◊ 8 tricks of the food photography trade ◊

Did you know that brands can’t show fake ice cream in an advertisement, but if they depict a topping—such as whipped cream or hot fudge—then it’s OK to go faux?

Believe it.

There’s even more behind-the-scenes trickery to make the food that shows up on film look good—so good you can’t eat it (unless you want to swallow motor oil).

Here are eight marketing tricks of food photography, according to PixiqDivine Caroline, andPhotoble.com.

1.Motor oil. It’s used as a stand-in for syrups that aren’t photogenic. Might want to think twice about that stack of flapjacks—the ones in the ad at least.

2. Cotton balls. Not just for earaches anymore. Food stylists soak and heat cotton balls, dropping them in a photo to give a better illusion of steam.

3. Glue
. Given, I ate paste as a child, but that was a phase. In some shoots, food stylists use glue, whether in a glass or in a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.

4. Shoe polish. Hamburger cooked painted to perfection. Brown shoe polish is used to colorize raw meat so that it has just the right impression of a good, char-grilled burgers. Sorry, Weber.

5. Hairspray. On many photo shoots, it’s normal to have hairspray on hand—but even when the models are fresh produce? Evidently, it revives dried-out fruits and veggies, keeping them looking fresh from the first flash to the last.

6. Secret Deodorant. You ever notice that light dusting over “fresh” grapes in photos. Yeah, there’s a “Secret” to that. Spraying the fruit with the deodorant gives them the appearance of freshness, but if you eat it you’ll experience some serious grapes of wrath.

7. Mashed Potatoes. 
That ice cream sundae might look enjoyable, but mint chocolate mashed potato just doesn’t have the same appeal in the Baskin-Robbins’ test kitchen. In ads featuring ice cream, sometimes that bowl of vanilla bean is really mashed potatoes.

8. Glycerin. This colorless, odorless, clear liquid is used to give that freshly spritzed look. Whether it’s a $5 bottle of Andre or week-old seafood, a mist of glycerin and they become the finest Dom Pérignon and prized catch-of-the-day.

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