Whenever I tell people I am a food photographer I usually get this response ” the food is fake right, you use glue for milk and plastic food?” While we do use tricks to make the food stand up and look pretty most of the time the food is 100% real. The turkey in the shot above is really a turkey. It is cooked by a professional “Food Stylist” so that it looks great. There are pins in it to prop up the wings, crazy glue to bind flesh and it’s practically raw, but it’s a real turkey. The rule is if it’s on set don’t eat it.
My job and the job of my team is to make food look good. There are guidelines I have to follow if I am shooting a specific brand. For instance, if I am shooting ice cream I actually have to use that specific product and represent it truthfully.
Recently I received a call from my contact at a very large company (I can’t reveal the client but let us just say it’s the biggest company in the world). I was working on a rebranding assignment for their house brand products. My contact started questioning me about the product used in one of the lines I was handling. Eventually, I asked what it was all about and she explained that the manufacturer doubted we used his actual product because it looked too good. In his opinion, we had to have used someone else’s stuff. I laughed and considered it a great compliment. After all, that is really my entire job description to make food look better than it’s supposed to.
Of course, I could not do what I do without a really dedicated and highly skilled team. My food stylists are amazing people who really are artists. They take a subject matter which is very difficult and do an inspiring job. My job is to light, compose and execute the shot using depth of field and other photo techniques.
The next time you see a photo of McDonald’s meal know that it’s real. Someone went through several hundred burgers, buns and bags of fries to find the perfect ones. Then a photographer used a very expensive camera to bring out the detail, lit it and made it look amazing. Obviously, when you order a meal in McDonald’s it looks like crap but it tastes good. My job is to get you to order it.
PS We do use glue for milk in cereal but that an exception to the rule. Generally, the food we shoot is real, just don’t eat it.