Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Tutorial: Working with Photo Sharing Sites

Joan from Chocolate, Chocolate and More has been doing a series of tutorials on blogger resources such as Facebook and Pinterest.  She asked Carla of Chocolate Moosey to write the tutorial on using Twitter and has asked me to share my knowledge about photo sharing sites.  I believe they can be a huge driving force for blog traffic and I've spent a lot of time getting to know them.

For some food bloggers, it's all about sharing their family recipes and the photo just serves as a reference.  Chances are they are not submitting their photos to any sharing sites or are not being accepted if they are.  And it's also probably not very important to them.  But for food bloggers who are hoping to increase traffic and exposure, the photography plays a large part. Ultimately, it will be the recipe behind the photo that builds an audience but the two must go hand in hand.

The two recognized photo sharing site leaders are FoodGawker and TasteSpotting and both are notoriously selective about which photos they will accept.  But both can also bring in a lot of traffic.  In this article I will try to address some general questions about how to work with photo sites and at the end is a list of the ones with which I'm familiar.

What are photo sharing sites?
These are web sites that showcase beautiful photographs of food with links back to the blog owner.  Photos must be submitted to them, in their chosen size and format, and the share site selects which photos to include.

When is the best time to submit photos?
The answer to that is, it depends.  When dealing with sites like DishFolio and RecipeNewz, that publish photos within a few minutes, it's probably a good idea to test different times of the day and see if there's a pattern that works best for you.  I've heard most people tell me that after 8:00 pm is best but I haven't found that to be the case for me.  The rest of the photo sites are curated which means they'll get to it when they have time and no one can predict when that will be.

Now that I know about all these sharing sites, can I submit old photos?
Absolutely.  In fact, you should.  Chances are that no one is really looking at your old recipe posts but having photos on a share site can mean new life and interest in your blog.

I've learned so much about photography recently.  Can I take new photos of old recipes and update my blog posts?
Absolutely.  In fact, you should.  Having new photos on a share site can mean new life and interest in your blog.

The photo on the left is my pumpkin risotto, circa 2010.  The photo on the right was taken last week.

Is seasonality important?
Just as a food blog or website is likely to be seasonal, so should your photos be.  People who browse through photo sharing sites in September and October are probably looking for apple and pumpkin recipes.  You might have made a killer asparagus dish but it's less likely to be published or noticed while surrounded by apple pies and pumpkin scones.

Isn't getting accepted completely subjective?  Is there such a thing as universally appealing?
The answers here are yes and...yes.  Although the beauty and excellence of photos can be subjective, there are certain photos that most people are going to consider good.  Just as with a woman's beauty, it may be in the eyes of the beholder but there are certain people who are universally considered beautiful.  Have you taken a good look at Marilyn Monroe's face?  Somewhat less lovely than Marilyn, are these examples:

This photo of my butternut squash salad was accepted by FoodGawker but rejected by TasteSpotting.

This photo of my pumpkin crumb cake was accepted by TasteSpotting but rejected by FoodGawker.

This photo of my orange mojito was accepted by both FoodGawker and TasteSpotting.

Yes, these vagaries will drive you insane but you'll have to develop a thick skin if you're submitting any creative work for judgement.  Eventually, you learn to laugh (a little) at the situation (sort of).

I keep getting rejections from the big sites that either say lighting or composition.  Help.
Lighting is extremely important for good photos and, if that was the comment you received, chances are your photo was too dark.  Composition, however, is more of a catch-all phrase.  Your photo might very well be poorly composed but it could also be that it just didn't appeal to the curator or was not seasonal or there were too many photos submitted that day and they didn't have the time or inclination to really take a good look.

If you're consistently getting composition rejections, ask someone more experienced to take a look and give you some direction.  But if you're only getting that comment sometimes but are getting other photos accepted, chalk it up to vagaries and try not to take it too personally.

Does photo popularity equate to recipe popularity?
Obviously having a photo accepted by the major sites will increase your traffic but, ultimately, content will win out.  If the gorgeous photo leads to a bad recipe with poor directions, they'll come but they won't stay and they certainly won't return.  Keep in mind, though, that just because a photo doesn't measure up to a particular share site's artistic sensibility doesn't mean that the average person won't find it appealing.  And that's where a decent photo and an awesome recipe can produce more traffic than the Gawkers and the Spotters can.  Let's examine my top 5 most popular posts ever:

This macaroni salad recipe is the most popular one on my blog.  The photo ran on all the smaller sharing sites but was rejected by the top ones.  I originally posted it in the summer but its popularity has continued into the cooler months when you don't see too many picnic salads anymore.  Why?  I have no idea, other than it's a damn good salad. :)

This blue margarita is my second most popular recipe and also happens to be an example of a photo that was universally appealing.  It was accepted by every major and minor photo site and was endlessly re-pinned on Pinterest.

Number three in popularity is my German cheesecake.  This photo was rejected by all the major sharing sites and even some of the smaller ones.  But I guess most people know a delicious dessert when they see one and the post was enormously popular despite its lack of photographic excellence.

In fourth place is my pumpkin crumb cake.  As I mentioned above, it was rejected by FoodGawker but accepted by TasteSpotting as well as all the smaller sites.

Finally, in 5th place are my asparagus spiral puffs.  This photo was taken a while back when I didn't know much about photography and I can clearly see now that it is crappy.  It's dark and poorly composed.  None of the photo sites wanted it.  So why is it so popular?  The recipe itself is extremely appealing and I've had a number of personal friends make it and send me pictures showing they served it at dinner parties and loved it.  It's my primary example of how the recipe itself is ultimately the most important thing.  I do, of course, have every intention of taking some new photos and seeing if the post will go from #5 to #1 on my blog's hit parade.

Do I need an expensive SLR camera in order to get my photos accepted?
Although Mr. Hungry Couple suspects that I have enough jewelry from him (sshh, I didn't say that) and that I actually covet my very first DSLR with micro lens as my holiday gift this year, the answer is no.  A great camera helps you take great pictures but ultimately it is the skill, or lack thereof, of the photographer.  All of the above photos, hits and misses, were taken with my trusty Cannon A1200 Point & Shoot.  I will say, though, that I shoot in manual mode and alter my settings based on conditions.  Before you're ready to move up to an SLR, you need to take the P&S off auto mode and learn how to use it.  None of my photos were ever accepted to any share site before I did that.

So, in conclusion, first and foremost, your recipe needs to be great.  Taking a great photo of it will help people realize it could be delicious and want to make it.  Getting your photos accepted on the photo sharing sites will ensure that more people see the recipe.  And with that, here are the photo sharing sites that I know about and a little information on them.  Happy cooking and happy photo taking!

This is probably the biggest player in the field and the choosiest.  Getting a photo accepted here will likely bring a good deal of blog traffic but be prepared for a lot of rejection and frustration.  They accept photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.

This is the other big player in the field and about as choosy as FoodGawker.  They also accept photos of all food and beverages but they do not accept pet treats.

Nearly as selective as FoodGawker and TasteSpotting but should also produce decent blog traffic.  They accept photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.

This sister site to Tasteologie specializes in photos of alcoholic beverages.

Serious Eats / Photograzing
Not as selective as the above sites but still somewhat choosy.  Getting a photo accepted should produce decent blog traffic.  They accept photos of all food and drink including pet foods.

Finding Vegan
This site only accepts photos of vegan foods and beverages.  Narrow focus sites can produce a lot of blog traffic from the communities they appeal to.

Chow Stalker
This site focuses more on the type of food rather than the photo quality and almost all photos that meet their dietary requirements will be accepted.  Recipes must conform to a gluten free, paleo diet but there should be quite a lot of blog traffic from within that community.

Dessert Stalker
This is the dessert arm of Chow Stalker with similar requirements.

Dessert Stalking (not to be confused with the above Dessert Stalker)
This site is focused on desserts and other sweets including sweet cocktails and beverages, sweet sauces and breakfast items.  They're fairly choosy about photo quality but do produce some decent blog traffic.

Kitchen Artistry
This site accepts photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.  They are fairly choosy about photo quality but, for some reason, don't produce much blog traffic.

This site accepts photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.  They have a fairly relaxed selection process but don't produce much blog traffic.

Savory Sights
This site accepts photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.  They publish almost every photo and produce a small amount of blog traffic.

This site accepts photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.  They publish almost every photo and produce a small amount of blog traffic.

Healthy Aperture
This site is focused on health and a balanced diet.  They accept photos of all food and beverage including pet treats but are looking for both photo quality and healthy ingredients such as vegetables or low fat products in the recipe.  They generally produce a small amount of blog traffic.

This is one of the newer sites and accepts photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.  They publish every photo and have managed to produce a very large amount of blog traffic.

This is one of the newer sites and accepts photos of all food and beverages including pet treats.  They were highly selective until a recent management change.  The new policy mimics that of RecipeNewZ with hopes of also producing a large amount of blog traffic.


  1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! You're right - the recipe itself is as important if not more than the photo itself.

  2. Great resource for food bloggers! I'm bookmarking to my photography and blogging folders.

  3. What an amazing resource, Anita! SO much wonderful info...and now I have to try your asparagus spirals :)

  4. Wow! Thanks for putting this together!

  5. Thanks for writing this post! I have never had a photo taken by Foodgawker or Tastespotting, which is endlessly frustrating. It has even made me consider giving up blogging a couple times. I spend so much time taking and editing photos and they are still rejected. The worst is when it rejects for lighting, which I fix. Then I resubmit and it rejects for composition. I have had a couple taken by DessertStalking and Tastologie, with relatively little traffic. Photograzing takes most of my photos, but I have found very little traffic from it. I never knew I was such a bad photographer ;)

  6. Thanks for doing this informative post on sharing photos as well as sharing your most popular recipes- I find this topic so interesting. Love the blue margarita and the pastry wrapped asparagus but it's true that it's so much easier to recognize a great idea or recipe when the photo is light, sharp and nicely composed! Although I find it interesting that I see small difficult to see dark photos of recipes with hundreds of repins- go figure!?

  7. Anita, thank you so much for putting this post together, It's because of you that I even even took the chance on submitting to the "big sites" and while almost all of my photos get rejected by them, I'll still keep submitting. One acceptance can really drive the traffic. Pinned, Bookmarked and sharing everywhere I can <3

  8. This is a great post, thank you so much for putting all this information together in such a comprehensive and user-friendly way. I'm a new blogger who hasn't had time or energy to look into all the photo sharing sites (quite frankly, I was too intimidated to because there were so many out there). You've totally demystified the process for me.

  9. Fabulous post & information!! I've been 'interacting' with photo submission since pretty early in my blogging days ... and you just alerted me to a few I had no idea about!! I agree that the submission process can be very painful and can drive you crazy. I've taken the approach of ... 1. Thick skin, and 2. 'Narrowing' my efforts to those sites that seem to work best for me. Otherwise, it can be a MAJOR time drain!! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful knowledge.
    Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground

  10. Thank you so much for this! I have a very expensive camera - but lighting AND composition are a problem for me although, I'm working on the lighting and I suspect composition is more the culprit at this point. I need to find a class or something! :) P.S. - your macaroni salad IS damn good!!

  11. Thank you for sharing your expertise, Anita! What a great resource and loads of valuable advice.

  12. This is such great information. I really do need to learn my camera better, so I book marked your page so I can come back. I'm glad Joan asked you to share your tips and insight!

  13. This is a great post! Thank you for sharing. There are a couple more sites for food photo sharing, if you want, you can email me and I will send you the sites :)

  14. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post !

    I'm a design/lifestyle blogger { I would rather paint the kitchen, than cook in it LOL } ....and I completely, wholeheartedly believe it is smart blogging to submit your posts to sites that drive traffic.

    I wish I had this same sort of list for design/lifestyle blogs. If anyone has any great ideas for sites to submit to for that - I would be over the moon happy to hear about them!

    It's a good thing you didn't post a design/lifestyle list... I would have hunted you down and SMOOCHED you !

    Cheers !
    Lynne xx

  15. This is a great article full of useful information. What we have found is that Foodgawker and Tastespotting are not so much picky - although this is true of them - as very inconsistent in the application of their editorial policies. We have often re-submitted a rejected photograph - the exact same photograph - a couple of weeks or months later and it has been accepted. While they happily reject photos based on "composition" or "lighting" they will publish truly badly executed photos in the same breath. It's frustrating with them but they really are worth the trouble because they do drive an insane amount aof traffic to our site, particularly Foodgawker. We would suggest that you not underestimate the value of Pinterest, we get a lot of traffic from them as well and it's worth the effort. Great posts, Anita, Thanks for sharing this!

  16. I am so glad I came upon this tutorial. I have been working on improving my food photos and submitting to a few of the above sites. I will definitely be using your tips and the list of photo sharing sites is beyond helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  22. You can include one more website in this list foodienewz. it is my website. is a new food sharing site and we actually try our best to promote your food photos. At all your food photos will be published without any editorial review so I really hope you come and join us.

  23. Awesome list! I was missing a few of these and just registered, so thank you!

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Great, easy to read and understand post! I still haven't had a photo accepted yet, but I keep trying. I know it's all quality and I'm still learning how to compose a shot and work with my Canon point and shoot off auto mode! Thanks for the encouragement :)

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