If you’ve spent any time submitting your gorgeous food photos to the various so-called “food porn” sites, you may have noticed that there are just a couple of big players, and then a ton of copycats, very few of whom actually improve upon the formula. Most collect small-format, square photographs, and some include a few bells and whistles, like the ability to sort by “Most Popular” or “Most Viewed” submissions.
When we first discovered Fridgg.com thanks to a tip from a reader, we were pretty cynical; our bookmarks list already has a pretty full roster of sites to submit to, and we don’t get too worked up about adding a new one to the mix. After using Fridgg for just a few days, though, it was clear that founder Allison Day has no interest in running just another Foodgawker clone.
The first thing you notice is the photos themselves. Gone are the teeny tiny 25o pixel square mini-prints so common to these types of sites, replaced by larger-format, 3×4 ratio photos that really pop against the websites stark black background and allow submitters to include as much (or as little) meta data as they’d like. Perhaps even more significant than the photos themselves is how they get “promoted” to the front page of the site. The front page is populated with user-submitted photos that are chosen not by an all-knowing editor, but by a democratic process using secret algorithms (and lasers). Woah.
Intrigued, we stole a few minutes with founder Allison Day, to talk to her more about her vision for the future of Fridgg:
PFB: What is your background in the food and internet business, and what made you want to start a website like Fridgg?
AD: I’ve been both a web developer and a food blogger for about seven years now, so I’ve been a part of the online food world for a while now. I’ve met so many amazing people over the years as a food blogger, and as a programmer I’ve been wanting to give back to the community, in the best way I’m able to.
Fridgg was actually my boyfriend’s idea (he’s also a programmer, and is the person who’s taken all the photos that I’ve posted on my blogs over the last seven years). Since he does a lot of food photography but doesn’t have a blog of his own, he wanted to be able to have a community where he could share his photos with other food photographers and anyone who likes looking at beautiful photos of food.
What makes Fridgg different from the other so-called “food porn” sites out there?
I think the biggest difference with Fridgg is that you don’t have to be a food blogger to submit photos. Anyone can submit, regardless of whether they have a blog or not. We really want it to be somewhere that’s an open community for EVERYONE who loves food and photography (whether you’re an amateur photographer, professional photographer, or just someone who likes looking at pretty pictures of food), and a place where we can all discuss and ask questions about both food and photography.
Why did you think it was important to break from the 250×250 photo format used by other sites? Were you worried that introducing another format would deter submissions?
To be honest, I don’t think anyone’s photos really look great at such a small format, no matter how amazing a photographer you are. Our number one priority on Fridgg is making our users’ photos look the best they possibly can, and for us, one part of that is requiring larger photos. I know a lot of food bloggers worry about people stealing their photos, so we’ve tried to do our part to prevent that by making sure users’ copyrights are clearly visible both on the individual photos and elsewhere on the photo pages, as well as implementing security features to prevent photo theft.
On top of that, “retina” display is becoming much more widespread these days, and that means that since they display more pixels per inch, you need a larger photo for it to display at the same size on newer devices.
How has the rise of Pinterest affected the way you choose images for the home page of your site? Do you think democratizing the process is important?
Technically, we don’t actually choose which photos get to the front page – we have an algorithm for that. But no, Pinterest really hasn’t made a difference in how we do things. I feel like in a lot of ways, it’s such a different sort of site.
Yes, I do think democratizing the process is very important. Anyone who’s submitted their photos to a site like Tastespotting or Foodgawker, myself included, has had that frustration of a photo that we thought was really good not getting accepted, and then seeing some other photo on the front page that obviously isn’t nearly as good as our photo that got rejected. (Seriously, I think that may be the number one complaint from food bloggers – “why didn’t my photo get accepted by [insert ‘food porn’ site here]?”) Everyone has different opinions about what makes a food photo “good”, which is why on Fridgg we give everyone a chance to chime in.
What are your suggestions for submitting a photo that will get promoted to the front page?
Well, first off, it does have to be a photo of food. About once a month we get someone uploading a really bad, blurry selfie… which definitely won’t get to the front page (sorry guys, those get deleted, although it does amuse me every time it happens.)
More seriously, the beautiful photos – the ones with good lighting, clear photography, nice styling, and that make the food look really appetizing – are always successful. But I’ve also seen photos that maybe aren’t the prettiest, but are really interesting or sound really good, make it to the front page as well.
Another big thing is to share your photos (hint: the algorithm does account for social media) and invite your friends to use Fridgg. Seriously – the more people who see your photos, the more opinions we get about which photos should make it to the front page.
If a food blogger or photographer isn’t currently a member of Fridgg, what’s the single biggest reason they should sign up?
We’ve got a great community. I know it sounds sappy, but I really do adore our community. It’s really cool getting to see people from all different parts of the world and all different photography levels comment on each other’s photos and vote for each other by clicking the “I’d eat that” cookie icon on the photos.
Plus, we try to be really responsive to our users’ feedback. We’re always trying to make Fridgg into the best site we possibly can for our users. I’m always available by email (allison [at] fridgg [dot] com) or Twitter (@sushiday or @fridgg) for your questions or feedback, and we’ve gotten some really good suggestions from our users that way.
What is your ultimate goal for the site? How do you see it growing and evolving over the next year?
Of course we’d love for the world to know about Fridgg, but we’ve only been around for about six months (we launched in October of 2012), so for now we’re taking it slow. We’ve got a beautiful redesign coming up with a few new features, and we’re planning on adding search functionalities to Fridgg later this year. We’re taking our time and rolling out new features slowly, because we want to be able to give each new feature on Fridgg the time and attention for it to be the best it can possibly be.
Are there any plans to develop any badges or widgets for users to display links to their Fridgg galleries on their websites?
Yes, definitely! That’s actually something that’s almost ready, but with the redesign we’re working on, it’s been on the backburner for a little while. However, that is something I can say for sure that we’ll have badges soon!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Some people I’ve talked to hesitate to submit their photos to Fridgg, because they’re worried their photos aren’t good enough. But just take a look through fridgg.com/latest, and you’ll see that while we do have a ton of beautiful, professional-looking photos, we’ve also gotten photos straight out of a camera phone. And that’s totally okay. The point of the site is that whether you’re a professional food photographer, someone taking pictures with their camera phone, or somewhere in-between, we want you to have the opportunity to show off your food and your photography, have a great-looking portfolio, and be able to discover and be discovered by other people who love food just as much as you do!
Thanks Allison! It’s clear the the Fridgg team is determined to make their mark in the food photography world, reinventing the photo-sharing model as they go. We’re excited to watch the site take shape. Click here to join Fridgg and have a look for yourself, and be sure to submit your latest photograph!