11 Food Photography Tricks for Mouth-Watering Pictures

The Federal Trade Commission Act’s ban on deceptive advertisement does not mean that photographers should not get creative. The Act only requires that the subject of the ad should be real and allows food stylists to include props and ‘ingredients’ for a perfect shot.

As a photographer, it is your job to ensure that meals look as delicious as possible in photos so as to promote sales. However, there is a very thin line between deception and marketing, so you should be careful not to cross it. Below are eleven acceptable food photography tricks that will set your photos apart from the rest.

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1. ‘Wholesome’ Milk

glue for milk, one of the most common food photography tricks

Cereal looks soggy when mixed with milk. Therefore, you have to use food photography tricks and ingredients such as hair products to make them stay and appear crisp for longer. Some stylists use white hair cream such as Wildroot while others prefer white glue, a more old-school method. Alternatively, you can fill the bowl with vegetable shortening then cover it with a small quantity of milk. The result is the whole bowl looking like it is filled with cereal.

2. Raw ‘Crispy’ Birds

Whole roasted chicken with vegetables, on wooden table, on brown background Whole roasted chicken with vegetables, on wooden table

Birds look better in photographs when they appear to be crispy. However, it is almost impossible to produce a bird that is crispy on the outside but still moist inside. That is where food photography tricks come in handy. Since the focus is on aesthetics, do not need to fully cook the birds.

Instead, roast a few birds for a short while then settle on the one that looks plump, moist, and juicy. Thereafter, stuff your bird with wet paper towels to prevent extra crispiness and pin down their skins so as not to tear. Lastly, brush the birds with a mix of Kitchen Bouquet, water, and dish soap to achieve a brown, glistening look.

3. ‘Juicy’ Burgers


Burgers take a few minutes to get to get to the plate but hours to prepare for a photography session. Not because they are cooked better but because it is a painstakingly long process to make them look good enough for the camera.

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For starters, you should sculpt cheese to make it look wonderfully melted instead of crusty. Also, use syringes to apply ketchup on burgers to achieve the mouth-watering perfect drizzle. Lastly, use tweezers to meticulously place sesame seeds on the burgers. That is why burger outlets use the same bun as those on photos but real burgers never look as good.

4. ‘Fresh’ Berries

fresh berries

You cannot achieve your aesthetic goals if you use frozen fruits. Therefore, rinse the berries in cold water then add lemon juice or a substance known as “Fruit Fresh” to brighten up the berries when they are not in season. Also, use aerosol deodorant to spray seasonal fruit to give them a frosty condensation appearance.

Alternative food photography tricks include using glycerin to make larger droplets. Lipstick also helps to make the berries appear fresher than they do in real life.

5. ‘Refreshing’ Ice Cubes

artificial acrylic ice cubes

Real ice works just fine if the photographer can produce an excellent shot in less than five minutes. But, real ice melts before most can get the right angle. To spare yourself from the rush, use glossy plastic cubes to convince consumers that all they need is a chilled drink on a hot and humid day.

6. ‘Charming’ Drink Splashes

splashes in a glass

Have you ever wondered why soda splashes in commercials look like hypnotizing liquid shows? Well, sometimes photographers use plastic-constructed splashes. Simply put, you can fashion out plastic to look like a drink splash and then photograph it. If you want to use the real products then ensure that you have access to ultra-fast cameras and natural lighting.

7. ‘Bulky’ Enchiladas

two enchiladas

South-Western cuisine is not very photogenic and enchiladas are the worst of them all. Nobody wants to order soggy enchiladas that look like the sauce is bleeding into the beans so stylists modify their appearances for the camera. You need to stuff the enchiladas with mashed potatoes to give them the appearance of bulkiness then use a heat gun to melt the cheese perfectly on top.

8. ‘Not-So-Messy’ Tacos

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Despite being a delicious mess, everyone loves tacos. But, no one would buy them if they are presented in their real form. That forces stylists to employ several food photography tricks to make them more presentable. You need to glue two-tortillas together then ‘bulk them up’ using cosmetic sponges hidden behind the meat. Kitchen Bouquet is used to paint the meat pieces for a dark, juicy look. Additionally, use the WD-40 spray to make tacos glisten and red peppers instead of tomatoes for a vibrant coloration. Corn syrup poured on beans make them look fresher and moister than the real deal.

9. ‘Smooth-Looking’ Coffee

Coffee is very difficult to work with. That is because the foam quickly evaporates in cappuccino and latte and black coffee’s oily sheen makes it possible to produce high-quality shots. Gelatin, Kitchen Bouquet, and water give coffee a smoother look while drops of soapy water and an eyedropper simulate fresh brew. Additionally, you can use watered-down soy sauce in place of coffee altogether, and piped soap foam to achieve the top foam.

10. ‘Frosty’ Glass

soda and ice

Stylists do not stop at using substances such as food coloring and water to create ‘booze’ or ‘soda’. Actually, the most important part of drink advertisements are the visual cues. Bubbles, froth, and fizz give the ‘drinks’ a more refreshing look. You can use a mixture of glycerin and Scotchguard to give sodas an icy-cold look complete with beads of condensation. Spray-on deodorant comes in handy when you require frost on beer mugs.

11. ‘Steamy’ Meals and Pasta

steaming Italian spaghetti

Most often, food cools before the photographer does his/her thing. Stylists would then use burning incense sticks placed behind the subject. In pasta, you can remove the unconcealed parts of the lit incense sticks using Photoshop. But the most effective method for pasta is placing steam chips wrapped in tin foil inside the pasta the adding water to create vapor. You can sometimes use cigarette smoke if the situation allows, but the most surprising is water-soaked tampons (or cotton wools) heated in a microwave.

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Summing Up

It takes lots of food photography tricks for food photos to make it to TV screens or magazine covers. As a food stylist or photographer, you should try as much as possible to emphasize an ingredient’s beauty, the same way make-up artists make models dazzle. It takes hours, even a full day, to create those amazing photographs that make mouths water and lure customers into restaurants. Therefore, you need to be very patient. Importantly, in order to be successful in the business, you need to be meticulous and very attentive to detail.

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