Random Things You Can Use to Make Food Photos More Appealing

There’s a reason that most of the foods you buy never look like the photos used to advertise them. Food photographers and stylists have all kinds of random tricks up their sleeve for making food items look picture perfect. Here’s a list of various household products that are commonly used to make dishes look more appealing. A warning, though: you might lose your appetite.

  • Antacid is dropped into soda to create fizz and bubbles
  • Boot polish is rubbed onto char-grilled foods to make them shine
  • Cardboard is placed inside of food such as hamburgers to give it more volume
  • Colored waxes can be melted to look like various sauces
  • Cotton balls can add warmth to your meal. Soak them in water, microwave them, and place them behind foods for some instant steam.
  • Dish soap is mixed into drinks to create surface bubbles
  • Fabric protector is sprayed onto pancakes to prevent them from absorbing syrup
  • Glue can be used as a replacement for milk for foods like cereal
  • Glycerin is coated onto seafood to make it look juicier. It can also be mixed with water to make longer-lasting drops.
  • Hair spray can be used make dried-out foods look fresh again
  • Incense sticks can be used to add steam to shots
  • Laquer is painted onto rice to make the grains shinier and less sticky
  • Lemon extract can be used to remove the blue letters and numbers printed on food bottles.
  • Liquid glucose is mixed into noodles to make them look hot and fresh
  • Mashed potato is used as a replacement for ice cream due to the fact that it doesn’t melt. Color it to change its flavor. It can also be injected into meat to give volume, or stuffed into a pie to allow for picture perfect slices — just make sure the edges are covered with actual filling.
  • Motor oil is used as a replacement for dull-looking syrups due to the fact that it shines in the light.
  • Plastic ice cubes replace real ones due to the fact that they don’t melt
  • Shaving cream is used instead of whipped cream because it’s less runny and is easier to shape
  • Spray deodorant is used to make certain fruits (e.g. grapes) shine
  • Toothpicks are used to prop up food for better angles and increased volume

There you have it: a list of random tricks and secrets used by food photographers. If you know of any that aren’t on this list, please leave us a comment and we’ll add it!

Sources: Quora, Pixiq, DivineCaroline, Photopoly, PR Daily, Food Photography Blog

Image credit: From a food styling class with Matt Armendariz of by Emily Cavalier

  • Ole

    My old boss have a muffin that looks good and ready to eat, and it is 7 years old. :-)

  • Spider- Man

    Dry ice to produce steam from inside food

    Wood stain to add colour to turkey and other birds

    Heat guns to cook outsides of food so you don’t have to cook the whole thing

  • Dave

    Smoke does not look like steam, therefore the incense thing is not a great idea. We tried it years ago using cigarettes and the look just failed.

  • Brian Poulsen

    - Soldering iron to make dark stripes on grilled food.
    – Polish glass in silicone to make water drops stay.
    – Sugar in old beer makes nice bubbles in the liquid.

  • Chris

    Corn Syrup… great for water drops that last not hours but forever! It can also be used to keep meats looking freshly cooked.

  • DEM

    I still love that this is yet further proof that photography is all a lie :P

  • spenno

    Aren’t there rules about using inedible substances in food styling now?

  • NDT

    There are hundreds of tricks to make food look photo-shoot fresh, but the most effective by far is having a highly skilled food stylist cook and build the food to look its most appetising, and shooting it quickly before it starts looking old.

  • Kirsten

    Not on my food blog. We eat what I shoot!

  • christinakennon

    you take cigar smoke, and puff it through a straw. pull away, snap pic

  • Mansgame

    Isn’t there some sort of law that if you photograph food in advertising, it has to be the actual food you’re serving? This was the case for the McDonald’s behind the scene food photography video that was posted last month at least.

  • Yoga

    what is antacid?? what is the function in real world ??

  • Brin de cuisine

    On my blog, all food is wysiwyg, that is one of my guidelines

  • Mark Astle

    In the eighties maybe. The fashion now is to keep the food as real as possible. People don’t use these ‘tricks’ any more.

  • Cousin of Bob Loblaw

    The U.S. government has regulations about “truth in advertising,” which means that you need to show the real product. The surrounding food can be fake or modified, but not the product you’re selling

  • Mansgame

    Seriously? It’s substance that neutralizes stomach acidity to provide relief for those with Acid Reflux (GERD) or other stomach issues (Think Tums). It acts quickly but doesn’t last long so the next step is an H2 blocker like Zantac, Pepcid, etc. It acts relatively quickly and blocks about 30% of your stomach acid and for most people it’s enough and lasts for a while. Those with severe GERD need to get a proton pump inhibitor such as Nexium, Protonix, Prilosec, Prevacid, etc. which blocks about 90% of stomach acid for 24 hours at a time (takes a few days to take effect fully).

    Hope that clears it up.

  • Bujo

    What’s your blog?

  • Bujo

    What is your blog?

  • Chris

    Either you are trying to be sarcastic (which you failed at miserably) or you need to learn to use Google instead of wasting people’s time with pointless comments.

  • Michael Visser

    A few of these things are true, but mostly this list is either out of date or just dead wrong (the best fake ice cream is made of crisco and icing sugar). I shoot a lot of food and you can eat almost everything I shoot except ice cream and turkeys.

  • Daniel Wesser

    Now I want to know what happens to turkeys.

  • Daniel Wesser

    I think I’ll print this and post it on my shelf in the fridge.