These days everyone from self-taught cooks, restaurant goers, five-star chefs and everything in between routinely take photos of their delicious meals. While some steadfastly argue it’s just an annoying millennial trend, research suggests this phenomenon might go beyond silly superficiality.
So, why do we really take photos of our food?
Let’s face it we all love sharing our dish pics — sharing is caring right?
Taking a pic of a dish you enjoyed in a restaurant or on the side of a street on your travels is a way to freeze that moment in time. Carefully arranged photos of food remind us of the food we had, where in the world we had it, what we were doing at the time, who we were with, and perhaps even how we felt. It’s a reminder of a moment in time which we’ll never experience again.
Sights, sound & smells form a visceral part of our memories — food pictures often unlock those better than anything else.
Word-of-mouth is a powerful thing.
More often than not people take photos of their food as a way to suggest to their friends that a specific dish is a must-try. It’s pretty simple — if we like something, most of us want our friends to like it too.
Much more than a moment in time, a photo also tells a story.
If you take a shot of your last meal, you could be saying that you went to the gorgeous new French restaurant two blocks away and that it blew you away. Perhaps it was your child’s first attempt at cooking? Maybe you did a kick-ass job at preparing grilled salmon and want to show off — or you absolutely blew it in a way that no words can explain. Perhaps you’re visiting a new country and want to document it through the food you ate?
In any case, there’s an entire narrative behind the photos we take of our food.
Have you ever seen a photo of a dish that looks so mouth-wateringly good, and with such composition, that you just thought — “wow, that looks beautiful!”. You’re not the only one.
In fact, painters have been using food as their objects for centuries before modern-day cell phones came into play and allowed everyone to be an artist. Artists such as Cézanne famously explored the beauty in painting fruit. Similarly, the generations of today showcase their knack for photography by taking pics of cheesecake.
While you will hardly become the new Monet by sharing pics of your breakfast, you can create some amazing photos with a phone and a smoothie bowl.
It’s not always about the self.
Sometimes, the photos we take of our food aren’t just for self-gratification. Often times, they’re there to inspire action in others. For example, pics of healthy foods may inspire others to make healthier choices regarding their diet and lifestyle. Other times, we may inspire others to try out a recipe for a dish we made or learn something new. Perhaps you’re trying to convince your friends to cook with fresh ingredients instead of buying take-out or frozen meals.
If you ask people who browse food photos about their reasons for doing so, many will say that it’s to give them ideas for dishes to try. In fact, Wired recently wrote a piece explaining how sharing photos of our food has changed the landscape of professional cooking.
Taking photos of your food makes it taste better. What better reason do you need?
The Cut recently wrote a brilliant piece on “The Psychological Case for Instagramming Your Food” showing how research published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing suggests why;
The act of taking a picture before eating — including all of the natural-light seeking and angle tweaking that goes into it — can actually make food taste better.
So maybe next time, don’t bemoan your friend for taking a second to capture it, because if you do, you’re technically making their food taste worse.
Whether you think of it as an annoying newfangled habit or another way to express your true self, food photos aren’t going away any time soon. So, next time you have the best pizza you laid your eyes on, put aside your ego and take that photo — your tastebuds and future self may thank you for it.