The folks at RocketJump Film School had a little bit of fun with food last month. Just before Thanksgiving, they gave us a peek at some of the weird tricks food stylists and food photographers use to make their meals look delicious (but taste gross).
Since the video was published right before Thanksgiving, they tackled a Thanksgiving meal, showing you how to fake a Turkey, Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, and Whipped Cream. The tricks they show are super useful, and applicable for a lot more than just a Thanksgiving feast. If you’re interested in food photography, we definitely suggest breaking out a notepad and pen, and taking some notes.
Cooked Turkey might look good… at first. But after a while, the skin will begin to wrinkle, you’ll get tears in that skin, and just in general it won’t look very good. Since a shoot could take a long time, most of the turkeys you see in those professional thanksgiving meal photos are actually still mostly raw.
Tears in the skin are fixed with superglue (yes, superglue), T-Pins are used to keep the skin from moving while it “cooks,” and they’ll superglue the wings to the side of the bird as well. After all this prep, the bird only cooks for 30 minutes before it is brushed with a “Browning Liquid”
This makes it look fully cooked and crispy and delicious. It’s not.
The Green Beans
These aren’t fully cooked either… I know, I was disappointed too. They’re semi-cooked, styled onto the plate, and then covered in hair spray so they look like they’re moist and shiny. This hair spray trick is applied to salads, lettuces, etc.
Surprisingly, the piece of butter on top is actually real, but food stylists prefer margarine for its color and how well it holds its shape. To get that melted look, they blast the margarine square with a heat gun right before they’re ready to shoot.
The Mashed Potatoes
On the bright side, the food on this plate is fully cooked and real. On the not-so-bright side, making it look perfect involves tampons.
Step 1 is to fill the bowl you’re using with gelatin so you don’t need to use as many potatoes. Then you layer the potatoes on top and make them look pretty by sprinkling slat, pepper, and green onions on top.
Where the tampons come in is creating steam. To make your dish look like it’s steaming deliciously, you can soak tampons (or cotton balls) in water and microwave them for a few minutes. Then you hide them inside or behind your food.
The Pumpkin Pie
Last but not least, dessert.
That whipped cream you see in pictures, sitting atop the perfect slice of pumpkin pie, is actually Barbisol shaving cream. Real whipped cream needs to be refrigerated and will melt over time at room temperature; Barbisol, on the other hand, looks JUST like whipped cream, but maintains its shape.
As for the pie itself, darker looking crust is often achieved by brushing on soy sauce.
And that’s it for tips on making your food look pretty and taste gross. What other food and beverage styling tips do you know? We’ve heard of a few common techniques, like using glycerine instead to fake water drops on a beer bottle, using a piece of wood to foam up beer, and using glass instead of ice cubes.
What’s you’re favorite trick?