Motor oil, dish soap, body spray, glue… A list of stomach-turning ingredients that go into styling and glamorizing food for drool-worthy photographs
BY STELLA KING
Have you ever tried photographing the perfect hamburger? Or a ball of freshly-scooped ice-cream on a blisteringly hot day? As any stylist will tell you, photographing food is an extremely challenging business that calls for endless creativity and out-of-the-box genius ideas to achieve a visually-arresting image that teases with the promise of mouthwatering good taste.
To make the job even harder, a standard of caution was set when the Campbell Soup Company got smacked on the knuckles by the Federal Trade Commission for photographing their soup with glass marbles inside to make the liquid look chunkier….(genius, right?)
Today’s top stylists now have to work overtime to find ways in which photos can be composed with real ingredients, using as little artifice as possible.
But that said, food presentation still has to depend on some unusual devising and brilliant creative minds to make the perfect pic. Read on, to know a few interesting ways food has been prettified in ads and media images that will make you think twice before salivating over the next gooey, chocolatey, sinfully syrupy, caramel-laden dessert you see in your favorite glossy magazine.
WIERD STYLING TRICKS THAT MAKE FOOD LOOK GREAT IN PHOTOGRAPHS
COTTON BALLS TO MAKE HOT FOOD AND BEVERAGE STEAM
♦ ♦ ♦ Balls of cotton wool, when soaked in water and microwaved, can produce steam for several minutes. Food stylists often hide these balls strategically during a shoot, to create plumes of steam coming off coffee, soups etc.
WHITE GLUE INSTEAD OF MILK
♦ ♦ ♦ That’s not real milk in the cereal bowl! It’s Elmer’s white glue, diluted into a perfect pouring consistency.
DISH SOAP TO MAKE A FAKE HEAD OF FOAM
♦ ♦ ♦ Natural foam disappears off the top of freshly-poured drinks so quickly that dishwashing soap is used to maintain a thick head of attractive bubbles in glasses and cups. For particularly frothy beverages like beer and milk, shaving cream is mixed with dish soap to give a lifelike thickness to the bubbles.
SESAME SEEDS ON HAMBURGER BUNS
♦ ♦ ♦ Nothing’s random at a food shoot, and that goes for burgers as well. In addition to the fact that hundreds of hamburgers may be needed to get that one perfect shot, each individual sesame seed `sprinkled’ on top of a hamburger bun is painstakingly glued on with tweezers by the styling crew.
CARDBOARD TO MAKE A PANCAKE STACK
♦ ♦ ♦ To keep pancakes from going limp, cardboard is used between layers to prop up the stack. They’re then sprayed with a water-repellent like Scotch Guard to smoothen the flow of syrup.
MOTOR OIL TO MAKE FAKE BLOBS OF SOUR CREAM
♦ ♦ ♦ Those perfect dollops of sour cream you see in photos of baked potatoes and tacos, or even the ball of whipped cream perched atop a dessert is made by mixing motor oil with the cream.
ROAST CHICKEN PLUMPED UP WITH PAPER TOWEL STUFFING
♦ ♦ ♦ It’s a common practice among food stylists to `plump’ up a whole roasted chicken with wads of paper towels or fabric softener paper packed into the bird’s cavity.
JUICY STEAKS THAT ARE RAW INSIDE
♦ ♦ ♦ Delicious steaks with an appetizingly roasted appearance are probably raw inside. The meat surface is colored and blowtorched to achieve a desirable brown-orange, toasty look. Now you know why it’s so difficult to replicate that same look with meats cooked at home…
ICE-CREAM SCOOPS FROM MASHED POTATOES
♦ ♦ ♦ Real ice-cream would be a nightmare to work with under hot, artificial studio lights. To get around this problem, food stylists often use colored mashed potato to make mouth-watering scoops that holds their shape for lengthy periods of time.
DEO SPRAY GLOSS ON FRUITS/VEGGIES
♦ ♦ ♦ Fruits and vegetables are given a high gloss with a generous spritz of deodorant spray. Several layers of spray also create a build-up that resembles the cold sweat that forms on the surface of chilled produce.
BERRIES WEARING LIPSTICK
♦ ♦ ♦ Berries become extra vibrant with a coating of red, orange or pink lipsticks. Coloring each individual berry with lipstick also conceals nicks, bruises and discolorations on the fruits.
FRUIT FUZZ WITH ANTI FUNGAL SPRAY
♦ ♦ ♦ To make the natural fuzz on fruits like peaches look fresh and thick, a generous layer of anti-fungal foot spray is liberally coated on.