Napoleon famously said, “An army marches on its stomach.” The same is true for photographers, clients and everyone else on a photo set.
When you’re called to shoot something, even if it doesn’t span a mealtime, food can make the difference between a good experience and a bad one.
Put It in Your Estimate
I’ve had more than one corporate client complain about working with photographers who neglect to include catering in their project bids. The client isn’t looking for that line item — but when they get to the shoot and there’s no food, they definitely notice.
Even if the client isn’t planning to attend the shoot, don’t skimp on food. If you’re doing a shoot where you have a three-assistant crew, two makeup people, two subjects, and four handlers, have food there.
Otherwise, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself for the grumpiness and irritability that ensues, particularly if the day runs longer than expected.
Prepare in Advance — and Don’t Be Cheap
So, how should you go about catering a shoot?
Even before the cameras and gear are in place, I like to have the arrangements made. Check with everyone in advance to see if there are food allergies or restrictions to accommodate.
Don’t even think of making the food yourself, or using Subway or Quiznos. Shootdigital  has a list of other no-nos, including:
- Only offering vegan or sushi
- Themed food (BBQ, Mexican, etc.)
- Anything smelly
- Corn on the cob
- Super spicy food
- Leaving out a healthy option
- No dessert!
For me, a good choice is a chain that makes gourmet sandwiches, cookies, and so forth, like Corner Bakery.
Have the food and beverages on the set, in full view, before anyone arrives. Your subject/client will grab a bottle of water and a cookie before heading off to a corner with BlackBerry or iPhone in hand, starting the session in a contented mood.
Remember: in photo shoots as in life, there’s no second chance at a good first impression.