Learn: Why Professional Food Stylists Should Charge For Their Props


Should professional food stylists charge for props? 

The elephant in the room question.

Something everyone knows it is there but nobody wants to talk about, or specifically how to talk about it.
It has come up repeatedly on my Instagram stories, and when I ran a poll asking if you would like more information on the subject, the answer was a resounding YES! 

So let me try and help you – 

Firstly, we need to make a very clear distinction between what kind of food stylist we are talking about.

I am a professional food stylist.

That means it’s my full time day ( and often night time) job.

I do not do it as a hobby, part time, or side hustle. 

It is my single source of income. 


I am not a food blogger, social media stylist or influencer. 

If you are, or would like to be or are sort of moving in this direction ( social media stylist ) you can not charge for props. 

I repeat,you can not charge for props no matter how big or small your following is. Your props are considered part of you & your “brand”

For the most part you will most likely have received items from suppliers or brands as gifts or part of promotions.
To then charge another client ( or even the same client ) for those props is unethical. If you are a social media stylist or food blogger you are most likely hired for your specific aesthetic. This is what makes you who you are and has a certain appeal that the client identifies with and wants for their audience. In which case you can not charge for your props because you are, for want of a better phrase, a “package deal” it’s your personal “look” therefore, you are your props and your props are you. Specifically, if you are putting your own name on the work you are doing for a client or brand you can not charge for your props. 

For example if you are a social media stylist in the health and wellness industry and you are approached to style and shoot some images for a company that has frozen pre-packaged smoothie mixes. 

You open the packet, add water and whizz, voila you have a healthy, nutritious breakfast in a glass type thing. So, you make the smoothie in a fancy high speed blender that was gifted to you by another brand or company and take a photo of the smoothie in some pretty glasses on your kitchen counter. The client uses the images crediting you for both the image and the styling ie. “ look what the fabulous @FitPhylis made with our product.”  You can not charge for either your equipment (gifted) or your props (bought to match your personal style) as you are receiving credit for the styled image – that is your payment. 

Another example: you are a family style food blogger and are asked by a cheese brand to make a dish featuring their products. 

You make a 3 cheese lasagna ( yum!) and use a pretty ceramic dish ( gifted) from a very well known and distinct brand, you style and photograph the lasagna in a tablescape with crockery from the same brand, ( sponsored or loaned ) and cutlery and napkins that you may have bought or been gifted from other suppliers or brands that compliment the look and feel the client wants, and matches your own personal brand or aesthetic that is associated with your cooking and personal style. 

You still can not charge for your props.
If you do you are charging for using someone else’s brand to promote yourself.
You are in effect hijacking or piggy-backing another brands reputation and using it to promote your own brand and creating collateral for yourself at their expense.
This is where the lines with social media stylists and influencers get very blurred and why I personally stay away from doing this kind of work. 

However, if you are, like me, a career food stylist, meaning you work full time in the industry as a freelance professional, self employed and hired by agencies and clients to style their product regardless of what their product or aesthetic is, and irrespective of your personal aesthetic and style preference; then you can and most definitely should be charging for the use of your props.

All my props are paid for, I do not have any items that were gifted or sponsored in my prop collection. I have paid in full for every item I own, I have never done a trade exchange for product or props. 

I charge a nominal fee to cover the cost of sourcing, storing, maintenance ( who washes and dusts and packs away after a shoot ?) and replacement of my props.
he personal cost of sourcing, purchasing, storing and packing the props I own is vastly underestimated. This cost has a direct effect on the bottom line of my business. 

I do not receive credit in any form for the work I do. My name is never on the bottom of the fast food outlets billboard:

“Food styling of this delicious looking flame grilled chicken by Taryne Jakobi Styling” 

Never going to happen. 

So in order to make my work sustainable I charge appropriately ( and you should to ) for the items I use to create the image.

A mistake I see a lot with food stylists who are moving from editorial food styling for magazines ( with the demise of print media in ZA) to the commercial food styling arena or new stylists starting out, to is that they are not charging rental or hire of their personal props.
This is to their own detriment and that of the food styling industry.
Whether it is simply being ill-informed and naive or fear of charging and then losing the job, ( due to the uninformed clients)
not charging for props and other appropriate costs incurred legitimately to cover the scope of the work commission is both unsustainable to the stylist personally and detrimental to the food styling industry as a whole.
Educating clients to appreciate and value what we do starts by charging fairly and appropriately for our labour, skill level, pre and post production time, equipment and resources ( props) if we as professional food stylists are not doing this we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

If you are interested in how to charge for your props and what else you can and should be charging for as a professional food stylist then make sure you sign up to my newsletter for a heads up of when my ebook launches. 

I hope you have found this article beneficial, please drop me a comment below if you have any thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear from you! 

Until next time, happy styling!



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