Summer Sale – Use code SUMMER10 at checkout!

When did photographing food become a thing?

food photography for wall art

Many a social media feed features food. To the extent where sometimes it feels as if you just can’t get away from pictures of food. So it should come as no surprise to discover that there are at least half a billion posts on Instagram with the hashtag #food!

But why? When did photographing food become a thing? And why are some people seemingly obsessed with taking pictures of their food – and then posting them on social media? And if your guilty pleasure is actually taking pictures of your food, how can you make those pictures even better?

In this article we will explore all these aspects of photographing food.


When did photographing food become a thing? 

Interestingly, photographing food is nothing new. It was not invented by Facebook or Instagram! The earliest images of food began to appear in the 1800s, where they represented food in a way similar to a painting. One of the first known photographs of food was taken by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1845. It was called A Fruit Piece and featured two baskets of apples, plums and peaches and even a pineapple.

From this point forward, other uses of food photographs gradually developed. For example, the 1930’s saw the introduction of colour advertising, which began to use images of food. Food photography became a commercial creation that could be bought and sold. 

And there are some iconic eras in food advertising photography. Particularly between the 1960s and the 1990s, some of the adverts were quite theatrical. They also took on a humorous tone in the 1970’s, a notable example being the Sausage Series created in 1979 by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss in which sausages and pickles were styled as if they were models. 

However, by the 1990’s food photography had become less staged and more natural, and also began to include people and ambience in the shots as well as the food itself.

In parallel with the above, there was also the increasing sophistication of cookery books, with the photographs playing as much a part as the text and the recipes. And growing out of these also came the trends for TV cookery shows and celebrity chefs. Seemingly, it is not just photographing food that was now firmly established as a thing, but the love of all things food – creating, presenting and eating – itself.



Why do people take and post pictures of their food? 

Continuing on the theme of being obsessed with all things related to food, this is reflected by the amount of photos of food on social media. Since the introduction of camera phones, it seems that anyone with a reasonably good eye can take an appealing food image anywhere and any time.

But why would they want to?

Interestingly, there are several answers to this question, and they all revolve around emotions rather than just wanting to show off your food. Let’s take a quick look at three explanations as to why people take photographs of their food.

  • Food can invoke childhood memories

At its root level, the experience of enjoying eating some kind of comfort food with people who are special to us can invoke happy childhood memories. It’s like a flashback to sitting round the family dinner table, feeling safe, satisfied and cared for.

All this may not be uppermost in your mind when you snap a photo of your dinner, but is likely to be lurking around in the background.

  • The pleasure of eating is something we want to share and remember

Leading on from the above, a photograph of food – and particularly of eating food with others – captures the moment of sharing. It is a special moment that we want to share with others, and also remember ourselves in the future.

  • People “eat with their eyes”

Now there’s an odd phrase! But it does happen to be true. Psychological research indicates that the way we see food can actually influence how we perceive its taste and smell. The image can cause a surge in the food hormone ghrelin that induces hunger. So if you are about to eat something that you know you will really enjoy, taking a photograph of it will help you to relive that moment again and again.



How can you take better pictures of your food?

So if you do want to take photographs of your food, for any of the above reasons, here are three tips to help you do it well:

  • Ensure you get the light right

If you read any of our guides, you will already know all about the importance of the right lighting to get the best shot. Natural light is always best if at all possible, to get a clear but subtle image. If you have to work in artificial lighting, and the shot is harsher than you would ideally like, consider using some editing features afterwards to tweak the finish of the final image.

  • Stage the shot

Bear in mind that not everyone looking at the photo will automatically know what the food actually is. So it can help to stage the shot a little to showcase your food. For example, is there something you could use to reflect the flavour of the dish, such as focussing on a key component such as a herb, spice or fruit – even if you have to place extra quantity of this next to the food. If not, then add a small tasteful caption to the finished image.

  • Invoke the senses

We explored earlier the concept of eating with your eyes, and how the way that we see food influences our perceptions of its taste and smell. So make sure that your shot accurately reflects these aspects of your food, by doing all that you can to convey the taste, texture and temperature of the food so that it invokes the senses of those looking at the image.


We hope that this article has given you a bit of insight into the world of food photography, and how to make your own food photography just that little bit better.

And if food is your passion, why not use some of your food photographs to brighten up your kitchen? Remember that Print Your Memory can create amazing wall art from your photos, which can then take pride of place in your kitchen and inspire you into some wonderful food creations!

Check back here soon for more lifestyle and photography tips from Print Your Memory.


Share Post: