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 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.
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)
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.
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