Hey, how’s it going? I’m Andy Jones and this is episode 117 of the Photography Side Hustle podcast.

So this week’s episode is another Facebook group member suggestion, courtesy of Kevin Cowley from Oregon.

Pre-pandemic, I had taken a night shot of the front of a local downtown bar and grill and tagged them in the post which they shared.

A little later when my wife and I were eating there, the owner asked if I would photograph their establishment for them.

Since I had never done anything like that before, I wasn’t sure what to charge or even how to photograph the interior of a bar and grill.

What equipment would I bring? Do I do it when customers are there? What angles would I shoot, and would I use my speed light? Would I only shoot the interior or also some of the food (They have a very small grill for burgers). 

It is very long and narrow, with an antique bar as the main visual, but again, it’s very narrow and somewhat dark. They have billiards and karaoke in the back where it’s a bit brighter.

I have fast prime and zoom lenses and several Godox flashes with triggers.

How to Photograph the interior of the bar

Okay, so let’s go through what is needed for this shoot.

What equipment to use

With most real estate, you need to be using a 16mm lens on a full-frame sensor body. On a cropped APS-C sensor body you need a zoom that starts at around 10mm. So for full-frame, a 16-35mm zoom is perfect, and for a cropped body a 10-18mm zoom will give the same results. 

I know that Kevin uses a full-frame Sony body, so if he has a 16mm prime lens that is f/1.8 he could shoot the interior without a flash. Sony’s 16mm is f/2.8 and might not be capable of capturing a dark interior without getting grainy images.

Now if he used a tripod he could use longer shutter speeds, but in a narrow bar, there might not be enough room for a tripod.


So …

Should you use Flash?

In this situation, I really think flash is necessary. 

You might think a flash will produce photos that are extremely bright. Trying to keep the atmosphere of the bar is super important, so the flash needs to be set on low power. Just enough to bring out details, and make the bar look inviting, not bright and sterile.

Using flash can be difficult due to the mirrors used behind the bar. The way to avoid the bright reflections in the mirrors is to use off-camera flash. Positioning the flashes on the floor behind the bar facing away from any mirrored surfaces. This bar might not have any mirrored areas, but most bars and pubs do. Trust me, I investigated a lot of pub interiors when I was younger.

As far as how many flashes you would need in this situation, I think 2-3 would be needed. Hiding a flash behind the bar, around a corner, or anywhere out of the frame. The aim is to light any dark areas subtly, not blasting light everywhere.

Next …

What angles to use

Well, you have to think about how the photos are going to be used. The bar owner is going to use them for promotion. Either in printed material or on the website and social media.

The person viewing the photos needs to see the photos from their point of view, that is eye level. Now there is nothing wrong with a few shots from up high or low to the ground but the majority should be at eye level.


Next question …

Are customers there or not?

The answer is yes but not regular customers. Getting model releases signed might be difficult with a bar full of regulars, and controlling them during the shoot would not going to be easy. 

I think you should ask the owner to pick a few friends to come over for a drink at a time when they are normally closed. You can get them to sit at the bar, or eat a burger and have a pint at a table.

Trying to get all the photos you need on a Saturday night would be chaos.


Should you photograph the food?

Yes, I think getting some photos of the food they offer is important, even if it’s only burgers. While you’re at it get some pics of the beers they offer too. 

Showing potential customers what they can eat and drink will make their decision to visit the bar easier.


How much should you charge?

Kevin first asked me this question about the bar months ago, and the reason I didn’t answer him then was I couldn’t come up with a price. Now after asking me a second time I have to answer.

A full-time commercial photographer would want thousands to do a shoot like this, and most small business owners don’t have that kind of money available. This is a great place to start if you are looking to shoot for small businesses.  


If this is your first step into paid shoots, I would think about how much you would like to get paid for 1½ to 2 hours of shooting, plus editing time. So let’s say 3 hours of your time. Decide on an hourly rate and multiply it by 3 hours.

Or, if you are a regular at this bar, how many free beers and burgers you can get out of it? 

I would look at this shoot as a gateway to more work. Do a good job for this bar owner and market yourself to all the other bars in your area. 

Pricing is difficult when you haven’t done a shoot before. If you have been doing portrait sessions you know what you want to earn from a shoot, and that’s your price.

This is just like starting out trying to build a portrait portfolio. You start off with a few free sessions and gradually raise your prices. This one session can be the start of a very niche business photographing pubs, bars and restaurants.

This opportunity is one that you just have to do, even if like I said earlier, it’s for free beer and burgers. Once you get into something new other opportunities will open up for you.

In fact, it doesn’t matter what you shoot, the more sessions you do the more contacts you get. The owner of this bar has a friend who owns a restaurant, who in turn has a friend who owns a custom body shop. 

Before you know it your niche has changed from pubs to restaurants, and then classic muscle cars.

Take the first step and see where it takes you.

Okay, I think that covers everything, I hope Kevin gets some answers from it.

If you need help with anything you can find me in the Facebook group.

I’ll be back next week with more photo stuff, talk to you soon, bye.