Those Delicious Food Advertisements? Yeah, They’re Lying To You

Have you ever wondered why the burger you ordered looks so much less appetizing than it did in the photo on the menu? Well, that’s probably because the photo on the menu wasn’t actually a picture of a burger. The art of food photography is fascinating, and it’s a field in which most things are not what they appear to be.

Earlier this month, reporters at The Guardian spoke with several food photographers about their careers. They got them to spill the beans on how they make the food they photograph look so tasty.

1. Enchiladas



When it comes to photographing enchiladas, most food stylists actually use instant mashed potatoes as stuffing. This gives the enchiladas the appearance of being filled with delicious flavor. They then add meat to the ends to stay true to the food.

2. Steamy pasta

Steamy pasta


In the moment, it’s notoriously difficult to capture the natural steam that emanates from a fresh bowl of pasta, so food stylists use a variety of tricks to get the job done. Some use sticks of incense and then remove them in Photoshop. Others use cigarettes and clothing steamers. The weirdest method is to microwave water-soaked tampons and hide them behind the dish. Hungry yet?

3. Tacos



Nothing is more disappointing than receiving a poorly made taco when the picture on the menu looked absolutely glorious. Well, there’s a reason for that. Tortillas are often glued together and propped up with hidden cosmetic sponges in pictures. A trade secret to make the tacos look even more delicious is to coat them in WD-40 to make them glisten.

4. Ice cream

Ice cream


According to stylists, ice cream is one of the most difficult substances to work with. A favorite alternative that’s easier to capture on film is frosting mixed with icing sugar. In a pinch, vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, and corn syrup will do the trick as well.

5. Cooked turkey

Cooked turkey


Your Thanksgiving turkey never quite looks as delicious as the ones on TV, and there’s a reason for that. When these turkeys are photographed, they’re never actually cooked all the way through. Stylists only cook them for a couple of hours so that the outside looks crispy and appetizing. Inside, though, the bird is barely cooked. To get that signature glow, stylists often brush the birds with a mixture of water, dish soap, and a dark sauce called Kitchen Bouquet.

6. Cold beverages

Cold beverages


The sight of one of these babies will make you lust after something cold in the summer (which, of course, means that the stylists are doing their jobs). To get that look of condensation, stylists spray glasses with aerosol deodorant. Oh, and those ice cubes? They’re probably plastic.

7. Coffee



Coffee ads are some of the greatest out there, but they are founded on a bed of lies. Most of the coffee photographed in ads isn’t even coffee, since it’s so difficult to work with. Some recipes for photogenic coffee are made up of Kitchen Bouquet, water, and gelatin. Other stylists have even been known to improvise with soy sauce and gravy browner.

8. Cereal



I hate to break it to you, but the milk in the ads for your favorite cereals is definitely not milk. Some stylists use hair cream or glue in place of milk. This gives them the flexibility to shoot for long hours without the cereal getting soggy. Those who do use real milk in their shoots typically only use a tiny bit. Most of the bowl is filled with vegetable shortening, and a splash of milk is added on top for effect.

(via The Guardian)

Is it weird that I’m hungry right now? At least I won’t feel bad anymore when my food doesn’t turn out like the pictures in my cookbook.