Modern cooking is easily as much about presentation as it is taste. Whether you’re a bona fide chef, an avid food blogger, or simply appreciate the beauty of contemporary cooking, few of us can resist the temptation to document a particularly alluring dish with a quick snap before we indulge our appetites. Food photography used to be the specialist domain of a small but elite group of professionals who worked for glossy cooking magazines or advertising agencies. Today, thanks to social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, the democratization of so-called “food porn” means that anyone and everyone can be a bistro paparazzo.
And it’s not just still photography. The proliferation of bird’s eye food preparation videos on social media means that we’re now as inundated with close-ups of cheese oozing out of a freshly baked pastry as we once were with cats squeezing themselves into cardboard boxes. So many videos, with recipes so outrageously over-the-top, the latest YouTube sensation is a college student who simply tapes himself reacting to them. With over five million views since launching “Kalen Reacts,” 21-year-old Kalen Allen has since signed up to produce the series for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Food Entertainment: A Booming Market
Of course, food as a spectator sport is hardly a new phenomenon. The groundwork laid by Julia Child and other early television chefs set the stage for today’s ‘round the clock food coverage. This year will mark the 25 year anniversary of cable’s Food Network, where we’ve seen everything from traditional cooking shows to more visually spectacular series such as Iron Chef America or Ridiculous Cakes. Eating with our eyes have become the norm rather than the exception.
But by no means has this rapidly expanding trend towards visual feast been limited to American shores. On the other side of the Atlantic, you can actually win an award for food porn, although currently limited to the “crème de la crème” from the north of England. In the Netherlands, they’ve even turned kitchen utensils into masterpieces of design to ooh and ahh over. As for Asian cultures, a passion for photography and social media combined with a long-established tradition for creative presentation makes for the perfect storm of pixelated calories.
So is it too late to get in on the food photography bandwagon? The short answer is no. But the field is growing ever more competitive and the bar for visual standards raised higher and higher. If you’re looking for an outlet to share your spectacular food art outside the overcrowded channels of social media, i.e. a traditional website, getting noticed is more difficult than you might think. And without significant traffic, attracting sponsors can seem hopeless. This is where a modest investment in improving your site’s visibility on Google can be well worth it. Some services offer a quick online analysis to make sure your site hasn’t actually been blocked or blacklisted by Google and will tell you how many different pages were recognized in the process.
It would be surprising if our appetite for food flair suddenly waned, so those who are willing to embrace the magic tricks of getting noticed are bound to get swept up in the rising tide. Whether you enjoy the occasional guilty social media share of your own creations or you faithfully document every restaurant meal, food images are about appreciating a meal more than in that fleeting moment.