When I first started this food blog, one of the surest ways I grew my blog traffic was through food photography submission sites. These included Foodgawker, Finding Vegan, Tastespotting, and Healthy Aperture. Each of these sites, and others like them, post pictures of recipes with links back to the bloggers who submitted the recipes. This is a useful way to grow a beginner food blog. Why? Because when these sites accept your photos they share YOUR work with THEIR much larger audiences. The traffic is free, there’s no cost to submit a photo, and the links on food photography submission sites stay active long after you’ve published the recipe.
It takes a while to learn the ins and outs of how to submit a food photo. Competition for space on these sites is high, and each one handles submissions a little differently. I also like submitting my photos to more than one site because each one reaches a slightly different audience. Also, if one site declines my photo then another site might still pick it up.
I’ve also found it’s nice to diversify since websites can run into technical glitches. This can mean a drop in traffic to your own blog, especially if you are relying on just one site for traffic.
For example, the gallery function on one site I submit photos to stopped working. This meant people on the internet couldn’t visit the galleries of the food bloggers whose pictures had been accepted.
NOTE: A gallery is the food blogger’s public profile on that particular site where a compilation of their approved photos and corresponding recipe links are stored. A few of the photos in this post are screenshots of some of my galleries.
Another time, all the links on a submission site took people to the submission site’s homepage. And yet on another occasion, a submission site took a break from accepting new photos for a few months while they implemented major changes. So even though my own blog remained unaffected by these issues, my traffic did drop temporarily from those sources.
Having said that, I still think food photography submission sites have a place in a food blogging strategy. And I’m going to share a few of my favorite tips to help you get the most out of the experience.
The first three food photography tips I’m sharing today focus on technique so your food photos are more likely to be accepted rather than rejected. The last three have to do with the submission process itself.
So take a breath, keep reading, and let’s do this!
CHECK THE COLOR BALANCE
Color balance is important for high-quality food photo submissions. If you’re curious what color balance is, it’s essentially how true to form the colors in the photo really are. Are the blues blue and the reds red? Are the whites white? Sometimes food, especially if it is shot using overhead kitchen lighting can look orange. That’s not super-appealing.
Depending on your camera, you may be able to adjust your camera’s settings so that the photos you take are as close to real life as possible. This can save you time during the editing process. If your camera doesn’t offer a color balance feature, then you can make adjustments as needed in programs like Photoshop and Lightroom.
Many of my early Foodgawker rejections were because of color balance. A white bowl would have a blue hue. Or a white background would have a dingy gray or brown corner because of shadowing. Once I spent more time learning about color balance options, my photography improved.
EYE THE ANGLE
One common reason food photos are declined on submission sites is because the photographer used an odd angle to shoot the picture. This can mean the person is standing funny or the tripod isn’t positioned quite right. The general rule of thumb is if you have to contort your body to get the shot, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got an awkward angle.
A few of my favorite angles are the aerial or flatlay shot, a down angle/bird’s eye view, and the straight-on/eye level shot.
CHECK THE EXPOSURE
Over-exposed and under-exposed photos are common reasons food photos end up on the cutting room floor. This one can be tricky to overcome, but practice makes progress. I finally figured out, after several tries, that even moving the food just ever so slightly in one direction or another could make a huge difference. So now, rather than redoing my whole set-up when I take pictures, if have too much or not enough light in my photos, I know a quick tweak or two will usually solve the problem.
Getting to know your camera’s ISO, shutter speed, and aperture settings can also make a big difference. And if you want a convenient way to explore the cause and effect of different settings in different lighting, then use an apple as your food subject and start clicking away!
KNOW WHAT THEY WANT
Each site has its own style and purpose, which means they each prioritize something different. For example, Foodgawker, considered one of the best of the best, takes just about any style of recipe out there. But the food photo quality has to be high. In fact, rejection is common. If you do get rejected, well, you’re in good company. I found Foodgawker to be the most helpful in improving my food photography because when they decline a photo they provide a reason why. And that helped me look for trends in areas where I could improve.
Tastespotting, on the other hand, is typically looking for more unique recipes. Those that are super-creative or rare. Like Foodgawker, they are looking for top-of-the-line food photography as well. Submitting food photos to Tastepotting was a great way to get out of my comfort zone, explore my creativity, and have fun with photography.
Finding Vegan will be looking for, as its name suggests, vegan-only recipes. The site has a loyal band of followers. And once your recipe is accepted, don’t be surprised if you see an uptick in traffic.
Healthy Aperture looks for healthy recipes and quality photography. Since I have started submitting recipes to them, the process for getting approved has changed. Food bloggers now go through a membership approval process before submitting recipes. It’s a community I have enjoyed being a part of. Additionally, because recipes are published by the blogger in real time, you have a little extra creative control about when your recipes show up. For example, you might experiment with submitting a breakfast recipe in the morning or a dinner recipe mid-afternoon. There are so many perks to that feature including the ability to track upticks in blog traffic and seeing if certain recipes are more popular on certain days or at certain times.
And make sure to read up on each site’s FAQs or submissions guidelines. They will tell you the exact size photos need to be or whether you need to provide a description or keywords.
MEASURE YOUR TRAFFIC
Submitting recipes to food photography submission sites is time consuming. And you will likely find over several months that some sites drive more traffic to your blog than others. It’s okay to focus your energies on those that grow your blog the most. Your time is valuable. I typically have about three sites I submit to on a regular basis. And because I want people to click through to my site, I do not submit food photos to sites that also share the recipe.
SUBMIT FOOD PHOTOS REGULARLY
While I don’t believe more is always better, I have found that the more recipes I submit to these sites, the more traffic I get. And I think part of that is in the compound interest. When sites accept your photos, they create links back to your recipes. And those link stays active for as long as the recipe submission site stays up. On sites like Foodgawker, bloggers may have recipe links that are 10 years old. That’s 10 years of people being able to search Foodgawker, find a recipe, and click through to the blogger’s site. The more recipes you submit, the more opportunities there are for people to find you.
Whether you submit one recipe to each of your chosen sites or whether you wait until you have two or three to submit is completely up to you. I now typically wait until I have two or three because it works better with my schedule. But when I first started, I submitted recipes the minute they went live on my blog.
And if you flub up or experience rejection, do not lose heart. You aren’t the first person this has happened to, and you won’t be the last. I said it above, and I’ll say it here. You are in good company.
So keep working on those photos, sharing your craft with us, and keep snapping! I can’t wait to see what you’ll create next. ❤️