What makes people love #Foodporn so much

Silvain • updated November 9, 2022 • 6 min read

7 Reasons we love #Foodporn so much

If you search #foodporn on Instagram, you’ll find more than 286 million pictures of tasty foods. Can we only eat what we’ve photographed? On the causes and effects of a trend toward wealth.


What is food porn?

Food porn, or “foodporn,” is when cooking or eating is shown in a glamorous way in ads, infomercials, blogs, cooking shows, or other visual media. It started out as an online platform for reviewing restaurants called Foodporn.

Food porn usually looks like photos of food that are styled in a way that makes them look provocative, like glamour photos or pornographic photos.

image shows food porn photos with marinated fish
Marinated fish, @SporiZecov

Right now, a lot of people want to take pictures of food or look at pictures of food. This is called “#foodporn” on the Internet. The word is a mix of food and pornography.

Rosalind Coward, a feminist, came up with the term in 1984. For the next 20 years, it was used to describe glossy pictures of unhealthy food.

  • In June 2022 you find 286 million images on Instagram with the hashtag foodporn.
  • In September 2004, Flickr added a category called “foodporn” for photos of all kinds of food. Sincehat there are actual 233.000 results for content with the term “foodporn” in the title.

Scientists are trying to figure out why so many people look at pictures of food they can’t even eat and think it looks amazing.

Sociologists aren’t sure how #foodporn affects people, but they have their ideas. There is no agreement, and the different ideas are very different.

Still Life with Cheese by Floris Claesz. van Dijck
Still Life with Cheese by Floris Claesz. van Dijck

Why do so many people sharing food images?

Food is also a great way to tell who we are and what kind of group we are a part of. We can figure out what social class we are. “Look, this  is what I can afford.” 

If you look at art history, you’ll see that people have been making pictures of their food for a long time. There are many paintings of fancy meals, such as “The Fest in the House of Levi” by the Italian painter Paolo Veronese. 

Don’t be embarrassed. We all do it.

If you usually take a picture of food before eating it instead of enjoying its delicious taste, you are a certified food porn enthusiast. You’ve already seen this, right?

Many people think this is a bad thing to do, but millions of foodies, regular people, bloggers, and travelers around the world take their own photos of food to share on social media, showing off their juicy burger, strange foreign food, or cocktails.

How do restaurants deal with it?

Some restaurants give guests free use of wide-angle lenses and selfie sticks.

Different restaurants have very different responses to customers with cameras. Some have made it impossible to take pictures at all, while others encourage their guests to do so.

At London’s Dirty Bones, for example, diners can get free use of a portable camera light, a charger, a wide-angle lens, and a selfie stick while they are there.


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A post shared by ʙ ᴇ ꜱ ꜱ ʕ•́ᴥ•̀ʔっ♡ (@bessmok)

1. Exhibitionism as an argument

Social media makes people more showy in general. When you tell people everything about your life, food is a part of it. From this point of view, #foodporn is just a small part of a much bigger way to show yourself.

2. The theory of the bird’s egg

Some researchers think it’s a natural instinct to want food that looks good. In this way, they talk about the experiments that biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen did.

He found that animals have strong reactions to bright, intense stimuli, even when they are made by people.

For example, mother birds would ignore their own eggs and go to a nest where Tinbergen had put artificial eggs that were bigger and more colorful.

He came to the conclusion that an over-the-top copy is more appealing than the original.

Behavioral scientists say that it is because of these effects on humans that conventional pornography is so popular. They say it also affects the different kinds of food.

The images on #foodporn are fun to look at because of how they look. In fact, many of them seem too drawn, at least from a professional point of view: Fruits and salads are brightly colored, and sauces shine like varnish.

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A post shared by Southern Stone Restaurant (@southernstonebtown)

3. The pleasure-increasing theory

People who picture their food before reaching for it eat it more consciously afterward. US researchers say they’ve found that food that looks better in a picture tastes better. This is what a 2016 study in the Journal of Consumer Marketing says.

According to the study, meals that are shared online taste better. In addition, the abandonment, that is, not photographing one’s food, ensures that something is missing. This in turn makes the meal taste worse.

By taking pictures, #foodporn producers artificially delay the first bite, and in that extra time, “all senses build up the anticipation of enjoyment.”

  • Food that has been photographed tastes better than food that has not been photographed.

Critics claim the opposite: by taking pictures, one destroys the sensual unity of a meal, the smooth flow of a feast – similar to how one scares away the delicate magic of a sunset by pulling out the camera.


# Tools to improve your Food images

4. The identity argument

Some people have noticed that the way people in the West eat is almost not working. Obesity, meat scandals, bad records about the environment, animal cruelty, and food allergies have taken away food’s innocence. What used to be a simple pleasure is now hard to do and causes problems.

Many people are conscientiously looking into the origins and effects of their food. In doing so, it is possible to go too far. In the U.S., there is already a diagnosis for people who get sick from their fixation on healthy foods (orthorexia).

Those who attach great importance to their diet and consider it part of their worldview have long had their own English name Foodie. Foodies are the more democratic version of gourmets.

Like them, they strive for culinary perfection, but they do so in a more environmentally conscious, leaner, and less elitist way.

Posting and looking at pictures of food is as much a part of this way of life as giving book recommendations to intellectuals. Foodies use #foodporn to make sure they know who they are and have a place in their community.

Self-discovery through the stomach has been a popular theme for a long time. The American study mentioned above found that young people are more likely to post pictures of food on their profiles than new clothes or accessories.

As a way to show who you are, food has caught up with fashion. In the 21st century, man is what he eats.

In the past, cooking shows were for housewives, and gourmets were older, big-bellied men. Food is easy to use as a status symbol because it is so well known.

You can stand out from the crowd by using #foodporn pictures. People brag about the great restaurants they go to and the great dishes they eat there, even though many other people can’t afford to do the same.

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A post shared by Baby Babu (@missy71bb)

5. The argument for progress

People who think about #foodporn are either optimistic or pessimistic, and the debates follow the same lines of thought as those about regular pornography. Some people see #foodporn as a way to get people to cook better and more interesting things.

People get to try new dishes that are often good for them. Because of this, they start to want to cook them themselves. This makes the food we eat healthier and more refined.

6. The argument for neglect

Pessimists say that a lot of #foodporn is full of sugar and fat in large amounts. So, they say, the pictures encourage unhealthy ways of eating.

Some people say that foodporn makes people not want to eat. The glossy photos of fancy dishes made worlds that were out of reach.

Many amateur chefs lacked the means and skills to achieve similar results. The perfection of the meals presented discouraged imitators. They are content to look and neglect their actual diet.

Because #foodporn is one-dimensional, it also reduces food to how it looks. Taste and making things in a way that is good for the environment are becoming less important.

In this way, food loses its “inner values” and enters a made-up world. Healthy foods that aren’t as photogenic stay on the shelves.

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A post shared by Stephen Lo (@stephen.lo0110)

7. It’s the human biology

When you think about food, your brain sends juices to your stomach and makes you salivate more. When the brain is stimulated, it decides to enjoy how creative and appetizing the food looks.

This makes a person want to take pictures of the food and then print or post them online. Creative food porn images make you want certain kinds of food more than ever. When a person sees how good a certain dish looks, it makes them very hungry for it.

Scientists wrote about foodporn:

The reality of “food porn”: Larger brain responses to food‐related cues than to erotic images predict cue‐induced eating 
Our public affair with food porn
Digital Environments
Food Porn Research Paper
Big Data Reveals the Anatomy of the Global #Foodporn Fetish

More stuff to read about food and foodies:

Let’s Talk About Unicorn Toast
First timers food guide to New Orleans
15 Food Cities in Asia for the Ultimate Foodie
Food bloggers in Belgium
Barcelona’s Best Food Tour

What is your take, do you also love #Foodporn? -let us know in the comments?

By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.


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