need to be paid £6,000 a day. Like when you as you work up, you get more and more equipment.
Safia Shakarchi 27:11
Yeah, exactly. When you start buying lights, and when you start buying, I dont know, like everything, all the props, and God knows what that you need. Yeah, for sure. It kind of goes hand in hand.
Jennifer Earle 27:22
Yeah. And I mean, those people are not necessarily working every day of the week, either. So…
Safia Shakarchi 27:27
You can’t. You can… it depends, but because you have to account for the editing time. You need to you need to always factor that into your diary.
Jennifer Earle 27:37
Yeah. And it’s just the time coordinating back and forth, figuring out dates, pitching your work, and then sending invoices, all of those things, you either have to be allowing time to do that yourself or have some kind of virtual assistant or actual assistant that can do that for you. Which they still require managing if it’s… even if you’re outsourcing it. So many of these kind of freelance jobs, there is a lot more that goes into the time you’re charging for than physically being present with the people who are paying you.
Safia Shakarchi 28:06
Well, yeah, also, it’s a business, you’re running a business, even though you know, I’m a sole trader, it is a business. So you need to consider the fact that you’re also paying your insurance every year you’re also paying all of those things that a business would pay.
Jennifer Earle 28:21
Safia Shakarchi 28:22
Yeah, so you need to factor all of those those costs in.
Jennifer Earle 28:25
So, on those costs: you mentioned the software. Are there particular software options that you see lots of photographers in food use, or are there options?
Safia Shakarchi 28:37
Yeah, there are options. So I use Capture One which I actually only switched to two years ago, it was in lockdown where I was like I was really really reluctant to switch I started off using Lightroom I’m one of those people that when I’m attached to something and I know how it works I refuse to learn something else. I’m like no, no, I’m so used to this I want to use it. But then obviously lock down happened, I had all this time so I decided to work out Capture One and I don’t think I could ever go back to Lightroom The only thing is Lightroom I think is… although they Adobe’s changed their pricing, so it’s become a lot more expensive, but I’m pretty sure Lightroom is still more affordable than Capture One. I pay I think it’s £25 a month for a Capture One. But it’s amazing. I mean, I think I would suggest starting with Lightroom and also because normally Lightroom comes with Photoshop as well, which is I still use even with Capture One. They’re very similar. It just kind of depends which one feels better for you. I think initially the reason that I also wanted to change was because my camera wasn’t compatible. I couldn’t tether. I don’t think Lightroom tethered I don’t tethering is basically when you link up your camera to your computer or your laptop and shoot live. So every image comes onto your screen for some reason yeah, I think it didn’t work for me on Lightroom I think it does, but it just didn’t work for me. Capture One allowed me to do that and also you just get so much more control over colour. You can select individual colours and edit them. And I love it.
Jennifer Earle 30:03
That’s really interesting. And I think that the tethering part, as you say, if if it works with Lightroom, that’s great. But it is something that in the short photography course, it wasn’t a food photography course, but I wanted to learn how to use a camera that I’d spent money on. And one of the biggest things I don’t do enough when I take photographs – just for Instagram and the blog – is check the photo on the screen compared to what it is looking through the lens. I mean, even if you’re looking at it on the tiny screen, it’s on the camera, rather than through the eyepiece. I don’t know the lingo. But the difference between when you actually see it after it’s been taken, like, oh, but… just in the slight wrong position.
Jennifer Earle 30:44
I see that a lot when I’ve gone to photoshoots where there’s someone, like the photographer’s assistant, is sitting at the computer, and the photographer will come back and forth and check the shot as well.
Safia Shakarchi 30:53
Yeah, because also, I mean, a lot of cameras like my camera, you can zoom in on the the like this screen, but it won’t, you won’t be able to check the focus or the composition to the same level as if you’re seeing it bigger. And also you can apply a filter automtically. Like if you have a filter that you always use, or you just know the adjustments that you make sure that when you’re editing it, you can kind of do that as you go. So you can see what the final photo… you will get a better idea of what the final photo is going to look like.
Safia Shakarchi 31:19
That’s interesting. Is that like a preset?
Safia Shakarchi 31:22
Yeah, you can either do it as a preset or you can just do it as you go.
Jennifer Earle 31:25
So, just to anyone who is not… these are kind of newish words to me as well. So, a preset will just be if you happen to know that you typically want to make something brighter, or you’re going for like, maybe you take your photographs and you edit them always into black and white, it would automatically do that. So you get an idea of seeing it. So there’s lots of different things you can do to photographs to make them you know, sharper or brighter if you’re trying to tell a story through the editing Is the editing one of the harder bits of becoming a photographer? Or?
Safia Shakarchi 31:59
I’m one of those people. I really have to edit like as soon as I’ve done the shoot, because I’m super excited to see the photos. And if you don’t, you can kind of let it drag on and then you’ve done your next shoot. There are times where I’ve gone back to it two weeks later, and I’m like, Oh God, like I don’t know, if I could do this. I don’t know, I actually really love editing. To be honest. It’s funny, a lot of a lot of photographers will say “just try as much as possible to get the photo right in the camera”. I guess different things like, for example, focus is something that you’re never gonna be able to edit into a photo. So it’s really, really important to prioritise that and make sure that you’re getting the quality that you want. Whereas if your exposure’s a bit off, or if there’s a certain area where I don’t know, colour hasn’t come out correctly, that stuff that you can work on. And that’s what’s great about photography. And that’s what’s great about editing. So again, like, when you’re starting out, it’s quite a fascinating process, you just learn about what you can manipulate and change. And as much as I love editing, I try not to over edit, because I just prefer them to look a little bit more natural. But different types have different styles. And it’s just a nice thing to go through to to work out your style, I guess when you’re starting out.
Jennifer Earle 33:11
So if somebody, already feels like they’d love photography, is there any kind of personality traits or skills that you think in people are particularly well suited to it? And is there anything that you would watch out for? Is there something that you perhaps didn’t realise about photography that you think people should know before they kind of pursue it as a career?
Safia Shakarchi 33:34
Oh, like editorial shoots and commercial shoots, like much bigger shoots are actually way less… I don’t know if glamorous is the right word, but there’s a lot of heavy lifting and lugging your equipment round. And it can get very technical. And I think I don’t know, I don’t know whether this is a controversial thing, but like sometimes on the biggest shoots, you feel a little bit more distant from your camera, because it’s everything’s just so set up and you’re kind of clicking a button. So I guess there’s that.
Jennifer Earle 34:09
I was curious when you said technical, do you mean in terms of analysing all of the settings on your camera, and then you really need to know that?
Safia Shakarchi 34:17
There’s that but then also, like all the equipment that you’re working with is like quite mega, you know, and like you kind of have to know what everything does and how to manipulate it all. And there’s just a lot of working with like technology. I think when you get to much bigger shoots.
Jennifer Earle 34:35
You mean like lighting and flashes and diffusers and all that?
Safia Shakarchi 34:39
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like all of those kinds of things. So there’s that and I think that’s also why big photographers will often have like a team of people to help. They’ll have more than one assistant to help bring stuff in. But in terms of personality traits, I feel like I know like every different kind of personality and photographer like I know so many. I don’t know, I think the one thing that I’ve gotten better at, or had to get better, at is you actually do have to go in and be quite confident. I mean, I know obviously, that’s something that comes with the fact that you’re confident with your camera. But I mean more in the sense of, you know, if you’re going into a restaurant and you’re being paid to shoot and you’re being paid to get good shots, you need to be able to go in there and be like, “I need to move that chair and I need to move this and this is going to look better here”. And obviously respecting the fact that you’re in a restaurant, and sometimes they’ll be in service. So you really don’t want to be in every everyone’s hair. So you kind of have to be quite like, you have to be very patient, because a lot of the time you will have to wait to get the shot and to be able to get to where you need to be. You also have… God the amount of times I’ve had to ask restaurants and bakeries and stuff to turn their lights off. And they’re like, basically functioning in the dark. And I’ve just felt awful. But you just have to remember, like, this is my job. I’m here to do this, I’m getting paid to do this, I need to just do it.
Jennifer Earle 36:01
And for anyone who doesn’t realise that the reason to turn the lights off is because often they’re either like really blue or with a yellow right. So it will just …or gives reflections or
Safia Shakarchi 36:09
Yeah, exactly. You also have way more like power in editing and stuff when you’ve turned the lights off and like the colour, the white balance and usually it’s just because they’re yellow, especially in in restaurants and stuff, which just completely changes the tone of the photo and it’s hard to get rid of.
Jennifer Earle 36:27
Yeah, yeah, as somebody that only takes photos in restaurants when I go to eat, but it’s problematic. I see that a lot with even just the bigger food influencers will also ask for the lights to be turned off. I’ve definitely taken my plate outside. For a restaurant, if I’m like, I think I want to post this online. So I’m just going to take it outside. Yeah, put it on the ground.
Safia Shakarchi 36:49
It is a game changer. If anyone’s just looking for a very basic tip. Even if you’re taking pictures of stuff in your house, like a food in your house, turn the lights on, get close to a window. Also that is for a budding photographer, the easiest wa. To just work with like natural daylight is the best thing ever.
Jennifer Earle 37:07
Yeah, that’s what I was gonna ask you if you had a tip. So that is perfect. Thank you. And if somebody’s looking for a food photographer, is there any particular questions that they should ask? Or how they should find them? Like, is there any do you have any suggestions for people who might have a food businesses who might have a food business that they want to get some great photographs for and that perhaps, you know,
Safia Shakarchi 37:30
A lot of PR agencies will have like their list of photographers. So if you’re a restaurant that’s working with a PR agency, then that’s I don’t know, they might have a recommendation or want you to work with a specific person. Also, if you’ve just seen someone whose work that you like, or if someone reaches out who is a photographer, and it’s just like, I love your restaurant, I would love to shoot for you one day,
Safia Shakarchi 37:51
I think that’s the best way of doing it. Because you know that they love what you do, and it will come across. And then agencies, like a lot of photographers have an agent. And if you approach an agency, they’ll hook you up with one that fits what you need.
Jennifer Earle 38:04
Great tips as well, for somebody who is a budding photographer. So speak to the PR agencies, reach out to businesses that you like, and reach out to agencies. I’m guessing agencies might be a little bit further down the line. But you said you approached restaurants and bakeries and that you liked and offered? I mean, some of them sounds like they came to you as well.
Safia Shakarchi 38:25
Yeah, I was quite lucky initially in that, because I had worked in that industry. I knew people and I was like, Oh, I’m doing this can I take your photos, or the other way around, they were like, “Would you be willing to take photos?”. There’s lots of different ways. And again, obviously, if you’re assisting other photographers, they might pass on work.
Jennifer Earle 38:43
It feels to me like that assisting thing is really valuable. And choosing to be an assistant for somebody who is happy to mentor you and and give advice as well. I mean, it’s great. Just even if they don’t, and you can just observe your I’m sure you get a lot out of it. But if you’re going to be doing more of it, and you’re kind of giving up your time for free or for low wage, you want to make sure that that person’s a little bit vested in, in making sure that you can develop as well.
Safia Shakarchi 39:11
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I would say I probably didn’t do as much as much assisting as I would have wanted to do. So I think also like if you’re someone that’s starting out and you have a friend who is starting a food business, or I don’t know you know, someone in an industry where you can offer your services, you can just start shooting right away. Like obviously when you get to a point when you’re gonna able to deliver. You can do both, unless you are… some assistants are literally employed full time by us for a long time. But if you’ve got the freedom, then try doing stuff, all different kinds of things to develop.
Jennifer Earle 39:46
That’s a really good point. If you love the industry, then you can make a career out of being a photographer’s assistant as well. It’s not always a step to becoming a photographer. thing worth pointing out. Is there anything that you haven’t shared yet about how to become a food photographer, how to choose a food photographer, or perhaps even just how to take better photographs, if you’re not yet at the stage where you can afford a food photographer, that you haven’t already shared? I feel like you’ve shared a lot. But if there’s anything else that that we haven’t covered that you want to make sure we do before the end of the episode, that would be awesome.
Safia Shakarchi 40:20
Ooh, I don’t know. I guess, I would say like, if you’re a client looking for a photographer, and also, even if you’re a photographer, who’s, you know chatting to a prospective client, make sure that they’re also coming to you or like, understand your style. Different photographers have different styles. And I have sometimes been in a situation where a client is expected to completely different style to what I normally do and what’s in my portfolio, which is obviously, you know, you have to work with whoever you’re working with, it’s better when you have a little bit more creative licence, and they trust you. And they know that this is your style, and this is what they’re looking for. And you can kind of like come together rather than anyone forcing themselves into doing something that doesn’t feel natural to them. I think that’s also something to bear in mind.
Jennifer Earle 41:04
A really good point. And I think it leads to the importance of communication as well. So like you said that the photographer’s that are clear upfront that I’m only going to give you 30 images, even if you’re not going to be that restrictive, you might want to give them an idea of what they might expect. Because if they’re expecting to get like 1000 images that will get them through the whole of the year and for all of their socials and, and things like that. So that’s worth…
Safia Shakarchi 41:28
I mean, yeah, exactly. Like every what’s what I actually think is amazing and great about photography is that every photographer is different. There is room for everyone in a way, because everyone’s got a different style. And there will be someone, there’ll be a client who you like resonate with over someone else who might then go to a different client, because they’re suited more to them. So yeah.
Jennifer Earle 41:48
So how can people find out more about you and your work? Where should they go?
Safia Shakarchi 41:53
Oh, I am terrible at Instagram these days, but I have an Instagram, which is @dearsafia. My portfolio is on my website, which is dearsafia.com. And then yeah, there’s all the Another Pantry bits as well that I’m working on.
Jennifer Earle 42:06
dearsafia.com, and anotherpantry.co.uk. I will link to both of those under this video. And if you’re listening on audio, it’ll be at thenextdeliciousthing.com This has been so interesting. I have loved finding out about like, what exactly is involved in everything. I didn’t really find out much about a typical day, which I was going to ask.
Safia Shakarchi 42:27
You might have to start super early. Also, if you’re only working with natural light in the winter, you need to start early because your light’s going to disappear at 3pm, which is a disaster. That’s usually when you’re just starting out and you have no lighting or you don’t hire in lighting or anything, your day might start very early. If you need to get there, setup and do all that kind of stuff. You’ll have a morning photo shoot, you’ll probably break for lunch, then you’ll do the second half of the shoot. Also have to bear in mind, you’re going to have pack it all down, take it all home. But yeah, I mean, it’s always different. That’s what’s great: every day is different. There’s no,
Jennifer Earle 42:59
You can be working totally on your own. Or you could be working with a giant team.
Safia Shakarchi 43:03
Yeah, exactly. You could start super super early, or you could have an afternoon shoot.
Jennifer Earle 43:08
Also, if you don’t mind, could we share the links to the photography rental that you might use as well? Just if people are interested in running it as a business, and they can have a look online and see what the costs or things to rent might be.
Safia Shakarchi 43:24
It’s also a really, really great way to figure out what camera you want. I spent over a year deciding which camera to buy, and I rented loads to try them one out, rather than going and spending 1000s of pounds on one night wasn’t sure about which should you buy in the end, I went a bit mad and I bought the Canon R five, which if anyone is considering buying it is amazing. But actually, I think I probably could have gotten away with getting the Canon R which is kind of like one step down and significantly cheaper. And then just spending more on lenses.
Jennifer Earle 43:55
So good to know that I’m sure if you’re planning it for like a long term career. It’s yeah, you know, it’s not it’s not money that will be wasted in any way. Amazing. Thank you. I always do this, I end it and then I asked about the question.
Safia Shakarchi 44:11
It’s like when you say my at the front door, and then you end up standing there for half an hour and chatting about something completely different.
Jennifer Earle 44:15
Yes, yes. Yes, that is a story of my life. Hopefully that’s an enjoyable thing as part of this podcast and video. And well I really appreciate your time. It’s been really interesting and always lovely to talk to you. Anyway. Thanks everybody for listening and all the links DSF e.com, another country dot code at UK and excellence testing.com Please subscribe and tell your friends thanks