7 Gross Secrets of Professional Food Photography

We use sawdust in our shredded cheese, animal skins for jellies, and whale vomit for pricey perfumes, so it’s hardly surprising that some really gross photo-taking practices produce many of the sumptuous food ads we see every day. Can you guess the stomach-turning secrets adding ‘oomph’ to these foods?

1) Steaming Salmon

salmon steam - pixabay free

The Secret: Wet Tampons

tampon - wiki comm -pub dom

Nothing looks as great as a steaming plate of food – unless the vapor is from a microwaved tampon. Yes, even piping hot salmon cools too quickly, so for that added burst of steam, zap that tampon and tuck it behind your food item. Mm, yummy.  

2) Bulky Burger

burger bulky - pixabay free

The Secret: Cardboard Sheets

cardboard - pub dom

Burgers in ads often seem full-to-bursting, and it may not be from the meat. Cardboard pieces slid between patties help give a quick bulk-up and make for better pictures. The bigger the better, right?

3) Syrupy Pancakes

pancake syrup - pexels free

The Secret: Fabric Solution and Motor Oil

water repellent

Images belong to Brocken Inaglory and Dvortygirl

Pancakes are a literal wet-blanket, soaking up syrup before you can snap that rich brown waterfall. So what’s the solution? Fabric solution. Simply spray on that water-repelling chemical, and switch out syrup for a healthy dose of motor oil.

4) Luscious Ice-cream

ice-cream pexels free

The Secret: Mash Potatoes and Lard

mashed potatoes

Images belong to Rainer Zenz and Nate Bolt

Real ice-cream changes rapidly from ‘cool’ to ‘pool’, leaving very little time for pictures. To avoid screaming (in frustration) for ice cream, some photographers ditch the frozen dairy for a stable mix of mashed potatoes, lard, sugar and food colouring. Ewww.

5) Crispy Cereal

cereal - pexels free

The Secret: Glue


Image belongs to Kulmalukko

Cereal, plus real milk, plus time, equals oatmeal. In the crusade for that perfect crispy shot, photographers have worked with various milky alternatives that do not make cereal soggy, including white glue, shortening, and even hair cream.

6) Glistening Steak

steak - pixabay free

The Secret: WD-40WD-40

Image belongs to Zoofari

When your steak needs that perfect honey glaze, there’s always household lubricant. After all, oil for the spring is sauce for the wing (as long as you’re not eating it).

7) Smooth Coffee

coffee - pixabay free

The Secret: Soy Sauce and Soap Bubbles

soy sauce

Image belongs to MOs810

A beautiful cup of java is actually a tall order, but with soya sauce you can nail the look every time. Pour some in a cup, garnish with soap bubbles, and prank your mom – I mean, enjoy a spitting image of a cuppa joe. Don’t forget to hold your nose.

Gross food photography probably won’t stop people from eating out, but one change is for certain: we can – for the first time – take comfort from this ad disclaimer: “visuals shown are for illustration purposes only”.

Thank goodness.

PNG Image “Top Secret” belongs to Willscrlt

By Vincent Tan