Why We Post Photos of Our Food

By Stacey Ross

I am not a foodie, or a chef. Heck, I do not think I enjoy food any more than your average person. (Well, unless it involves a good beer and sushi…or chocolate!) So why, on any given month, might a good majority of the photos in my social media streams center around food? Why are so many people compelled to tweet what they eat?

My personal view is that food is not that sexy, although I have been known to refer to some Japanese appetizers as “foreplay”! Typically, if I am playing a role in the branding process, I snap away to display a new camera feature, a hotel restaurant, or a favorite item from the menu. And even if there is no compensation involved, there is nothing like giving homage to a person or an institution – like a beer with the ballpark in the background – that you think is doing a great job. It’s just part of the social media culture!

I have found that a photo of a particularly appealing meal can be a valuable contribution to the inter-webs, particularly when accompanied with some descriptive words, recommendations, or geeky captions. I also take the opportunity to share bloopers. For example, my Facebook post sharing my burnt cookies was pretty well-received, likely because of the caption, “Warning: Mom Blogger Hazard!” The sentiment conveyed along with image becomes a unique form of storytelling, although a photo of a standard sandwich and French fries might not be all that compelling!

So why do others post their meals? I asked my colleagues and received a palate-full of replies.

Second nature for foodies

Freelancers, bloggers and foodies all click away ritualistically like they are foodarazzi.  Gina M. Ruiz, a food blogger and a freelancer, hangs out a lot with a Michelin-starred chef, so taking photos of food for her blog Dona Lupe’s Kitchen is imperative. The same applies for her inspiration, Chef Gianfranco Minuez, who is documenting his dishes for a future book. For Gina, sometimes she is “just impressed with the beauty and color or the plating style,” and at other times she is developing a recipe.

My Facebook friend Kimberly Edwards shared that two of her friends must photograph before they eat and that some of her friends regularly post on the review site Yelp. They make a habit of reviewing restaurants before they even open and are often the first to document their experiences – all with their handy cameras!

Images of inspiration

Lifestyle blogger Abby N Lili contributed, “I do not consider myself crafty or artistic, but I can cook. Taking pictures of food and sharing it on BabyBirdsFarm is my creative outlet. I like to believe it is useful to others too. Hopefully, they want to try the recipe, learn something new, or are just inspired to cook fresh, healthy good food.”

Another Facebook friend Lucretia Madden Pruitt added, “I like looking at other people’s food pix because it: a) stimulates my own appetite, b) gives me ideas for dishes to make or try, c) is artistic and aesthetically pleasing, and d) lets me share that moment with them.”

A conversation starter

When shared creatively to celebrate not only the food itself but the experience surrounding it, the “foodographer” can tell a story. I would be doing a disservice to you by editing the response of Faryl Zaklin a social media wizard, friend, and blogger at fearlessblogger.com, so here is all she had to say on the matter:

“I’m not a fan of foodie pics on social media but I can tolerate it if: it’s for accountability; the meal presentation is just beyond words; you’re in a different country and the cuisine is unique; you hunted, slaughtered and cooked part of the meal; it’s moving or has eyes; any part of it is flaming (intentionally or unintentionally); your kid made it; you did an especially good job at making it and you’re proud; you’re sharing a recipe for the photo subject; or you did such a bad job preparing it, words fail you.”

Melinda Kruse DiPerna also hits the nail on the head: “It’s a way of sharing beauty, flavor, color, fun. No different than [photographing] a great flower. Occasionally funny or a warning.”

Food as the great connector

Whether we post photos of our hamburgers for branding purposes or for sensual pleasure, we can’t deny that food serves as a great unifier and conversation starter. When we have family and friends over or even meet someone for the first time, we tend to organize the gathering around a culinary experience. Virtual or not, what is on the dinner table brings people together.

A news anchor at NBC 7 San Diego, Jodi Kodesh, shared, “I do it nearly every time I cook, because I NEVER cook! I’m horrible. When I do make a pretty plate, I want a little bit of praise for the hard work I put into whatever meal I’m showing.”

A firefighter for the U.S. Marines, Ace Torres, knows that ladies love food (and we know firefighters are notorious for having their way in the kitchen!), so he figures that sharing food that he has either bought or cooked himself on his stream might “entice a date by showing girls what they could be eating if they go out with me.” And he makes sure to point out “I don’t use Instagram filters on my food pics.” Ace wants to be sure to portray accurately what a lady can expect. Smart move!

Food remains one of the most talked-about topics on social media and, with the advancement of technology, practically anyone who can aim and shoot can take a delightful photo. As Cari Bee, lifestyle/entertainment blogger behind BusyBeeBlogger.com, reminds us:  “Food is inherently communal. Even if eating alone, we feel compelled to share our experience.”

I’ll chew to that!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

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