Have you ever looked at a food advertisement and wondered just how perfect the food is? After all, you can never seem to get it right whenever you snap a food photo. The lighting is off, the layers are wrong, and the frosting looks horrendous… there are so many ways to get poor food images.
Over the years, we’ve experienced people taking food photography as a career. We also discovered that foodies or budding chefs had sought advice on this genre. So we’ve compiled a list of the secrets from some of the top food styling magicians. Discover the secrets that make food sell!
Secrets Behind Stunning Food Photography
1. White Plates Supremacy
When you’re plating a dish, people usually don’t care about the plate as long as the food tastes good. It doesn’t affect the flavor, whether it’s your grandma’s precious china or paper plates. However, it’s an entirely different story for food photography. Food photographers generally use white plates to display their dishes. Why?
Let’s say you are painting. Usually, you prefer to draw on anything white since it’s clean, unmarked, and won’t distract from the exhibit. It’s the same for our delicacies. Food served on matte white dishes will make it look heartier, bigger, flavorful, and more filling. On the other hand, if the item you are preparing is white, switch to off-white plates with an ornate design.
2. Motor Oils
It may sound wild, but motor oil is a stand-in for unphotogenic syrup. When we pour our syrup, cakes, or desserts, they absorb them and turn soggy. Try seizing a photo at this stage. You hate it, right? If you don’t want to repel your customers with food photography, use motor oils, as these oils have a rich color, and thick consistency and are simply non-absorbent. You can drizzle them over your desserts in large amounts and still have a luscious meal right in front of your eyes. These oils also work great when you are snapping action photos. To ensure the ambiance matches the food, photographers will also implement AI-driven background removal tools like autoRetouch to automatically eliminate the unpleasant background from the food snaps.
3. Fruits Are Colored With Lip Pigments
If you’re thinking only females wear lipstick, you are wrong. That’s because the different shades of lip pigments are highly used in food photography. Why? Well, think of it. When you want strawberries as your cake toppings, they don’t look succulent enough on cameras. Often the bright red will seem dull, the skin will be patchy, and they might lack freshness. To the average customer, it’s no big deal. But when it’s about getting a money shot, color is everything. So, photographers use lipstick to paint paler areas for a uniform appearance and color. Further, food photographers also use a lemon water bath to prevent cut fruit or berries from browning.
4. Painted Chicken
Who doesn’t love grilled chicken or turkey on their table? Whether roasted turkey or a chicken, golden skin is what everybody aims for. But in reality, grilled chicken takes a dark brownish texture. So for perfect photography, shutterbugs usually use a rarely cooked chicken and sear the skin with a blowtorch for a cooler and crispy appearance. Then they add a little paint or burnish for the extra glistening. Canadian teak furniture stain is usually the favorite among photographers.
Another gross fact about photographing chicken or turkey is stuffing them with paper towels. This technique bulks up the birds and helps them look bigger.
5. Hot Food Shot Cold
Typically, the hot soup or coffee will have been sitting for hours before they are photographed. So, it gets cold and doesn’t give off the piping hot vibe. So how do photographers capture the swirl of steam? Easy. They can add artificial smoke during the post-production stage. However, the added wheel may not always be perfect. The solution? Soak cotton balls or tampons and microwave them for a minute. Once they are all prepped, place them behind the food and photograph them. This will give a long-term sizzle to the dishes.
6. Cold Food Shot Warm
Photographing billboard-worthy images can take an entire day or more. So what happens when you try to shoot something cold like ice cream? These creamy delicacies are a nightmare to capture in a studio as they collapse easily under lights. Unless you opt for a refrigerated unit, you’ll have to rely on a mixture of corn syrup, powdered sugar, food color, and vegetable shortening. Most photographers today use mashed potatoes as an alternative to ice cream. Turns out that if you stuff mashed potatoes in a cone, it’s the exact image of ice cream.
7. Cakes Are Spray Painted
Well, a beautifully decorated cake is a feast for the eyes. If you are at a wedding and see your dream cake, that’s a sign of a good baker. But for food photography, it’s an entirely different story. We hate to burst your bubble, but most decadent cakes you see online are slathered with highly toxic spray paint. These paints are used to give the cake a color pop. Some cakes will also feature lush frosting with whipped cream. However, whipped creams get runny eventually. So food photographers actively use shaving foam, which somehow looks more appetizing.
8. Plastic Ice
Remember the refreshing icy cold smoothie you saw in a leaflet last week? Don’t you just want to grab one on a hot summer day? Sadly, there’s no fighting the heat in food photography. So, the simplest way to capture those refreshing drinks is by swapping the natural ice with fake plastic ice cubes. They are not making anything extraordinary, but they look incredible on camera. And the worst part? The drink itself is not natural. Whatever you see in the picture is a modified version of thick gel infused with colors. This adds to the vibrancy of the photo and holds ice in place. After that, the glasses are sprayed with corn syrup and water for condensation.
So there you have it. A list of some of the prominent secrets of food photography. Now you know the tricks behind the chain of seductive food photos. Food is the most challenging aspect of photography. Hot meals cool down, vegetable wilt, moist food dries out, fruits turn brown, etc. But determined food photographers battled these challenges with a bag of extraordinary tricks. And if you are one of the enthusiasts, explore the realm of food photography!