We have all been seduced by the big budget fast food restaurant commercials and advertising photographs. Everything looks so great and delicious it is as if that succulent burger is popping out of the screen and calling your name. If temptation can’t be fought and you find yourself at that same burger restaurant that was advertised, you quickly realize that the burger you saw on TV definitely does not look the same as the one that you just ordered and is now sitting in front of you. There is a reason for this. Advertisers go to great lengths to make you want their products. So with that in mind, let’s look at the top 10 tricks that make fast food look amazing.
10. Bubbles in Your Soda
That perfect looking bubbly cold soda in any commercial looks so refreshing. With bubbles flowing and dew drops dripping down the side of the glass this would make anyone want to take a big swig and quench their thirst. The only problem is that this refreshing looking beverage would probably not taste very good, would not be cold and would probably not even contain any real bubbles. Trickery is used all the time to make everyday products look perfect on camera and soda is definitely not exempt from this rule. As you’ve probably noticed, after a while of a soft drink sitting in a glass, the bubbles start to disappear and the drink goes flat. In order to get past this problem during long photo or video shoots, the people in charge need to make a dew changes to the drink to make it keep those perfect bubbles for hours on end. They do this by throwing some antacid pills into the drinks, which is a type of medication usually used to treat stomach acidity problems such as indigestion and heartburn. The mix of carbonated drinks and antacids causes a chemical reaction that allows bubbles to form and keep the drink looking fresh throughout the shoot. So these cold soft drinks might look delicious, but I’d avoid ever trying to drink them if you ever find yourself on a commercial shoot set.
9. The Shoe Polish Burger
There are not a lot of things that look more appealing than the ideal burger. Now we’ve all been in this situation before. We see the fast food commercials and are in awe at how great everything looks only to be rather disappointed when we go to the restaurant and order the same meal we saw advertised. That perfect juicy hamburger you saw in the advertisements is now a sad looking patty on a soggy bun. What happened here? How come the burger I just ordered looks nothing like the one I saw on TV? Well the reason is that the burger you saw on TV would probably kill you if you ate it. Burger patties in advertisements always look so much better than the ones we see in real life after ordering our favourite fast food hamburgers. To achieve this, people behind the scenes coat nearly raw patties in the commercial with a brown shoe polish and draw on grill marks. This coating allows the meat to appear much juicier than it would be if you actually cooked it. So next time you see that hyper-juicy burger on TV, just remember that that’s actually just a slab of raw meat dressed up to fool you into craving it.
8. What’s In That Cereal?
Everyone knows that horrible feeling of having your cereal sit in the milk for a bit too long and having it go soggy. And almost immediately after pouring milk in, the cereal starts to sink down to the bottom of the bowl. However, in cereal commercials we’re presented with delicious crunchy cereal effortlessly floating on top of the milk in perfect form. Unless these photo or video shoots were all completed in approximately five minutes each, it would be impossible for the cereal to stay in this shape throughout the entirety of the shoot. So how do they get the cereal to stay looking so fresh? In order to get the perfectly placed dry cereal we see in commercials, there’s actually no milk involved at all. Instead, white liquid glue is used in its place. The glue makes it much easier to place the cereal in the places you want it to be, and the cereal will remain floating on top instead of sinking into the liquid and getting all soggy. Sometimes other things like a white shampoo will also be used as a replacement for milk. Whether it be glue or shampoo though, both are definitely not for human consumption and I’m sure those beautiful cereal bowls look a lot less appealing in your eyes now.
7. Is that food really hot?
Foods in advertisements always looks like their fresh out of the oven, with a beautiful cloud of steam coming out of the top. But as we know, these products couldn’t possibly be that fresh during long hours of filming so the people behind the scenes need to come up with some original ideas in order to make it happen. Steam in advertisements needs to look perfect and not turn the food into a soggy mess so it’s crucial to do it right. There are multiple ways to do this and some are slightly stranger than others. One of these methods is to use a steamer one would use while ironing clothes. This is commonly used while shooting liquids like soup because it does tend to make foods look soggy and unappetizing. Another interesting technique used is to heat up a cotton ball or a tampon and hide it behind the food so it looks like the steam is coming from the food in front of it. The cotton stays steaming for a few minutes and doesn’t cause the food to become too moist, so it’s perfect for photo or video shoots. There are also some custom steam tools created by photographers in order to get the perfect steam that they want, such as tubes that run behind the food being photographed.
Have you ever baked a cake and then had it look nothing like the image that was on the box? Cakes in advertisements always look so perfect, and nothing like the crumbling mess some of us get when we try to bake one at home. Or have you seen a commercial for a sandwich that looks a million times better than the one you ate a lunch? Nothing in advertisements is ever crumbling or looking soggy. This is because a simple trick is used in order to make these layered food items stay looking perfect throughout the shoots. These perfect looking cakes and sandwiches are created with the help of some thin pieces of cardboard. For cakes, cardboard will be placed between the tiers and then covered with icing to give the illusion of a normal iced cake. This allows the cake to stay dry and not absorb the moisture from the icing like it usually would. In sandwiches and burgers, smaller pieces of cardboard can be placed in between the layers of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, so that it will give more height to them. This is how those sandwiches in ads always look so freshly made. So while this technique makes food look great, it’s better not to take a bite of them because you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.
5. How That Ice Cream Doesn’t Melt
Ice cream is the perfect cold treat for a hot day but a hot day is also ice cream’s enemy as the sweet treat tends to melt quite quickly. A melted bowl of ice cream is not the most appealing and when you’re shooting a commercial or doing a photoshoot with tons of bright lights around it can be extremely difficult to get good shots of the ice cream before it melts so other things must be used in its place to get an “ice cream” that stays looking perfectly frozen for hours on end. According to Hollywood food stylist (yes that’s a real job that exists), Janice Poon who is known for working on creating the various dishes on the NBC show Hannibal, there are a variety of ways ice cream can be replicated out of non-food items, but when it’s in a situation where an actor actually has to bite into the ice cream, the most common replacement is to use mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes are simply coloured with food colouring and then molded into the proper scoop formation before acting as a perfect unmeltable, edible replacement ice cream. Even though cold mashed potatoes are not the most appetizing, it still sounds better to bite into than some of the previous tricks on this list.
4. Blow Torches
Everybody knows that cooking takes a lot of time and effort. Even if what you’re making doesn’t take the most time to actually cook, you still have to prepare all your tools at the beginning and clean everything up at the end, which can be quite energy consuming. And some foods like those beautiful Thanksgiving turkeys for example can take up to 6 hours to cook. Food photographers simply don’t have this kind of time to sit around and wait for their food to be prepared for the shoot, so they have to come up with another solution. Probably one of the most commonly used tools in the food photography world is the blow torch. Instead of wasting time cooking a huge turkey for an ad for example, a completely raw turkey will be used and simply painted with some sort of varnish and then gone over with a blow torch to cook the outside skin slightly. This allows the turkey to stay looking fresh and juice, but give off the appearance of being freshly cooked when it really wasn’t. Blow torches can be used for other foods too like grilled or roasted vegetables, melted butter, and creating grill marks on meats.
3. Oil Will Always Work
Pancakes shown on TV are always so much more beautiful than what we dream of making at home. Just watching that moment in a commercial where someone pours syrup over a tower of perfectly bronzed pancaked makes us want to get up off the couch and make some for ourselves. But once you actually do, no matter how good those pancakes taste, the look of them is never quite as perfect as those ones you saw in an ad. There are a couple of tricks used in commercials to make pancakes look delicious, including using the cardboard trick we talked about earlier, to make the stacks look as high as possible. The other trick used is slightly more unnerving than the first though. Believe it or not, that delicious thick syrup being slowly poured over a stack of steaming pancakes isn’t actually syrup at all. In fact, it’s not even anything remotely edible. That sweet syrup is actually the same motor oil you put in the engine of your car. This is used because motor oil doesn’t soak into pancakes like syrup does, so it lets the pancakes stay looking light and fluffy instead of soggy. This allows the photographers to take as much time as they need to finish the shoot without worrying. And while this might look great in the commercials, it’s probably better to keep motor oil away from anything you’re eating.
2. Keeping That Fruit Looking Fresh
Fruit in advertisements always look like they were freshly picked from a garden right outside the studio. A bundle of grapes or a red apple will always look so much more beautiful in a photo than in real life. They’re always shining and have a perfect coat of moisture over them, but when we purchase fruit at a store, it looks much drier. Because fruit doesn’t naturally stay in this state of freshness for very long, food photographers have to come up with some interesting tricks to give the illusion of freshness. To do this the fruit must be coated with something you probably wouldn’t have expected: spray on deodorant. Though it sounds pretty gross, it gives fruit that perfect shimmering, fresh looking outer layer and it stays there longer than if you simply sprayed some water onto them. Along with fruit, this technique is also used on things like glasses of cold drinks, and anything else that needs to look slightly frosted on the outside. This allows food photographers to get the best looking results in less time than it would take them to actually freeze water on to the products. So you’d probably be better off not crunching into that shining apple, no matter how appetizing it looks.
1. Ice Cubes
Now that you know soft drink bubbles are made out of antacid pills and that those beautiful frosted glasses are actually just coated with spray deodorant, it’s time to get into another trick used when it comes to taking photos or videos of cold drinks. Commercials are an expert at tricking us into thinking that the cold drinks we see on TV are refreshing. The drinks are bubbling, the sides of the glass are covered in condensation, and the drink itself is filled with cold ice.Photo or video shoots are usually quite long so how could it be possible that these drinks contain such perfect looking ice cubes? Just like how ice cream can be made out of mashed potatoes in order to not melt on set, ice cubes can be made out of different materials too. Fake ice cubes that look just like the reals ones can be purchased at certain specialty stores, or you can make them at home pretty easily. Just buy some clear crafting beads from an art store and place them in an ice cube tray before melting them in the oven and then letting them cool into the shape. That way, the photoshoot can go on as long as it needs to and there’s no need to worry that the ice will melt and ruin the presentation of the drink.