What is it about photography and video that keeps us all riveted to images of food?
I’ve written before about food porn, which M&S so brilliantly exploited and then parodied in its adverts in the noughties. But on reflection I’m not sure that watching food being turned into something delicious is simply about arousal and pleasure.
Whatever is going on with food imagery it is complex and deep rooted in our psyche.
From Rembrandt to Jenner
Engagement with food imagery on social media is mind-blowing. No doubt another reason it’s equated with porn. In the middle of the decade it was the second most searched for online category after pornography. And today there seems no let-up. Food imagery is exploding on social media’s showcase of visual obsession, Instagram.
Who could forget the most liked Instagram post earlier this year? Yes – the photo of an egg posted by Egg Gang recording 53,270,512 likes. It might have been a tongue-in-cheek response to Kylie Jenner. But nevertheless it was a food ingredient that got the likes.
So we know people like looking at images of food. And that is different from looking at real food.
It’s the image of food that they are engaging with. And it seems the more life-like the better, which is why food photography is so popular. Both the creating and uploading of it and the consuming of it (if you pardon the pun).
Could this be why – once they had cracked perspective – the Dutch artists of the 17th century painted endless bowls of fruit? Heightening the effect of perfect apples, oranges and grapes in much the same way food photographers touch up professional marketing photos today.
Since the dawn of time
Perhaps the image of food helps us short circuit the knowledge that something as perfect as a ripe apple will decay. Perhaps it calms our ingrained anxiety and survival instincts. Either way, there is an element of comfort in seeing lovely food imagery. Whether it is a raw ingredient like an egg or a prepared dish of something delicious.
And then there’s aspiration. Other people’s photos, especially when the food looks good, inspire just a tiny bit of envy. Mostly we’d like our food to look like that once we’d finished in the kitchen. Or we’d simply like to tuck in to the gorgeous image in front of us.
Now here’s the thing. Food video inspires additional feelings when we start to watch food being transformed. Food videos are normally about one thing changing into another. And I suspect their popularity is down to a basic human response – we are suckers for stories that have a happy ending.
Recipe videos, whether a presentation by a celebrity chef or a social media ‘how to’, are the paradigm of a classic narrative. Beginning, middle and end, with some sort of transformation along the way. Add to that all the other stuff about food imagery and our deep engagement with this topic and you have the perfect marketing magnet.
The proof is in the pudding(s)
The social media statistics bear it out:
- Facebook: food is by far and away the most engaged with topic on Facebook video. Plus Facebook videos generally get at least 59% more engagement than other post types”(Buzzsumo Engagement Guide 2019)
- Instagram: Tasty on Instagram has almost doubled its following from 17m to over 30m in the last year (Buzzfeed Tasty)
- YouTube: Just one example – Gordon Ramsay has reinvented himself as a YouTuber coming in at over 2.5 billion views of all his 726 uploads (SocialBlade)
So if you want to keep your marketing legal, food video is a sure fire way to pique interest. Equally, if you want to have a chance to shine amongst the billions of food related items keep it fresh, high quality and authentic.
By Nicky Robertson, Director
For enquiries about Mendip Media’s extensive food filming and photography services get in touch.