The aim of food photography is to show people what they’ll be getting when they buy a certain meal or product.

People often claim that the way food is marketed is misleading–we’ve all been disappointed by the reality versus the advert at a fast food restaurant–but there are several reasons why food stylists and photographers use the tricks that we do.

While we try as much as possible to use the real ingredients and not to be misleading, there are certain tricks of the trade that we use to enhance the look of the ingredients within a photoshoot environment.

Improve the visual freshness of food

Unfortunately, the reality of photoshoots is having food sat out for many minutes or even hours at a time, often under hot lights. If you try to do everything the way you’d do it at a restaurant, the food can end up looking pretty unappetising.

We’re looking to show you the food that you will receive, not to a meal that has been sitting out in a hot studio all morning. Using cooked ingredients that have cooled is a good way to help the dish to look appetising, as they still look the part, but won’t make the other ingredients soggy.

Another trick is to use PVA glue instead of milk or cream. The thickness means that foods won’t sink too much or soak it up, creating a better appearance. The glue also isn’t too runny, so it will stay in place if you pour it over a bowl of strawberries.

These tricks help to prolong the visual freshness of the food for longer, giving us more time to get the shots we need without prepping a dozen versions of the same dish.

Show consumers exactly what they’re getting

When you see those photos of burgers or sandwiches with each different ingredient poking out in a tantalising way, chances are it’s not going to look like that when it arrives. Food stylists often create height between layers using cardboard, or hold ingredients in place with toothpicks.

The reason we shoot like this is to show the consumer exactly what they are getting. Often, the sauces and ingredients are hidden away inside the burger when prepped for consumption.

If we took a photo of a ready-to-eat version that’s just come out of the kitchen, you would mostly just see the bun and the patty. By taking the time to separate the layers and arrange the ingredients in a way that they can be seen clearly, we can better market the dish to consumers.

Take a look at this stacked sandwich that we shot, using these techniques to create an impossibly tall and extremely tantalising product. You would never receive this exact creation at a restaurant, but doesn’t it make your mouth water?