You know those gorgeous, mouth-watering photos that restaurants use to lure you in? Bad news: Your food probably won’t look much like that when it arrives on your table.
That’s because professional food photographers know dozens of tricks to make food look better—even if they have to add a few, ahem, special ingredients to get the perfect shot.
We exchanged emails with Albert Hakim, a photographer working at Laserwave Graphic Design Studio, to analyze some of the food photography tricks we’ve seen floating around the internet.
Hakim says that he prefers to work with real foods wherever possible. In general, it’s a safer practice—the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce,” so food photographers can’t go too far when staging their shots.
You can cheat in Photoshop, but it’s never the same.
If they’re taking pictures of a restaurant’s salads, for instance, they’re required to use the real salads that you’d get at the restaurant. However, that doesn’t stop them from getting creative to get the perfect photos.
1. That soup bowl isn’t what you’re picturing.
Ever notice how soup bowls seem to be brimming with vegetables and noodles? In real life, those veggies would quickly sink to the bottom of the bowl.
In order for food stylists to make it appear that toppings are “floating” on the top of a soup, they’ll often use another small dish turned upside down to create a platform. One soup manufacturer even used marbles, but that led to a costly lawsuit (since the marbles made the soup appear chunkier than it really was).