Tips for Becoming a Food Porn Star

I’m assuming anyone who just hit publish on a new Blogger page isn’t searching a site out like ProFoodBlogger for tips on how to get started. Forgive me for the assumption, but I’m guessing if you are scanning these articles, you have probably put some time in, consider yourself an official member of the blogging club, and have heard of sites like Tastespotting, Foodgawker and the like. Maybe you’ve even had an image accepted, or hundreds declined. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

In this post I will reveal that there is no secret formula for being accepted on these sites. I have had and seen hideous blown out over exposed pictures accepted, and flawless ones ignored. The short decline and harsh words, “Composition”, “lighting” and “balance” will haunt your dreams. I will also try to remind you countless times throughout this post that getting on these sites is not as important as have a quality blog and good photography.

I have had hundreds of images accepted on Tastespotting and Foodgawker and I can tell you it’s not out of luck. Anyone can snap a photo, but once you realize how to take a photograph, everything starts to come together. The stars align and angels sing out from the heavens. Most of all, you look at every picture you took before that moment and hate it. Photography is like all art, anyone can do it, but that doesn’t mean we all have the eye Ansel Adams did.

So here are a few things I have put together since my first acceptance onto the food porn sites. Once again, these are not tips from the insiders, the editors themselves of Tastespotting or Foodgawker, they are just things I have picked up since I started blogging.

Lighting: Bright natural lighting is the best there is. Forget expensive fancy lights. Shoot your food near a window with a light white curtain or sheet of vellum. Without hardly any money spent, you have just discovered the key to having a ton of photos accepted on the major food sites.

Don’t shoot square: Sure, you may have to fit your picture into a tiny square frame for food sites, but your photos are bigger then that. When preparing your images for these sites later, you can crop the main area you want to submit. Otherwise, I find trying to shoot pictures as a tiny squares you really limit yourself. Foodgawker and Tastespotting, don’t need your whole image, so don’t worry about giving it to them.

 

Keep it in focus: Don’t shoot every picture to be cropped into a tiny square, but be sure to keep the food the center of attention. If you want your pictures accepted on food sites, this is very important. If food sites are not your primary goal, go on, be daring, a bit more artsy. When you start to look around things just become more interesting. However, this kind of thinking won’t help if Tastespotting is your only photography goal.

Do not become stuck in one shot: Often times we get excited and flattered when one of our pictures finally becomes accepted on a food photography site. It opens new doors and the bump in traffic is so nice, it is tempting to just continue to use the same props, scene and angle to guarantee more acceptances on these sites. But after a few weeks if you take a look at your site, you will notice the photography has become stale. The pictures are all the same. Sure, wooden backgrounds and bright clean light are common in food site acceptances, but don’t get stuck. Challenge yourself to find new angles, props and ways of looking at your food.

Clean and simple: Even if your food looks crisp and beautiful, if the background is too distracting, the image will be turned away. So before you break out the Christmas clearance wrapping paper backdrop, consider how it will show off your food. I use scrapbooking paper from time to time to make colors pop, but distracting papers or too many colors can ruin even the perfect shoot. The same goes for all the other props you use in your photos, from napkins to plates.

Photography is all about perspective. Just because the editors of Tastespotting and Foodgawker turned down your image, doesn’t make them the worst people on the planet, even if that picture was perfect. It makes them humans, who weren’t drawn in by your image. I can’t imagine how hard it is for the editors to not become biased when picking and choosing from the hundreds of daily submissions. Don’t go on your website and rant and rave about them when you have a few pictures declined. It doesn’t reflected well on you, and if I were an editor, it certainly wouldn’t help get your images on my site. Check out this article featuring Jennifer from Tastespotting for more tips on how to get your pictures on the wall of glory.

Once again, being on these sites is not the be all end all of food blogging. The people that click from these sites are often not, or not yet, loyal returning readers who will continue to give your Google analytics a boost. They are one time passers-by, likely to increase your bounce rate and lower your page views. Foodgawker and Tastespotting are a nice bonus, even I will admit to that, but nothing will top consistent content, good food, and a site people want to come back to. A strong reader base doesn’t care how often you are featured on food porn sites, as long as you leave them wanting seconds.

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10 comments

  1. Chef Dennis 4 years ago

    great insight on how to be successful with getting your images published to food porn sites!
    they make me so crazy I don’t even try anymore. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Last year when I started blogging, I got stuck with “composition” message from FG and TS. Then I stopped submitting completely…then a few months ago I started to submit after I worked on improving my photography. This is a great post, and wish I read your post back then when I was feeling down and needed motivation. Thank you for the great article!!

  3. RavieNomNoms 4 years ago

    Thanks for all the tips. Definitely going to bookmark this so I can come back to it!

  4. Nicole 4 years ago

    I have been puttering around here and you have some great information. I’m wondering though…have you seen a pretty extreme drop in traffic on the food porn sites? When I first started getting accepted, if I was able to get on both Foodgawker and Tastespotting in one day it would be an almost guaranteed 3,000 hits or more. My last submission accepted to both only brought in 200 hits between the two. I’m not complaining as even with very few posts my stats are better than they have every been, but I am starting to wonder if it is worth my time to submit to the food porn sites anymore. Have people moved on?

    • Malcolm Bedell 4 years ago

      I’ve noticed a drop from these sites, as well. I think it can be chalked up to two things: The number of lower-quality knockoff sites, and the rise of Pinterest. Pinterest offers the same function, but the content is user defined, rather than editor defined.

  5. Julian 4 years ago

    Very practical and well written article, thanks a lot! Finally something objective and fair on the topic – I have just stumbled upon a dozen rants over how evil TS and FG are, good to see a reasonable, balanced and most of all, helpful view on this!

  6. Colette @ JFF! 4 years ago

    You’re not kidding about the bad shots on site.
    They keep rejecting some of my best pics and I’ve been wondering what’s the real problem.
    Thanks for all the tips!

  7. When I first started blogging, I was going crazy with all the rejections, I even had a mantra “F*** FG! F*** TS!”. After awhile I forgot about them and slowly improved my food photography through acquisition of props and dinnerware (slow and expensive process) and trial and error. This process took about 4 months of growing and learning. Recently I remembered FG and TS and tried submitting again. Success! My take on the subject: enjoy your journey in food photography and blogging. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I am just now really starting to get into the nitty-gritty of what it means to take good food photographs, and have already seen some minor success with TS, huzzah! Based on your tips, it feels good to affirm that my learning curve is headed in the right direction! ;)

  9. Monica Rampo 2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this great article, I haven’t submit mine to Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Need more practices to improve my food photography.