The concept of “food porn” isn’t new – the word appeared first in the 1980s – but in the age of social media, especially Instagram, food porn has taken on a new dimension. Food porn has been associated with attractive, but unhealthy foods, but food porn has little to do with sex – even though Anthony Bourdain, the celebrated food writer and TV personality, once defined food porn as “the glorification of food as a substitute for sex.”
In the age of social media, food takes on the persona of a rock star or some such celebrity. According to a BBC feature, “Pizza is the most tagged food on Instagram, with around 35 million hashtag mentions. That’s more than Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian combined. And this insatiable appetite for taking pictures of food is influencing the entire restaurant industry. From decor to drinks menus, everything must be Instagram-ready.”
Instagram and bloggers realize that food photography plays a key role in attracting readership, and, now restaurant marketers know lavish photos help sales.
PR and marketing agency Tonic designs food events to look their photogenic best on social media. To promote the launch of a menu of UK-based upscale restaurant chain Polpo, Tonic’s owner Frances Cottrell-Duffield partnered with a gin brand to add the color of cocktails to images of food that might not look gorgeous.
She also conceived of foliage on walls anticipating attendees would pose in front of the wall.
For the event, about half-a-dozen Instagram “influencers” were invited. Among the key influencers was Alex Fletcher, a sandwich blogger with 20,000 followers.
Bloggers, bakers, and marketers make sure to leverage the kind of photographs that entice viewers and readers.
“Sandwiches that are composed very well,” says Fletcher. “If you have a Japanese katsu sando with lush pickled cabbage, tenderloin and white milky bread, of course that’s going to photograph well.”
Food Instagrammers Rebecca Milford says a photo can boost sales for restaurants.
Food stylist and writer Natalie Seldon says the composition of the image is important.
“The more zoomed in, the better; people love to see big food on screen. And layers are great too, especially with burgers.”
Basic lighting equipment, multiple mobile cameras, and editing tools also help.
Bakers also keep Instagram in mind when baking. One adds chocolate shards, pink ganache drips, and other icing that may seem kitschy.
The emphasis on image may seem so, but Professor Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University, says that presentation matters.
“The way a food looks and [is] arranged on the plate has a big impact because that sets expectations. Our brain imagines what it’s going to taste like and that anchors the tasting experience,” he says.
No wonder, social media indulges in showcasing food porn.