Food Photography Can Increase Reader Engagement on Your Food Blog by 300% – A Simple Study to Understand How to Create a Successful Food Blog

Asian Food Photo Does outstanding food photography really build a successful food blog? What do you think? I thought it would be interesting to study some top recipe bloggers that have outstanding food photography and see how much difference does taking mouth-watering food photos make? Read further to see if food photos really contribute the success of a food blog.


Planning The Food Photography Study

You’ve heard this a lot and I have heard this too – stunning images improve your blogs. However, I have not seen any proof/study showing that if you take better food photos, your food blog will get better. There is a lot of talk about taking better images and mouth-watering dessert photographs and the story-telling.

But does it really matter? Do readers even care about photography? Is this all fluff talk? Or do better images really create an engaging audience? I wanted to find out. With this curiosity, I started investigating.

The Goal

The main goal of this study was to learn how outstanding food photos contribute in success of food blogs. This was the “what’s the purpose” of this whole study. The way I defined a successful blog was by the way it was received and whether the readers were really engaged.

Measuring Success

So once I identified the objective for this exercise, the next thing was to decide what metric is the best reflection of “successful posts”. Should it be number of visitors, or number of views on the blogs? Should I just use time spent on the page or something else? Perhaps readers engagement was the best way to tell whether a blog is successful or not. But how do we measure engagement?

What to Measure

There are lot of statistics that can measure “success” however, in my opinion, number of comments is a good way to measure impact and engagement of a blog and a post. I think if a post has interested and impacted the readers, there will be some discussion about the content of the post. In food blogs, this content can be recipe, story or photograph.

Number of comments is also something that is easily available, and is easy to collect than some of the other metrics. So, number of comments became the measure of impact and how well the post was received. It was a simple way to tell whether readers were moved by the post.

Selecting The Food Blogs and Posts

Since my goal was to measure impact of food photos on successful blogs, it made sense to start with, well, successful food blogs. Rather than hunting for successful posts on every food blog on the internet I start with popular food bloggers.

Choosing Food Blogs

This study was limited to learning the impact of food blogs that post recipes on a regular basis. The thought was to study some popular blogs that have an outstanding food photography on a consistent basis. I chose number of comments as a measure to see how popular a food blog was. If it was easy to find a post that had more than 50 comments on a blog, it was a popular blog.

Choosing the Food Photography Posts

Ideally, if a post received more than 50 comments, we defined it as “well received”. However, since I selected blogs that had many posts with 50+ comments, a successful post within a top blog should have much more than 50 comments. So I kept this number to be 70.

If in a top food blog, a post received 70 or more comments, I called it “well received.” Of course, the age of post also mattered in this case. Since very recent posts may not receive as many comments, I went with posts that were at least one month old.

What Defines Impact of Food Photos

Quick recap – we chose number of comments as a measure of being well received. Top blogs that had more posts with 50+ comments were shortlisted and in these blogs, posts with 70+ comments were selected for this study.

The next challenge was to find a connection between these posts and food photos. If there was a connection between food photos used in these posts, it should be reflected some where. For instance, if readers really liked the photograph, they would compliment the blogger. And for this again, a good place to start was comment section of a post.

I looked at comments suggesting that a reader liked photography. Comments mentioning words like photo, photography, pic, picture clearly indicate that the commenter was moved by the food photos. The number of comments were counted and compared to the number of times readers have appreciated the food photography on a particular post.

Impact of Outstanding Food Photography on Food Blogs

I selected 7 blogs that have great food images and have done that consistently. Lets look at these seven blogs and see how their photography impacts reader engagement on their blogs.

Bea from La Tartine Gourmande posted a potato salad recipe and some awesome potato salad photos. This post got about 75 comments in total (as of writing this article) and of these 75 comments, photos were mentioned 50 times. This suggests that every 2 out of 3 times someone leaves a comment about Bea’s photography. Following are few comments from readers of this post.

“Your pictures are magical/”

“Your photographs and foods are so gorgeous I can almost smell them!”

“This potato salad looks like none other I have seen before. And your pictures are beyond words!”

“Your photos always put me in a serene state of mind. They’re gorgeous. And this potato salad really does speak of spring.”

“Fabulously-looking salad – a true joy to all senses. Adding watercress adds a whole new dimension to it, both visually and taste-wise. Thanks.”

These comments clearly suggest that photography had a lot of impact on these readers. This influence was so great that they couldn’t stop themselves from writing a comment.

Helene from Tartelette shared a recipe of fresh berry tartelette and more than some mouth-watering tartelette photos. After 71 comments in total, 48 times readers talked about photos in this post. As in the first case, in this post too, there were many comments on photography. Here are few of them:

“These are stunning!! I love the second shot!”

“Wow, those are the most stunning tartlettes!”

“Your pictures are so beautiful and always induce sweets cravings!
Thanks for sharing!”

Aran from Cannelle Vanille Blog has some stunning food images in Raspberry, Cocoa and Mesquite post. This post received 77 comments, 52 times photography was discussed in the comments. (Read How Aran became a food photographer.)

Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple wrote about Vietnamese Pork Banh Mi and included some outstanding photos of this dish. Again, 48 times food photos were discussed in 75 comments that they received.

Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey took some great macarons photos for her Raspberry Macarons post. Similar response to food photos – 45 discussions in 77 comments. (read Meeta’s advice on how to select background for food photography)

Mowie from Mowielicious received a whopping 99 comments on his dark cherry cake post and has awesome cherry crumble cake photographs. In those 99 comments, 72 times photos of this post were discussed. (Mowie tells us How to Make Your Food Blog Good Looking)

Kajal from Aapplemint posted dark chocolate cake photos in the recipe post and received 84, 47 of which are related to photography.

All these food bloggers, received lot of wonderful comments from their readers. Readers were so moved that they couldn’t stop themselves and wrote a comment complimenting these bloggers. Almost in each of these cases, 2 out of 3 comments were on their food photography. In other words, readers of these blogs were engaged and wanted to participate in the “community” just by looking at these stunning food photos.

On a high level, if you aggregate all of the posts in this set, in 558 comments, 362 times food photography was mentioned. So what did we learn from the study?

Summary of This Study

We looked at 7 food photographers who have mastered this art and we selected their posts with 70+ comments. We then scanned the comments section of these posts for expressions that imply some interest in the photographs. After completing this exercise, we looked through some 560 comments and found around 360 comments/instances that related to photography in these posts. This tells us that on an average, every 2 out of 3 comment related to photography on that post where the comment was made.

Conclusion

After this study, it is clear that just by improving your photography you can evoke a response in an audience on your food blog. If every 2 out of 3 comment relates to food photography, it can also be said that, 66% of the comments have something to do with food photography and therefore, better food photography is related to better engagement and emotional response in your audience.

To look at this idea a little differently it can be said that just by improving your food photography, you can get more reader engagement and hence more comments. If every 2 out of 3 comments relate to photography on these blogs, you can increase the number of comments by 3 times by improving your food photography.  

A food blog can be successful if your readers are engaged and are moved so much that they just can’t stop themselves from writing a comment and complimenting your food photography. While there are many blogs that may receive some comments once in a while, a successful food blog receives these comments on a regular basis, implying that your readers are engaged.

Do Your Own Food Photography Study

I am sure you have heard that better photography improves a blog. You can do this very simple exercise too. Pick a food blogger that you admire and study the comments on a post that has great food photography.

How have your readers responded to your photography? Do you read one of the blogs we picked up for this study? What do you feel about food photography on these blogs?

Photo courtesy Phil Dragash

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  • http://www.veggiebelly.com Veggie Belly

    What great insight! Loved this post Neel. Posts on simple food photography tricks, and tutorials also get a lot of reader engagement.

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Hello Sala, Thank you for your comments.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Food Photography Can Increase Reader Engagement on Your Food Blog by 300% – A Simple Study to Understand How to Create a Successful Food Blog | Learn Food Photography & Styling Blog -- Topsy.com

  • http://www.vinolucistyle.com Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle

    Now to find the algorithm that deducts the comments that are made over all of these blogs and more by people that just want a comment link back to themselves. Most of them say something really thought provoking like, ‘Great photo, looks delicious’ or something so similar that you almost know what to expect from their comment when you see their name.

    So, I would take comment luv somewhat lightly; some of it is not for you; it is using you for themselves! Sad. But true!

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Thats a great point Barbara. There are comments like that.

      However if you really think about the goal here, it was simply to find out whether someone is affected by the photograph so much that s/he takes an action such as leaving a comment.

      And again, you are right, there are comments like “great photo” or more generic “looks great.” These comments in some cases are not sincere, but I think the reason why someone would say “looks great” versus “Great recipe” still counts.
      What do you think?

  • http://www.veggiebelly.com Veggie Belly

    Agreed. Even the people posting comments for the sake of link back are affected the gorgeous pictures, which is why they say “great photo”. If not, theyd say “nice post” “yum”, or something like that.

  • http://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com/ Cooking in Mexico

    Gorgeous photos on a food blog inspire me to cook, just as they do in a food magazine. Until I take a taste, I don’t know how good a recipe really is, but my eyes can make the first decision and my apron and spoon soon follow.

    Kathleen

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Thanks for sharing your perspective Kathleen. I feel the same that eyes make a decision way before brain can process everything and reach on a conclusion.

  • http://www.thecreativepot.net Marisa

    Very interesting take on things! Thought it would increase visitors and visibility (through tastespotting & foodgawker) but never thought about the effect on comments.

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Thank you for your comment Marisa. You bring a great point. Photography can potentially increase traffic if your photos get selected by these sites.

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  • http://lifesafeast.blogspot.com Jamie

    I am a writer and not very talented when it comes to food styling/photography and just 2 things: I also judge myself against how many comments I receive although I have found that it is easy to spend a day or 2 visiting other blogs which increases comments on my own, which leads me to your second point: how many of the comments left are a response to my story/blog post. Most are and this is, for me, a true sign of “success”, that my writing has an impact on my readers, that it evokes an emotional response. The bloggers you mention are indeed some of the best food stylists/photographers in the blogosphere and their photos tell a story as much as my words and that is what inspires readers. Thanks for an inciteful post.

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Jamie, Thank you for your thoughts and sharing your opinion about this post. I believe comments and specially quality of comments are a good reflection of blogs content. Great thoughts.

  • http://hoosierhomemade.com Liz@HoosierHomemade

    This was VERY interesting! I have worked REALLY hard on my photos in the last 6 months, learning more and more everyday about how to make them better.
    I have definitely noticed an increase in readers, traffic and comments since my photos have gotten better.
    I’m off to check out your blog, definitely subscribing, and to check out the other blogs.
    BTW – I’m coming over from Daily Brainstorm, I’m a new contributor there :-)
    Thanks so much!
    ~Liz

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Hello Liz,

      Thank you for stopping by. Glad you liked the post.

  • http://www.blissfullyunrefined.com Shea M. @ Blissfully Unrefined

    I read at least 40 different blogs (yeah, I have no life) on a regular basis. There are some where the photos are beautiful, but I skip the actual content (who wants to read a copied-and-pasted recipe from a well-known cookbook, or bag of flour?) – it’s all about the photos, and gaining insight on how to make my own photos better; some blogs have OK photos, but the content is outstanding, so I’m more inclined to actually follow the link in my feed to the story; and on some rare occasions, you get both (Kitchen Butterfly is one of my favorites – unbelievable photos, and really amazing story-telling).

    I love the photos, but in the end, I think some people are drawn more by the content. Several of the blogs you mentioned are ones I follow, and they fall into that 3rd category. For me, at least, a great photo is wonderful to look at, but not necessarily enough to make me click through to the article. But then, that is simply my opinion. :)

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Thank you for your comment Shea.

  • http://kathleeniscookinginmexico.wordpress.com/ Cooking in Mexico

    Neel,

    After 80-some posts on my food blog, I am starting to see improvement with my photos, especially since I just traded in my point-and-shoot for an Olympus C 5050.

    Here is my question: is it worth going back and re-shooting every poor or mediocre photo? I have hundreds of photos posted at this point. This would mean cooking all these recipes again, something that would require a lot of time, while I’m trying to keep up with my blog and my life. My husband says leave it be, that it chronicles my progress. What do you think?

    Kathleen

  • http://www.sippitysup.com sippitysup

    I guess it depends on how you define success and what the long term goals are for a blog. I consider comments to be a poor gauge of a blog’s overall success. Comments may be a good indicator for how much other bloggers like a site, because most blogs have a core of regulars who are typically bloggers. They post and say positive things no matter what the post or the photo is like. Sometimes the number of comments is directly related to how much effort a blogger puts into leaving comments on other blogs. So there is room for the “tit for tat” theory.

    Alexa is a better indicator I think. Certainly a blog with an Alexa under 100,000 is doing something right. But even blogs with fewer readers can show Alexa success that would be attractive to advertisers. I often look at a 3 month trend in Alexa ratings for a blog. If it is trending upwards and much of the traffic is coming from photo driven sights like Taste Spotting then it’s easier to conclude that photos are driving traffic. But if the traffic is being driven by links from other larger food, lifestyle and entertainment related websites (not necessarily blogs) then you know that the blog is finding success for reasons more substantial than nice photos. This sort of traffic means that the blog is reaching beyond the interests of other bloggers and is becoming a part of the general “foodie fabric” of the blogosphere. These are the blogs that will be approached by sponsors, publicists and the like– because the depth of their numbers is far more complex, and therefore longer lasting. GREG

    • http://www.vinolucistyle.com Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle

      Amen to that Greg!

    • http://www.learnfoodphotography.com Neel

      Great comment Greg. I agree with most of what you have said. You are right, Alexa is a better indicator of success of a blog. I still think that if someone leaves a detailed comment like you did here, or couple of others who left more than “good pics” comment on a blog, it indicated that the person who responded to this comment is indeed emotionally moved and engaged so much so that it has forced him or her to leave a comment. You comment itself is a good example. You left a wonderful comments with great points. If you weren’t affected by this post one way or the other, you wouldn’t have taken time to leave a comment. Do you agree?
      Similarly, I think if someone is moved by a post, s/he will leave a comment. Moreover, if s/he likes the content of a post, comment will be directed towards the content. Now if this person likes the photographs way more than the content, or is moved by the photographs more than the content, s/he will leave a comment related to the photograph.
      I completely agree with your tit-for-tat theory. And you are probably right that for defining a successful blog, Alexa is a better metric (if Alexa ranks all the blogs), however comment is publicly available for all blogs.
      Great points Greg. Thank you for your comment.

  • Paula Walters

    Hi, Neel, this post has inspired quite an interesting discussion! I am one of those people that gravitates towards food blogs with photography styles that I appreciate, a few of which you have listed here. I am a photo stylist specializing in sets for food photography, and have worked alongside some very talented photographers throughout my career. What has drawn me to food blogging, and recently starting a blog of my own, is the new enthusiasm and passion I am seeing as people are discovering the joyful challenge of food photography. Prop styling is my job, but very ingrained in my after hours life. Food blogs are more fuel for the creativity I need to draw from on a daily basis.

  • http://www.quickiesonthedinnertable.yolasite.com denise @ quickies on the dinner table

    While your article is insightful and enlightening in many ways, I have to say it is slightly flawed, in one respect. Having been an active food blogger for over a year and a half, I have to agree with Greg from Sippity Sup. The number of comments on almost any food blog is directly related to the number of comments the owner of the blog leaves on other food blogs. There is an extremely high incidence of reciprocal commenting with food blogs, generally speaking. Observant readers will notice that the commenters on a blog are usually the same band of ‘blogger buddies’ that the blog owner has amassed over months and sometimes years of regular commenting on other blogs. Also very true that comments are almost always positive, sometimes even fawning, no matter the content of the post or quality of the photographs.

    A case in point would be my own blog. In the past, I had more comments because I put in much more effort in commenting on numerous other blogs, eventhough my photos were at that time, mediocre. My blog traffic too, was unimpressive, eventhough I had comments in very impressive double digits. Now I have upgraded to a DSLR and produce infinitely better photos, but, my comments have declined dramatically as I no longer have time to comment on as many blogs as before. However, my blog traffic has tripled according to my blog traffic tracker, which is visible only to me. So, you are right in that better photography reels in traffic, but sadly, comments are not a reliable indicator of traffic.

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed and informative article!

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    I wanted to master food photography and that I wanted also to pursue and hoping to master. Maybe buy my own camera after my planned computer soon.

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