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The Bizarre, Secret Food Photography Tricks the Pros Use

The Bizarre, Secret Food Photography Tricks the Pros Use


Using glue instead of Mayo, spray-tanning hamburger buns - these are the food photography tricks the pros use. Click here to learn more about the bizarre world of food photography.


Did that photo you saw in a magazine of a juicy, perfectly cooked burger or towering ice cream sundae made you want to reach right into the page for a bite?

Not so fast. If you knew all of the ingredients used in food photography you might just lose your appetite.

Just as a fashion photographer's job is to make a model look good, so too does a food photographer have all kinds of tricks up their sleeve to make food look good.

Like, for example, shaving cream, hairspray, and...tampons? Read on to learn about some of the weird and wonderful food photography tips that the pros use.


Cream That Doesn't Melt


Not all foods can withstand room temperatures and the heat generated from studio lighting. Whipped cream is a perfect example; it can wilt within minutes of being dispensed from a can. That can be a problem because photographing food can often be an all-day project to make each dish look perfect on film.

That's why ordinary shaving cream has become a favorite photo-friendly substitute when shooting pie and other desserts. It has a thicker consistency that holds up well under lights.

In fact, a lot of dairy products that you see in food photographs are often in reality made of an inedible material. The milk the cereal is floating in, for example, is most likely PVA glue. It does double duty: it won't make flakes soggy and droplets can be placed on specific cereal pieces.

Because glue can sometimes take on a blue tint, Wildroot Hair Tonic has been substituted for milk as well. It has the consistency of sunscreen that food photographers desire. Instant mashed potatoes can also be used to fill the bottom of a bowl, and the cereal pieces are pushed into this base so that they look perfect.


Tampons for Instant Steam


Because they're so absorbent and compact, tampons have earned a rightful place among food advertising tricks for creating instant steam. Food photographers will soak them (or cotton balls) in water, zap them in the microwave, and place them behind or underneath food where they desire a fresh-from-the-oven effect.


Totally Faking It


Sometimes food photographers will create a food dish that doesn't contain any edible ingredients at all. Such is the case with ice cream, which can melt in seconds. Food photographers can fake a bowl of the cold creamy stuff by mixing lard with powdered sugar and food coloring and scooping it into bowls.


Other Food Photography Tricks


Food photographers have discovered that there's a slew of regular household products that can be used to make food look tastier. Here's some of them:

  • Wax: melted to mimic sauces
  • Motor oil: makes meat look shiny and juicy while doubling as a shiny maple syrup
  • Antacid: helps carbonated beverages release more bubbles
  • Hairspray: gives a sheen to veggies and other foods

Now that you know a bit more about food photography tricks that professional photographers use, visit our blog to read about tips you can apply to product and commercial photography.


  • 12/1/22
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