Food-pics: A database of free images of food for experimental research

The Story:

2014: Jens Blechert, Adrian Meule, Kathrin Ohla and Niko Busch, developed a freely available database of food images and associated normative data for the study of eating and appetite. 
Much research in this field is relying on visual stimulation with food images using methods such as EEG, MEG and fMRI. These neurocognitive methods are sensitive to visual properties such as complexity, brightness, contrast, etc of the images. Likewise, food composition is now understood to modulate neural responses. Therefore, we included data on calories and nutrients in the image database. Also subjective evaluations such as liking (palatability) and wanting (desire to eat) are important parameters that vary with age, body weight, gender and culture. To facilitate informed decisions during selection of food images we provide normative subjective rating data for European and North-american populations of different age ranges, BMI classes and gender.

2018: As some users have expressed interest in an extension of the database to include a more international selection of images, we asked our users to contribute to food-pics. Several colleagues* did so, thanks for your openness and support!   By using their copy right free images and by editing and standardizing them we were able to extend food-pics by further 328 images. These are at your disposition now with associated image properties  like color, size, contrast and complexity (further image parameters will possibly follow in future) under the old licence. Of course again with the request to cite us and and to spread the word.
If you are missing something, or you have suggestions for further images please send them to us (we will analyse image properties for you to allow you to compare them with food-pics images and redistribute them to other users)

More details:

Today, contains 896 photos displaying food items with simple figure-ground composition, including sweet and tasty foods, high and low calorie, warm and cold dishes, processed and raw foods. It also contains 315 comparable non-food images. Example images for food and non-food categories here

The following attributes are specified for each food picture:
  • Nutrients: mg of protein, fat & carbohydrates, kcal
  • Rating data (palatability, desire to eat, complexity, recognizability, valence, arousal by  almost 2000 participants from German speaking countries and North America)
  • Image properties: R/G/B values, brightness, contrast, complexity (edge detection), luminance, spectral power. Matlab scripts here.

Terms of use:

We provide the data base free of charge on the basis of a license agreement completed by the supervisor/PI/Professor of a work group using the pics. He/she would be responsible for the use of the food-pics in the work group in  keeping with the licence agreement. This is relevant for issues such as storage on shared network spaces, instruction of present and incoming students regarding licence content.

Reference and Citation:


In a recent publication, the age appropriateness of food-pics was tested:
Jensen, C. D., Duraccio, K. M., Barnett, K. A., & Monroe, K. S. (2016). Appropriateness of the food-pics image database for experimental eating and appetite research with adolescents. Eating Behaviors.

Other research using food pics:
  • Prada, M., Rodrigues, D., Garrido, M.V., & Lopes, J. (2017). Food-pics-PT: Portuguese Validation of Food Images in 10 Subjective Evaluative Dimensions. Food Quality and Preference. html / pdf
  • Höchenberger, R., Busch, N. A., & Ohla, K. (2015). Nonlinear response speedup in bimodal visual-olfactory object identification. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1477. html / pdf
  • Nook, E. C., & Zaki, J. (2015). Social Norms Shift Behavioral and Neural Responses to Foods. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(7), 1412-1426. html
  • Domachowska, I., Heitmann, C., Deutsch, R., Goschke, T., Scherbaum, S., & Bolte, A. (2016). Approach-motivated positive affect reduces breadth of attention: Registered replication report of Gable and Harmon-Jones (2008). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 67, 50-56. html
  • Ulrich, M., Steigleder, L., & Grön, G. (2016). Neural signature of the Food Craving Questionnaire (FCQ)-Trait. Appetite.
  • Ulrich, M., Endres, F., Kölle, M., Adolph, O., Widenhorn-Müller, K., and Grön, G. [Epub ahead of print]. Glucose modulates food-related salience coding of midbrain neurons in humans. Human Brain Mapping.
  • Ulrich, M., Lorenz, S., Spitzer, M. W., Steigleder, L., Kammer, T., and Grön, G. (2018). Theta-burst modulation of mid-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex affects salience coding in the humen ventral tegmental area. Appetite, 123, 91-100. html / pdf
  • Meule, A., Kuebler, A., & Blechert, J. (2013). Time course of electrocortical food-cue responses during cognitive regulation of craving. Frontiers in Eating Behavior, 4, 1-11. full text.
  • Meule, A., Hermann, T., & Kübler, A. (2014). A short version of the Food Cravings Questionnaire – Trait: The FCQ-T-reduced. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. .html
  • Meule A, Lutz AP, Krawietz V, Stützer J, Vögele C and Kübler A (2014). Food-cue affected motor response inhibition and self-reported dieting success: a pictorial affective shifting task. Front. Psychol. 5:216. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00216. .html
  • Blechert, J., Goltsche, J.E., Herbert, B.M. Wilhelm, F.H. (2014). Eat your troubles away: Electrocortical and experiential correlates of food image processing are related to emotional eating style and emotional state.Biological Psychology, 96, 94-101. 5y-IF 4.3 .pdf
  • Blechert, J., Naumann, E., Schmitz, J., Herbert, B. M., & Tuschen-Caffier, B. (2014). Startling sweet temptations: hedonic chocolate deprivation modulates experience, eating behavior, and eyeblink startle.PLoS One, 9, e85679. IF: 3.73. .html
  • Meule, A. & Kübler, A. (2014). Double trouble. Trait food craving and impulsivity interactively predict food-cue affected behavioral inhibition. Appetite, 79, 174-182. .html
Example method section describing the use of food pics can be found here

To gain access click here (registration, license, download).


* Many thanks to our food-pics_extended contributors:
Loïc P. Heurley, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Nanterre, France
Jang-Han Lee, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea
Gal Sheppes, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Loukia Tzavella, Cardiff University, Wales, UK
Olga Pollatos, Universität Ulm, Ulm, Germany
Vaibhav Tyagi, Plymouth University, Devon, UK