The Relationship between Food Bloggers, TasteSpotting & FoodGawker

This week, I received both “a pat on the back” and “a slap in the face” for the same job. Confused? Please read on…

If you’re a food blogger or simply just a lover of great looking food, you know (or should know) about the sites TasteSpotting (TS) and FoodGawker (FG). They are sites that offer glimpses of exceptionally amazing looking food. In a nutshell, TS and FG gather their material when food bloggers submit their photos for “approval”. In turn, the pictures (with a link back to their blog) are posted on TS and FG and viewed by those searching online for some “food porn”. It’s really a brilliant idea for a site, since people tend to “eat with their eyes” before digging in with their fork.

It sounds like a win-win for everyone, doesn’t it? TS and FG get “free” content for their sites. This content allows them to drive traffic to their site which in turn allows them to make money selling ad space on their site. As for the food bloggers, they gain additional traffic and exposure that they normally wouldn’t get through their own blog.

Now, remember, I said the whole process was based on submissions and approvals by TS and FG. I’m a food blogger because I enjoy food, eating, cooking and writing. As for photographing it all, I like taking pictures, but an amateur photographer would be insulted if he/she were to hear me call myself an amateur photographer.

For a couple of months now, I’ve been submitting my pictures to TS and FG and they have been getting rejected. Needless to say, it is disappointing. Like all bloggers, I try to put all of myself in each post and then to have a photo rejected based on “composition” or “lighting” is just frustrating especially when I don’t claim to be a photographer. But I tried to take it in stride since I figured they must know what they’re talking about since they both rejected me, albeit usually for different reasons.

So, how did I get a pat on the back and a slap in the face this week? Well, because this photo of my Mississippi Mud Cookies was accepted by TS (yay!) and rejected by FG due to “photo/food composition” (huh?). Needless to say, I was pretty happy to have something accepted, but my happiness was quickly dulled by the confusion of the same picture getting rejected. I had always had a sneaking suspicion that it was a subjective process, but this confirmed it for me.

And if I wasn’t sure yet, I got another simultaneous pat and slap the next day when FG accepted my Potato & Leek Soup (yay again!) but TS rejected it due to “composition/not sharp”. To me, those seem like two completely unrelated issues. So not only was my picture accepted by one, but now the same picture is not good enough for two reasons?

I guess my point (if there is one) is I don’t mind getting my photos rejected. As I wrote, I’d been living it for a few months now. I definitely have been putting more thought into my pictures as I read other blogs and I guess my approvals this week is proof of that. I also know that some pictures of mine are better than others. When my food, plating, set-up, lighting, etc., align for me on a given day, I’m capable of something decent.

However, if sites such as TasteSpotting and FoodGawker are all about growing their brand, I would suggest they need to be more cognizant of their impact and critiques. I appreciate they likely receive hundreds, if not thousands of submissions a day, but I also appreciate that they are in it to make money. To reject a photo based on something as generic as “composition” does not help the blogger get better. It simply leaves them confused and frustrated. With slightly more guidance, TS and FG can actually further their cause and build relationships by offering a constructive critique thereby making their site potentially even more food-gasmic down the road as food bloggers learn along the way and submit even better picture which is a win-win for everyone involved.

I appreciate what TS and FG does and I think they provide an excellent platform for myself and other bloggers, this is simply my take on my recent experiences. I would welcome others to share how they feel about this topic.



Filed under Food Blogging, FoodGawker, TasteSpotting

116 responses to “The Relationship between Food Bloggers, TasteSpotting & FoodGawker

  1. Well take everything into stride. We’re all food bloggers because we love food and regardless what people tell us, we should keep on doing what we love best and not try to fit the mould of what others think is perfect. It’s good if we can have some additional support in terms of traffic push, but if not, there are other ways too.

    But I do agree with you, there’s nothing worst than being rejected and not knowing why.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You’re absolutely right. We all love food and everything about it and that won’t change based on a photo being accepted or not.

  2. Speaking as a photographer, composition is painfully vague. While from a technical perspective there are right and wrong ways to composition (rule of thirds and all that BS), the fact is rules are meant to be broken. And when it comes to creativity, everyone has their likes and dislikes. Being vague in critique, as you say, does nothing to help a blogger…especially if said blogger does not have much or any photography knowledge.

    Congrats on being accepted. I do see some points in your photos that can be better but I’ll keep my yap shut for two reasons: 1. I have a lot of respect for you and your creativity and 2. I like the photos as is.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks Kim. I want to get better (I think everyone does) and I’m sure there are things that should and can be improved with the pictures, but as a “novice”, I don’t know what those things are. I appreciate that you don’t want to hurt my feelings, but i’m open for critique in the name of improvement:)

  3. I have a very big love/hate relationship with TS and FG. It’s “hilarious” when one loves me and another one doesn’t. But when my photos get accepted and I get a big hike in traffic, I definitely do a little dance.

    And sometimes when I look at the photos they accept from other people, I just want to say “Seriously? Seriously, people?” But guess the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You’re right, I think everyone does a little (or big) dance when they see a jump in their traffic. And yes, at the end of the day we’re all critics.

  4. Oh welcome to the club! I think everyone of us live with this frustration. I had so many (well, not so many hehe) accepted by one and rejected by the other. And I agree, frustration is even more in that uneven case. It also goes by phases. I had a couple of months when several were accepted (and by both), while in the last month they have both been hating me πŸ™‚ I have put so so so much more effort into my photography lately…to just see the rate of rejection increase. That makes me (and many others I’m sure) wonder, how do these sites work. Then, they accept a picture that I don’t even think is good enough and reject one I’ve worked on for hours. I guess all this is to say…sometimes we all feel it’s a bit “random” or not well explained (their “reasons” don’t really help me improve my photography) but I’m glad we all keep going despite their oddness πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      The key (I think) is not to let it get you down since going into it, you know it’s far from a perfect science.

  5. Neither one of them accepted any of my pics. lol! & I submitted many though gave up months and months ago. Gave me the entire spectrum of excuses, composition, light, blurry, you name it!! It’s alright though, I know my pics are fantastic, I am proud of the results I achieve with my humble camera! Good post Ethan addressing the issue!!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      At the end of the day, liking your own pictures and being proud of them is really all that matters. No one can tell you otherwise, especially stated through a couple of subjective words.

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  7. gingerbreadbagels

    Oh where do I even begin? lol. I would submit photos to FG and the reason would be “unsharp,” ok I can fix that easily. I resubmitted, the it was “compostition.” I didn’t do anything to the photo!
    One time I resubmitted the same photo and didn’t make any corrections to it. They told me it was “overexposed.” Then all of a sudden it was underexposed when I didn’t change anything. Now that makes me confused!

    The traffic boost is incredible so I will continue to submit. But I couldn’t agree more than some insight on how to improve the photo would be helpful. I have a pretty good idea of what TS likes but with FG, I have no idea and have almost given up on submitting to FG.


    • gingerbreadbagels

      And I can’t speak English again. Meant to say But I couldn’t agree more that…forgive me. Long day.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I think many people can sympathize with your experiences and I think that proves that it is ultimately a human decision. If the process remains the same, it looks like the spike in traffic will come with its frustrations.

  8. I tried posting 3 times on TS, but got rejected (all of them hehe) with these reasons; composition, lighting and not sharp. I don’t know though.. composition, how? I believe composition depends on someone likings. It’s like saying that I prefer to organize my books alphabetically, while my husband prefer to organize them by color. Which one is better? IMO, there’s no “right” or “wrong” composition. It’s either like or dislike.

    But the lighting one is correct. My lighting sucks. Don’t have the proper tool to achieve nice lighting. πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I think over the last little while, I’ve done better with regards to “lighting”, shooting outside, big window, etc. If nothing else, looking at other blogs, as well as TS and FG have shown me there are a bunch of different things to keep in mind when shooting that even a “beginner” can do, whether it’s plating, location, backdrop, well, you get the point. I think there’s room for a world where books arranged alphabetically and by color can live in harmony.

  9. We have a lot of FAQs that addresses many of commenter’s and your concerns/issues…

    foodgawker was the first food porn site to offer feedback otherwise you’re submitting to a “black box.” We knew from the beginning it’s the most important communication channel we have with our submitters. And we are constantly trying to improve the feedback we provide.

    Keep in mind that, we have always said it’s a subjective process. We have set quality guidelines for our editors, but ultimately it will still be a subjective decision by a human editor. And if you resubmit a photo, it will most likely be reviewed by another editor. Anyway, we hear and understand the issues.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      First off, thank you for taking the time to read and respond to the post. I failed to mention it in the post, but yes, FG definitely offers more tools for bloggers to become more effective photographers and for that you should be commended.
      It is subjective and maybe there is no correct way too tackle the issue, but the fact that you hear and understand the issue is already a big step in the right direction for everyone involved.

  10. This is a really great post and it’s an issue that comes up with almost every food blogger out there. The acceptance/rejection process is extremely subjective to say the least and you are right in saying that rejection is hard enough but to not know why, makes it more difficult. Oftentimes I find many photos on those sites that make me question why they were acceptable in the first place so I guess it’s fair to say that’s purely a subjective decision by both TS and FG…but a bit more feedback would be appreciated by all of us out here striving to simply create a better product.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks Karen, glad you enjoyed the post. In retrospect, I should have thrown the word “subjective” somewhere in the title lol

  11. I have had a lot of photos accepted by TS and FG and I have also had a lot rejected by them as well. Rejection usually causes a lot of cussing and swearing on my end. Therefore, I have gotten to the point where I only submit photos to them when I feel I can handle the rejection.
    Keep on keeping on. Regardless of what FG and TS think, you have a great blog. πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I’m surprised to hear from so many people that they tailor their photos to the “supposed” tastes of both sites. I want to photograph something that interests me and if it happens to be something they like, then great. But on the flip side, it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to take a “classis” photo, white background, proper lighting, etc.
      And thanks, I will always keep on keeping on:)

  12. My rule of thumb is…..if I’m *sure* the photo will be accepted, it will be rejected. If I’m not crazy about the picture, they’ll take it. πŸ˜‰

    And isn’t it one of the worst parts of a blogger’s day to get that email from FoodGawker that starts out, “Unfortunately…”?

    PS….I’ve quit looking at the “reasons” given for rejection and just keep trying.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      That’s a pretty good rule of thumb, at least you can keep your sense of humor about it:) And for what it’s worth, I think all your photos are great and well-thought out, but than again, what do I know? πŸ˜‰

  13. Congrats on the acceptances and – I totally feel you in the rejects. I think these sites present another problem as well: they bottleneck creativity. Even if they’re often inconsistent in acceptance/rejection, they’re both generally looking for the same thing. Along with more prominent food world photo distributors (like Saveur) they set a standard for white-backgrounded, highly lit, airbrushed food. In essence: seems we’re doing to food the same thing the fashion industry generally does to women. Sometimes I like a dark cast to my photos and a fewcrumbs on the plate…and sometimes these pics turn out well. Yet they’re still not “pretty” enough for TS/FG. Hmm…

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Interesting comparison Celia. You’re right, it is beginning to put the “right” way to take a picture in a very small confined box. Like you, I take photos in an attempt to be tru to myself and tell a story (ie, going outside in the snow for the potato and leek soup). I hope you keep doing what you feel is right and as corny as it sounds, doing that can never be wrong.

  14. This debate is somewhat like the debate that rages about the qualifications of judges who judge amateur wine competitions. Some competitors are adamant that the judges must not be be qualified to judge their wines when they don’t win. You can see what is wrong with that.

    If you are sticking your neck out there, by submitting photos, you are agreeing to take all that comes with it, good and bad. There are no “rules” you can follow 1,2,3 to get accepted. There are some general parameters but the rest is up to humans who have to make decisions.

    I always fall back on expectations when in the midst of this type of discussion. You are doing this for fun and because you love it. Set expectations that you can live with no matter what comes.

    I’m a food blogger as well and I know of, but have never looked at either site. Your position that food bloggers should know about both sites assumes all food bloggers are the same and have the same goals.


    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You’re definitely right Jason, at the end of the day it’s our decision to submit these photos, my take was simply that a better dialogue could be beneficial to everyone in the long run.
      Even though, I may have not stated it properly, my position was food bloggers should know about these types of sites are for a variety of reasons and not just to gain traffic. When I first began blogging, I simply used these sites to marvel at wonderful sites and as a way to figure out which blogs I enjoyed and which ones I should follow on a regular basis. Submitting to them was not even a thought early on, I was far too intimidated.

  15. This seems to be a weekly topic discussed on twitter. You wait for that notification and check to see if you’ve been approved, bracing for the negative. If you’ve been approved then you’re thrilled. If you’ve been rejected, like you said it can be very frustrating and confusing – especially when one accepts and the other rejects. Sometimes the reasonings are extremely off. Composition is my most hated reason for rejection, very vague and not helpful at all. The kicker is when you see pictures very similar to your own that have been accepted, while yours was rejected. It would seem that sometimes it simply depends on which editor looks at your submission. I try to take it one photo/post at a time.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      It des seem to get a lot of discussion on Twitter and that was definitely in the back of my mind as I was writing the post. Maybe some good can come from that.
      One photo at a time, I think that’s the way to approach it.

  16. Over the past few months I’ve had pictures accepted (and many, many rejected) by FG and TS. Sometimes I agree with their reasons for rejecting a photo, other times I’m left confused by it.

    What I have come to learn is that you can’t think too much about this because there is no way to get a more detailed explanation for why something was rejected. Does it stink? Yes. But is it worth the frustration? I don’t think it is… and know that just because they don’t accept a photograph doesn’t mean that it’s not a beautifully composed image (which your pictures are).

    On a separate note, it’s great to see that FoodGawker actually responded to this post.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      It’s funny, some people feel the frustration is worth the traffic, whereas others don’t. As someone who takes wonderful photos such as yourself, I can see your point of view since well, like I said, your photos are great and I hope you know that!

      And yes, kudos to FoodGawker for taking the time to respond to the post and explain things from their point of view. It says much about Chuck from FG and FoodGawker as a whole.

  17. It can definitely be frustrating if you repeatedly don’t get pics accepted. In my opinion the two sites are definitely not equal, and one is much more helpful than the other when it comes to giving feedback, answering questions, etc. From one site I really take the critique to heart and use it to better my pics for the next time. From the other, not so much.

    As for the rejects, I tell myself “my style just doesn’t fit in a 250×250 square” or tell myself that I need to use the reject to motivate myself to strive to create a technically perfect and smartly styled photo for the next time. If the photo is awesome enough, it’ll get accepted – it’s just a matter if figuring out how to take a worthy-enough pic πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Well said Jenn. From the comments thus far, one site definitely does seem to do a much better job at making it a 2-way street. And there is nothing wrong with challenging oneself. It sounds like many people use the rejections of their photos to do better and think more about the picture they are about to take and there is nothing wrong with it. Fitting it into a 250×250 square is a whole different story:P

  18. Ethan, this is a very insightful post. Good for you for opening yourself up and shining a light on what is a very emotional subject for many bloggers/photographers.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks Gail. This type of post is definitely new for me and although I was hesitant to hit the “submit post” button, I figured there was personal growth potential for me in this post as well and that was worth whatever came my way.

  19. I agree with Brian, I am really happy to see the Foodgawker responded and I think their response was appropriate. I might be crucifying myself here, but I have had many photos accepted by both TS and FG (and some rejected), I love the traffic, and I think both sites are great. Usually when I am photographing for my blog posts, I purposely make sure to get a few shots that I think TS or FG will ‘appreciate’ based on their qualifications for lighting, composition, etc. Then I edit/crop/adjust to compose something specifically to submit to them. It didn’t really work for me when I just took regular photos and then ‘hoped’ I had something in there to submit. I needed to be on purpose, and then my acceptance rate was better. I photograph primarily for my blog posts and my readers (who like beautiful photos) but since the traffic and exposure from FG is so great I use this strategy all the time now.

    That said, I can say my number of accepted photos by TS or FG has increased exponentially since I got my DSLR. With that camera I can compensate for low light (since both FG and TS appreciate well-lit photos), and as long as I operate the camera correctly, I can almost always get ‘sharp’ photos. This was not the case when I was previously using my point and shoot, and at that time many more of my photos were rejected. That said, I still had some photos accepted with point and shoot so dont despair! πŸ™‚ All I can tell you is to keep up the good work (because no matter what they tell you, your photos are YOURS and you should be proud of them), try your best to set aside your frustration and just focus on the food you love … and possibly consider investing in a DSLR. It is worth the money and you will have more fun photographing! Good luck! πŸ˜‰

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Ha, no crucifying going on here! If anything, we should be shouting your name from the rooftops for figuring out what they like and having the ability to execute it. With that said, I hope you shoot those pictures that way nowadays because that’s how you want them to look, not because you know that’s how others want to see them. But I do think you take great pictures that do tell a story, so maybe you have found the middle-ground that we’re all searching for!
      My point & shoot has been everywhere with me and I do love it, but yes, you’re right, there are certain things it cannot do and I’m sure even using the auto setting on a DSLR would be a drastic improvement for certain pictures:)

  20. I think one of the key things to remember about TS and FG is that the editors are human, and aren’t immune to context.
    So when they’re looking through dozens of photos at a time, the photos that are in the same batch as yours can make a huge difference. If most of the other photos are highly polished and professional-looking and yours is just so-so, then it will get rejected because it’s doesn’t look good in comparison. But on a different day, they might turn around and accept that exact same photo because all the other photos were poorly lit and looked like barf on a plate. Simple as that.
    Since we only the submissions that were accepted and not the whole set, it’s easy to think they’re inconsistent because we don’t have the necessary context.
    FWIW, I think it’s those scenarios that tend to result in the dreaded “composition” feedback – it seems to be code for “I don’t like it for non-specific subjective reasons.” It’s not necessarily a bad photo… just one that wasn’t as good as the others.
    I’ve got a pretty decent track record with both TS and FG, but even so, about 25% of my submissions are turned down by at least one site (if not both). I take it in stride… acceptance is a privilege, not a right.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I know the point you’re trying to get across, but the thought of my photo being accepted because the ones around it looked like barf is not very comforting lol.
      I don’t think rejecting a photo under the guise of “composition” simply because they don’t like it for whatever reason is responsible on their part. To me (at least), that is totally disrespecting bloggers as a whole.
      And you’re right, acceptance is a privilege, not a right for bloggers. But the same can be said for TS and FG, without food blogs submitting their pictures, these sites would be pretty bare and that is a privilege as well.

  21. I have yet to submit to foodgawker and tastespotting even though I really want to; the gorgeous styling of the photos intimidates me. I love to cook and bake and I prefer to at least try to take my photos in a natural setting. Often I will have toy in the background or a child’s hand trying to sneak a bite and that is never present in the photos accepted. It’s always that white box, food only exists in this element photo. Food is part of my life and I want to reflect that.

    Excellent post Ethan, there is definitely a distinct look to both sites and even though beautiful, distinct.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      It took me a while as well to build up the courage to submit. I can only tell you to give it a try if you’re interested, but as you can see, it’s not without it’s disappointment. If you stay true to yourself, then, you can’t go wrong.

  22. I’m amazed that people have been able to figure out which elements FG looks for and which ones TS looks for. Every time I think I have some insight, they go and reject or accept something and I’m back to square one πŸ™‚ Honestly though, I think the only thing you can do is keep taking pictures that make you happy and are reflective of your style, submit them and keep your fingers crossed! Congratulations on the most recent round of acceptances πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You and me both, I’m surprised people have pieced together who likes what and how to accomplish that goal!
      I always intended to continue shooting the pictures that I wanted to and I believe in that even more so now!
      p.s. Thanks:)

  23. Hey Ethan,
    I agree with a lot of what has been said already, but just thought I’d add my $.02…I agree that it can seem really random when pics are accepted/rejected but they get so many submissions that I think this just has to be accepted. I will say this: I have pretty much gotten to the point that i know which it’s going to be when I submit something- accepted or rejected. Like Amanda, I keep the photo sites in mind when taking my pics and aim to end up with one photo that I know is going to be able to be suitable for resizing to their specs (250×250 for FG and TS). I always adjust the exposure and sharpen the photo a bit before submitting to them, too…I have found that this makes a huge difference in whether or not something is accepted. I don’t really pay too much attention to the reasons for their declining photos, though, because they usu don’t make a lot of sense- I just figure they didn’t like it and move on. Although sometimes if I feel strongly that I want a pic accepted, I will go back and re-edit/re-submit a photo or choose a new photo to submit. I have had pics accepted on the 2nd and 3rd try for FG before. But if something is declined three times, I definitely give up on that one. In my experience, photos being accepted at those sites always brings some traffic but sometimes it can be a huge amount, so it’s worth not giving up.
    Lastly, I don’t know what camera you are using but having a dslr camera and a macro lens will definitely help in this regard…not sure if that’s in your future, but it does make a big difference.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Winne, your $0.02 are always welcomed and appreciated! Like I’ve said before, I’m amazed people have figured out what they are looking for. Moving forward, i’m sure that will creep into the back of my mind when I shoot, but I think the goal is to continue shooting things that make you happy.
      I’d by lying if I said I didn’t like the boost in traffic and for that reason alone, I will submit if I feel the picture is worthy of submission.
      And yes, a DSLR would dramatically help, I don’t think my point & shoot makes up for my shortcomings in photography at times!

  24. Nicely said Brian! (A food for Thought)

    When I began submitting (and therefore receiving rejections!) I questioned my photography. However, many of the rejected photos I truly feel are some of my best. (Although I do have to admit that some of my rejected photos really do deserve to be rejected…!) TS in particular tends to reject my personal favorites, but I’m coming to think that it is simply taste and indeed very subjective. Frankly, there are a number of TS shots accepted on their site that I would simply not post on my blog. Not my taste. Does that make them bad? Nope… just different.
    I seem to have far better luck with FG, but then we seem to have more of a similar taste. What gets rejected from them usually deserves it (much as I hate to admit it!)

    One that really stands out though, is my peppermint cheesecake bars. I took a pic that I thought was awesome! FG promtly took it and TS promptly rejected it (composition). To my surprise, the same shot made it on Food Porn Daily for Christmas Eve! So who is right??

    I used to get really frustrated, but I’ve kind of gotten over it – not totally, but I don’t get as frustrated as I used to. I still get excited when they accept one, but it’s no longer as big of a deal.
    Thanks for this post!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I think that sums it up nicely. You know you have great pictures, other people confirm those pictures are great and yet, someone is telling you differently. You’re right on, just don’t get too worked up over it. At the end of the day, it’s not worth it.

  25. FINALLY getting around to this post!

    I agree with what a lot of others have said in that it’s very subjective a lot of the time but that FG tends to give more reasonable and actionable feedback than TS. This time last year I had ONE acceptance between the two sites, then after a few months started to get acceptances on everything – – even awful pictures – from TS but rejection all the way from FG. Now, I am lucky if TS accepts one in 20 of my submissions and FG have been fairly good to me recently.
    I style the pictures the same way as I see others doing so on TS, yet “composition” strikes over and over. A lazy and unhelpful rejection that makes me mad. I see not great pictures all the time (more on one site than the other) and I often wonder if they reject based on your blog name alone – oh look there’s Mardi – COMPOSITION for her. I know that sounds silly but my photographs have improved 10 fold over the past few months and I have had professional photographers critique them and no way is composition the only culprit. So yeah, that makes me mad. Sometimes FG will give me reasons I really search to see (mostly about lighting) but my critical eye is getting there and their feedback is helpful.

    A note to all those people who gush about the increased traffic: How many of those folks coming from photo sites spend a long time on your site? For me, a longer visit and perhaps a comment are worth more than the crappy CPM I currently receive. I never got into blogging to earn money so I have to look at how to get people to visit and stay and return. Sure, pretty pictures are a part of that but beyond that, there is writing. At the end of the day, it’s the writing that makes me stick around and return to a blog.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Ah Mardi, we’ve chatted about it on Twitter and here we are again. Thank you for commenting. I don’t have the history as many of you have with submissions, so it’s interesting to hear how the process has evolved for some of you. I think it does say something of the lack of care and criteria they use that they cannot be consistent, especially TasteSpotting if I’m interpreting everyone correctly.
      What is frustrating is that you do put time and thought into your photos and even “professionals” confirm it’s a photo worthy of acceptance only to be casually dismissed with a flippant “composition”.
      Re: your traffic comment, when I do this blog on it’s own domain, I look forward to being able to see all those types of stats. I don’t think it’s doable off WP. But yes, it definitely depends on what you’re looking to achieve through the blog. The fact that so many people took the time to comment on this particular post is actually far more rewarding (to me) than a large number of people who simple clicked in and clicked out.

  26. We’ve discussed this a little on Twitter, of course, but –
    I’m like Amanda, I tend to take photos now with the aesthetics FG/TS like, and also edit them that way. The photos that are on my site tend to be slightly different than those I submit – they like them sharper and more exposed, in general. After a year of submitting to them (and Serious Eats’ Photograzing and more recently, Tasteologie) I feel like I know what they are looking for for the most part. I still get photos rejected. While sometimes I look at it and don’t understand the reasoning, more often I take a look and see what the photo might be missing.

    I think we all get emotional about not getting accepted because the photos are an extension of our craft. But I think a lot of the time, fussing over why a photo didn’t get accepted is about as productive as why a post didn’t make Top 9 (and we all know how well that discussion goes). Not to say people shouldn’t be reflective – but all too often I see people on Twitter be upset about a photo not being taken, and all they want is validation that the photo is “good”, and not constructive criticism. Which is a whole other rant about food blogging in general πŸ˜‰

    Oh, and while I do love the traffic bump photo acceptances get me, I have to say that for the most part they aren’t the “right” kind of traffic. They peek at the post and run away. Sure it helps my pithy FoodBuzz income, but I much prefer getting interaction – like you’re getting right here! πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      In my amateur photographer estimation, I think we can all agree that a “sharper” photo is better than an “unsharp” photo. But I’m amazed so many people shoot specifically for these sites and submit pictures that are different than the ones they post on their blog. At the end of the day, a good picture is a good picture, regardless of who deems it good.
      And yes, Top 9 is a whole other story, maybe for another day lol.
      Here’s to interaction:)

  27. As Sara said, welcome to my world. I go through periods of getting my submissions accepted and (mostly) others getting them denied. I even gave up on TS and FG for a while but I returned because I like the additional traffic, whether quality or not. I figure that one or two returning readers makes up for the frustration of the denied submissions. After submitting my photos for 9 months, I look at my TS and FG galleries and half the pictures don’t overlap. There is definitely a difference in aesthetic preferences between the two sites and while my acceptance rate is still not as high as I would like it to be, I can see that the sites’ selectiveness is helping me to be more critical of my pictures (I’m lazy so I might not have the motivation to improve otherwise). Having said that, I’ve been getting a lot of TS denials based on composition while finding FG more appreciative of my efforts, so I understand your position. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself but I encourage you to keep at it. It took a few submissions before I saw my first picture published on TS and FG and those were taken with a point-and-shoot. Don’t give up! We’re all on the same boat! πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You’re right, whether it’s founded on logic or not, if nothing else, these sites challenge our photographic eye. I definitely shoot keeping in mind various components which I didn’t do before, simply because I didn’t realize all the pieces of the puzzle, but as I can see, they all matter, albeit not proportionally.

  28. Great post! I have yet to submit to either but have several blogger friends that have encouraged me to do so. I agree both that they are a wonderful concept as well as that it would be a more productive experience if they had specific critiques and/or guideline.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      As you can see from the comments, FG does offer more guidelines. Hopefully you’ll take the plunge one of these days and if so good luck!

  29. Great idea, Ethan, to put this out there for discussion. SO many of us can relate and it helps to read others similar experiences. The fact that we all have such similar experiences just reiterates the subjectivity factor. I’ve been in the writing world and acting world for years and it’s very similar, too. For TS and FG, I’ve adopted the spirit of several others: Shoot my pics for myself and my blog, then take a moment to shoot one or edit one that fits the square format, the lighting format, the high contrast reputation of these two sites (it’s the same in submitting writing to networks, newspapers or magazines – you try to match what they are selling if you want to be in them.) If my food/post doesn’t really work for it, skip the submission. I’ve had lots of laughs with my husband, showing him some of the pics that were accepted after mine was rejected and we’d howl about how the food looked like the bowl was nailed on the wall, or falling off the table and yet MINE was composition? Ya have to keep a sense of humor and not take it personally. Ultimately, it’s just one more way (out of lots of ways) to put your blog out there for sharing. Sometimes it works, sometimes something else works. The most important thing, IMHO, is to stay true in your blog to your vision; the rest is just advertising.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks for your thoughts Cathy. You said a bunch of great things, but the one thing that stood out was probably the most simple of them all. Just laugh it off!

  30. This is a great discussion. While there hasn’t been any new issues brought up for us, it’s a big reminder how important the feedback channel is. Our main goal is consistency in our selections. As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to be 100% consistent across multiple editors with a subjective process. For those who aren’t aware, we conduct internal reviews of accepted and declined submissions in order to fine tune and synch up between the editors as much as possible.

    A few things I’d like to throw out there…

    – We are a big proponent of shooting your food for yourself and not for a food porn site specifically. 99% of the time your photos will work in our 250×250 px square.

    – Composition – it’s subjective. We like shots that has some effort/thought to composition. We don’t need it highly stylized. Plain and simple is just as good. We just don’t want a shot that looks like someone shoved a camera into the food. And we don’t like seeing your backyard chair or your neighbor’s car in the background.

    – Cropping/Resizing – a lot of times we may decline something on composition because the submitter has relied on foodgawker’s auto-cropping, which is reducing the smallest dimension to 250 px and then center cropping. Many times the focus of the shot is composed oddly with auto-cropping. So we highly recommend you manually crop your images to control composition. A slight adjustment in exposure and a tiny bit of sharpening never hurts. There are many cheap or free photo editing tools out there that work great.

    I’ve shared this post with the editors so they are aware of all of your concerns and we will try to improve our feedback. As the quality of the photos have gone up over the years, we need to improve the quality of our feedback too!

    I know it’s hard to not take it personally when a photo is declined. But keep in mind, it’s just one person’s/editor’s opinion on your submission.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      It’s good to see you do take this seriously, to the point of commenting a second time and doing internal audits and ensuring you can remain as objective as possible in a very subjective field.
      Thank you for the bullets, it’s good to see some of the behind-the-scenes thinking that goes into it on your end. I think if nothing else, this post generated some insightful discussion and I know for me the fact that FoodGawker stepped up to comment (because you certainly did not have to) says much about the site and I only hope your competing site feels the same sense of duty to continue this chat.
      I, for one, feel like I’m now better equipped to submit pictures. If they get accepted, that of course, is still up for discussion πŸ˜‰
      And for what it’s worth, I can assure you that by reading and commenting, you gained much credibility from a large number of people, myself included.

  31. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Relationship between Food Bloggers, TasteSpotting & FoodGawker | Tastes better with friends --

  32. I think it’s an unfortunate assumption that all food bloggers want traffic and validation from sites like FG and TS, because not all food bloggers have those as their main goals. However, it seems to be on the minds of a lot of food bloggers, eh?

    I’d like to point out how utterly ridiculous it is for folks to assume that FG and TS are THE SAME. They are not. People have said it over and over – photography is subjective. What someone might love, someone else might detest. That’s why there is no one formula for success in photography and if there was one – everyone’s photography would be the same boring junk. The same applies to any form of art. If you ever judge a competition (photography, pumpkin carving, cake decorating, short stories) you’ll discover that sometimes your favorite is not the favorite of your fellow judges.

    The other thing that I find disturbing is that people demand feedback on their photo to help them improve from a food porn site. I think Chuck is incredibly kind in offering any feedback at all, but really – if you want real feedback and discussion – join a photography forum where you can submit photos and have others honestly critique your work or hire a professional photographer to work with you and look at your portfolio. It is a lot of work to critique a photograph. Seriously, have you tried it? Can you imagine how much work that would mean for TS and FG? Also – that’s not their business or their goal. To be honest (and Chuck is a friend of mine, so I can say this and I know he won’t be offended) I wouldn’t consider FG or TS to be authorities on food photography.

    It’s also my opinion (and clearly not the opinion of others, I’m cool with that) that if you love your photographs and think there’s nothing wrong with them, then you’ll have a hard time improving. That might be fine for a hobbyist, but the people who consistently (not just once or twice here and there) produce high quality work are able to regard what they produce with a critical eye and an open mind to learn and improve – always.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks for your take Jen and yes, we’re all entitled to our opinion.
      I don’t believe anyone thinks of TS or FG as experts on food photography, otherwise I don’t think we’d be having this discussion.
      Chuck is offering feedback, because, yes, he is being kind, but also because I believe he feels a responsibility as a member of FoodGawker (be it employee, owner, I don’t know) to “help” out as best he can to the people who help make FG what it is on a daily basis. And yes, I can appreciate how much work it would involve for them and if it was my site, I would do my best to offer a critique to make them better, but maybe that’s just me. I’m also taking the time to respond to each comment on here, regardless if anyone will even read it.
      That is an interesting angle to think of an amateur who is happy with his/her photographs and therefore doesn’t feel the need to improve on their work. As a definite amateur, there are only a handuful of things I can think of to work on, I certainly don’t have the expertise nor the software to tinker for hours on a single shot.

  33. I am a bit behind. I guess I should get on this and start submitting. Because I love rejection.

  34. Amy

    At 53 comments, you can see you’ve hit a nerve! And Chuck from FoodGawker actually chimed in – that’s awesome!! I didn’t have time to read them all, so forgive me if I’m repeating much of what has already been said…and beating a dead horse.

    I’ve had many photos accepted now, to where you actually need to scroll (woot), but it never ever lessens the blow when one is rejected. I get a ton of traffic from TS and FG, so each photo has the potential to be significant.

    I don’t take their rejections personally. But I do notice that certain bloggers get every single photo accepted. Every. Single. One. So, what’s that about? Some of my photos are better than others, and personally, I think we’re our own worst critics. It’s one thing if a photo is blurry or dark, but the whole “composition” thing is SO subjective. Maybe they should just be honest and say “I don’t like it.” Although that would sure make us mad, too!

    Such a love/hate relationship.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You know what, i’d rather someone tell me flat-out they don’t like my picture. I could chalk it up to different strokes for different folks, rather than trying to figure out what composition means and how I could have improved this floating, unclear explanation.
      By the way, woot indeed for all your acceptances!
      And yes, kudos to Chuck from FG for stepping up.

  35. The seeming capriciousness of it all is maddening, eh? This is so like sending manuscripts off to editors and agents or like the responses you get in critique groups. What do people look for? It is so subjective while seeking to be objective.

  36. What a great post!!! This is a subject near and dear to all of our hearts, FG , TS and even the top 9 on Foodbuzz…….such a mystery to all of us! I know its subjective it just seems like a different person does it some days…with images there can be no magic bullet, we see what we see, I just wish we could see what they see……sigh
    Keep up the good work and if you figure it our or get enough info, I would love for you to share it in a guest post! Everyone always needs help with their images!
    Have a great day

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Chef Dennis, if I do figure it out, I will bottle it and sell it by the case with a special discount for all bloggers:)
      Thanks for stopping by and hope you have yourself a great day too!

  37. Good article! My wife goes through the same thing. She tried to except it as constructive criticism, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Food blogger should also know there are a few other site out there like Tasteologie and dishfolio. Hopefully, this will give them even more ways to be rejected j/k. It seems weird because she usually goes on rolls. Sometimes even the photos shes not happy with get accepted and then she will get a wave of rejections.

    Anyways thanks for the article. I noticed it on twitter in case that helps.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      That’s interesting, because if I’m not happy with a picture, I will not even consider submitting it and i’ll just chalk it up to “it wasn’t meant to be”. But I guess that truly proves the subjectiveness of it all!
      And yes, there are definitely other sites for us to get rejected by:)

  38. This is a great post and I really enjoyed reading though all the comments. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my frustration with the feedback of “composition.” I too feel like it’s code for “we just don’t like it.” It’s especially frustrating to be accepted by one and rejected by the other.
    Sometimes it just feels so random. At other times I’ve felt like one was rejecting me specifically because the other accepted me first (because it happened about 5 times in a row), but I know that’s just a touch of paranoia. πŸ˜‰

    I think my acceptance rate is somewhere around 60% and I admit I now find myself making sure I get at least a few shots which will work in the square format. I also make sure when I’m editing that I crop square before I submit the photo.

    I have photos pending to both today, so fingers crossed!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You’re right, the comments have been great and it is nice to know we’re all feeling the same frustrations. 60%, I think you’re doing something right! Good luck with your pics today:)

      • Unfortunately, both photos I submitted were rejected (from my recent syrup post). 😦
        However, I did notice a change in the feedback from FG. Instead of simply “composition” I got “Composition/Background” for my photo with a window in the background. Ok, that’s better. For that photo from TS I got “unsharp” which I don’t really feel is valid.
        On my second photo FG said there were “lighting/white balance” issues.
        Oh well. All I can do is move on.
        Trying again today with new photos from today’s post. πŸ™‚

  39. I loved reading your post! I’m a new blogger and when I started blogging back in Feb 2010, I used to get upset when FG & TS rejected my submissions. But now If I get accepted I am very happy and if I dont {which I do} I do not take it personally..I just move on and focus on my recipe & the post rather than the pics! Although I do love food photography but let’s face it I’m not a professional.

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I think even a professional would get photos rejected, so you’re right, we shouldn’t take it personally!

  40. This is a great point and clearly, many people resonate with what you’re saying.

    As a new(er) food blogger, but a longtime blogger and professionally, I work with bloggers, I have submitted my posts/photos only a couple of times to TS and FG – none have made them yet, but I haven’t been persistent because I am so busy.

    I really love both the sites and as you mention, it’s a great way to aggregate content and be aesthetically pleasing, while helping everyone with traffic.

    I agree with you on your sentiment, but I WONDER how can they not be subjective? It will always have a human eye…so I wonder what solution you are proposing, because I am also stumped. It is frustrating because even when you believe what you have is beautiful, someone else may not. It’s so interesting to have one photo accepted and the other not. Very ironic and just goes to show, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    Thanks for writing this and getting all the thoughts going. I really like that FG responded…

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I haven’t come up with the solution YET, but if I do, I’ll shout it from the rooftop!
      Thank you for joining into the discussion, this post would be nothing if it wasn’t for all the comments.

  41. Very good point! It can get very frustrating with those two sites — and then very exciting when they finally decide to accept your posts. I recommend checking out because, if they do reject your submission, they give you a very detailed explanation as to why and they really encourage you (by giving you suggestions) to improve so that your post will be accepted in the future. Thanks for bringing this issue up! Good luck!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks for the tip, that’s great to hear that a new site has decided to do what the others could not. I wonder if they’ll be able to continue that if/when they get thousands of submissions.

  42. I’ve submitted and never got accepted by either. It’s always lighting and white balance. Even when my milk is bone white. Hmmm. But I’m working on improving my photography and I guess that’s all that matters. I just needed that extra little push of rejection. Congrats on your accepted entries!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      exactly! As long as we’re looking to improve for ourselves, that’s all that matters. I definitely see improvements in my own pictures from a few months ago.
      Good luck with your future submissions, can’t wait to see them!

  43. I’m not sure where to start – I’d kind of love to work for one of these companies (as a photographer myself) and be able to pore through the photographs submitted but have the opportunity to offer others constructive criticism. I really enjoy helping others learn and improve. All that being said, “good photography” is an uber subjective thing. Such as, art. Everyone has a different viewpoint and definition. I would seek to make yourself happy with your work and not worry about TS and FG…

    Lastly, I think your photos are good! But if you ever need a teacher, I happen to know this photographer…

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks for the photographer’s take on it. Yes, I think the takeaway from all this is to challenge ourselves and be happy with our own wonderful pictures regarldess of what other people have to say!
      If I need a teacher, I’ll know where to go:)

  44. hmmm.. interesting post. I write a foodblog that’s intentionally more focused on photography than the recipes as part of my ongoing quest to get better and to hopefully help others get better too. I’ve only recently thought about submitting a photo to TS but haven’t gotten around to it. I like constructive feedback though so I’m not so sure I’d be happy with a vague rejection!

    I think it’s important to remember that what really matters is developing not just your skills but your own style. All art is subjective – even cooking, baking and photography! It’s impossible to please everyone and my personal opinion is I’d rather be unique than generic. I don’t think I’d ever want to tailor my personal blog or the photos on it to fit the standards of a third party site – even if the traffic it brought was great. That’s what client work is for! πŸ˜‰ Develop something unique and people will find you, it just might take longer. Keep plugging away – I think you’re doing some great stuff!

  45. Ah the plight of the photographer to submit to an open forum and hope for acceptance. Y’know, I nearly didn’t read all the comments on this but then realised there were over 60, so I went right back to the top and read them all. Some excellent points made by all contributing, and good to see that one of the FG gurus stepped in too.

    So, here’s the thing: I have submitted to both FG & TS over a dozen times, and barring twice for FG and once for TS, I’ve been rejected every single time. It got to the point where I’d submit a photo and think, ‘eh, this’ll get rejected in about 6 hours’, so now I’ve basically given up. BUT I haven’t given up on my photography, because frankly I don’t care any more if some nameless entity somewhere in cyberspace doesn’t think my photos are good enough to be in their gallery. The traffic I get from them isn’t that amazing, anyway. It’s just a one-time visit to say, ‘your photo is purty! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :P’ (like Mardi said x amount of comments above).

    So yeah, it’s really nice to have to be ‘accepted’ into something because it makes you feel elite and shiny, but I don’t need that kind of acceptance to feel good about what I do. I have my own style, I learn as I go and I’ve seen my photography improve tenfold over time, have even sold a few prints, so I’m okay with that. Maybe one day in the future I’ll think, ‘hm, maybe now…’ and be surprised, but more than likely I’ll get rejected again and delete them both from my browser favourites forever.

    This was a bit of a rant. Oh well.

    Jax x

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I enjoy your rants! You’re right, it is nice to feel shiny, but it’s an empty shinyness (if that’s a word), so there’s nothing meaningful about it. Comments and rants from friends are meaningful:)

  46. just stumbled across your blog.
    i too, have had the same thing happen with my food photos, and wondered why one site approves while the other one rejects the same exact photo. i’m glad to know i’m not alone. great post. kudos for sparking the conversation.

  47. Just catching up on some reading and came across this post… I have had many rejections and accepted pictures, so I know exactly how you feel. Though it is great to get accepted, and it does suck to have the rejections, I would encourage you to take it all in stride and be your own judge of what is “successful.” I am far from an expert, but I also think I have learned a lot over the past 2 years of cooking and taking food photos. I am always trying to learn more, and I do find that, more often than not, my rejections are well deserved (and I think sometimes that when the same picture is accepted elsewhere, it is the accepting that I question).

    I guess where this is going is that photography is very subjective, and, in the end, you have to take photos that you think are good… Accepted or rejected, you will know what is your best work. And, you may have a hard time coming up with something better than “composition” for the pictures that you don’t like. I know I do!

    Anyway… Just my 2 cents. Keep taking photos… Yours are definitely getting better all the time πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Thanks for your 2 cents! You pretty much summed it all up and even though photography is subjective, I will still take your compliment that my pictures are getting better πŸ˜‰

  48. Vino Luci Style

    You spoke for so many…I guess we don’t have to be toddler’s to want our ‘Why?’ to make sense; to be answered. Seeing ‘composition’ over and over…and yes, over, says little about our work. But…I had a moment, you know, one of those illuminating moments when I realized I don’t need a why; when the effort I make and the results I see show improvement I’ve decided to not rely on FG or TS to be my judge and jury. Whether or not they play favorites, whether or not they are too subjective – I’ve conspicuously chosen to not have them define me and my photographic results. I am much more pleased when I get great feedback from friends or readers; it’s more personal and much more meaningful.

    While I have seen huge traffic spikes from an acceptance at either site; I have never seen an equally representative number of new readers. So it’s a fleeting moment at best with no real longevity. I’ll continue to submit but, I’m not kidding…I presume a rejection so that an acceptance feels like a present…and who doesn’t love presents!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      You’re right, like others have said, the spike in numbers is nice to see, but I hadn’t thought about it until I saw the comments that it’s an empty spike. I’d rather 10 meaningful viewers than 50 that just drop in and drop out!

  49. I must admit that the first few rejects really hurt! But I really have developed thick skin and kept on trying anyway. I want to say that my “eyes” got better over time in term of being able to visualize food in ways that look appetizing to my readers. I still get rejects once in a while–sometimes the same picture gets accepted in one site and not the other. I am going to take the high road on this one and say that I have became a better food stylist and photographer in the process. But I don’t lose sleep over it anymore. Thanks for posting this subject πŸ™‚

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Exactly! As long as we’re challenging ourselves to get better, who needs the validation of some faceless person who may or may not even be a photographer themselves.

  50. The same thing happened to me recently where TS accepted and FG rejected. From my experience, FG has some pretty discerning editors.

    The funny thing is, I submitted the same picture again to FG and it was approved. I guess it all depends who is looking at your submission? Seems inconsistent to me.

  51. Lora @cakeduchess

    What a well-written post. I agree with all you’ve written and have had same experiences, maybe I should try and submit again? I gave up and focused on puttying together more recipes, posts, and meeting new blogger friends.

  52. I love this post and the comments too. Helps me know that I’m not alone. What do they say, misery loves company? No, no, no. We’re not miserable!

    I have gone through the same emotions as others here and I’ve finally arrived at this. I take pics that I love for my site. I find sometimes those pics get accepted by FG & TS (and sometimes both) and sometimes not. I still feel disappointed when they’re not accepted, but as long as I love the pic, that’s what matters. And I’m learning too. I’m lucky to have a husband who is a photographer and he gives me lots of tips and advice. What’s funny is even when he’s helped me and we both agree the pic looks great, they still get rejected by FG and/or TS (but most frequently by TS). And what can be more maddening is then I’ll see a very similar shot accepted on their site. That’s when I take a breath and KNOW the process is subjective.

    Yes, the traffic from these sites can be fleeting, but traffic is only one of the metrics I use to gauge my site. One thing I love about having a blog is the way it inspires me to grow in some ways and to learn new skills in others. It’s a wonderful way to live, don’t you think?

    Thanks again for this post. I enjoyed it and looking forward to more!

  53. I just read through this delightful conversation on a subject that’s so often debated on twitter (yes, I’m WAY behind on the google reader, I’ll blame the painkillers). You did a great job explaining your stance and kudos for re-entering the conversation with all your replies. I’ve been stung by both sites, but I just keep tweaking and trying, trying to learn as I go. I, too, think “amateur photographers” would cringe if they heard me call myself that, so I’ll stay away. Great job as usual!

  54. This is a great thread, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect time for me to stumble on it. My success rate with FG is A LOT lower than TS. I always get what I feel is the worst.critique.ever by FG – dull/unsharp. There’s something so personal about those words! lol

    In any event, Foodgawker called my recent plated cassoulet photos dull/unsharp, so I sharpened and brightened them and sent again, but same results – dull/unsharp. Soooo, I purposely over-sharpened one, to see if they were paying attention. It was so sharp it was absolutely awful..full of noise, and again, the rejection came back dull/unsharp. This photo was Andy Warholesque, cartoonish sharp, it was so sharp it hurt my eyes! Hmmm….

    Be that as it may, I will never have the type of photos FG looks for (well..until I move to a new place) because simply put, I have no natural light or tripod (I shredded the ligaments in my right knee partly due to a tripod, long story, but I just can’t go back yet..LOL), so I do the best I can with one Lowel Ego Light and pray for steady hands. Tastespotting accepted the photo, so at least I got a little love.

    Finally, I totally concur with the commenter who said the photos she expects to be accepted are not, and the ones she doesn’t like..are. Been there many times. I also nodded my head when Mardi mentioned being known as the ‘composition’ girl. Before I encountered this thread, I said to my BF, “I think they see my submissions and automatically think ‘It’s Lisa again, the dull/unsharp girl – UGH'”.

    Finally, after my plated cassoulet photos were rejected for the 8th time, my BF and I saw two new photos put up that were by far more dull/unsharp than mine – we put them side by side and couldn’t believe they were accepted by the same person who rejected mine.

    OK, off the soap box, felt good to vent πŸ™‚

  55. Foo-Dee

    I think it’s key to know that those sites are primarily about food styling and not about food, per se. There’s also a “trend” for foodbloggers to create photos that are high contrast and highly saturated (read: the food is digitally altered to look more colorful/vibrant than it can in real life) – and that’s what those sites tend to approve. When you submit photos that look natural and focus primarily on the food, TS especially will frown upon it; FG is slightly more forgiving. But, really, if you want to get approved more often, you would need to put less emphasis on making good food and more emphasis on putting it in an appealing setting and having everything look surreal and super vibrant. You could literally vomit into a pretty bowl, stick in on a rustic looking table and then put it in Photoshop to make the colors come unnaturally to life, and it would get approved before something edible and natural-looking would. Sucks, I know, but that’s the game.

  56. I have had tons of success with Tastespotting and Photograzing. But Food Gawker has NEVER even CONSIDERED accepting my photos.

  57. Of course it is “a subjective process.” Photography is art and cannot be weighed, measured or quantified. Don’t be discouraged. Some of your very best photos will be rejected and some of the worst accepted! Just shrug your shoulders and exclaim “It’s a mystery!”

  58. It was nice to see FG responding on this thread.

    I develop recipes, make cheese, create new food ideas, research and simplify difficult foods. My focus is not on the photo, but on being very creative and inventive with my food. However, in submitting photos to TS and FG, we bloggers find ourselves judged ONLY on the photo, and not on the food.

    I’ve had 49 photos accepted and 61 declined on Foodgawker, vs 48 accepted and an unknown number rejected on TS. I’ve worked my rear end off getting these accepted…. and it is seeming less and less worth it.

    On these sites, it’s possible to get your moment of fame (a few times, a photo was only on the front page of TS for literally 15 minutes!), but the traffic generated is generally very transient. Stats show me that there is very little lingering and exploring done by these readers; even fewer leave comments or become followers.

    Will FG and TS last? The sites now have thousands of recipes, which are hard to search; there is no judgment applied to the quality of the content, and so readers really can’t use the sites as a recipe directory. On these sites, a good photo of packaged food from the grocery is of equal value to a carefully-wrought recipe, expertly executed and documented.

    I think the sites will either have to change, or be replaced by sites that care about the food. In reality, there aren’t that many people out there who are simply food photography mavens. The readers hope to see something they’d like to eat, or even learn to make. I hope to still be around as this change occurs.

  59. love this post! i think TS & FG are one of the most frustrating aspects of food blogging. congrats of your determination and finally getting some accepted. that’s a huge accomplishment!

  60. Nice to see FG chime in here, and I will throw in my vote for the “been there and done that.” When I feel inspired or if I have a food image that I feel might make the “cut” then I will submit. But alas, it seems that my acceptance rate is about 1% these days.

    I did read an interesting post several weeks ago (forgot where) how the food blog would have someone else submit the exact same photo that was earlier rejected, but would be accepted when his friend submitted because he was with a firm that has a better reputation, so part of it also has to do with who you are, or who you know!

    And you’re talking to my heart here…
    One of my photos was accepted, for the first time, on TS (post #118,110).
    All of the rejections are keeping me going. I love to cook, write recipes, write food stories and take photos, but the thought of mastering EVERYTHING is so daunting.
    Stick with it, always, I’ll be there with you.

  62. Janna M

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and all the comments. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. Kudos to Chuck from FG for participating in the conversation.

    • Janna M

      I’ve got a little update. After reading all these comments I downloaded some free photo editing software and tweaked one of my latest photos with guidance from the rejection at Foodgawker. I resubmitted two more times and was finally accepted. I never thought to resubmit before. Also got added to Dishfolio this morning. Thanks again Ethan for starting this conversation. I went from thinking “what am I doing wrong?” to being able to correct it.

  63. Pingback: We’re All Pat On The Back Worthy | Tastes better with friends

  64. I’ve actually had one of those sites approve a photo once, and reject it when I submitted a 2nd time. (I switched blog names and accounts, but couldn’t have my posts transferred for some reason. I emailed them about it, but they never responded. huh.) In fact, I just tweeted this morning that its both deflating and motivating to get rejected so often from these big sites for “composition”. I’m finding I have better luck with tasteologie and photograzing, and they both generate decent amounts of traffic. I’ve found FG and TS to be horribly inconsistent, to say the least, but that doesn’t take away my excitement when they do approve a photo. I see 10 photos on their front pages right this very minute with the exact same ‘composition’ as the photo of mine that they just rejected, so what am I supposed to do with that?

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