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cooking blogs: how important are the pictures to you?

  • j

would you think less of a blog using cell phone pics?

do you expect pro level photography with lighting etc or do you just want the information?

All i need is a name and i am going to start one, but i'm wondering if my lack of photo skills will tank the whole thing. . .

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  1. I think that, in most cases, lousy photography is worse than no photography. I'd rather read an excellent description than look at a crummy picture, that "worth a thousand words" thing notwithstanding. It isn't difficult to put a bowl of pasta someplace well-lit and frame it properly (unless it's moving around, in which case you have other problems). And you could probably do that with a cell phone, although it might take some practice.

    I think The Pioneer Woman does a particularly fine job with photos, although she's a bigger fan of shallow focus than I am. Her pix are both attractive and instructional.


    1. As a food blog owner, I can tell you that if you want traffic and a following, that yes, photos are important. It's costly, time consuming and sometimes inconvenient, but putting forth good photos is essential.
      Unless you are exceptionally prosaic, you need eye candy.

      11 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        how insane does including a google sketch up drawing with a post sound??

        I like the little drawings in mastering the art of french cooking and the marcella hazan book, but not sure how people would respond to such.

        1. re: j8715

          how insane does including a google sketch up drawing with a post sound??
          not insane at all. in fact, i like the idea. it will set you apart from most of the zillion other food blogs out there, and i'd personally rather look at well done sketches/illustrations than bad photos.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            a friend makes really cool designs, including colors, of gardens with it. i think it involves some sort of special pen and screen thing the way he does it though

            1. re: j8715

              Could you link an example? I'd love to see the sketch style you're referring to.

              1. re: HillJ

                OMG..there's a French blog in which the owner is an artist and does this. It's amazing. If you have the talent, I think it could really work.
                OK..now I'm going to rack my brains for the name.

        2. re: monavano

          "Costly"? I thought blogging was free. (Obviously, I am not a blog owner.)

          1. re: Jay F

            some really go all out with the photos. high res, lighting, the works.

            1. re: j8715

              That's what I do...to the best of my amateur ability, that is ;-)

            2. re: Jay F

              Blogger is free, most other (and better) host sites you have to pay for space. Camera equipment is $$$.

            3. re: monavano

              monavano -- I think prosaic means the opposite of what you're saying here!

            4. I am cooking a whole cow and 5 lambs over an open fire aka "Seven Fires" style and I want to blog about it but I can only post one or two pictures. Where can I go to put several pictures up about the planning killing and cooking for this event. At this time I am using a facebook group but I have been requested to put up a formal blog.

              3 Replies
              1. re: JB BANNISTER

                I do quite a bit of blogs/social media stuff and can offer the following advice:

                Set up a free blog on either wordpress or blogger, both are easy to learn but Google owns blogger so you might have better luck with seo there but I personally prefer WP and all the free templates they offer. I don't know what you mean by being able to only post 1/2 pics, with a blog you can post as many as you like.

                Set up a flickr account to hold all your pics.
                Set up a twitter account for your blog.
                Set up an independent FB page for your blog.
                Link your blog to all these pages and set up FB and Twitter with your RSS feed.

                Also, send out a press release about your adventure and contact the cookbook author.

                ALL these things I mentioned are FREE!

                I love Seven Fires - please send me a message when you're up and running (see my profile) I would love to watch your progress!

                1. re: JB BANNISTER

                  "Formal blog" may be one of the greatest oxymorons of our time!

                  1. re: mnosyne

                    it is a blog with people in tuxedos, obviously

                2. here is an example. too crummy?

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: j8715

                    With respect, yes, crummy. Here's why. Even cheap digital p&s cameras allow considerable control over white balance and basic exposure parameters.Disable on-camera flash. Don't shoot in Program(P) mode. Manual(M) allows you to control exposure with natural or controlled lighting by altering shutter speed. Always shoot at the lowest manually set ISO possible(e.g., 64, 100, 200). Get a cheap tripod or camera support to assure sharpness at slow shutter speeds. Experiment with reflectors(e.g., a big piece of foamcore or white bristol board) or small flashlights even. About all you can't pull off are ultra shallow depth of field shots(sharp foreground/fuzzy background)that rely on fast, large aperture lenses--PS can help somewhat here. Composition, background and exposure are things you should always be thinking about.

                    BTW, what the hell is that thing? I kinda see a devil's face in it somewhere...

                    1. re: Kagemusha

                      i was going to dismiss everything you just said because i have an intense dislike for gadgetry and i don't want to know what program mode is or what ISO means.

                      but if you can't tell that it is pancetta i think i have a problem. . .

                      Wait I am ok with it not being a professional quality photo and looking crummy. but is it TOO crummy (ie this blog is off putting i shant be buying the amazon things from it)?

                      1. re: j8715

                        You're so very welcome. The shot speaks for itself. Good luck with the blog.

                        1. re: j8715

                          <but if you can't tell that it is pancetta i think i have a problem. . . >

                          I thought it was an unfrosted marble cake. Oops.

                          1. re: small h

                            That's what I thought it was as well, small h.

                            And to the OP - yes, some pictures are important. Clarity in those pictures is also important. You don't have to show step-by-step photos as is often done, unless you're using the blog to "teach" readers how to prepare something. But one or two photos per blog story is very helpful to the readers.

                            1. re: small h

                              It is sitting on a bread or cake-type rack for cooling. Perhaps if it were on even a piece of butcher paper, that might give more of a clue as to what it is.
                              Perhaps you could have put it on its side and cut into it, showing half of a slice.
                              Thinking ahead of presentation can be important.

                              I think food pictures are generally over-rated EXCEPT.... Here is when I prefer to see pictures. When a blogger has gone to the trouble to make a dish that is a bit technical and she doesn't insert pictures as to how she accomplished (in pictures) the end result, I am always disappointed. I know that it is always hard to include all the steps to the final product, but that is the challenge, is it not?

                            2. re: j8715

                              It's bad, Really bad. Sorry!
                              There's no definition. No depth.
                              It *could* look attractive, but it looks like something took a dump.
                              Again, sorry.

                                1. re: j8715

                                  Wouldn't explaining the photo by caption or story handle the "what is it" if the photo quality isn't ideal?

                                  The Pioneer Woman and many food bloggers earning money thru their sites use captions with photos. I wouldn't get to bogged down in the pro quality unless:
                                  -you plan to go pro
                                  -you hope to attract corporate advertisers
                                  -you have the time and $$ to invest in equip

                                  Blogging is a hobby for thousands and a planned or unplanned side "career" for many. Knowing what you want to get out of blogging and offer readers helps.

                              1. re: j8715

                                "but if you can't tell that it is pancetta...."

                                Maybe it was the thumbnail size of the photo, but I thought it was a Latte art (that needed work on the rosetta), but now that I look at it closer I can see the pancetta.

                                It's sort of like an Escher print.

                            3. re: j8715

                              Depends. Is that a clear plastic container of vanilla fudge ice cream?

                              1. re: j8715

                                If you don't want to go all out for your photos, you need to do at least these basic things with a point and shoot camera. Definitely turn off your camera flash. Use natural light when at all possible. Use the macro setting on your camera (otherwise your close up shots will be blurry). Use a steady hand to take the shots and use something nearby to steady the camera (wall, book, table, whatever). Take lots if different shots at different angles to see what you like best.

                                When you start getting more comfortable with shooting, then start doing some of the other things that Kagemusha suggested, like playing with the manual settings on your camera, get a tripod, using reflectors. Take an introductory photography class for your type of camera.

                                Then, when you get really hooked, invest mega $$$ on lighting, sets, SLR camera, lenses, etc. ;)

                              2. I think in general, no matter what the topic really, a blog needs a few photos or what not thrown in, otherwise it is just page upon page of blah blah. It's the same as reading a trip report on a travel or aviation site and there are no photos.

                                Me, I like photos on food blogs. Food is a multi-sense experience and the visual is part of it. Pictures get me interested. Sometimes in fact, instead of simply searching for a recipe on the net, I'll do a Google image search and look at what my eyes are drawn to. That often takes me to blogs, and from there I often end up looking through the entire blog history.

                                1. I like pictures on a blog. The pictures don't have to be a work of art, but I like photos that are somewhat white balanced - no greenish cast or yellowish cast. Also, I like stuff in focus. No blurry photos.

                                  Cell phones cameras are fine. The cameras on those things have improved a lot.

                                  I've visit a blog where they're using a fancy dSLR's. However, the white balance is off and the pictures are sometimes fuzzy. It's not a new camera for the blogger either. I would have thought after a few months he would have figured it out. Maybe the guy is color blind? which is a possibility.

                                  Yes, pictures are important to convey the point.
                                  No, it doesn't have to have fancy composition. Just be in-focus.

                                  However, it all depends upon your target audience and whether you want to post on Tastespotting or Food Gawker. Those sites call for fancy composition.

                                  1. I have debated launching a blog of my own, but similar to you, my lack of quality photo equipment has been a huge impediment. High quality pictures are what attract readers and it's that crucial traffic that makes a blog successful, particularly if you want to monetize your hobby. Unless you are an exceptional writer, you're going to need eye candy to reel people in.

                                    That said, you can try to get by with the equipment you have. I have seen bloggers make reasonable attempts to capture their food, but seal the deal with great writing. But if the pictures are grainy and blurry and take more effort to make out than reasonable, pictures can also lose you readers. I've seen bloggers try to use 2MP cell phone pics -- the quality of their writing was generally as shoddy as their photography. But if you have a decent camera and can take a decent photo, your efforts may be rewarded.

                                    25 Replies
                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      Don't go into blogging thinking you'll turn a profit. If you monetize it, it may, maybe, may pay for costs, but unless you're photos go viral, your hits just are not going to be tremendous. If you do happen to be one of the very rare blogs that gets a huge, dedicated following, then good for you! But, don't count on it.
                                      As to the equipment, a decent point and shoot will not exceed a couple hundred bucks. Worth it.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        maybe i am thinking about this all wrong. maybe i don't want to make something that looks just like all the other blogs. maybe crude photos can be part of a look?

                                        and i don't even like those cook books that look like coffee table books.

                                        1. re: j8715

                                          Crude photos are crude photos. You can certainly have your own style and point of view when it comes to capturing images of your work. But, you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig.
                                          I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend, but you're probably not meant to food blog if you're setting the bar so low.
                                          Perhaps another blog idea or outlet for your passion?

                                          1. re: j8715

                                            A crude look might work to set a certain ambience in a restaurant, but in the confined space of a computer monitor, it's probably not going to work. People don't surf the Internet looking to strain their eyes It's smart to set yourself apart from all the other blogs, but doing the opposite of what makes them successful, might be too bold a move.

                                            1. re: j8715

                                              I've seen a few of those blogs, there's something for everyone.

                                              1. re: j8715

                                                If you're this funny, pix that suck really don't matter because the subjects are inherently butt-ugly.


                                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                                  lol my utter lack of interest in deserts and what might be slight color blindness could probably make this stuff.

                                                  and i find sandra lee to be an inspiration.

                                                  1. re: j8715

                                                    Wait. What? Sandra Lee is an inspiration?

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      sure. if she can make a living from her cooking mine can surely buy me a villa in tuscany.

                                                      1. re: j8715

                                                        Hilarious. Bloggers who earn $ from blogging do so thru advertising revenue. All those bothersome ads, banners, links that bug us...that's the cash line. And, you've got to attract advertisers; not the other way around. Having a popular blog, a provable readership HELPS...how you amass that popular viewer matters...so good luck...and learn more about blog publishing at Blogher.com

                                                        1. re: j8715

                                                          Sandra Lee has marketing people. Doing a blog without any pictures isn't going to gain you any villa in Tuscany, I'm afraid.

                                                          Again - look to those blogs that are widely known - they all have a common denominator - well written, and pictures. LOTS of pictures.



                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            Good point & in fairness to the OP your list consists of food bloggers who have attracted major advertisers, cookbook deals and a public image posse. For a newbie or hobbyist this comparison isn't realistic. A list of food bloggers with less than a year under their well-written belt would be more useful.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              I respectfully disagree, HillJ. Almost every blogger started somewhere small. I would assume that almost ALL of them just started out doing this for family and friends, and their sites grew exponentially by word of mouth, links via EMail, being reported on, awards being awarded...leading to the attraction of major advertisers, cookbook deals, and PR people being part of their management group.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                Oh that's fine w/me. What I was referring to is now. What you see now on each of those blog sites is their current popularity, advertising revenue affiliates, book deals, video contracts, Amazon accounts, blog sisters, etc.; not their early beginnings.

                                                                In the case of PW and Closet Cooking they've both enjoyed complete makeovers and admin changes since first debut. If you hadn't been reading these blogs early on you would not realize the humble beginnings. If you're still new to food blogging, you may not understand the vast array of tools, tips, legal issues and so on it takes to rock a popular blog.

                                                                So, if I was a newbie with questions on how to begin, I'd look at the folks starting out now and if I had aspirations to go blog pro I'd attend a blog bootcamp/conference to gain skills. OTHT, if I'm in it for sheer amusement & hobby, I would learn as I go and studying other hobbyists in food blogging is certainly one way to learn.

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                  Another interesting back note I learned at my first food bootcamp is that a high percentage of popular food bloggers (popular based on stats and awards; not advertiser accounts) is how many actually began in food photography, styling and magazine work; not recipes or with cookbook publishing intentions, restaurant reviewing plans and such.

                                                                  Also, a high percentage have marketing/communications/pr backgrounds and educations and other careers. So what ran up the flagpole in the beginning for fun; came down in another direction. When blogging was young.

                                                                  The most successful bloggers (in any genre) leaped into the commercial potential without hesitation.

                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                    But I never said that successful bloggers were people who had cookbook publishing intentions.

                                                                    A well-rounded blog (photos, good writing, etc.) will attract readers and potential advertisers. What is started for fun *can* turn into something more.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      Oh, when you highlighted your list of food bloggers above every one of them had published cookbooks or cookbooks in the works. I don't believe I'd ever seen a food blogger clearly state their publishing "intentions" within the blog itself but on the heels of one success, many followed.

                                                                      As for "can turn into something more" I never said it couldn't. Again, your list clearly demonstrates it has.

                                                                      For a newbie, I would not recommend leading with dollar signs.

                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                        For a newbie, I would not recommend leading with dollar signs.
                                                                        EXACTLY. Which is why the OP saying they're going to get a villa in Tuscany out of blogging without marketing the living bejeezus out of it and having high-end photography is a stretch. :-) That was my original intent in posting that list.

                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                Pix quantity more evident than quality on all the blogs listed. They're dead looking, thanks to white balance/colour temp, hue and saturation issues.

                                                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                  And yet they're still popular blogs. Look, I'm only posting that info to help the OP who asked "how important are pictures?" Everyone has different reasons for liking blogs: the few I read it's because of non-cutesy-poo writing and photography - hopefully pics that showcase the food they've made. If it's all photos or all text, I don't read it.

                                                                  The OP has to decide what they want to do. He asked a question - I responded, as we all did.

                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                              Did I just hear a collective CH thud, ha!

                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                HillJ, I think it was a total Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown! Gonna be a lot of bruised CH fannies, I fear! ;-)

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                  Then we're all owed a nickel for playing along :)

                                                          2. re: Kagemusha

                                                            Holy crap - that is one hilarious blog, I'm so bookmarking it!

                                                            1. re: Gastro Travels

                                                              A personal fave. As funny--if less harrowing--than the "what were they thinking" tattoo blogs.

                                                      2. First off, today's phones take great pics - many have a 8mp camera and you can get really nice images (if you don't have one of these, you would need to upgrade). But having said that, you can have a $2k camera and stil take poor pics. Lighting matters a lot, don't take a shot of something you just cooked on a counter in a kitchen at night and think that will do - place your dish by the window when it's bright out and take the picture from the side that has light hitting it and you should be fine.

                                                        Keep in mind, when to comes to food - we eat with our eyes first! If it doesn't look good, no one's going to want to eat it - or read about it.

                                                        BTW, I use a dslr with macro lens and tripod but am not about to argue that's the only way to go.

                                                        1. For me, exrtremely important. I love close ups of food, I like being able to see the textures, the dfferences of colors of food. These are things I find appealing and make me want to taste it and cook it. You don't have to spend a ton of money on a camera at least not in the beginning. As long as the foods staged nicely. I mean take a look at the background. Look to see your not catching a dirty counter or worse, stove. Big turnoff for me. I hate seeing a dirty stove....even my own.

                                                          1. lol i thought the villa was an obvious joke.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: j8715

                                                              Well, you also said Sandra Lee was an inspiration for making a living from her cooking and you seemed serious about it. Was the entire thing a joke?

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                no i do want to make a blog and i don't want to mess with cameras very much.

                                                                the sandra lee thing and the house in tuscany was a joke. i thought it was obvious i would want a house in southern france.

                                                                1. re: j8715

                                                                  I wanted to take pictures for Chowhound, and eBay, but had no camera and no knowledge. So I bought a used camera on eBay, and can take passable pics. The more you do it, the easier it gets, (just like everything!) AND probably as the photos improve, the more you'll enjoy the whole process, thus raising the quality of the whole blog.

                                                            2. coming up with a name is hard. all the good ones are taken.

                                                              i wanted fromscratch

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: j8715

                                                                luckily blog name generators can help you! Dozens exist.

                                                              2. It all depends on the type of place/food. For potential 3+ star places, yes, I would like well-photographed pictures, because that's really the area where visual presentation is a big factor. For 2 stars and below, it's no big deal. Well, the obvious exception would be if the place was a complete mess with walls falling down, roaching roaming, etc.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: ediblover

                                                                  j8715 I am in my 6th month of blogging and it has been quite the adventure. What began as a labor of love posting recipes for my friends and loved ones has become sometimes an obsession and other times quite the frustration! I am still learning as I go and my thinking at this point is that one day, if I'm lucky, I might be able to generate a small income. Honestly speaking, if it happens, that day is still too far off to even put much energy into monetizing.

                                                                  To answer your question about thinking less of cell phone photos...the answer is a resounding YES. I would not only think less of a blog featuring cell phone photos; unless it was a blog "about" cell phone photos I would exit the page and never look back! If you want to be taken seriously either learn how to take a decent photo or find somebody who can.

                                                                  In the meantime here are a couple of other things I have learned along the way...

                                                                  1. Read what other bloggers are doing, especially on the wordpress and blogger forums. There is much to learn from the mistakes of others.

                                                                  2. If you do have hopes of monetizing, learn the difference between a self hosted site and a wordpress (or blogger) hosted site. You don't want to end up sharing half of your earnings with them!

                                                                  I hope this helps!


                                                                  1. re: ediblover

                                                                    Sorry ediblover! I meant to reply directly to the OP.

                                                                  2. As someone who has a (mostly unread, but its ok since its for me) food blog, I think it depends on the cell phone and your lighting situation. I've taken some amazing shots with my iphone, but for low-light, or 'icky' (CF bulb) light, it doesn't work.

                                                                    Photo skills aren't that hard to learn, and you don't need a super fancy $2k setup to do so - a good point and shoot (set to manual/macro mode) or a low-end DSLR would both work well. I wouldn't let photography skills stop you from blogging!

                                                                    1. if you have time to be a blogger then you have time to learn very basic photography techniques to take a decent picture. You needn't an expensive camera - most point and shoots take awesome pictures nowadays.

                                                                      1. I think you really have to decide what type of food blog you want. I think the idea of doing a "food blog" without photos could work if the post is about a greater story. Sort of like a personal journey that tells stories via food. If you're doing the type of blog where it's "this is what I had for dinner, why don't you make it too?" I think photos are an important part of it.

                                                                        I would spend minimal time getting some basic photo skills down. There are tons of food blogs who have done posts on how to take decent photos. When I first started my blog my photos were atrocious (although I didn't totally realize it). Over the past 3.5 years that I've had my blog I've picked up a few skills (and better equipment) that have made my photos better

                                                                        Here are a few quick tips to have less awful photos. A decent point and shoot should suffice.

                                                                        - white balance. yellowish photos are awful.
                                                                        - steady hand or tripod. photos that feel like The Blair Witch Project are rarely winners.
                                                                        - basic composition. look at sites to get an idea of attractive composition.
                                                                        - light! shoot with a decent light source. natural daylight is usually best but i've managed to rig up a great setup with some lamps and daylight adjusted bulbs.

                                                                        Good luck!