At the end of each year I put together a larger-than-normal promotional mailing, mainly targeted at the clients that I have worked with over the past year. And while this is definitely a form of self-promotion for my business, I also see it as a thank-you to all the fantastic clients that I have had the opportunity to work with. I couldn’t make it as a professional photographer without these fine people putting their trust in me and my skills, and I am very grateful to all of them. Every day I work very hard to live up to the high creative and professional bar that my clients set for me. Seriously, a big thank you to everyone.
You know what is delicious? Mayonnaise. You know what is really bad for you? Mayonnaise. Since I’ve been on this whole health kick lately, I have been avoiding things like mayonnaise and all of the wonderful things that you can make with mayonnaise. But then I discovered Greek yogurt (about three years after the rest of the country) and have been substituting it for mayo in just about every recipe that I’ve tried. 100 grams of mayo has 680 calories and 75 grams of fat. The same amount of Greek yogurt has 59 calories and only .4 grams of fat. So it’s a no brainer. Sometimes all it takes to substitute yogurt for mayo is a little pinch more of salt. In a lot of cases you can’t taste the difference at all. Lunch at the studio today was one of my new favorite recipes using Greek yogurt … Avocado Egg Salad.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get back into regular posts over at my food and photography blog, Shoot To Cook. Business has been really great, particularly in the last year (shout out to all of my awesome clients, new and old!), but an unfortunate side affect of my success has been that I’ve been too busy shooting to spend as much time in kitchen as I’d like. In addition to my love of food photography, I love the actual act of doing the cooking. There is something soothing about chopping, sautéing, roasting, baking … and of course tasting, that really helps to ground me when work gets crazy.
2011 was a really spectacular year for me as a photographer. It was my first full year working as freelance photographer in St. Louis, and with the purchase of a downtown loft over the summer it was the first year time in my career that I have had dedicated studio space. In addition, I was lucky enough to wok on some super fun projects, many of which were assignments that I was awarded by my truly awesome clients. As my client list continues to grow, I had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of new people, as well as the friends and colleagues that I have worked with for years.
As a thank you to my clients I wanted to send them something special for the holidays. There are tons of photographers in the market today, and I want my clients to know that I appreciate it when they choose me for their projects. And it’s not just about the work either. My clients are people who are creative and fun, many of whom have become my friends, and I want to make sure they know that they are more to me than just a paycheck.
So then comes the question of what is a good gift to send. It would have been easy to find a good bottle of wine and send that off to everyone, or maybe a gift card – I’ve received both of those things from vendors over the years and certainly appreciated them. But those types of things don’t go much further than face value. I wanted to find gifts that relate directly to my business and use the opportunity to showcase my photography as well.
Food gifts seemed like the logical choice. But instead of just going out an buying some good food, I decided to go 100% home-made. I spent a lot of time looking online for recipes. The key things I was looking for were foods that could be made in advance, foods that could be shipped, and foods that would still be tasty and edible when they arrive. I finally ended up with five items: spicy hot cocoa mix, granola, a spice rub, cookies, and caramel corn.
Packaging ended up being pretty easy, I went with simple white boxes, mason jars and tins. But then another challenge surfaced when I realized I would have to label each package. Most home-made gifts come with cutesy hand-written labels. My handwriting is atrocious – I’ve never been good with handwritten thank you notes, let alone food product labels. So to get around this particular problem I designed a fictional logo for each food product to pair up with the unique food photography image that I photographed.
The key for this holiday gift project was to get started well in advance. I started brainstorming the recipes, logos and packaging back in early November. This gave me enough time to perfect the recipes, shoot the food photography, design the packaging, and then of course to make all of the food before mid-December. Things like the spice rub were easy to do in bulk, while the caramel corn, for example, was pretty labor intensive. My goal was to ship the gifts by December 15th, to make sure that each client received their package before heading off for the holiday vacation.
It was a whole lot of hard work, but the feedback I got from sending the snacks was excellent. I’m definitely going to try to continue the tradition next year.
Food Gift Ideas
You can find the recipes for all five of my food gift ideas for self promotion over at my food blog, Shoot To Cook.