A new camera…and musings on food gallery sites


I have had my first DSLR camera (a Nikon D3200) for just over a week: my ipad doesn’t take great pics and my old camera died on me, so needs must!  I am having fun getting to grips with it, and not being the most techie or photo-aware of people, I like how easy it is to use for a novice like me in terms of the basics.

Now I am will admit that I do not have a great interest in photography: it’s not a hobby of mine; it is more a means to an ends. That said, as a teacher in my professional life I have a love of learning, so I am enjoying discovering the technical aspects of the camera and I certainly look forward to understanding food photography principles, with the do’s, the don’ts and the how to’s. 

While I have barely scratched the surface of my camera’s many modes, I look forward to getting to the stage when I know immediately what settings to use for a given situation and can do so instinctively: at the moment it is a case of trying out the manual modes, playing with the settings, uploading to the computer and evaluating what works well to my eyes and what does not.

I am actually finding that experimenting with camera is both enjoyable and frustrating! Not too dissimilar to baking at times: how I recall many occasions learning to make croissants and macarons properly, tweaking a few approaches here and there, going back to have another go, and then another…..until I felt I had nailed it!

Baking comes first

Now, first and foremost I am a home baker, and I love using this blog to share my recipes and baking-related ideas. It is the recipes and ideas that are most important to me, followed by decent images of my bakes; decent in that if it gives the reader a “mmm I want to make that” feeling then I am happy!

But the bake itself has to be right. And while I want to take images that suit my purposes, I don’t want to agonise for ages while staging and re-staging a photograph. That said, I can appreciate someone for whom photography is a hobby enjoying that side of things – in much the same way that I enjoy spending ages over the minutiae of some of my more intricate cakes and desserts.

Opening a can of worms!

When I got my new camera, one of my foodie photographer friends was over testing one of my bakes and suggested, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, that I should try and get into the food photography sites when I get familiar with the camera and with general photography: referring to the sites where you submit a photograph that get either accepted or rejected depending on…well…stuff! – as opposed to the glorious instancy of Pinterest, Instagram and the like. She herself was a very regular contributor to several of these sites over the years.

The addiction of Tastespotting, Foodgawker and the like!

I appreciate my food photos are not the type of images that would sit naturally on the galleries of the highly selective food picture websites – and life is far too short to really care. To a point!

I like my own food images simple, inviting and not overly pretentious, for want of a better word. I did at one stage submit images of my bakes to some of these sites but had the merest morsel of success: hardly surprising given my lack of understanding in photography! But submitting to these sites is nonetheless an invaluable experience, not least in getting feedback – albeit often cryptic.

But for me I found there was a sense of obsession over the photography for these sites, with almost the danger of allowing the photography to take over.

But that buzz when an acceptance does come through: a real incentive to submit another.

On the flip-side I know I used to get a fleeting lapse in confidence (weirdly, over confidence in terms of baking ability!) each time a rejection came through. Until my inner voice screamed at me: “get a grip: nobody has died. You can bake and you can create food that others enjoy: those are the important things here!”.

And certainly the baking and the cooking itself has very little to do with these types of sites. Essentially the images are never about the quality of the recipe, the bake, how it is all likely to taste, but just how it looks. Then again, that is the point of these sites, so fair enough.

I know we eat with our eyes, but I am sure we have all eaten some stunning looking food that tastes barely adequate. I have clicked on the recipe links for many enticing images from some of the food image sites only to find an uninspiring recipe. Although I get it: by drawing me in initially with a great image, the aim (including high blog traffic) has been achieved. And to be fair, I have found plenty of excellent recipes and ideas from some of the images on those sites.

Accept, reject…toss a coin? Which way is the wind blowing? You decide! 

I know many fellow bloggers and professional photographers, some of whom make a very healthy living taking food photographs for books and magazines, who have had many rejects from some of these sites. And ok, that’s life! And their rejections, given they are serious photographers, does wonders to make you feel better about your own photography “skills”, as well as being something of an incentive.

But it is the subjectivity of these sites and the apparent inconsistency in judgements that I, and indeed many others I have met, have found both baffling and frustating.

I once submitted the same image twice to one such site, a few weeks apart of each submission: one was accepted, the other was not! And I know of many others who have done similar. Ok, that is but a small example, but life should not be about pot luck. Although I appreciate it’s their rules, their tastes and the like.

Food photographers, I salute you!

I do admire great photographic talent and excellent food styling, and I warmly applaud folk with the photographic talent to make food leap out of the screen at you, demanding to be eaten: a terrific achievement. And when flicking through a food magazine or foodie blogs I love to get stopped in my tracks with that “oh wow!” moment.

The professional photographs of my bakes that I was fortunate to have published in magazines were amazing: I provided a rough shot for an idea of how to present my bake; they took care of the real photography and styling. And how! Their images brought tears of joy to me: such a great impact.

And I salute the drive and resilience of people who regularly submit photos to the more discerning food image sites: I understand the addiction and the incentive, and I love seeing that enthusiasm come through along with their clear love of photography.

A guilty pleasure!

Browsing food galleries online is something of a guilty pleasure that I often indulge in while enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of cake!

I fully accept my own photography limitations, and while I don’t feel the need to arguably pander to a style that might not always that clear, I am very well up for the challenge of developing my understanding and application of photography for my bakes.

And I warmly welcome any recommended blogs and websites on food photography.

Mind you, as I get to grips with at least the food photography basics, I could possibly see myself drawn back to that mission of re-submitting at some stage…………but walking before running springs to mind!



Author: Philip

Very much into baking and general cooking.

6 thoughts on “A new camera…and musings on food gallery sites”

  1. I, too, know the tragedy of having an image rejected by Foodgawker… I swear, they reject for the weirdest reasons. I’ve learned that only my straight-on, extremely high-contrast shots get accepted, but I don’t let that stop me from taking more creative pictures of my food! Your photos look great, and I’m sure the food tastes even better!


  2. Your photos are amazing and I liked mostly about them is that they show the food as it. For me that’s the most important quality.
    Too many food stylist treat food with so much additions and “photoshop” it so much that (like many fashion models…) you can’t relate to it as food anymore.


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