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Secrets of Food Stylists

A lot of people commented on a recent Neatorama post Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality. Apparently, there are "food stylists" whose job is to make food look attractive for ads.

And they've got special "techniques" to do just that:

Besides choosing and arranging food, they sometimes use special effects techniques. They include:

* using tobacco smoke to give the appearance of steam
* spraying food with hairspray to hold it in place
* arranging mashed potatoes to look like ice cream
* painting cooked meat
* cereal can be photographed with white glue instead of milk, because the cereal does not get soggy quickly and the flakes stay where they are placed
* vegetables that appear to be cooked are raw and touched with a blowtorch and coated with glycerin to make them appear cooked
* ice cubes are hand-carved acrylic
* alcoholic beverage shots have water added to them to make them more transparent so the backlighting will work better

Oh, and the Dagwood-worthy sandwich pictured above? Matt Armendariz of MattBites can tell you the secret: Link


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I read an article a long time ago about this. For fried chicken commercials, they inject mashed potatoes into the drumsticks to make them look uniform and larger.
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There's a company in Baltimore who's entire purpose is to manufacture food, all molded plastic essentially. It's realistic enough to standup in those buffet cases or Chinese food joints.

And yeah, my wife used to go on food shoots for ad work too. The stuff they did/do to make it look appealing is pretty cool, and entire science & art industry for faking it.
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As I understand it, only the food which is being advertised has to be real. So, if you're advertising cereal, the "milk" can be white glue, but the cereal has to be the real product.
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I thought that after the 70s they instituted rules for food photography where the food still had to be edible. It didn't have to be the actual ingredients, just edible. Could be wrong.

There's also a big difference between showing food in a movie or tv scene and its representaion in advertising, where there has to be some connection to the actual product.

I was originally a film major in college and the film dept. head was world famous for his ice cream commercials. I believe he had the Knudsen contract for, like, 20 years. We watched a 2 hour making-of doc on how to photograph ice cream. Not as sweet as it sounds, but still interesting.
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