The 7 Tricks Of Food Advertising

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Last time you picked up some food, more than likely it didn’t look like the ad. Before you go taking it out on the staff, you’ll want to know the truth – the food you order will rarely look like the food that’s being advertised. That’s because what’s being advertised isn’t what you’re really ordering. Sometimes the food in the ad isn’t even edible. Advertisers use tricks to make products more attractive and photo shoots easier. For instance, a company will skip the 8 hours of prep time for a Thanksgiving turkey shoot. Instead, they’ll take 10 minutes and a few tricks to make the best looking bird you’ve ever seen.


A good breakfast ad always features a large stack of juicy, fluffy pancakes. But when you order them, they typically lack the kick the original advertisement sold you on. Cardboard is added between each cake to make the stack appear larger. It also adds a small gap to make the cakes appear fluffier than they actually are.  The syrup used in pour-shots, may look delicious, but you’d die if you ate it. Photographers replace syrup with motor oil, as pancakes absorb regular syrup and motor oil won’t dry out over a long shoot.


Probably the biggest culprit on the list is the burger, specifically from fast food restaurants. We don’t know anyone that’s ordered a burger and said, “Wow, this looks just like the ad.” That’s because the burger in the ad isn’t the burger sold, and for good reason. With slightly cooked meat colored with vegetable oil, cardboard spacers, and an assortment of toothpicks and sponges to give the burger volume and hold the ingredients in place, you should be happy that Big Mac you ordered didn’t come with a mouth full of art supplies and splinters.


You can find a thin layer of wax on most fruit at the store. Farmers and grocery stores use wax to make fruit pop and appealing. It’s edible and shouldn’t be anything to worry about if you wash before you eat. However, you may want to stay away from the fruit used in advertising. Advertisers are known to use spray deodorant on fruits to produce an ultra shiny look our brains perceive to be “natural.”


Soups, gravy, sauces, and other thick liquids tend look thin and dull on camera. They also usually separate on longer shoots. What you see in ads is mostly melted wax. Once melted, wax is easy to mold and shape, allowing photographers to get the right texture and color for thick creaming sauces and soups. 


Everyone loves a good steak. That said, the cuts you see in ads won’t make you salivate, they’ll make you sick. They may look grilled to perfection, but they’re typically cooked in the oven to give a slight charred shade, leaving the middle nice and red. The grill marks are then painted on with shoe or boot polish.

Ice Cream

Next time you see an ad that makes you scream for ice cream, you should start mashing potatoes. Mashed potatoes, or corn syrup and shortening, can be dyed with food coloring to simulate ice cream. It has the same visual texture, but neither will melt under the hot lights of a photo shoot.


Ads always make a spoon full of sugar look delicious. But cereal tends to get soggy and sink to the bottom of the bowl. We’ve seen a few ways this can be done, but for the most part white glue is the perfect solution. Fill 2/3rds of the bowl with a spacer, pour a thick layer of glue, place the cereal and fruits, and start shooting. This could answer why some children eat glue in school.  

Every photographer has their own tricks and shortcuts to make a photo shoot go as smooth as possible. These are just a small handful out of the hundreds of ways you can make an average product pop on camera.

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