Food Photographers are Tricking Us

With the explosion of food brands in the modern world, companies really push the boundaries when it comes to attracting customers. In this article, we reveal some of the commonly used food photography styling tricks, which takes picture and mind manipulation to a whole new level.

Food products which are featured in advertisements almost always look completely different from the food that the brand is actually selling. The truth however, is that, these exceptionally presented culinary delights we see in photographs and TV commercials are not fit to be eaten, and would be absolutely disgusting to taste.

The art of food photography is extremely technical, usually taking the stylists hours to create the perfect shot. All photographers make use of external factors, such as the height, angle, colors, textures, lighting, food placement, props, and backgrounds, to make the food look appetizing, and serving it in a way which flaunts the best features of the dish. However, some go even further, using some really weird, yet creative food photography tricks, which stretches the limits to just how far manufacturers can go in order to bring in more buyers.

Cereal Advertisements

Real milk makes cereals such as cornflakes very soggy, really fast, which does not look appetizing in the least. One option photographers use is to substitute the milk with cream or yogurt, which is slower in making the cereal soggy. However, in some cases, white glue is also used, which is lovely to look at, but surely inedible.

Hot Food

If a brand is marketing hot food, the advertised food items have to look hot. No one likes cold meat. The best way to display that a food item is hot, is by showing lovely curls of steam billowing off the product. However, photo shoots are really long procedures, and keeping food perpetually hot is near impossible, without compromising on the appearance. So, to get around this problem, stylists soak small sponges, tampons, or cotton balls in water, microwave them till they get steamy, and skillfully hide them behind the food product, just before taking the picture.

Juicy, Meaty Steaks

Making a steak appear thick, juicy, and pink after cooking it properly is very difficult, as heat tends to dry out and shrink the product. So, if a brand is advertising a steak or hamburger, the meat is first carefully seared on the outside using a blowtorch. Following this, grill marks are added by using a branding iron, and to get a convincing finish, marmite, shoe polish, eyeliner, or wood varnish is applied to give the meat a nice succulent color.

Super Burgers

Advertisements of major fast food brands, show burgers as massive, upright towers of succulent ingredients. To attain such a structure, one of the commonly used tricks is to skillfully slip in sheets of cardboard between the product, which keeps the burger upright. Along with this, they also strategically place toothpicks and pins through the burger, which keep the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc., in place.

Stylists also painstakingly glue sesame seeds to the bun, using tweezers, and melt the cheese carefully at the edges in exactly the way they want it. The sauces are strategically squeezed in with a syringe. Tweezers are also used to arrange the noodle placement and curvature when photographing Asian dishes. The cardboard trick is also used when photographing other layered items, such as cream cakes.

Delectable Flapjacks

Almost everyone loves to see a large stack of flapjacks, just oozing with maple syrup or honey. However, food photographers face a major problem here while taking pictures. This is because, the flapjacks are porous and absorb all the syrup. To stop this from happening, stylists spray the flapjacks with an aerosolized form of fabric protector. Also, they might substitute the syrup with motor oil, as maple syrup does not look as good on camera.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Often, fruits and vegetables shown in photographs and TV commercials have a lovely matte look to them. This symbolizes freshness in the mind of the consumer. However, the reality is that, to achieve this look, photographers have to spray the fruits liberally with deodorant or hairspray. These sprays are also used to keep cakes and other confectioneries from drying out under harsh lighting.

Cold Food Items

If you are seeing a product which is icy cold on a professional photo or on a TV advertisement, it is most probably covered in a spray of glycerin. This is because, glycerin is commonly used to provide a glossy, shiny look to any product, like cold drinks, seafood, or fresh salad leaves, which gives the appearance of moisture.

Ice Cream

A look at the above ice cream might make you want to jump right in. However, even these delicious scoops might have been made using some ingenious fake food advertising tricks. Since real ice cream melts really quick, mashed potatoes are colored with food dye, and scooped to play the role of ice cream. Photographers are also known to use small pieces of paper towels on top of the ice cream, which help hold the syrups in place. Alternatively, ice creams can also be made from fat and powdered sugar.

Apart from ice cream, mashed potatoes are also pumped into chickens and turkeys with a syringe to make them look plump, or they might be disguised as pie fillings to give the pie slice a sturdy structure.

Super Cheesy Pizzas

One of the most common tropes used by pizza brands is to show a slice of pizza separating from the main pizza, while long, stretchy, strands of cheese ooze out from the side. To actually have this happen, photographers overload that particular slice with a lot of cheese before it is cooked. So, when the slice is taken out, it looks much more delicious than the rest of the slices, giving an illusion of excess for the entire product.

Aerated Drinks and Milk

No form of aerated drink looks good without an overabundance of fizzling bubbles. To get the drinks churning and bubbling, photographers add a small piece of an antacid tablet, into the bottle or glass. On the other end, dish soap is added to a cup of milk or coffee to give larger surface bubbles. This produces the illusion of the milk being freshly poured.

For all of these food products, only the best ingredients are selected out of a collection of hundreds or thousands of specimens, and extreme care is take to get the proper shape and size of the product. This professionalism and care is glaringly missing from the real product which is sold to consumers. As you can see, food brands use a wide variety of extremely misleading, professional food photography tricks. However, this kind of unethical food porn deserves to be made just as taboo as actual porn, if not more. We have to remember, there is no scope for change without the active participation of conscious consumers.