Food Photography Tips Based on Our Most Highly Trafficked Recipes

This article was written by one of our summer interns, Erica Pais, a rising senior at Colgate University. As a foodie and Instagram aficionado, she took the initiative and looked at Chicory's top 20 recipes of all time, in terms of traffic, in order to determine if and how photos help a food blog post to go viral. Here's what she found:

In the words of food blogger extraordinaire, Lindsay Ostrom from Pinch of Yum, a great food photo should “pop off the page at people and inspire them to engage somehow with your content.” As a foodie and avid baker that relies on food blogs for recipes, I always gravitate towards pictures that I find that make me say “I NEED to try that now.”

Last month, we published a blog post about attention-worthy Instagram photos, but since starting at Chicory, I have been thinking about what it is that draws me to certain photos over others, so I decided dig a little deeper into the subject. I conducted a full analysis our top 20 performing recipes and the associated photos in order to identify common themes and effective tactics for you to use in your posts!  

In total, I analyzed twenty posts and their photos, but to give you an idea of the kind of elements I considered, I wanted to share a few of those analyses below.

Strawberry Cheesecake Salad by CakesCottage

  • Color of Food: Predominantly white with spots of red and yellow
  • Zoom: Close-up
  • Shape: Circle (cut-off)
  • Dishware Color: White
  • Quantity: 1 unit/photo
  • # of Pictures on Page: 5 (all the same)
  • Background Color: Brown (wood)
  • Writing: None
  • Action in Photos: None
  • Steps Pictured: Only final product


Creamy Lemon Parmesan Chicken (Piccata) by Cafe Delites

  • Color of Food:Tan, spots of yellow, brown, pops of green
  • Zoom: Close-up
  • Shape: Circle (cut off)
  • Dishware Color: Silver pan & white serving plate
  • Quantity: multiple servings/photo
  • # of Pictures on Page: 8
  • Background Color: White (marble)
  • Writing on Photo: None
  • Action in Photos: Spooning on sauce
  • Steps Pictured: Two individual steps & final product

General Findings: of our top performing recipes...

  • 90% include a neutral background (60% have white backgrounds)
  • 80% are served on either clear or white dishware
  • 70% use a ‘pop’ of color within the dish
  • 70% contain at least 5 photos of the recipe
  • 70% show only the final product (as opposed to showing various steps)
Creamy Lemon Parmesan Chicken Piccata - Cafe Delites

Remaining Neutral

Of our top performing recipes, most are photographed against monochromatic backgrounds like a white tablecloth or a brown countertop. Regardless of the color of the dish, a simple background makes the food really pop. The same goes for the color of serving dishes. Staging your photos on a simply colored background will highlight what we really care about: the food!

Strawberry Chocolate Cake - OMG Chocolate Desserts

Pop Goes the Color

Focusing on the color of an ingredient can be tough considering we can’t exactly change the color of a carrot. However, do not let your lack of color-changing superpowers stop you! Whether it be a dessert or main dish, the majority of our top performing recipes offer contrasting colors that draw the eye’s attention. Sprinkling a bright, green herb garnish on golden brown, pan-seared chicken adds that extra pop of color that readers love. Similarly, a dark brown chocolate cake is brought to life by bright red strawberries in its center.

Best Food Blog Photos - Chicory Blog

Power in Numbers

From the initial research, I was intrigued by the finding that 70% of our top performing recipes display five photos or more. I think this speaks to the power of captivating images. Offering multiple images throughout a recipe landing page constantly reminds the reader that they are working towards a beautiful end product. Visual repetition can help keep readers engaged throughout the entirety of their time on your blog.

It’s clear to see that with food, a picture is worth a thousand words. Keeping the above findings in mind, with thoughtful photo planning and execution, you will leave your readers hungry for more!