Undercooked veg and blow dried cheese: Why food looks so different in adverts compared to real life

627 views 3:08 pm 0 Comments September 1, 2023
Pictures of burgers
Hungry? (Picture: Getty / Lara Jane Thorpe)

Have you ever wondered what makes burgers look so darn delicious in adverts, but a little lackluster under the florescent lights of your favourite fast food joint?

Well, wonder no more.

If you haven’t heard, Burger King is dealing with a class action lawsuit over claims it makes the famed Whopper burger appear larger on its menus than it actually is in real life.

Regardless of how this lawsuit plays out, it got us wondering what tricks of the trade it takes to make a good burger look great on camera.

Professional food photographer Lara Jane Thorpe tells Metro.co.uk that first things first, when taking pictures of food, using real, genuine food is the right way to go – rather than any fake stuff.

‘The best food photography comes down to the right light, the right angle and the freshest food possible,’ says Lara, who’s been a food photographer for 13 years.

‘I think today’s consumer is a lot more savvy about what they are looking at, more than ever before. They have the latest apps on their phone so understand what is real and what isn’t. So, photographing real food is the only way to go, in my opinion.

‘I think it’s fine to make that product look its best – and that is the photographer’s job to work in the best light, and at the best angle to make the burger look its very best – but not to lie to the customer.’

However, fast food can be something of a tricky beast.

‘The trouble with fast food burgers’, the 53-year-old explains, ‘is that the consumer receives the burger after it has been wrapped in grease-proof paper and sat on a hot rack.

‘By the time they eat it, the bun is soggy, the lettuce limp, and it doesn’t look how it was intended when it was first cooked or potentially photographed.’

As for what should be going on in the studio to make the food look its very best, she tells us the shot needs to be set up before the food is made, and that backdrops and probs need to be at the ready to help ‘tell the story of your food.’

When it comes to burgers, she explains: ‘First, you set your dish with base, burger and cheese.

‘Then using a kitchen blow torch, you melt the edges of the cheese, so it looks more appealing. If you don’t have a blowtorch then a hairdryer set on hot will also work.

‘Next you place the bun on top making sure the front sits higher at the front and lower at the back, this will give more emphasis on the exciting things inside the bun and not the bun itself.  Lastly, we don’t forget the lovely dribble of sauce using a small nozzle squeeze bottle to get the desired look.

‘Toothpicks are great for stacking items like burgers, she adds, ‘as they will help to keep things at the right angle when shooting.’

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What about making other types of food look amazing?

Lara says that, with meat and veggies especially, they’ll probably be a bit undercooked, so they look super fresh.

‘You’ll make sure you rest the meat on another plate with kitchen paper on before dressing your photography plate,’ she adds, ‘as this soaks up any unwanted juices.

‘When wanting to show off a BBQ, you can use a blowtorch to char the outside a little without losing the shape of your food.’

For that perfect, just-BBQed look, a trick is heating up a metal skewer to score the meat to give it those clean grill lines.

There’s even a trick for papping ice cream.

Lara says: ‘I have learnt over the years to let the ice cream thaw a little, which enables you to make the perfect scoop shape you require.

‘Then place the scoop on a tray and pop it straight back into the freezer until rock solid – this is best done a couple of hours in advance – then take it directly from the freezer when you need it on set.

‘It will take a lot longer to melt and give you a lot more time to get your photos right.’

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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