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10 Secret Techniques of Food Advertising Few People Know About

A tasty hamburger, ice cream, or a cold soda have been craved more than once after seeing them in commercials. But then comes the disappointment when we realize that the real product is not what we were shown. The secret behind this deception is called food styling, and it’s a technique used by photographers to make us taste through our eyes.

There are many tricks and time spent to show the best versions of foods or drinks in commercials, and we at Bright Side want to reveal some of them.

1. Burgers are stuffed with sponges and toothpicks.

Burger lovers know very well that they look big and appetizing in commercials, but the reality is very different.

To make them look tasty, ad professionals use a technique that requires melting the cheese using a heating device, like a hairdryer. They also put sponges inside hamburgers to make them look taller and toothpicks to hold the ingredients in place. The final touch is the oil, which creates the illusion that the meat is juicy and freshly cooked.

2. Ice cream is actually mashed potatoes and hair conditioner.

Ice cream can be one of the most stressful foods to photograph, as it falls apart before you find the perfect shot! But to avoid melting in anger, professional photographers found a way to work with it while on the clock: ice cream is replaced with mashed potatoes mixed with conditioner and coloring, which makes it look real. And best of all? It doesn’t melt.

3. A microwaved tampon is what you see as smoke from hot food.

A widely used resource to give the sensation that food is fresh out of the oven is to heat a tampon in the microwave and place it behind the food so that the waves of smoke are seen. An example of this is what a food photographer did when he had to capture a stuffed potato, which he also moistened with steam to give it more shine.

4. Pancakes are filled with cardboard, and the syrup is motor oil.

Pancakes can be both sweet and savory. The secret to making them look so delicious in promotional photos is adding cardboard discs between them so that the tower appears taller. Motor oil is also poured on them to keep the food from absorbing it as it would with regular syrup. This also keeps the syrupy pancakes looking bright and gooey throughout the photoshoot.

5. A refreshing soda often has fake ice.

Taking pictures of food is no quick task, as finding the perfect shot and getting all the details captured in the best way requires many hours and dedication. But meals naturally don’t have as much time — for example, the ice in drinks melts in a matter of minutes. Therefore, prop ice cubes are recommended to avoid this problem.

6. Whipped cream is replaced with shaving cream.

Some beverages or slices of cake with cream are always a good idea, but both are very perishable in a refrigerator, let alone a photography studio.

To avoid having the bad experience of it falling apart or melting under camera and studio lights, one graphics center recommends using shaving foam instead of real cream, as it visually looks better and is more durable.

7. Grilled food marks are made with a very hot grill.

In real life, grilled food can be perfect in taste, but hardly appealing in appearance. But in the world of food styling, it’s possible to achieve perfectly symmetrical grill lines. According to a food stylist, you can use a clean, oiled grill and set the heat to the maximum to make the marks more intense.

If the food is already cooked but the lines are not attractive enough for a magazine plate, stylists pull out their secret weapon and mark their products with a charcoal starter lighter or a hot metal rod to imitate the grill pattern.

8. The color of berries is perfected with lipstick.

Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are as tasty as they are attractive, but in commercials, they always look much brighter than when we buy them at the grocery store. The secret? Lipstick. It’s used to cover white spots or any imperfections the berries may have.

9. Fruits are sprayed with water and glycerin to make them look fresh.

The fresher a fruit or vegetable is, the healthier and more appetizing it will look. To achieve this, photographers often mix 50% water and 50% glycerin in a spray bottle and apply the mixture to their fruits and vegetables. The latter element is used so that the drops don’t evaporate quickly. In fact, they remain intact until you wash them.

10. Milk is replaced with glue.

Although commercial photos of milk bowls may be attractive with their cereals and fruits, the reality is you will be far from wanting to eat any of it.

photographer showed the most normal trick used to portray this food, which consists of, first, making a simple dough of flour and water as a base to fill the bowl. Then add white glue instead of milk so that the cereal doesn’t sink and stick together, giving the photographer more time to find the perfect shot.

What is a food you saw in an advertisement that disappointed you in real life?

Please note: This article was updated in July 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
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