Here's How Much Food Photographers Really Make

Do you like food? Check. Do you like taking photos of food? Well, only if we can resist eating it, but if you answered yes and have ever wondered what it would be like to make a career as a food photographer, you are not alone. According to, there are about 132,100 photographers working just in the United States; however, the percentage that specializes in food photography is actually quite small. Maybe that's because making food look aesthetically pleasing and appetizing in a photo is not as easy as "focus and click." 

If you think about it, it's really a tall order to take a photo of food that inspires a viewer's taste buds and is compelling enough to make them want to buy or make the dish they are hopefully drooling over. If you've ever proudly made your favorite pasta recipe by Giada De Laurentiis or a dessert by Ina Garten and its beauty didn't translate in your photo, it may have nothing to do with your cooking skills but everything to do with your camera skills. But, let's say you have the skills to take photos for big food publications and sites. How much do you get paid? And how much time and effort does it really require?

The average food photog makes just a little more than $40k

The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado reveals that there is a lot more to this profession of snapping photos of food than being able to press the click button on your Smartphone. The school shared in a blog post that a food photographer must be able to deal with lighting issues, edit photos, network with people in the food publication industry, and sometimes you apparently even have to be able to cook. That sounds like a lot of work. 

The blog goes on to further lament that just because you are spending a great deal of time traveling from shoot to shoot, you cannot neglect networking because food photogs are independent contractors. Basically, as a food photographer, you are part of the eat-what-you-kill population where you only get paid for the work you hunt for and actually get (via Compensation Café). And it might be less than what you need to make ends meet. According to, a food photographer can generally expect to make anywhere from $36,638 and $44,041 on an annual basis, with the average hovering at $41,631. Clearly, there are some photographers who make more and some that make less, but if you have the skills, and there's adequate demand, that might be enough to pay the bills and enjoy your love of all things food.