All food photographs are not created equal, according to a recent study from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. When compared to the instant allure of sugary treats or piled-high burgers, healthier food options might benefit from some staging in front of the camera.
The study was published in the journal Health Communication.
Peng and co-author Muna Sharma analyzed over 50,000 images from food-centric Instagram accounts, such as chefs, influencers, and nutritionists, to learn how people engage with food photos online. Researchers used computational visual analysis to examine the relationship between the number of likes and comments on an image’s post and the image’s color palette, pattern repetition, complexity, and approximation of calories.
Lower calorie options such as vegetables or well-balanced meals required more photographic staging to get a boost, while higher calorie options such as cookies, pastries, and doughnuts saw higher engagement across the board.
“Our results showed that both visual aesthetics and calorie density were important predictors of image popularity. The use of arousing, warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow, feature complexity, and repetition predicted higher likes, whereas brightness, colorfulness, and compositional complexity acted reversely,” according to researchers.
“A similar pattern was observed for comments. The calorie density of foods in images positively predicted likes and comments. Also, the effects of visual aesthetics varied by calorie content and were more pronounced for low-calorie images. Health practitioners who plan to harness the power of social media to encourage certain dietary behaviors should take visual aesthetics into account when designing persuasive messages and campaigns.”