Have you wondered how milk in that photograph on the cereal box looked so thick? How is white glue for an answer? How about that syrup on pancake photograph? Does motor oil sound good? There are many such examples of dirty tricks used in professional food photography. Now after knowing this, how tempting does the photograph of the pancake or that milk bowl with strawberry become?
I feel very strongly about these dirty tricks that some food photographers use to get a "perfect" picture. I feel that using fake food to make a photograph look pretty is like creating an illusion of something that doesn’t really exist. Using fake food and these tricks seem like misrepresentation and cheating with the audience of the photograph.
Oh! But Its Just Like Real
How about this – say you buy a photograph of Eiffel Tower for your living room. You hang it in the room only to be told by one of your guest that it is not real Eiffel Tower, its from Paris – Las Vegas hotel. Would you feel cheated? Well it looks just like the real one, and there is no way to be sure of the difference between the real and fake, unless you are an expert on Eiffel Tower. I would bet most people would have a problem will getting a fake Eiffel Tower photograph in their living room, after buying it thinking it was real. Then why should you accept fake food photograph.
Now some may argue that this is no misrepresentation, its just a replacement and real food can be used just like the fake one. We may even hear them say that, this is not cheating and that all this does is give a small advantage, like more time to photograph that fake ice cream which otherwise would melt quicker. Sure, use a mashed potato for ice cream but then don’t call it ice cream, call it just that – two scoops of mashed potato.
Some may even point out that fake food is more convenient to shoot. Sure, but so is the fake Eiffel Tower for those living in United States.
Food Photography Principle
I use a simple principle while photographing food – "If you can’t eat it, don’t use it." After you are done with the photo shoot, if you (or someone) won’t be able to eat that food or an ingredient in that picture, don’t use it. Here, it is not about using or not using edibles in food photograph. This is about what you put or use in the food and its recipe. In case of ice cream, even though photographers use mashed potato, which is edible, would you eat mashed potato as an ice cream (Never heard of ice cream that looks, smells and tastes like mashed potato, have you?) The idea here is that while shooting a dish, use only ingredients and styling that would naturally go with that dish.
This is the principle I strongly believe in and will stand by it. If in future, if you see me violating this principle, do call out and shout out so that I can get back on track.
Are you okay with using these tricks to make your food look pretty? What are your thoughts?