This is question we've asked ourselves a few times as we've flipped through cookbooks. Do we gloss over text and gravitate towards the recipes that are pictured? Does it make us more wary of trying a new recipe if we can't see what it looks like in the end? All of the recipes here at the Kitchn come with photos, of course, but that's not always the case, especially on the web.
Cookbooks, magazines, and websites are all over the place. There's Cook's Illustrated, which sticks to its black-and-white format, no splashy color photos. Their illustrations fit nicely with their mission, though; they break down recipes and evaluate each step and ingredient like scientists, so the erudite aesthetic kind of works. Plus, their recipes come with exhaustive instructions.
With cookbooks that only picture a few recipes for each chapter, we do tend to focus on those that are shown. And we think pictures are especially important on some websites, where you aren't exactly certain where a recipe came from or who's recommending it. While we know the recipes on the new website Cookstr (which we wrote about here) are from chefs, it's still frustrating to click on one that sounds promising, only to get a stock picture of a bowl of lemons or a single artichoke.
Overall, we think it depends on the recipe. Something pretty straightforward that we're familiar with? No picture necessary. Something exotic or involving a tricky step? Photos, please. And we definitely prefer photos with baked goods, since the browning of a crust or the consistency of a frosting is better seen than read.
What about you?
Related: Food Photography: Tips for Newbies