12 Food Photography Tricks Used in Commercials

Tricks photographers use while styling the food commercials that sometimes can be disappointing when you look at the food in real life.

The advertising world includes a lot of creativity, but regarding food commercials, there are many food photography tricks and techniques photographers use to make you taste the food from the pictures and cut off unwanted budget expenses.

Viral Strange has collected 12 tricks photographers use while styling the food commercials can sometimes be disappointing when looking at the food in real life.

1. ICE CREAM: mashed potatoes and hair conditioner

Freepik, Freepik

Ice cream is one of the most difficult foods to capture in pictures since it melts so fast. To avoid all the drama, photographers replace ice cream with mashed potatoes mixed with conditioner and coloring. It doesn’t melt and it looks real!

2. SMOKE FROM HOT FOOD: a microwaved tampon

StephenHamiltonPhoto / Youtube

Fresh from the oven! Well… At least, that’s what commercials want you to think. To create the smoke effect, photographers hit a tampon in the microwave and place it behind the food for a more dramatic look.

3. DELICIOUS BURGERS: stuffed with sponges and toothpicks

Jon_Hitchcock / Reddit, McDonald’s

I think our burger lovers will be disappointed. Sorry guys… You need to know that the technique used to make the burger yummier in the commercials is to melt the cheese with a hairdryer and make them bigger by using sponges and toothpicks to hold the ingredients in place.

4. YUMMY PANCAKES: filled with cardboard for height, and motor oil for the syrup

ihop / Instagram

The trick to making pancakes look yummy is by adding cardboard discs between them to create the height illusion. And, wait for it… Pancake’s syrup in commercials is actually motor oil! In that way, the food looks radiant during the photo shoot.

5. REFRESHING SODA: fake ice


The ice in drinks melts fast! This makes it difficult to shoot and get the right angle for the pictures to be used in the commercials. To avoid this, photographers use fake ice cubes.

6. BAKED CHICKEN: stuffed with napkins, and becoming golden from a detergent

Well Done / Youtube, Church’s Chicken

Ah! A tasty baked chicken! Who can pass on that? We have always seen these commercials that made our mouths water!
However, you should know that the chickens used in the commercials are stuffed with napkins to get that perfect volume.
Also, to get that golden color photographers usually mix a detergent with dye, and paint the chicken’s skin.

7. WHIPPED CREAM: shaving foam

Protex, DepositPhotos

I will never look at those commercials with inviting whipped cream, same as before!
Using whipping cream can be uncomfortable in a photography studio because it may easily fall apart.
To avoid that, creators use shaving foam because it is more durable.

8. GRILLED MARKS IN FOOD: made with a very hot grill

Maranda / Youtube, applebeesmxoficial / Instagram

Creators can achieve symmetrical grill lines by using a very hot grill.
However, if the food is already cooked, with not so symmetrical lines, they use a hot metal rod to recreate the pattern that the grill would do.

9. COFFEE FOAM: a mixture of milk and cream powder

Well Done / Youtube, Starbucks

Food stylists make instant coffee since it’s cheaper, then add chocolate syrup to achieve that enhanced color. After that, they add milk and liquid cream to make it thicker. For the foam, they use dairy food and powdered whipped cream in a milk frother.

10. RADIANT BERRIES: Use lipstick

Panera Bread

Berries are as healthy as tasty, but in ads, they have a more enhanced color. The trick is to use lipstick to cover the whiter spots or other imperfections.

11. FRESH FRUITS: sprayed with water and glycerin


To achieve that fresh and healthy look of veggies and fruits in the commercials, photographers mix 50% water and 50% glycerin in order for the drops not to evaporate quickly. Then they spray the mixture on the fruits and vegetables.

12. MILK: glue

We Eat Together / Youtube, kelloggsus / Instagram

How to not waste money on commercials? Use glue instead of milk!
The most common trick used on foods that need milk is using glue instead of milk so that the food does not sink, and you can take the perfect shot!

What do you think of these tricks? Have you ever been disappointed by a food commercial in TV? Let us know in the comments!

Written by DADADEL

Adelaida, the founder of Dadadel Creative, boasts a multifaceted background, blending expertise in software engineering, copywriting, and digital marketing. Prior to establishing her agency, she honed her skills as the former Head of the News Department at a regional media outlet, and also amassing 18 years of experience as a host. She has a penchant for sarcasm, a passion for lifestyle topics, and an undeniable love for cats.

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