💯 💯 💯 "I don't believe that 'fake it till you make it' thing. I don't believe in that. You do have to believe in your work and yourself. But for those starting out with a marketing plan, you've got to be consistent. And you have to target the people who you know, will use your type of imagery.
EP 30: Thrilled to host Christina Peters on the podcast! Christina is a renowned food photographer with over 25 years in the commercial photography industry, and in this episode we talk about proactive marketing strategies to stand out with the clients we want to work with, while at the same time building a strong mindset needed to turn our hobby into a career.
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Michael Der 0:02
You're listening to Artrepreneurs, a podcast that inspires photographers and visual artists to live their best creative lives. My name is Michael Der and I am a full time photographer with nearly 10 years of experience in the freelancing world. And I'm sitting down with an amazing community of visual artists to talk about process, business, and the lessons that have helped them grow. So let's get to it. Artrepreneurs starts right now.
Okay, welcome to the show, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us here at Artrepreneurs for our 30th episode of the season. Now we've got quite the appetizing show for you today because our very special guest is a renowned food photographer with a resume of clients that are some of the most well known leaders in the food industry, you might recognize names like McDonald's Whole Foods, Kraft, Nestle, Domino's, and pink Berry, just to name a few. And folks that is just scratching the surface. I'm not about to read the entire list of clients that she has shot for. But believe me, she has the unquestioned credentials to give us some pointers to go forward in our business. So today, we're going to talk a little bit about marketing a little bit about pricing, and ultimately, the attitude necessary to be a professional food photographer, you can find her work at Christina Peters calm and on her Instagram account, which is at the food shooter. And for those of you who are looking to boost your skills at home, check out her amazing food photography membership site called foodphotographyclub.com. I'm going to be linking everything in the show notes as well. But for now, I'm just excited to bring in our guests the wonderful Christina Peters. Christina, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Christina Peters 1:31
Hi, Michael. Thanks so much. I'm glad to be here.
Michael Der 1:34
Well, I'm glad to have you as well. I've been so excited for this interview for a while now. But before we get into the nitty gritty of marketing, and pricing and all that good stuff. Just tell me a little bit about how you got into this line of work. What was it that drew you to shooting food, as opposed to other areas of photography.
Christina Peters 1:49
So I have been taking pictures since I was a child, I have two degrees for photography, I thought I was going to do product photography. And so when I graduated Art Center, I kind of created my own master's degree, if you will, where I decided to assist as many photographers as I could in a two year period. So I assisted a whole bunch of different shooters that did a whole bunch of different things. And that's actually when I discovered food photography. And I'm so grateful for that experience because I really thought I was going to be a product shooter and do that type of ad work. But instead, I fell in love with just the way food photography worked, how it was on set, the collaborations on set as well. And that's really what sort of guided me to end up choosing that as a career. Although I have to say the first few years I definitely shot like I was a jackie of all trades. I taught a whole bunch of different things but shooting
Michael Der 2:55
like weddings and lifestyle and all that.
Christina Peters 2:59
Okay, let's let's like caveat Yeah, I shot one wedding because I totally hated it. I so respect wedding shooters. Yeah, I can't handle that stress.
Michael Der 3:10
So talk to me a little bit about the nuances maybe between something that is as niched as food photography versus other product photography, like jewelry, or clothing or automobiles. What is it about food photography that's a little bit different that maybe you didn't know, in advance?
Christina Peters 3:26
With food photography, I loved the collaboration of working with a food stylist or a chef. And I know so many times of Prop stylist as well. Of course, when you're working on product work, you are probably going to be dealing with stylists too. But I think it's the creation of the item we're photographing, which is a very short lived thing. It's food, it doesn't last very long, some food last longer than others. And that's it. That's all you got. So I liked the immediate responsiveness of making something, photographing it, seeing how it looks tweaking it, working with the clients and the stylists to create something that individually on our own, we never would have created something as beautiful. And then sometimes you can end up eating it.
Michael Der 4:20
That is a good benefit.
Christina Peters 4:22
Yeah, so that can happen.
Michael Der 4:23
I'm curious, this actually gets me thinking about when you're talking about stylist, your work revolves around the presentation of food. How has your dining experience changed, if at all based off of your understanding of presentation, can you appreciate an Italian dinner? If it's not plated very well?
Christina Peters 4:41
Yes. So I look at restaurants in two different ways. There are chefs that know how to plate and then there are chefs that don't know how to plate and then let's be honest, there's restaurants that don't even have a chef they have line cooks and they just throw that food out there right. It can taste fabulous and look absolutely horrid.
So, you know, and when I cook, my dinners aren't beautifully plated either, because that takes a lot of time, right? You know, and then it makes it's cold. So and if you see stuff with steam on it, it's totally fake. So So I fully respect a Michelin star restaurants where the chef knows how to plate. It's a work of art on the plate. And it tastes amazing. That's like the absolute ultimate challenge, in my opinion. Yeah.
Michael Der 5:30
And at what point did you start your photography business? Was it right away? Or did you transition into that after working for a certain company or publication for a number of years.
Christina Peters 5:40
So what I did, so as soon as I graduated Art Center, I had a lot of student loans, I had a lot of debt. So I had to start paying those puppies off. That's when I started assisting so I immediately made promos I selected a whole bunch of photographers whose work i thought was technically excellent. And they appeared to be successful in business. I made a gorgeous print five by seven, I handmade this promo mailed it to them, called to follow up to see if they got it. And then I started immediately working as a photographer. what started happening was, as I was assisting so many different types of photographers, a couple of them, actually passed my name down to some clients, who were smaller clients, for them budget wise, but for starting shooter were awesome. Like the day rates were maybe 1500 bucks, something like that, whereas their normal day rate started at like five grand a day. So they would hand off the job to me, and or I would just completely do it on my own, without even that photographer there. So I had always been shooting and had had that business mindset since day one, right? Because I got to, I had to pay a lot of bills. Yeah, made a lot of debt.
Michael Der 6:56
Well, I get the sense that, you know, today's generation of the young photographers are very unsure of what path to normally take, should they work for someone else? Or should they pursue freelancing on their own? I'd like to get your opinion on what you think are viable options in the food photography industry. Do you feel there's sufficient amount of in house positions or staff jobs? Or should students be ingraining? That freelance mentality? Now, just in preparation for if it doesn't happen to be in large supply?
Christina Peters 7:25
Yes. So if you want to be a food shooter, there are very few internal full time food photography jobs, it takes a lot of money for a company to have an interior studio, they need a lot of equipment. Right? And I do find that there are companies who are just not willing to go that expense, even though it will actually save them a lot of money in the long run. Well, yeah. Instead, they're just hiring people. They're real scrappy, about, oh, well, we'll just do it for social media, aka meaning we're not going to pay you hardly anything. Some companies really struggle at that. Others have learned that if they have in house photography, they can fully control their message, their marketing, their look, their branding, and do things that way. So it hasn't changed much in the food world as far as in house shooting positions. So if you really want a steady paycheck, this really isn't the field for you. You're used to that getting a paycheck every two weeks, right? doesn't really happen in our world like that. Never did for me. Never did. You know, and
Michael Der 8:38
I think that's such great advice, too, because it's really important. Our education system may not be giving that information to students coming out of college or photojournalism score, whatever to know, the path for you may not be as linear as a biweekly paycheck, you might have to ingrain that mentality of Okay, I'm gonna have to freelance my ass off to get these types of jobs. What do you remember about your move to self employment? Was it very natural for you? Or was there any reservation before you took that plunge into just kind of being on your own?
Christina Peters 9:06
my parents worked in a corporate structure, mom worked for DuPont dad worked for Hewlett Packard, my mom enjoyed her job. My father hated his. So and I'm an only child. So I literally grew up at the dinner table. My whole life with him telling crazy work stories about, you know, bosses that didn't treat him properly. co workers that sabotage, he was a chemist. So there was a lot of competition in the field and things like that. Every story was negative at the dinner table. So I was ingrained with corporate structures really horrible. You're not going to get paid what you're worth, blah, blah, blah, right. So then, when I was a teenager, my father gave me my first camera, and he always anticipated it being a hobby, but he never told me that. So
When I was 16, he says to me, okay, so you know where you want to go to school? Obviously, you're going to do chemistry and follow my footsteps. And it's like, Dude, what are you talking? Why I'm never Are you kidding me? And he was shocked. And he said, No, but you get a steady paycheck. And I was like, your friends are getting laid off at the age of 55. It's a false sense of security, in my opinion. And then my mom working at DuPont, she survived, I think five or six different layoffs. Oh, wow. So in my mind, just growing up, corporate world had absolutely no stability whatsoever. And I had to be freelance, honestly, I didn't think it was a choice.
Michael Der 10:37
That's such an interesting background. I love hearing people's perceptions on what that freelancing market is like, some people are deathly afraid of it. It seemed like you had kind of this pulling to it, like this is the best way.
Christina Peters 10:48
Yeah, I didn't see another option. Sure. I saw the stability that my parents had with the paycheck, they were able to buy house in their 20s. There, you know, they were much younger, it was a different time back then corporate world was maybe safer. There was a thing called a pension. That's not happening now, having IRAs based on stock markets, that's getting terrifying as well. So just the whole nature of being freelance, I think, because I've never had a real job.
I don't know what that stability is like, sure I waitressed a lot during college to put my way through it. But that's I didn't look at that as a steady income either. Because it was based on tips you didn't so I know what you're getting every day. For me, I I wasn't I wasn't going to try to figure out a different path. It was going to be my own company somehow no matter what that meant.
Michael Der 11:43
I'm sure you've seen an evolution in not only food industry, but also photography industry, and maybe just our culture in general in the way that we consume content. Is there anything that stands out as the biggest adjustment for you in the way you work now versus how you started?
Christina Peters 11:58
Well, when I started with days of film, I had a website before Google existed. Wow. Like, let me just move my dentures. And you know, I'm just kidding. I don't have dentures. But honestly, I think it was 10 times easier. Okay, because I was one of the first few photographers in Los Angeles to have a website. Yeah, you know, the people I worked for, they didn't have websites, there was this whole crazy thing called the internet and stuff. We were barely just doing email at that time. So this is before digital photography. So you really had to know your stuff, I was shooting large format four by five sheet film, you know, you can't mess that up, you had to really know your stuff, right? You couldn't rely on post production, retouching an image that you're handing a piece of film to somebody wearing jeweler's goggles, painting, the transparency, I mean, it was insane. It costs 1000s of dollars to retouch a thing. So you had to get it perfect through camera. Now, mediocre photographers take pictures, and then they just retouch the crap out of it. And they can make it something phenomenal. So the world has completely changed. What also has changed is expectations of our clients. If the clients are younger, and they were not experienced in their profession, in days of film, they don't understand really, truly the time it takes to produce beautiful, excellent work. They think because of the immediate digital world that we have, everything should just happen within a second. And it's not like that, right? We need time to make things beautiful. Sure, we have advantages and that we're doing things digitally, it is 10 times faster. But it still takes time to create a really beautiful dish to give someone beautiful makeup on their face, to style an outfit.
Michael Der 13:41
You know, that's a great segue cuz I want to pull back the curtain a little bit on what your work looks like for those who are interested in this field. And I always enjoy finding out what creators have to go through on a small scale and a large scale production. Could you walk us through the scope of a small scale job, and what that looks like, you know how many people are involved what that set looks like, versus a large job. And the demands that those bring?
Christina Peters 14:04
the smallest job will be the loan photographer who works for a restaurant or a magazine. And they go out on their own to the place you're not even shooting in your own house, right? So you're you're shooting at a restaurant, you're by yourself, you hope the chef can plate. If the chef can't plate, you got to bring a little food styling kit with you. And also bring some extra napkins some really beautiful sort of timeless looking and teach silver silverware pieces, maybe even bring some platters and plates and things like that. You're you're by yourself and you have to be skilled at all these things. The budgets are much lower. And you don't have much time at all to do a series of images. So specifically, like I do a lot of editorial work now. You know, I'll be expected to do several shots in a few hours. And so I don't shoot as quickly as a lot of the local photographers here.
Because a lot of them are like event shooters, they don't style the food, they don't bring in a food kid, right? I shoot tethered, they don't even do that. So I'm shooting while I'm attached to a laptop, right? So the clients, every single restaurant I shoot here, they're like, what are you doing what I was like, hold on a second. Take a picture, I'm on a tripod, that's another thing. And then when they see the image, they're blown away, like, Oh, my God, we get to see what it looks like right now like, yeah, that's right. And then cut to a large production is typically with an ad agency or design firm. When the photographer has been brought in, at that point, they know exactly what the images are going to look before you even stepped foot in the door, right? The you'll be given maybe really beautiful composites that they've drawn or illustrated in Photoshop, or they've composited using stock photography. And you have to create a visual that somebody else has already conceptualized for you. So creativity might not be there. I look at them as technical exercises, I actually think they're kind of fun to do. And I don't have to stress about the the concept and the how beautiful the image is going to look. Because that's already been worked out. What's an advertising shot? Yeah, you know,
there's crew, there's food stylists, food styling assistant, prop stylists, sometimes a prop assistant, there's a digital tech, and there's maybe one photo assist. That's a small food shooting crew, with an ad agency or design firm, where the day rate starts at five grand, maybe the whole, all in budgets, at least 15 to 25,000 for the one day, and you're shooting for 10 hours, and maybe you get four or five shots, if you're lucky.
Michael Der 16:48
Oh, yeah. You know, I was wondering about the number of shots that you would deliver. And now I'm just kind of curious about the iterative process like how, how do you know when you have a shot in the bag, because I would imagine your standards are incredibly high.
Christina Peters 17:00
Sure. So if, if it's a small restaurant job, I make that decision, or if I have an art director on site with me, we'll work on it together. But they're usually pretty easy going the ones I've been working with at least. And if I'm really happy with the image, that's what they care about. So it's lovely. I know a lot of editorials not like that. But I've been very lucky in that regard. With the ad agency work, I'm not dictating. When we're done. Okay, I'm working with a client. I'm working with an art director or a creative director, depending on you know, who the client is, maybe even the client is on site as well. client will approve the food, how it looks.
We often have what's called a food tech. This person knows legally what we can and cannot do with the food what we legally can and cannot show with the food. We can't do what's called over promising in this country. Granted, with all that being said, we all know that there's a whole lenient sort of rule about what we end up doing in advertising photography, you just walk into any fast food joint. Yeah, look at what you what they hand you on a platter versus what you have on set. So the client and the ad agency approve the shot and I, you know, I tell them, I'm tagging it. That means this is done. This is the hero image, or I'm tagging these that are going to be composited together to make the final image to match their finished piece of artwork that we have to do. So we'll work together and I make sure everyone approves it because there's no reshoots in my world. I don't do reshoots. I've never done a reshoot in my life. Unless they have changed the recipe. No. I don't care who you are. If you're starting out no reshoot. None of this. Yep. Approval after you shoot. Crap, right. That's, that's this recipe for disaster. Nope.
Michael Der 18:48
Yep. It's great advice. I love it. And so you have to really be sort of a producer as well, as a photographer. I mean, I understand that. Maybe the agency or the client itself has the final say, but you're still kind of running the show. I mean, everybody's still coming to you.
Christina Peters 19:01
Yeah, really good point. A lot of photographers don't realize that. And so if you are not a good producer, you need to find one that you really click with. This is a marriage. So a lot of the photographer's I shot for word disasters, they were completely unorganized. They didn't even have organized shot lists. So I went into producing their stuff. And then I started learning like, Hey, I should be getting a lot more of a day rate. So then I would be sort of like a production assistant type of a day rate because I didn't have a lot of experience producing everything, you know. But then I really got confident with my work, confident knowing I knew what it took to put together a really good job when you needed to start pulling in people when he needed to start doing crew. What was an appropriate timeline to produce a job? Those types of things because sometimes, you know, we're prop hunters or we have to have things fabricated
You know, stuff like that. So you absolutely as a photographer, we are also producers 100%, we're wearing multiple hats at the same time. We're running a party in our studio, we have to entertain our clients for 10 to 12 hours a day. Don't put them on a plastic chair, for God's sakes, get some comfortable furniture, get some music, get some music, you know, people always want my playlist. No, I, I spend out I'm a total audio file as well. So I will spend hours and hours making really awesome playlists that are 10 hours long, like seriously? Well, but yeah, you have to think for your client, what's going to make them comfortable, what's going to make the job really smooth. What's going to really help you on the shoot day make it go as well as possible. It's all about your pre production. Totally.
Michael Der 20:54
In that vein, you have to test shoot a lot, I would imagine, walk me through that process. Like how do you know, I'm going to work on this during my downtime?
Christina Peters 21:02
Yeah, I have some awesome stylists, who I call my crew family. They are awesome, talented, talented people. And so we will book our test days, maybe a week or two in advance, okay. Sometimes if we if we haven't shot in a long time, we'll just do it on a Saturday because we miss it so much. So a lot of our portfolios are comprised of our test images, and then our tear sheet portfolio are actually the jobs that we've been hired to do, that people looked at from our test images. I'm very honest with my clients, when we're looking at my portfolio, they'll ask me, oh, who is this for? Who is that for whatever? And I'll say, well, that's a test shot. That's a test shot. My Portfolio is probably only a quarter of images that I did for clients.
Michael Der 21:55
Oh, is that right? Actually, that was going to be one of my questions.
Christina Peters 21:57
Yeah, yeah, there's so heavily commercial, a lot of my agency work, right. So what I do is I just put all of that in a whole separate portfolio called tear sheets. Yeah, it's very clear. I've done an enormous amount of work. But then here's all the stuff I really love to do, right? Here's all the food stuff that's really beautiful. And they hire me for the beautiful stuff. But then they want me to shoot on a white background. Fine. I love doing that too. Again, I just look at it as a technical exercise, we're just going to make really food look awesome on a white background with some gorgeous lighting on it.
Michael Der 22:30
That's another great segue, you're doing a great job leading everything here into my next question. Because I could talk to you about your website for like a whole hour. But I don't want to take up the entire time to talk about that strategy. But I think you do such a great job giving your prospective clients everything that they need, just by visiting your website. So I just wanted to ask you about your portfolio building process a little bit. Sure you have clear categories, like beverages, or restaurants or shops and food on white, like you just mentioned, I'm curious, when you reflect on the variety of categories that you have shot, what stands out is maybe the most critical area that clients keep requesting.
Christina Peters 23:06
Honestly, shooting on white is a bulk of a lot of commercial photography work even, like more. So these days, because of the digital era, everybody wants to have it on wait. So they can clip out the background and put it in other places. So it's good, that's disappointing to tell people, the lower budget stuff, the stuff for social media that can be a little more creative, and we'll have more environments. And then sometimes I will get asked to do like a catalog of images that will be used for social media and for advertising. But for right now, really, it's a lot of like menu board work, it'll be shot on white. And then they want the the, you know, option to switch out backgrounds and change things seasonally, and things like that.
And then it's easier for them to piece different shoots together if everything shot on a white background, you know, gotcha, yeah, I definitely get asked to match what other photographers have done. They maybe didn't like working with the photographer or the photographer is no longer available. And so I have to match somebody else's lighting. And really good continuity based. Yes, that's continuity based for sure, because they have a menu board. They change the recipe of a sandwich, we have to reshoot that sandwich, but we have to make it look exactly like I did with this other job. So that that actually happens a lot. I'm very good at that. It takes time. Yeah. But generally speaking, there's certain ways that people use to shoot food on weight. So it's pretty easy to kind of, you know, MacGyver that.
Michael Der 24:45
what do you most commonly see, I know you do a lot of portfolio reviews. I know you've seen a lot of young photographers work. What do you see in amateur portfolios that you kind of wish you didn't?
Christina Peters 24:54
What a lot of photographers starting out. What they do is they put in images that are inappropriate for a cohesive body of work, when a client is going to hire you, they want to see the image that they want to hire you for already in your portfolio. So what that means is, if you only have one burger shot, and you're pitching to a burger bar, you're not going to get that job, right, I don't care how much they like that one burger image, you're not going to get it, you have to put together a body of work that will guarantee in the clients mind, you can pull this off, right? I've worked with a lot of clients who I can totally tell, they just came off of a job. And they didn't get what they wanted. And they were really disappointed. And they're terrified of spending another 15 grand on a job, which is low end in this industry. And it not working out, you know, I hear stories all the time with ad agencies where they're trying out a new photographer, because they saw one image in their book that was really beautiful, and what they were looking for. And it was a happy accident image. Right that. So that's the thing, we have to prove to them over and over and over the weekend do what they want us to do. You know, the other issue I see young young shooters do with their portfolios is they'll have a body of work, that's pretty cozy, cohesive and consistent. Let's say it is food work. And then all of a sudden, there's like, a portrait of a woman on a horse in there. Right? really beautifully done. Yeah. And it's like, hold on, what are we implying here? Is that horse gonna become a burger? Like, why do you have that in this portfolio? And, you know, they think well, it's, I'm really proud of this image, you know, a lot of people have compliment, they really like it, it's like, completely not appropriate in your book, get it out of there. Now, if you have a whole body of work of portraits with people with animals, that's a whole nother story, call that personal work, put that on your website in its own portfolio, get it out of the commercial stuff, get it out of this, the main line that you're trying to make money with, pull it separately, a lot of art directors go and look at personal work. But again, it's got to be hope cohesive. You can't just have a random portrait of a woman on a horse, and then a landscape shot and then maybe, you know, shot of a car like, don't do that. Yeah, your portfolio is the cream of the crop. And it's very selected items. And the majority of the stuff I shoot does not end up in my portfolio.
Michael Der 27:33
I was gonna say how, you know, you shot so much food? How did you cull down to what is currently up on your site? How long does that take? Do you revisit every year and say, Okay, I'm gonna kick this out, I'm gonna put this in.
Christina Peters 27:45
Yeah, I so the way I cull through my work, I will do kind of an annual review and images that clients still look at and mention. I keep in there. Yeah, that's a good indicator. They might be many years old. And with colleagues, friends of mine, I look at their websites very regularly as well. I've seen images with shooters who are friends of mine that are 20 years old, but they're still timeless and classic, and they're very well lit, they're very well done. And that means they're still getting work from that one image. So when you have an enormous amount of work to pull from, then that's when we have the luxury of doing that. If you're just starting out, you want to put everything on there, then that's when you get a portfolio that won't look concise. Gotcha. So it's nice to have 20 images that really look cohesive versus 40 images, were 20 of them are like, what is that doing in here, you're going to confuse your client, and you only have a few seconds to capture them when they hit your page when they hit your website. You've only got a few seconds before they bounce out. And if you only have one image on their on your homepage, is that random one image gonna entice them to think you're the shooter for them. That's like the lottery ticket. Yeah. Don't have one image on your website. I'm a huge fan of the tiling websites. I'm still a fan of that. I know they've been around a long time. But they work they do.
Michael Der 29:13
Yeah, we're and I think also people, you know, we have ADD as a culture now. I mean, it seems like we can't really yeah, so we want to see a mosaic of a bunch of images and say, Okay, I'm going to click on this one and expand that one.
Christina Peters 29:25
We're used to that now. Exactly. We are bombarded by images every day. When I go to someone's website, and there's just that one shot, or it's set up where there's a random image. Each time somebody lands on a website, some web, some website templates or programs where each time someone lands on it, it'll be a different image, right? Again, that's a total crapshoot, like is that one random image is going to be appropriate for what you do. It's all about making it super easy and so obvious what you see
specialise in as soon as someone hits your site. So they they know they're in the right place. Yeah. Right. It's all about making it as easy as possible for your clients to find out what you do, who you are and where you're located. That's a whole nother thing.
Michael Der 30:17
Now, I also know that you, you don't fancy yourself as a portrait photographer, per se. Although from my vantage point, I think you do an excellent job at it. Is there? Is it important to develop a food photography portfolio that has people with the food?
Christina Peters 30:31
it goes into marketability, and options for types of clients you can have? So I don't I, you're totally right. I do not call myself a portrait shooter. I call myself a food shooter. But if I want to do restaurant work, you have to include people, you have to include architecture, right? You have to be really good at that. You have to understand interior lighting, exterior lighting, you have to really know color temperature really well, when you're doing that type of work. And I started with, exactly if you want to catch the ambience and that space, you have to know how to do that and capture it with a digital camera manually. My very, very first job jobs out of art center were architectural, I actually shot for a an architect who made movie theaters. And so they wanted to show the interior of the movie theater, but then also be able to see the screen at the same. So it was really tricky in days of film. Let me tell you, yeah, learning having that architectural experience with balancing lighting on days of film really helped me to see it, see the color of light, and then enable to incorporate that into my restaurant photography work.
Michael Der 31:48
And so I'm curious for someone that is interested in that aspect, but not so much in the fine tuning of food preparation, but really wants to dabble a little bit more in, let's say editorial portrait work, working with chefs, winemakers, restaurant tours. Yeah. Yeah. What would be your point of advice for their first actionable steps to try to pursue that line of work? Like how do you build that portfolio?
Christina Peters 32:12
Totally, they want to do that full blown lifestyle where there's so much there are so many potential clients you have with lifestyle work, what is lifestyle work, it's putting a person in an environment having a feel having a sense of a particular lifestyle point of view. Right. So photographing a vintner in their vineyards, you know, with the gorgeous sun behind them. That's a whole collection of types of clients that you can have photographing a chef in a restaurant really being a chef portrait shooter, you can create different bodies of work that are very cohesive, right, there's a look and a style that you can do with your lighting, with the way you frame your your images, it's the camera lenses that you use specifically. So you have consistency and a look, you know, then you can have different types of commercial clients at that can look at your portfolio, but it's a cohesive body of work of lifestyle imagery. So you could have a chef you could have a Ventnor, you could have even just a shop owner or spa owner, you know,
there's many different types of businesses that can use that type of photography. So I do think if you do want to do lifestyle work, you would also be really advantageous for you to be able to do some product photography as well. Because just like the food world with shooting food, I do need to have to photograph people and architectural spaces. If you are lifestyle shooter, they want to have you have people with product, right. And a natural, you know, next image for that campaign will be the product by itself in a studio environment, maybe even on white. Right. So it's two very radical ways of shooting. But if you can do both, we don't have to outsource it. Yeah, right. They don't have to outsource it. So when they hire me as a food shooter, if they want it to have an environment in a space that's in the studio, then they need it on white background for knockout. I have two different sets going, I can do both, so they don't have to go somewhere else, you know.
Michael Der 34:28
And I wanted to talk a little bit about marketing because I'm fascinated by everybody's strategy. And I know that you're not a wallflower when it comes to marketing you're very much a believer in proactive marketing. Can you give us some insight into what marketing means to you versus what you see young photographers actually doing?
Christina Peters 34:44
Sure. Um, I think the best way to sort of look at it is do you want to be an influencer or do you want to be a photographer, meaning Are you obsessed with getting however many followers on Instagram and things like that? I Never focused on my Instagram account to get clients. I go after them, I pick them. By the time they find out about me, they're like, Oh my god, this is exactly what we're looking for. And I'm like,
I know that I've been stalking you for a year, I've been making a body of work that I know you want. I've been emailing it to you, I've been making postcards and sending it to you. I am on your email list. I know how you market yourself. Yeah, girl, I know what you want. Right? If you want to get clients, then you're uncomfortable meeting, you know, I'm all about getting an in person meeting, once they meet with me in person, and I got them, yeah, I totally got them, they're going to look at my portfolio, they know, I'm confident, I'm going to tell them how I shoot, I'm going to tell them why they should use me. Not in an arrogant manner. Totally all cards on the table totally straight.
very honest with my clients, I don't believe that fake it till you make it thing. I don't believe in that. You do have to believe in your work and yourself. But for those starting out with a marketing plan, you've got to be consistent. And you have to target the people who you know, will use your type of imagery. So you know, the brands that really like your work, for example, Michael, right. So you know what brands you would click with. And you would love to shoot for? Yes, that's what I'm talking about. Right? You got to stock them. So like, for example, I would, I was really sort of going after a couple of beverage like alcohol stuff. And at the time that I was doing that they were all into the dark and moody. And I didn't have a lot of that. In my portfolio, I have a lot of light and bright stuff. So I knew that going in all of their campaigns are based dark and moody right now for lighting style, they're not going to look at me for a long time. And you don't want to try to create a body of work, where I think, you know, I would love to shoot for this client over here. And I think their stuff would look awesome my way. Right? You can totally show them that. But if what they're doing if their brand does not look like it would fit with your photography, that's a huge ask for them to use your stuff. Yeah, because that's going to be a departure of what they're using already. Right? I'm not saying knock off what someone else is doing. You can do a dark and moody shot and have it look a very different style from somebody else. It's all about how you're styling stuff. But just make sure what you're presenting to the people who you want to shoot for, is going to be in alignment with what they're working on.
Michael Der 37:35
How do you determine who you want to shoot for? Like, what is your criteria personally?
Christina Peters 37:40
for me, so I've changed a lot over the years. So when I first started shooting, I kind of didn't care what I ate, I loved a good fast food taco like anybody. I always had a fast metabolism. So I didn't struggle with weight. But I always had some health issues, I have IBS, you can only get away with that for so long. And right now, when my 30s and 40s, things started really shifting for me, I started eating a lot healthier. I mean, I've always loved a good salad. But I really started paying attention to what I was putting into my body. So for me personally, as a food shooter, now, I don't shoot fast food work anymore, I actually turn it down, and I pass it on to somebody else. So I'm not shooting all those big brands anymore. I felt guilty. I felt like my work was contributing to a huge problem in the world, not just in this country. This country started it absolutely with our toxic food culture here. So I am now completely because of what I've learned so much about fast food from shooting it. I mean, I saw the ingredient labels. Oh yeah. So I started Googling some of that stuff. And it's just like, Okay, this meat product has a shelf life three years. That's wrong. There's something very not natural about that. That's right. I just don't want to be eating that. So I started really, really dreading my work. And I was not proud of it. Right. I was embarrassed. I was like, Oh my god, yeah, I'm shooting all the burgers, all the hotdogs. You name it, I shot it, you know, and it is a part of my history. It's a part of my past. I am proud of the work that I did, technically, I just wish that these companies would get a little quick to realizing that our toxic food culture is creating a society of people who are severely allergic to a lot of food products that that wasn't the case in their 50s and 60s. Why is that? Right? You know, so the way I pick my clients now it has to match my philosophy of how I live my life and the things that I think actually help people. So when I shoot for food brands now, it's part of the reason why I've just shifted over to editorial for the moment because I have to do a complete rebrand for the type of work that I want to go after.
A lot of the clients that I've been approaching, they don't have a lot of money. They are clean food products, they are smaller mom and pop shops, they are organic food products, things like that things that I can get behind. So to total choice, I am not knocking the photographer's that do that because a lot of photographers do eat that food. You know, they they love a good, you know, fast food burger. And just as much as the people who are buying it that walk in the shop who are like buying it off of their photos, right? They eat that food, they love it, you know, and they're going to have some health consequences as a result of it like I did. You can only do it for so long. Yeah, absolutely. Trust me. I I still love a really good friend. Try. I mean, come on.
Michael Der 40:44
Yeah, we all have our vices. Yeah, they can't be perfect all the time. Do you think that your shift in philosophy with with regard to food has actually impacted you positively in that marketing niche, being a leader of this movement, as opposed to just saying, Okay, I'll take the McDonald's job, we'll take whatever?
Christina Peters 41:04
definitely. Now when I market my work, I can say to the client, I love your food philosophy, I live your food philosophy, I am your food philosophy, I buy your products. So when I when I'm picking who I'm targeting, I'm targeting the people I buy their their stuff from, you know, I shop a lot at, we have a local Co Op here that has awesome local food products. And some of them are really huge brands actually, that are nationwide. And so. So those are the people that I go after now, you know, so they there are Finally, some bigger, cleaner food brands, food companies, who I would be very proud to shoot for. And I tell them, that's how I go at it. So they know I'm an Uber fan. I know their product already.
Michael Der 41:52
Yeah, I think that is such a important reminder for photographers to actually consume the product that we're trying to chase. know their product inside and out, like, Hey, I am your target demo. Yes, this is how I'm going to help you.
Christina Peters 42:07
it will really make your marketing efforts completely genuine. Our job is to help the client make money. That's our job, they have to pay us well to do it. And if they do that, we're going to make some smokin hot images for them. And they're going to experience selling out of a product because of one of our photos. That's the end result for me. And that's what I tell them. That's how I'm going into this. I want you to sell out of all this stuff. So let's do it. I love your shit. Let's sell it.
Michael Der 42:41
Now, what what percentage of your work do you think is agency clients versus working directly for brands? And has one experience been better than the other?
Christina Peters 42:50
Okay, yes, a lot of brands now have, you know, a whole whole series of people that have different titles have been invented now with the digital era, right? We have the marketing coordinator, the marketing producer, social media content coordinator, you name it, these are kind of word it right. I mean, the title lists are like there's 20 new titles now that we all have to figure out who the hell these people are. So a lot of companies internally are hiring these types of individuals, instead of hiring an ad agency thinking that they're saving money, and they're getting better work and things like that. So I have two completely different experiences. I was shooting for a very, very huge, frozen yogurt brand. I shopped for Pinkberry for seven years, but that was with an ad agency, then it did become client direct, but they still had a good marketing person that knew what they were doing. But this is a competing yogurt company that had everything. Internally, they never hired an ad agency before. They've never worked with an ad agency before. They didn't understand the production that needed to happen for a frozen food product, which is one of the most difficult things to shoot. That job was a nightmare. It was really difficult. And they didn't know and understand the process. I educated them. The client photographer, education relationship was extremely labor intensive. It was very challenging. They both they were all into it. But then when we were actually in the middle of it, they changed their mind after we shot we had to do enormous amount of retouching that was completely, you know, their their costs just went through the roof because they didn't know what they wanted. And it was a real problem because they were trying to get me to determine their entire marketing strategy. Right. And that's not what our jobs are. No, you can offer that as a service and has to be charged and billed separately. But that's not what they were hiring me for. They were hiring me to take pictures
have items for the menu boards. And so that was one example. Another example was a very huge, huge, big brand that has multiple franchises all over the world. They are now 100% internal, and they pulled people from the agency world. Gotcha. They understand production, they know exactly the timeline, they understand what's possible to happen on set. And then what needs to happen with retouching later, they understand legally, what they're allowed to do what they're not allowed to do. So they totally get it. It's a very different structure. So when I am working with a company that is client direct, and they have an internal department that's handling all their marketing, I have a series of questions that I asked them. So instead of directly coming out and saying, Do you know what the hell you're doing? I have a series of questions where I asked them, where I can tell their production experience, whether they have it or not, you know, saying,
Michael Der 46:00
Yeah, no, that's a good thing to that to know, upfront. Yes. As opposed to just coming out and saying it. Yeah.
Christina Peters 46:05
Right. Like, have you worked with a pro food shooter before? You know what I mean, exactly.
Michael Der 46:11
And I wanted to talk to you about emailing just for a second, because I think the art of cold emailing can be discussed for hours, when agency clients get 1000 emails from photographers a day, what can we do to rise above that noise and give ourselves a shot at having our emails read over others.
Christina Peters 46:30
The only way honestly, to make that happen is if you have kind of like what I call a global marketing approach, you got to touch them from multiple touch points. Yeah, you can't just do email, you got to send a postcard. And you got to call them a very busy art director at an ad agency, they're not going through their emails, they have an assistant that's doing that for them, it's so bad for them the emailing that they have to set up, set up multiple accounts. So they have their production email account, that you're only aware of once you start working for them their regular email that you can find or hunt down publicly or, you know, dig it up on LinkedIn, or dig it up on hunter or whatever you're using to find your email list. Just know they're not the ones reading it, most likely, they have an assistant that might go through Now, if you're approaching an art buyer, their job is to hunt for people and to find photographers like us, what is the random happy accident that they're going to click on the email at the moment that they need your work. So they might love your work, and they might really be a fan of you. But they don't need you right now. And that's awesome. That's totally fine. You might not hear back from someone for a year. And that's okay. I work with so many photographers with the coaching that I do. Where they you know, I'll ask them, okay, I need to know your marketing history in the last year, how many times you approached your your list? Oh, well, how many times? Yeah, how many times have you emailed them in the last year? Once that once one email does not a marketing plan, make you know, as Yoda would say?
You don't know if it went into their spam, you don't know if they read it, you don't know anything about it. So you have to constantly email them, but not to the point where you're harassing them, you know, and for those of you if you if you're in another country, by the way, if this is you know, Michael, I'm sure you have an international audience where you're going to soon You can't just randomly email someone in certain countries, you have to check your spamming laws. In the EU, we have the GDPR. That's crazy. So you cannot randomly email people in other countries before you check their privacy laws with spamming in the US we are allowed to spam but we have to do it a very specific way. And we have to follow the can spam act of 2003. You can Google that can spam act can spam act, so you can send an email to a random business stranger? Well, Danny one, but you just have to disclose. The subject line has to be very, very succinct, and exactly what your email is about very clear. And the subject, you know, your content in your email, again, has to be very clear what you're asking for. And you have to have your full name, your full contact information and a mailing address. Everything has to be in there fully legit. And you have to tell them how to unsubscribe. That's legally how you spam someone in the US.
Michael Der 49:29
That's really good advice. I don't think anybody knows that, that I'm aware of no one knows that.
Christina Peters 49:33
No one knows that. And it's like, every time I tell people that they're like, what, you can't use MailChimp, you can't do that. Right without their consent to sign it to opt Exactly. So you need to really create an email list. If you want to use a service like MailChimp or Active Campaign. I use Active Campaign actually. So Active Campaign is like full blown CRM. It's crazy. It's very expensive. If you're just starting out, don't freak out. You don't need that. So But yeah, this is a whole nother topic.
Michael Der 50:02
But I think what you're pointing to is all the different touchpoints of marketing. It's not just what the typical association of Instagram, put pretty pictures up there and just assume people are going to come find you, or even your website for that matter. You're talking emails, phone calls, print postcards, email lists, which are a little bit different. has one really jumped out as being the most pivotal for you? Or is it just a combination of all of them working synergistically together?
Christina Peters 50:26
100%? No, you're all you're going to hate me, you're going to hate me hate me hate me mailing stuff, you guys, it still works. I've been doing this almost 30 years. And there's a lot of people that don't believe that I believe and I've told people say like, you know, do you have like a print campaign? It doesn't even have to be every quarter. But even if you did, like once a year, at least most people say No, that doesn't work without even really having the experience to validate that.
No, it doesn't work, they might send out one postcard, it's the same thing. You don't do one mailing, you have to haul them consistently, mail them consistently and email them consistently. I don't remember which source cited this information. But there's so much digital marketing information out there, you can just Google it, how many touch points does a client need now to become a client, I have read anywhere between 15 and 24 touch points before then you ever know who the heck you are. That's what we're competing with. If you're just sending emails, you're in it for the long haul, my friend, you want to amp this up, you got to mail them, call them, email them. So the order in which I do things are and what I suggest, like if you want the fast plan, you email them, call them and leave a message, then the next thing you do is you mail a postcard. When people talk about marketing, it's like when you go on a date with someone, you're not going to marry them that night, it's the same thing, when you send them an email, they're not going to hire you to do a job right then and there. They're really not. And those people that say that that has happened to them are very few and far between. That's not the norm. That's not really how it goes. You can't rely on that.
Michael Der 52:03
And how many clients or prospective clients do you have on your contact list at any given point, like communicate more? What does that number look like to you? Is it is it 50 clients that you're looking to work with and reaching out? And then how frequently Are you actually revisiting that?
Christina Peters 52:17
I have two ways of getting clients one way is sort of like the constant marketing method, which is mailing postcards, emailing, doing a calling follow up, then what I do is what I call a city tour, I actually show my book and different in different cities. And I you guys all cards on the table, I did not do this during COVID. So let's just be straight about that. I'm by Coastal right now. I'm back east at the moment. And so I set myself up a year in advance, my biggest city near me is Philadelphia. So I set up client meetings, I call them ahead of time, hey, I'm coming into town, I would love to show you my portfolio, here's another link to my website, I set that all up, I call them a week or two in advance, if they're younger, they won't even respond to your phone call, you have to give them their phone number, your phone number for texting, and also email address. So the whole point with leaving the message, many times, it's not even just to talk to them, it's actually so they can hear my voice. They can hear me they can hear my excitement for meeting them. And they know I'm serious when someone hears a voice. And then here's the name. It's it helps them to retain, just remember you in general, it makes it so much easier for them. And then when it as it gets closer to the time I'm going to be there, I call again. And again, if I don't hear from them after the third time, I just give up on that I'll email them to I'll try and email them and just you know, hey, left your message, just want to make sure I would love to meet with you let me know if you're available. And it's totally normal with ad agencies and certain clients that have our buyers. It's totally normal. This is their job. They have to meet with people. So you're not you're not asking them to do something unusual. But people are extremely uncomfortable doing this.
Michael Der 53:56
Yeah, I think that's I think it's a generational thing right now where the people younger like in their 20s. And even maybe their 30s as well feel a little bit less comfortable talking face to face.
Christina Peters 54:06
They do. I would absolutely say that Michael 100%. And I also find even this generation or not, a lot of shooters are very shy. Some dear friends of mine are amazing, amazing photographers, they really struggled in the beginning because they didn't have an agent or rep to help them with this process. Right. And so they had to struggle on their own before they had enough work to get a rep but they have their rep do all of that they don't do client meetings, the rep does that they only shoot so there are some photographers that have managed to survive. But the more gregarious you are with this, the better you're going to do. And all I can say is you just have to practice you got to practice. I'm not kidding. Call your mom. Call your friends. Call a brother or sister call your friend. Sometimes you'll call you will get them. I call them a 8:30 in the morning, cuz I know I'm going to pretty much get their, their answering machine, I'm gonna leave a message. But the the older dude's the older dudes and the older gals, they go in early, then I'm talking to someone, my generation and that it's so easy. Yeah, it's like they get me, you know, I'm they like meeting in person, they're in that whole program when they're younger, and they're the 20, the 20 year olds and the 30 year olds, they don't want to meet in person, they want to do everything virtually, I'm totally fine with that, too. I just, I just have to find out what their level of comfort is, and figure out how I can show them my work where I can get in the door.
Michael Der 55:34
That's really good advice. I'm just jotting that down call mom today. It's been a minute. So it brings me to another thought point because I think that being comfortable talking to people is so important. It's a lost skill. Now, it's going to translate into your negotiation, which I want to talk to you about next pricing, because not everybody's going to have the ability, or the necessity to get or hire a rep. Right? Like, I think a lot of people probably are gonna want to circumvent that and maybe just do things their own way. Yes. So for negotiating for pricing. It's a different process for each creative person. But how do you typically price your work? You've been very transparent with some of the numbers already, you don't have to but in terms of breaking down, what should be on an estimate with the client and then negotiating with that client, and maybe even educating them on why you put those prices there and so forth? What information can you give me that you're looking to provide for your client.
Christina Peters 56:30
So that's a really like, we could talk another hour about that. I mean, we really could, there's an awful lot to that. And there's a whole structure in which I do things. I was a member of the APA for many, many years, and they have a business manual. And I still think it's free. Actually, if you google APA business manual, you can get yourself a lawyer drafted terms and conditions, estimates. And actually, it's, I had to really modify those for a food shooter. But for you guys who shoot people, this is up your alley, it'll be made for you. So Google that look that up and join, join any photo photo organization that's near you for help with this. So different cities have general rate structures in place when it comes to advertising work. As soon as you're dealing with a mom and pop shop, all rules are out the window, they only want to pay what they think they want to pay. And a lot of times what they think they want to pay is based on nothing. But when I'm dealing with a really small mom and pop shop, while we've got 200 shots we want you to do for $200. Like, where do they come from? And they think it should take two hours. It's like, no, they're basing it maybe off of them using their cell phone in their restaurant, I guess. And they're guessing Yeah, anyone could take 200 pictures in two hours, you know, when I explained to them a 200 images with a full crew would actually take about three weeks. Right? You know, or it'll take a one week with multiple sets going, and it's going to be like $300,000.
You know, it's nowhere near $200. So when I am talking to a client, I can just tell right away that they've never really worked with a professional food shooter before. And they don't realize what it's going to take. And they're certainly not gonna have the budget for that. They are claiming they're going to do the food styling themselves, and they're going to do the props. I automatically run from those jobs. Because if it's a low budget job, I'm okay with that. But I got to get some really beautiful images out of it. If I'm not going to get portfolio work out of it. And it's a low budget job, I am not interested in you. So when I'm when on my estimate form, everything is line items, everything is broken down. So it's very, very clear. My fee is up top, and it's a special box. And then the expenses are in a whole another section. And in those expenses. Everything is line item doubt, my people, my crew, my props, my equipment, rental, location fees, anything extra, you know, before on a location somewhere outside and we have to have a permit, all these kinds of things all needs to be broken down in there. Oh, by the way, a really good resource is, is blink bid. They have templates that you can use that are attorney drafted, that you can customize for yourself huge fan of those guys, because the people who created that are commercial shooters, they're hardcore, old school commercial shooters. So their day rates are like, you know, they're still doing jobs that are $120,000. Right. But still starting out they do have a I call it a sliding scale of experience with pricing. So they have a pricing scale in their estimator, that if you're just starting out, you're going to be in this price range. If you've been shooting five to 10 years, you're going to be in this price range if you're a senior shooting
Which means 10 years and older that you've been shooting, you're going to be at the highest price range, right? So they have that sliding scale of experience. That's for your fee. And then the expenses are your expenses, my friend, right? So you can't change that.
Michael Der 1:00:14
It reminded me what you were just talking about with, you know, your stylist and the permits. Are you the photographer responsible for providing those costs for hired help?
Christina Peters 1:00:25
Yes, okay, I produce all my own jobs. Gotcha. And if the job is big enough, and the timeframe isn't going to give me enough time to produce it, I will hire another producer to work with me. So what I will actually do is i'm still senior producer, I will hire a production person who, maybe they do production, but they don't have as much experience. So I'm literally going to be telling them what to do. Yeah, I'm going to be telling them, okay, this is what I'm going to handle, I'm going to handle I'm going to handle and I'm making my list, this is your to do list, this is everything you need to do. It's not a normal photographer, producer relationship. Normally, when a photographer hires a producer, the producer does all those things. It's totally your call, it's your world. It's your it's your, it's your business, you can do whatever you want. So that's how I choose to work with my producers. And back in the day, I hired a lot of awesome producers on really big jobs that I wasn't as experienced with, you know, as soon as I could see how they were producing, I was like, Oh, I really love what they did here did not like what they did there. So you know, that's how I learned how to produce. So yes, the way I produce my jobs, I am handling everything, I am sourcing the people, I am finding the people, I even if I'm traveling to a new city, I'm finding those stylists, I'm finding those people that has to help you a little bit to just leverage your own pricing, because you are kind of like the one stop shop all encompassing asset there. Right? If we hire you, we get everybody else. Yep, you get everybody else. And this is the cost associated with that. And I do not mark my crew up, a lot of photographers mark their crew up. I charge for production time instead. Personally, it's just my opinion, I don't think it's ethical to markup your crew and not tell your clients that right? If you're if your line item says your food stylist is getting 850 and you're only giving them 650? I don't think that's actually very honest.
Michael Der 1:02:17
No. So Because it's so hard to go micro on every little price aspect. Big Picture. What can we do to convince young or green photographers? They don't have to be young per se, but young in the industry, yeah, to avoid terrible contracts to avoid doing free work and leveraging out full usage rights and whatever it may be. What What do we do to convince them to maybe think twice about that?
Christina Peters 1:02:44
So here's what I propose to do. I had this argument with them all the time with the with the photographers who are starting out who it really 100% comes down to what's called a limiting belief, you think because you're starting out, you're not good enough, and you can't charge enough, or that you shouldn't charge anything. And this is where I get all worked up about it. Because you're doing several things in the process, you're beating yourself up, and you're proving to yourself that you're not worth anything. At the same time, you're destroying the industry as hard as you can. And making it so people like me and my goal have to try to compete with free, which we can't do, unless there's certain parameters in place. And that's only when you are portfolio building and you don't have the body of work that you need. And the only way you can get that body of work is by working with a particular client. But you have to control the job, not the client, it's very different. They are abusing you. They are making you do all kinds of shots for free. Because you're letting them they're totally steamrolling you abusing you, and you're not really getting good work out of it, because you're letting them run the show.
Michael Der 1:04:00
And you know, what drives me crazy, too. Is the my experience has been for the low paying or not at all paying clients have been the most exhausting process. Right? Exactly right. They take up all your time. And it's like wait a second, this doesn't make sense. The the higher paying clients want to actually respect your your value are giving you clear instructions, they're respecting you and what you're honoring on your contracts or whatever. They they're honoring it by the pay. So it's just it just goes to show you that at some point, that portfolio while we're always going to still be working at it that's never going to stop always gonna keep adding but at some point you have to say okay, well I have enough here to now start charging and I need to actually start raising my rates or whatever it might be.
Christina Peters 1:04:46
Yes, exactly. Please, we got to spread this word right. The argument of my books not done yet. Guess what people I've been shooting for almost 30 years my books not done either. Your books never gonna be done. Ever.
That's the whole point. That's why we love photography. It's constantly changing. It's constantly evolving, we have to update our work, your portfolio will never be done, done done. It's going to be fabulous. And great enough. So you can start charging for what you want to do. Whenever you go to a brand new restaurant, and they really messed up. They still give you a bill. You for it. Yeah, a new restaurant doesn't give you free food for a year. Because they're just starting out. Right? They would go bankrupt in a month or to. So why are you doing that to yourself, you're going to go bankrupt in a month or two. And you're so used to working for free that now when you're trying to tell someone your pricing, you're doing what I call apologetic pricing. You're like, Ah, it's $500 Oh, my God, I just can't believe I told them. I said $500 Oh, my God, what are they? Oh, my God, what are they thinking? They're not saying anything on the phone? I don't know. You can't do that.
Yep, no apologetic pricing, I just come right out and say like, you know, okay, so the data is gonna be five grand. And then the fees and expenses are, when we're talking about my estimate in person. I never give numbers on the phone, by the way, ever, ever, ever. Never give numbers on the phone, I want all the information, I want as much details as possible. I want to put it in writing, because I'm going to be I'm going to be sending them something that's $15,000 I need to explain that. One would hope because they're like, I just got a bid from someone else. And he was like, $200, like, right, awesome.
Michael Der 1:06:35
Let's talk about this product that you've set up. I want to give you a little bit of time for this as well, which is called food photography. club.com. I think Yeah, it's a chance to level up your food photography, anybody that wants, resources, education. And this can apply not just to photographers, but also anybody that's writing their own food blog, or restaurant tours, or cooks, whatever it might be. Talk to me about that process. And what it offers everybody.
Christina Peters 1:06:59
So yeah, so food photography club was something I started five years ago now. And I've teach an assortment of different types of business owners how to improve their food photography. It's not just for food photographers. I have a lot of wedding shooters, portrait shooters. Some corporate shooters in there, a lot of social media managers actually are members of the club. And I break, there's over 24 courses in there, there's a lot of content, because there's so many different types of people that need to take food photos, not necessarily for living. But if you do want to do food photography for a living, I have a whole section of advanced courses about the business of photography, a lot of the portrait shooters and wedding shooters that are in there who want to learn commercial work have actually learned an enormous amount about doing commercial photography, even for their non food clients. It's super fun. We're a foodie family. I do two live webinars a month where it's just like what we're doing right now I have a topic that I talk about. It's on zoom, we talk, everybody can ask questions, and it's super fun. And then they also get additional content. So on the weeks I'm not live, the other two weeks, they get other things they might get a quick tip, or they might get, which is just a video, that's about one lesson, it's like five to 10 minutes, or they might get like new additions to part of another course or an update or something like that. So I have the food photography club is a paid membership site. I also have the food photography club Facebook group that's totally free. I have about 5500 members in there. It's extremely active. I'm in there every day. I mean, they're about an hour every day. And super fun. We do Facebook challenges in there and stuff like that. So
Michael Der 1:08:51
that's awesome. And that it certainly beats looking through Google or YouTube channels to find content, when it's so specific to what you need to know how to do, right.
Christina Peters 1:09:01
There are millions and millions of videos on just food photography alone. So when people challenge me and say I can just get this for free on YouTube. Okay, how much time are you willing to commit to figure out what what of that content is actually good information? And what of that content is not going to work for you? Let me just do all the hard work for you and tell you exactly how to do it this way.10 times easier.
Michael Der 1:09:27
So we've talked a lot about business, which I'm very grateful for. But now we're going to wrap things up with a little bit more fun questions, or at least I hope they're fun. Number one, what is your favorite movie or movie moment that revolves around the presentation of beautiful food?
Christina Peters 1:09:42
Oh, let's see.I'm trying to think you know, there wasa movie about I'm totally forgetting the name. You might have to help me with this one. Jon Favreau was in it. And he was a chef. Yeah, Chef. Yeah, there we go. I love that movie. Yeah, I do.love that movie, I think it's really fun. And it really does talk about the passion of food that a lot of people have, and the struggles that we can all have with our food as well. So I was like, Oh, nice. Yeah.
Michael Der 1:10:15
Alright, moving on to number two, you've invariably seen enough people at their restaurants labor over their meal for 10 minutes trying to get that perfect cell phone picture, have you ever been tempted to go up and tell them that they're doing it wrong, or smack it out of their hands completely.
Christina Peters 1:10:32
So I see it happen, I just smile, and I let them do their thing. If they if they know what I do for a living, and they want advice, I totally will give them advice. But I've never been one to, you know, sort of jump in someone's thing and let them you know, I just let them do their thing. I'm nice. It's like I'm, I'm very confident when it comes to you know, I teach and speak and do a lot of stuff. But when it comes to, you know, sort of throwing my weight around in public, where it's not in that type of I'm, you wouldn't even know I'm a food photographer exactly, would have no idea.
Michael Der 1:11:12
Alright, number three, I know you've collaborated with brilliant cooks and stylists over the years. So with that wealth of knowledge, I'm curious what stands out as some of your favorite plating lessons that you've learned along the way that maybe the average Joe can apply to their next hosting. So whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, do you have any down and dirty tips on how to impress the spouse or in laws at our next gathering?
Christina Peters 1:11:33
Oh, so one thing that always looks nice, is when you are plating one, one dish that has multiple food items on it. So like you've got your your protein, your veggies and your starch, definitely set it up. So it's pretty obvious what they are. And try not and make sure the dish isn't too small. A lot of people use a dish and then they pile the food on top of it. Give yourself some space, spread it out a little bit, you know, and then that way you can make each little food section its own little thing. And something that really dresses up all food is fresh herbs for garnish. Yeah. looks beautiful. Makes it totally instantly makes it look fresh.
Michael Der 1:12:19
Okay, very nice. I'm going to keep that in my notes right here. So moving on to number four. I know you're proud Delaware native. In fact, you're still there right now. Yes. And for the uninitiated, your state has a mild obsession with a dish known as scrapple. Just basically pork scraps and cornmeal. And so while I love a hometown signature dish, it's not the most attractive looking meal not attract. So from your recollection, have you ever tried to take on the challenge of using your photographic skills to make it look more enticing?
Christina Peters 1:12:49
I have photographed it and what the food stylist ends up doing is sort of separating and segregating items, so it's a little bit easier to see what's in it. You know, so it does get manipulated a little bit. But really, I mean, the thing that this area sort of the Mid Atlantic area is known for are Maryland crabs, seafood, we are known for our seafood. I'm a complete crab cake addict. Now that I'm living here, I have crab at least once a week is awesome. When I would come home to visit Mom and Dad, I would have some form of crab every single day when I was visiting, you know, but now that I'm here, I can tone it down a bit and just do it once a week. But yeah, so I'm all about the the seafood, the crustaceans, the fin fish. And we finally now are having some decent sushi, believe it or not very nice, it made its way yet did I'm so so glad that it did.
Michael Der 1:13:49
Alright, number five, I'm very excited about this one. As someone with 25 years of experience photographing food and beverage, I'm confident there are some problematic subjects that you've encountered along the way. So what I'd like to do is hit you with a few different dishes. And you tell me the first things that come to mind on what your immediate concern is shooting that dish. Sound good?
Christina Peters 1:14:07
That sounds fun.
Michael Der 1:14:08
Alright, so a stack of pancakes with maple syrup. What's going through your head there.
Christina Peters 1:14:12
The first thing that happens with pancakes, it absorbs anything you put on it. So the way that we actually shoot it is we spray it with a gnarly product called scotch guard. scotch guard is a fabric protectant that literally if you host something down with scotch guard, you could pour water on it, it's not going to get into it. So any of my pancake shots on my website, I'm sad to say have scotchguard on them. We're not we're not eating those at the end of the job.
Michael Der 1:14:40
What about thinly sliced steak medium rare?
Christina Peters 1:14:44
thinly sliced steak medium rare you the stylist really has to know their stuff to pull that off and to get that done. Usually the common issue we have is it's not cooked enough because they're afraid of making it go Brown. So what the trick is there if it if it's thinly
Slice steak, then what they do is they take water that's been boiling like steam, and they can put that on the front of the steak and cook it just a little bit more if we if it's raw, you know anymore. Yeah, we can just cook with steam. The very, very front of that steak doesn't take long. And then we can get it up to the perfect medium rare.
Michael Der 1:15:25
Gotcha. What about a nice cocktail or any type of ice drink that has those perfect ice cubes and things of that nature.
Christina Peters 1:15:32
So the perfect ice cubes quite often are plastic. There are Lucite or acrylic. And they're very expensive. They're anywhere between 30 and $100. A piece really Yes. And there's a company in New York City that specializes in making them. And that company now sells exclusively through something called I think they're called the studio shop, or studio set shop or something like that I've got a bookmarks, I don't remember exactly. But if you google acrylic, fake ice cubes, you'll find it.
Michael Der 1:16:04
Very nice seafood like a crustacean anything like crab or lobster.
Christina Peters 1:16:09
So crab or lobster, they're awesome. If you're showing showing them in their shell and they're already cooked, you have to make sure that the shells are glistening, so I actually put oil on them. If you put water on them, it does absorbs right away their seafood item, you know, they're used to being in the water. So they they actually the shells will dry out quite quickly. And that doesn't look very appealing. So I put oil on them.
Michael Der 1:16:31
Gotcha. And then lastly, a ice cream sundae.
Christina Peters 1:16:34
Ice cream sundaes. if you can go fake. So if you're not shooting for a brand, that will give you the longest time and it's the easiest to shoot on set. If you're working with real ice cream, you have to temper your ice cream, which means the ice cream has to be sitted in the perfect freezer at a very stable temperature for a minimum of at least a day. And then when you scoop them out, you need to get parchment paper and you put it on a block of dry ice. And then you scoop them out, you put them on dry ice, and you have to build little cooler boxes. So we get styrofoam boxes, and then we put them inside like a cardboard box. And then we can scoop out all of our ice cream scoops, put them on parchment and sit them on dry ice inside a cooler, and they'll turn rock hard. And that will give you a few more minutes on set. That's it.
Michael Der 1:17:29
Very nice. So my last question is, what do you take away as your greatest teaching moment. So whether it's like art, or business, what stands out to you in a profound way when you look back on it.
Christina Peters 1:17:40
So a teaching moment that I do with my students all the time, the ones that argue with me about they can't charge enough that the clients in their area wouldn't pay that, right? I tell them a story about how I was asked to do a job with a big, pretty big client in the area. It was a well known rice brand.
And my I asked my friend for advice she was she'd been shooting a lot longer than me. And she told me I should charge $5,000 a day and then import all the other expenses. So I chickened out, and I only charge 2500 because I thought I shouldn't charge 5000 because at that point, I'd probably been shooting five years at that point. Right. So I chickened out, and I charged 2500
it really pissed off the ad agency. Because the client picked me as the photographer, they they looked at my portfolio online, and they wanted me. But because of how I did the estimate, I looked like an idiot. So I didn't get the job. Because they figured everyone else want someone else was charging 5000 another person was charging 7500. So I looked like I completely didn't know like I was what I was doing from from that point forward. I never charged less than five grand a day for that type of that type of client. That's a good lesson. Luckily, I learned it early on.
Michael Der 1:19:13
Christina this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for for joining me. I know you've done a lot of talking already. But the floor is yours. If there's anything that you'd like to say to our audience one last time, you know, go right ahead.
Christina Peters 1:19:25
Oh, thank you so much. It's been so fun chatting with you too. And, and your questions have been so fun, and it's been really engaging chatter, really appreciate it. I would just say for those of you starting out that the biggest struggle you're going to have is your limiting beliefs that you don't think you're good enough. You haven't been shooting long enough, your work isn't good enough and you shouldn't charge enough. You really need to tackle this limiting belief as soon as you possibly can, as soon as you can. Because the sooner you do that, then we can get on with your life and have a really successful very
prosperous career as a photographer, it doesn't matter what you're shooting people food, portrait architecture, sports, whatever, tackle your limiting beliefs, as soon as you can you know what they are because you tell them to yourself every day, and make sure that you keep shooting and keep testing, you know, maybe even assist a few photographers. And this will help you gain confidence in your own work. Love it, and you can do it. You can do it.
Michael Der 1:20:24
Yeah, absolutely. We got to tell ourselves, so it's a great reminder.
Christina Peters 1:20:27
It is I mean, I'm, every time I say things like this, I'm saying it to myself as well. Just because I've been shooting for a long time doesn't mean I go through the same doubts I do with that all the time. Oh, my God. It's human nature. It's what we do as artists. You know, it's just, it's how we are.
Michael Der 1:20:44
Yeah, I mean, that is such a great note to end it on. So I want to thank you. One last time, this has been fantastic. Once again, that's at the food shooter on Instagram, and Christina peters.com. I'm gonna leave everything in the show notes. So there you have it, folks, that's going to wrap up Episode 30 of Artrepreneurs. Thank you once again to the amazing Christina Peters, for jumping on the podcast. And if you want to take your food photography to the next level, check out food photography club.com. So that is going to conclude this episode. Have a great rest of your day, folks. Thank you once again to Christina Peters. Thank you to all of you for tuning in. My name is Michael Der and I will see you guys next week.
Hey everybody, this is Michael Der thank you so much for making it all the way to the end of the episode. I hope you'll follow tag and engage with us on our Instagram account at @Artrepreneurspod. We've also launched our website Artrepreneurspod.com. It is the central hub where you can sign up for our newsletter, read our blog posts, send us voicemails, and even access discounts from our amazing affiliates. It's also the perfect spot to shout out Artrepreneurs with what would be an immensely appreciated five star rating and review. And if you're feeling extra generous, you can even make a small donation that's really going to help accelerate the growth of this podcast. But no matter what you do, folks, I just want to say thank you so much for supporting the program. There are a lot of great photography podcasts out there and I am just grateful to have gained your trust even for a moment. Take care everyone. See you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Food Photographer / Educator
I've been taking pictures since I was 8 years old. I grew up in Newark, Delaware. I moved to California in 1989 to attend Art Center College of Design where I received my second degree in photography in 1993 and have been shooting ever since. I'm based in Redondo Beach, the South Bay in the Los Angeles area but shoot all over the country. I have family in Delaware and travel there frequently.
Over the years I've shot thousands of food images. If time allows, I do my own production. I've coordinated and prepped over 1150 jobs from a one day shoot with a few shots a day, to jobs that were three weeks long, with two sets going, a shot list of 175 images, and a crew of 15 people.
The type of gear I use totally depends on the job and it's requirements. For my commercial work, I use medium format cameras with high resolution Phase One digital backs in order to get extremely large, crisp images with beautiful color.
I also have done several speaking engagements and workshops at food blogging and cooking conferences throughout the US.
My current project is one close to my heart. I created the first food photography membership site called The Food Photography Club. This is a site dedicated to all things food photography, teaching everything you need to know to become a food photographer with video content, live webinars, and a community environment. The Club was launched in April of 2017 and we have several hundred active members.
After dealing with digestion issues my whole life and finally working on it in August of 2015 at the age of 46, I came to realize that I had to seriously change the way that I eat. As a result of this, I pick my clients very carefully now and aim to work with those that have a similar food philosophy as mine.
I have extensive experience creating images for ad campaigns, food packaging, menu boards and printed menus, eCommerce, magazines, cook books and other collateral materials to sell a food product.
This is just a small selection of some of my clients over the years: Arby's, Baja Fresh, Bath and Body Works, Bristol Farms Markets, Brookside Chocolates, Bumble Bee Tuna, Burger King, Campbell's Soups Souplicty Brand, Cesar Pet Food, Chipotle, Cici's Pizza, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Country Crock, Delaware Today Magazine, Domino's Pizza, Gelson's Markets, Gloria Jeans Coffee, Good Life Dog Food, HarperCollins Publishers, Herbalife, King's Hawaiian, Kraft, Libby's, Marriott Hotels, McDonald's, Nestle, Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, Pedigree Pet Food, Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt, Rubios Grill, Taco Bell, Tyson Chicken, Whole Foods Markets, UPS, Walmart, Weight Watchers, Wrigley's, several ad agencies in the US and Europe, design firms, national magazines and book publishers.