two great debates.

by Janetha on January 9, 2012

in deep thoughts

here’s a story.

my friend started jamie eason’s livefit trainer today. she has been texting me about it a bit.. asking questions, commenting on the program, you know. today she mentioned that the turkey meatloaf muffins she made were SUPER garlicky. i asked how much garlic the recipe called for.. and when she told me 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, i had to see that for myself. 2 TABLESPOONS of garlic powder seemed ridiculous.

i headed to, where jamie eason’s recipes are listed, and started perusing the recipes for turkey meatloaf muffins. side note: i did find her recipe and it did, indeed, call for 2 tablespoons of garlic powder or 2 cloves of garlic. i am sorry, but 2 cloves of garlic is nowhere near the equivalent of 2 tablespoons of granulated garlic powder. just, no. but that has nothing to do with my post. i just wanted to give you the background story of how i made a disturbing discovery today.

while on, i found another recipe for turkey meatloaf muffins. it was in an article that was a 1-week fit meal planner. i scrolled through the article and was shocked to see a photograph of some turkey meatloaf muffins that looked strangely familiar…


…the reason it looked so familiar is because it is MY PHOTO. from the first time i made my turkey meatloaf muffins back in march of 2010.

i was immediately filled with a range of emotions, the strongest being betrayal. someone had stolen something that was MINE and didn’t say a WORD about it. they posted MY photo and they were trying to pass it off as THEIR muffins.

after the initial wave of feelings, i started to get a little pissed. i realize that anyone can take anything from the internet and pass it off as their own.. and chances are, they will never get caught. but this was on! a huge website. and not only that, a website i frequent all the time. a website that i just dropped $72 on last night when placing an order for supplements. a website that i thought had a whole lot of credibility.

until i saw they stole my photo.

and were lying about how their recipes actually look.

i went to both facebook and twitter to complain about the situation. i emailed my contact at (because she is awesome and i knew she would help.. we have actually become great online buddies) and told her the situation. this wasn’t her fault.. but i am sure she hated reading my email explaining the situation since the responsible party was one of her co-workers. she apologized up and down and assured me the situation would be fixed.

sure enough, the photo was soon taken down and the article is still there with the recipe–just no photo. the funny thing is, this article that had my photo has plenty of recipes on it.  six, to be exact. and these recipes don’t have photos.. so what was the point of putting a fake photo of the meatloaf muffin recipe in the article at all? why not just skip the photo like they did with the rest of the recipes?? my mind is baffled.

now it’s night time. i have had all day to think about what happened and reflect on the whole situation in general. i am not mad anymore.. and i don’t even feel betrayed. i just am annoyed. and i have also lost a LOT of respect for one of my favorite websites. if they used a phony photo for one recipe, chances are several of the other recipes on their site have photos that aren’t actually of the recipe posted. the credibility for the food photography on just went straight out the window.. even IF any of the photos are legit. who’s to know?

this experience set my mind into a tailspin.

enter: two different debates.

debate #1: using food photographs that are of the actual recipe.

there are often times recipes i see online and then make.. and my version NEVER turns out like the photo. granted, this is usually due to human error, but it makes me wonder how many recipe photos were actually of the recipe listed. i know when i have seen really fat, fluffy pancake recipes online, i bookmark them because they look fabulous. and i assume they are really made using the ingredients listed. i know my pancakes from yesterday sure are. but sometimes i see recipes for protein pancakes that look RIDICULOUSLY fluffy and fantastic.. and i kind of wonder if they really were made using the ingredients the recipe lists.

for example.. i am now skeptical that this pancake recipe actually turns out like the photograph above the recipe:



i say that i am skeptical because i make a nearly identical protein pancake recipe and they don’t look like that. usually i would just think it was due to human error and differences in the cooking method, heat setting, etc, but now i wonder if the pancakes in the photo above were even made using the ingredients in the recipe at all.

ya know?

i then got to thinking about food photography and food styling. it is really common for food stylists and photographers to use items that aren’t even food AT ALL and pass them off as food in the photos.

a few examples i found after doing a quick google search:

  • using motor oil as syrup
  • using dish soap to make bubbles in coffee
  • placing a pencil under a hot dog to make the bun appear fuller
  • microwaved cotton balls stuffed inside food to create a “steamy” appearance
  • using shoe polish to paint grill marks onto meat

aye, aye, aye.

i knew this kind of thing happened in the magazine and book worlds of food photography. when i see new clean eating recipes in oxygen magazine, i wonder “how did they get that protein ice cream to LOOK like a legit ice cream sundae?!” um, because it’s probably not made from the real recipe. happens all the time in all of the magazines i read, i am sure. and, who knows, it could easily be happening on some of my favorite blogs. i sure hope not, because i think that those bloggers have a lot of credibility and actually photograph the food they make using the recipes they post.

moving on…

debate #2: when is it OK to post someone else’s photo and/or recipe?

if i had seen my turkey muffin photo on the article with a credit source to my recipe, i would still not have been okay with this. why? because the recipe listed wasn’t the recipe used for the photo. it’s straight up lying.

however, if my recipe was posted along with my photo AND the link back to the original post, that would be a different story.

there are a lot of different views on if it is OK to post another blogger’s recipe onto your own blog. i know i have posted photos that i did not take–like this post–but i always gave credit to the sources of the photos. also, if i am posting a photo that belongs to someone else AND talking about their recipe, i will never post their full recipe AND their photo. that is just taking their content and passing it off as your own.


however, if i make someone’s recipe and take my OWN photographs of the recipe, that is a different story. i love it when i see someone make my recipe, link back to my original post, and post a photo of how the recipe turned out for them. it’s part of the joy that comes with sharing recipes! that’s what we do. we share our recipes in hopes others will make them and enjoy them.. if we didn’t want our recipes to be made, we wouldn’t blog about them! we’d just keep them to ourselves, right? so when a recipe is made by a fellow blogger and they post their photos, experience, thoughts, changes, etc.. it is awesome to see the feedback.

here is where i stand on the debate, bullet style:

  • any photo taken from another website MUST have the source. i either do this by writing [source] by the photo with a link, linking to the original source on the photo directly (which makes it so when you click the photo it takes you to the source) or by stating the photo source at the end of a post.
  • any photo of a recipe taken from another website MUST have the source and you shouldn’t actually post the recipe! if you post a photo of the recipe that you got from the blogger and say something like, “i have to make this soon! looks so great!” with a link to the recipe, then that’s awesome.. it spreads the word about the blogger’s post and sends traffic their way. if you post the photo AND the recipe.. why would your readers bother clicking over to the site where you pulled the recipe from? they’ve got it in front of their face, after all.
  • if you make a recipe taken from another blog and made NO changes.. just say “i made this recipe” with a link to the recipe and a photo of how yours turned out.
  • if you make a recipe taken from another blog and make a few changes.. list the changes you made. if there are only one or two, i will typically say “i followed this recipe for the most part, except i subbed out this for that and that for this.” and then i’d include a photo of my version with a link to the original recipe.
  • if you make a recipe taken from another blog and make a whole slew of changes, i think it’s fine to post the recipe you ended up with, but make sure you say “recipe adapted from this one” or even if you got the idea from someone, it’s nice to say “recipe inspired by this one” with a link.

yep. those are my thoughts.

i would love to hear yours…

oh and by the way, i made sweet potato shepherd’s pie tonight.

IMG 9305

i followed my own recipe. i took a photo of the real food. that i actually ate.

IMG 9315

it may not be a glamour shot.. but hey, it’s a real recipe. and a real photo. and it really came from me. and it is really good.


1. thoughts on faux food photos?

2. thoughts on recipe reposting?

xo. janetha g.


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Tara @ Crock-Pot Ladies January 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

I wish my photos would come out as nice as yours so someone would want to steal them! lol But in all honesty, I would have been annoyed too and it is very simple to give a photo credit. I think many writers/bloggers are of the mind that they will drive traffic to that other site/blog. Instead of thinking, well hey if I make relationships with that blog it will help both of us.

As far as fake food -ick. That is the one struggle I have with blogging about food. I don’t have an expensive camera or equipment and I am going to have to upgrade as it is. I don’t need to be plotting what fake food I can substitute for my recipe to make it look photogenic. That kind of takes the fun out of sharing recipes.

Jenna Z January 20, 2012 at 10:37 am

Oh! I just thought of another pet peeve of mine. That calories counts on some of those recipes are SO FAR off base! Take the first recipe in the PDF for example:

There is no WAY 1 cup oatmeal plus 6-8 egg whites is only 140 calories. What are they smoking?? And that’s just one example of MANY, I don’t believe any of their nutrition information.

Janetha January 20, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Dude! I know what you mean. I made Jamie Eason’s chocolate protein bars and was skeptical of the stats listed.. I plugged the ingredients into my nutritional calculator and their stats were WAY off. People would gain a ton of weight if they were calorie counting and went off those numbers! Irritating…

ohkeeka [The Type A Housewife] January 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm

You know what’s really bizarre? I saw this article linked on BlogHer, so I clicked on over to read it. An hour later, I discover one of my photos AND recipes published on someone’s Squidoo page. So yes, I completely agree–use my photo and link to my recipe or remake my recipe and take your own photo, but don’t use both! The whole “Oh, this is the age of content curation!” thing is a lame excuse for people who don’t have the ability to create on their own.

Janetha January 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm

THat is so irritating! I am sorry you came across that. Did you take action against it?

ohkeeka [The Type A Housewife] January 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Yup, they took it down, although they maintained that they did nothing wrong because they said the photo and recipe were from my blog. But my understanding is that what they did was illegal, attribution or not, because they didn’t ask permission. (Although recipes can’t be copyrighted, photos definitely can be!)

I’m writing about my experience in a post next week & I’m going to link to your post. Thanks again for the great discussion!

Panfusine January 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Faux food photographs.. a strict NO NO.. What they see is what I eat.. (besides its always fun to eat nicely arranged portions of food out of the jazzy plates & bowls I reserve for taking pix!),

Recipe reposting… just because some one’s origina;l recipe didn’t appear in the New England Journal of Medicine or the Journal of Biochemistry does not mean it doesn’t deserve as much credit as original scientific papers. My take, LIST YOUR REFERENCES!! NO 2 ways about it!

3. May I repost this article on my food page please!

Janetha January 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I love photography dishes, too. I have, like, one of each thing. Haha.

Erica S. February 14, 2012 at 1:08 am

what a great post–i agree with you on this type of foodography etiquette!
i understand there are two schools of thought on foodography: on one hand, most bloggers (including myself) go for the natural route, eating everything they actually photograph. the 2nd group, which in my mind is the more packaging-label-advertisement-group (this may or may not be accurate, but it’s my perception) has no qualms in using those non-food tricks. those tricks really rub me the wrong way! thanks for sharing your well-articulated thoughts on this topic!

Lauren June 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I am just getting started out as a health coach and was curious about posting other people’s recipe on my website. Of course I would never want to make it seem like I was passing someone else’s great recipe off as my own, so thank you so much for this post! Now I know what to do!

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