The Crazy Psychology Behind
We’ve come a long way from the days of collecting recipe books and bookmarking our favorite dishes. Our social feeds now serve up endless meal inspiration – and it’s affecting both what we crave and when we crave it.
The reason scrolling through #eeeeeats makes us hungry goes much deeper than you think. Studies show that the connection between food photography and cravings is visceral. Eating with your eyes is more than a witty saying – it’s backed by science.
A 2012 study published in Physiology & Behavior revealed that how we see food alters how we perceive its taste and smell. Put simply, seeing an image of a delicious-looking dish stimulates your appetite for the real meal. The scientific reason? Picturing a juicy burger or a mouthwatering mac and cheese can cause a surge in ghrelin, the “food hormone” that induces hunger.
“Eating with your eyes is more than a witty saying – it's backed by science.”
This is because our sense of sight is the most powerful. We’re scientifically more drawn to something that looks appetizing rather than what it smells like. So, that perfectly-lit croissant with a side of latte art aren’t just trending, they’re suddenly what you want for breakfast. And that stunning sushi platter isn’t only Instagram bait, it’s instinctively making its way on to your plate for dinner.
And it’s not just seeing food photography that affects our psyche. Studies show that by actively delaying consumption, photographing food builds anticipation for what you’re about to eat – increasing your overall enjoyment.
Just as food photography is impacting our eating habits, our eating habits are impacting the food industry. In the wake of the food photography fad, restaurateurs are using social media to reach a broader audience and influence their viewers’ palates. Chefs have acknowledged that beautiful food photography can spike reservations – and they use it to their advantage. As Edinburgh Food Studio chef, Ben Reade, told Wired “If I have a better-looking dish, I give that one to the people taking photos.”
The business of #eeeeeats has also seen a rise in professional food photography, with entire Instagram accounts dedicated to it. To elevate your own shots, you’ll first need to swap your smartphone for professional gear. This is mainly because many indoor restaurants have low light, so you’ll need a lens with a wide aperture to allow more light into the shot. This allows for precise focusing and a shallow depth of field which helps you create the blurred background that’s popular on Insta-shots.
“Chefs have acknowledged that beautiful food photography can spike reservations – and they use it to their advantage.”
Taking it a step further, eateries like Caramel Winery in Israel and Dirty Bones in London have created entire dining experiences around the idea concept of Insta-worthy food photography, offering patrons photography kits and custom place settings that pop in photos. Carmel Winery tapped Adi Nissani, a ceramic design artist, to design the ‘Instagrammable’ plates, and also hold workshops with Dan Perez, one of the most famous Foodographers. One of the key features of the course is the spinning plates, which helps you capture the best angle. You can take this tip into any restaurant by gently rotating your plate an inch at a time and photographing until you decide which angle works best. Mirrorless cameras are great for this as you can instantly preview the shot in an electronic viewfinder.
Other restaurants, like Lalito in Chinatown, are designing meals specifically with Instagram in mind. In fact, food photography’s impact on our collective cravings has become so powerful that some culinary schools are offering classes to teach students how to craft Instagrammable meals.
Turns out, we really do eat with our eyes.