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Apr 5, 2024

Food Photography Hacks From a Project Manager

What does a project manager know about food photography hacks? Quite a bit! Melissa knows what it takes to be successful in corporate America, and over the last few years, she’s translated that success into running her own food blog photography business. It’s a lot of hard-won insight that’s well worth listening to.

And it all started thanks to a timely Pretty Focused ad on Facebook. When Melissa saw all that Pretty Focused offered, it sparked her imagination for a different career and her desire for a side hustle she would love. A few years later, she is now happier and earning more money than ever. So, how did all this happen?

Melissa’s Story: From Project Management Professional to Professional Food Blog Photographer

Melissa’s story isn’t that unusual for a Pretty Focused graduate. Like many of us, she was a successful corporate employee who was good at her job but wanted more. Food blog photography was her “more.”

  • Melissa was a successful project management professional working her way up the corporate ladder for over a decade.
  • Unfortunately, she was burned out and desperately needed a change in career and lifestyle.
  • When Melissa initially found Pretty Focused, she only planned to use food blog photography as a side hustle and creative hobby. But it quickly became so much more.
  • Within two years of graduating the course, food photography was Melissa’s full-time job, earning more than her corporate salary.
  • Now, she’s sharing the food photography hacks that got her to where she is!

Watch her full story now.

Thriving as a Project Manager for a National Company

Melissa was a thriving project coordinator and certified Project Management Professional (PMP) at a national manufacturing company. She had worked her way up the corporate ladder over ten to fifteen years, and it was a role she really excelled at. 

Every time corporate changes came down the pipeline, Melissa went with the flow, no matter how much it shifted her role. But she could handle that constant stress and pressure for only so long. “I got burnt out pretty quickly.” And she realized it wouldn’t be her forever job—even if she didn’t know where to go from there or what she wanted to do.

Then, in early 2020, the pandemic and quarantine happened, and everything changed.

Discovering Pretty Focused During Quarantine and Signing Up 

During the pandemic, Melissa suddenly started working from home with “my whole company. Nobody was going into the office for the first five months.” This opened up much more freedom for Melissa and served as a solid reminder that she wasn’t as happy in her job as she had thought. So when Facebook began to feed her ads for online photography courses, she bit.

“I signed up for something online and just played with it.” The first photography course she tried offered some decent food photography hacks and a broad amount of information, “which was a little overwhelming, but it was a good start.” Still, Melissa wanted something better, and she kept seeing ads for Pretty Focused, which “had great deliverables and included the Buyer’s Club.” It was too tempting to deny, so in November 2020, Melissa “Secret Santa’d myself” and signed up. “I joined for the whole package!”

Check out these Pretty Focused course FAQs to see why Melissa signed up and why you should, too.

Balancing Work and Pretty Focused to Learn Food Blog Photography

Initially, Melissa couldn’t dedicate much time to the Pretty Focused course materials. She was in the middle of a big profile project at her job that lasted until the spring of 2021. But once that was done, she took a solid week off and “binge-watched all of the episodes of the course and material. I got through a lot of it.” And from that point on, Melissa focused on balancing her schedule between work and practice. 

It wasn’t easy, but “I was happy I could commit.” And with every practice, “I got a little bit better.” Six months later, in August 2021, Melissa graduated from Pretty Focused and was ready to start her new side hustle.

Life as a Newly Minted Food Blog Photographer 

But following the advice of one of her cleverest food photography hacks, Melissa didn’t jump into working for clients right away. Instead, she took time to do it the right way. Melissa gave herself a few weeks to get a feel for the Buyer’s Club: what it offered, how the communication worked, and what people posted. This helped her put her best foot forward, set up her business, and prepare as any CEO.

Then, after a few weeks, when she was ready to launch, Melissa posted in the Buyer’s Club and garnered her first clients. And her side hustle quickly turned into so much more. Within months, some of those clients became long-term contracts. Then, when Melissa’s project management position was eliminated, she jumped into food blog photography full time. 

Now, she makes “more money than my corporate job,” and she couldn’t be happier. “I’m doing what I love now!”

Check out more course testimonials here!

9 Food Photography Hacks to Help You Achieve Success

food photography hacks

So, now that Melissa is a successful full-time food blog photographer, what advice would she offer other aspiring photographers who want to do the same thing? She has nine food photography hacks you do not want to miss, such as:

  • Take the Pretty Focused course as slowly and carefully as you need. 
  • Embrace being a business owner and all that it entails.
  • Learn to go with the flow regarding clients and your schedule.
  • And so much more. 
  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

The best way to tackle Pretty Focused is to practice what you learn as much as possible.  It will make all the difference in the short and long term. “I had to remind myself, you’re not failing, but you just don’t know what you don’t know. You’ve got to start somewhere.” For Melissa, “it was gaining muscle memory, and also a way to stretch my creativity.” 

The reality is that food blogging is a particular niche, and so you need all the practice sessions and feedback possible to figure out what works and what doesn’t. A session might go well, but your styling choices are a little off, and you need something simpler next time. You create the necessary building blocks for success by practicing over and over again and adding on to each step.

Learn more about Pretty Focused by checking out our RoadMap.

  1. Recognize that You’re a Business Owner Now

So many students graduate from Pretty Focused and immediately start working for clients. But getting into the mindset of a business owner is a lot different than being a student, and it’s so crucial that you take this step. There are so many nuances to being the CEO of your own business that you need to figure out after graduation. 

Give yourself the time and patience to learn this new freelance lifestyle. Or even do what Melissa did and invest in “a few additional tutorials” just to get into the business mindset. Be intentional while learning food blog photography and building your portfolio. Because if you think, “I just have to get through this,” then on the other side, you won’t be prepared for what’s waiting for you. 

  1. Set Up Your Business Before You Post in the Buyer’s Club
food photography hacks

When Melissa’s portfolio was approved and she graduated from Pretty Focused, she had the opportunity to post her portfolio in the Buyer’s Club immediately. Instead, she held off for a few weeks, and this is one of her most essential food photography hacks. Take time to make an incredible first impression because you only get one! 

“I wanted to set up a business email and make sure I, at least, had a baseline contract” before she proceeded. These were all recommendations from other recent grads, which was so helpful.

Other questions you should ask yourself before posting in the Buyer’s Club for the first time:

  • Do you know what services you are offering?
  • What prices are you going to charge for your services?
  • Do you have a plan for how to proceed after a client reaches out?
  • What have you prepared to make a great first impression?
  • Do you have a basic contract for work?

Check out these 7 reasons food bloggers hire food photographers.

  1. Use Your Previous Career Skills to Excel

One of the best things about being a food photographer for Melissa is that she can still use what she learned and worked so hard for in the corporate world. Studying for and passing her PMP test is still extremely valuable to her life today. In fact, she has kept up her PMP certification because she recognizes how much she uses that knowledge in food blog photography. “What I do monthly, and even daily, for my clients is project management.” 

Melissa’s project management (PM) experience helps her serve her clients better and build more personal connections, “just going above and beyond to make them feel special.” The result has been incredible client relationships, where months later, “they still send me messages saying something nice.” On top of that, PM has helped her create a system to get recipes done that she shares with her clients. “I find that a win!”

So find what skills you already have that translate into running your own food photography and embrace them. You won’t regret it.

  1. Embrace Working From Home and for Yourself

Melissa never planned to run her own business alone, and it’s been an adjustment. She was used to working on large projects with large teams, so suddenly being alone, working in a studio to shoot food photos with no one else, was a shock. But Melissa has found a way to make it work for her, so if you’re in a similar boat, here’s one of her silly food photography hacks for working alone at home.

Create “staff” for yourself in any way you can. 

For example, since Melissa’s cat sits in the studio with her, “when I’m yelling at something or something spills, I call it a staff meeting because I’m not technically by myself.” She also names all her equipment. For example, her spoon holder is named Kevin. Mini Me is her standing computer, with the stand being named Gru. “I’ve got so many different names for everything. It’s the best.”

Read about how this new mom earned a full-time income at home!

  1. Remember, YOU Set Your Schedule

One of the hardest-won lessons for any new business owner is the idea that YOU are “in control of your schedule.” You might understand that conceptually, but you need to know it.  Otherwise, you will be caught in the trap of “always working.” And that’s exactly where you do not want to be.

Instead, you need to treat yourself as well as you would want any job to treat you. This means taking days off and scheduling holidays and vacation times. You deserve a break from food blog photography—even if you love your work. Remember, “I control the schedule; my schedule doesn’t control me.” That’s the mindset you need to have, so carve out your time for life and hobbies because they are worth it, and that’s why you left the nine-to-five in the first place.

  1. Flow with the Ever-Evolving Nature of Client Work

Melissa slowly launched her food blog photography business. Not every initial inquiry turned into a client. And it took her “a couple of weeks to start building” and close her first clients with six- to eight-month contracts. “Then, her clients’ businesses would change, and she would need to earn new clients. “It just kind of evolved.” And that ebb-and-flow is to be expected.

One of Melissa’s most crucial food photography hacks is recognizing that not every client you close will be long term. Some you’ll work with for just a few months, while others you’ll work with for over a year. In fact, Melissa has some clients she’s been with for almost two years now. It just all depends. The key is to be open to all types and lengths of clients and go along with the flow of clients—into and out of your life.

Check out our blog: 7 Reasons Food Bloggers Hire Food Photographers.

  1. Reinvest in Your Business

You don’t need to go hog wild and buy everything and anything in our shop or on our recommended gear page. But you will NOT regret buying items that “make your business flow better and improve the quality of your work.” If something will help you provide better services for your clients, it is a good “investment in your business.”

For example, if artificial lighting will open up more time and possibilities for picture taking, it is well worth it. Or if a separate table that is always set up for your food photography would save you hours of setup time every month, buy it. Just keep track of all your expenses so you can write them off your taxes as a business owner.

Check our our Ultimate Gift Guide for Food Photographers here!

  1. Creatively Find Ways to Use All the Food You Make

When Melissa started her full-time food blog photography business, she aimed to “not waste anything.” This means being creative regarding what she does with all the food she makes weekly. It needs to go somewhere.

So, here are Melissa’s food photography hacks to reduce food waste.

  • Ask your neighbors and friends every week if there are any recipes on your schedule that they would want to enjoy.
  • Plan your lunch and evening meals around your scheduled recipes to hit two birds with one stone.
  • Give desserts to your favorite bartender or staff at your favorite store as a thank you (if you know them well enough).
  • Encourage your significant other to bring your finished recipes into their office for snacks.

Launch Your Career in Food Blog Photography Today by Signing Up for Pretty Focused!

food photography hacks

If you’re ready to launch your own food blog photography business, there is no better time than now. Secret Santa yourself, just like Melissa (even if Christmas is in the review mirror). There’s no bad time to give yourself the gift of a new career that makes you happier, more creative, and freer. 

Sign up to become a food photographer today with Pretty Focused. You won't regret it.

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