Ask an Agent / Recipes For Food Shoots

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly feature answering your questions about the business of photography– the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt! If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything.

This month we have a great question from a food photographer on recipe writing for shoots.

Dear Ask an Agent

 I’m a food photographer and my client has asked me to shoot some dishes for a newly launched product. They would like me to actually come up with the recipes though, is this normal? How do I charge for that, who could do it for me and what else would I need to know?

 Jason Verwood

© Charlotte Tolhurst / Deliveroo / Food styling by Emily Kydd

Hi Jason,

Thanks for your question. We’ve come across this one a few times before so it’s not a particularly unusual request. We work with a team of great home economists and they have certainly helped with this on our shoots.

To answer your question in a bit more detail, I turned to the very helpful Julia Hetherington, from HERS Agency. HERS is one of the UK’s leading agencies for home economists, food stylists and prop stylists. Most of the following information is based on what Julia has kindly told me.

Home economists usually charge a flat rate per recipe plus the cost of the ingredients required. Similar to photography, the flat rate is based on how the recipes are going to be used. For example, a one off print editorial would be less than say a recipe on some food packaging which has a longer shelf life (pardon the pun!)

If the recipes are going to be displayed so people can try them out at home, they need to be developed and tested. To find out what kind of recipes your client wants to see, you’ll need to probe a bit deeper. Would the client like to include a particular ingredient, or do they require recipes that can be made with particular kitchen products, for example? Are they aiming for a particular demographic? It could be busy working Mum’s or aspirational single professionals. Should the recipes be seasonal or for a particular time of week, Christmas or a Saturday night dinner party for example?

© Tim Atkins / Guardian Labs / Green & Black's / Food styling by Rebecca Rauter

Once you have a steer on this (and your costs approved and the job signed off), you can then brief a home economist. They will then create a few ideas that might work. At this stage it will be more of a general outline of what would be included in the dish, suggested ingredients and flavours that would work together. The client might approve them or might want to make a few tweaks, cheddar rather than blue cheese for example. Once the client has made their selection, the food stylist will then develop and test them, as obviously the recipes need to be accurate, with quantities of ingredients, methods and timings that work. This will be written up in a suitable format and then finally sent off to a nutritionist who will work out the nutritional values. It is becoming more and more common for brands to request nutritional values, so they can be transparent and informative to the public.

It is recommended that the home economist for the final shoot is the same person who has developed the recipes as they have the initial vision of how the recipe should look, though this is not essential.

Unlike photography, once the client has paid the invoice, they actually own the copyright for the recipes that they have decided to use, but not all of the remaining initial ideas- interesting!

Hope that helps, thanks so much to Julia for all of this illuminating information!

© Sam Stowell / M&S / Food styling by Rebecca Rauter

Whether you’re a creative director or a student, a photographer or a designer, an art buyer or an assistant, if you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to and we’ll answer as many as we can!

Please Note:

We reserve the right not to enter into ongoing correspondence.

We reserve the right not to answer all questions sent to Ask an Agent.

Please state whether you would like to remain anonymous.

This advice should be taken as a guide only.

Lisa Pritchard, LPA and guest bloggers take no responsibility for any omissions or errors.

The images used in this article are for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily correlate with specific facts or examples cited in the text.

Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.