From McDonald's Canada, a brief but entertaining glimpse into the specialist world of food photography and food styling.
By chance, a shoot for a burger ad is one of the few food photography shoots I've personally witnessed, and the video here understates the amount of styling that goes on by a considerable degree—although I'm sure it isn't deception, just narrative compression. You wouldn't want to sit through all the time this actually takes. At the shoot I saw, the stylist sat next to a giant stack of plastic trays full of buns, and as she patiently inspected one after another after another, she flipped the rejects briskly over her shoulder. Behind her was a small mountain of rejected buns. She must have gone through a thousand buns to find the four or five "stars" needed for the shoot.
That was B.P., of course—Before Photoshop. Maybe they don't need to go through nearly as many "prospects" now. James B, who sent us this link, said "depending on your point of view, this is either an informative look at how the advertising industry intelligently offers information on a product (in this case, the ingredients), or a cynical attempt to completely disguise the sad reality of a MacDonalds cheeseburger."
Plus, if you don't already know, you can find out from Hope Bagozzi how our Canadian friends say "out" and "about." :-)
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ed Hawco: "The 'ad vs. reality' shot you show here is itself a bit of a deflection from reality. The 'real' burger on the left is not unappealing, all nicely lit and obviously handled with care, unlike the sad lumps you find at the bottom of a paper bag after you leave the drive-thru. A 'real' burger is usually slapped together carelessly, squished into a paper wrapper, and then mashed into a bag with a bunch of other stuff. By the time you unwrap it, it's twisted and limp, sweaty from condensation, and half the condiments have been squeezed out and smeared over the bun. If you want more realistic 'ad vs. reality' photos, check out this guy's website."
Featured Comment by John London: "In a previous life—or so it seems now—I was an industrial photographer working in the packaging industry, and my main task was photographing food for use on consumer packaging. For over 20 years we made food look good and edible, and most in a time before studio flash arrived in our studio. Shooting 10x8 trannies under tungsten in the early days and processed in our darkroom for speed was challenging. Make no mistake, food has to look good on the packaging, and our job was to help make the product sell. Along with stylists, marketing managers, brand managers, studios managers, product designers, advertising managers, graphic designers, etc. etc.—possibly a dozen or so people, all intent on putting their two-pennies' worth into the mix, was to choose the best, light it, photograph it, and present it in the manner desired and make it the most mouthwatering product you have ever seen.
"I remember one particular product shoot involved raspberries, which, in the U.K. at that time of year, were out of season. The remedy was to fly over from the Channel Islands pallets of the freshest fruit so we could choose the required number of delectable pieces. It took one and a half pallets before all the V.I.P.'s were satisfied with the desired samples. They then had to be set up, light, photographed, processed, evaluated and hopefully the photograph accepted before the fruit wilted in the cool room or we had to start again.
"Our fully equipped kitchen also was put to use on many occasions, especially on cake shoots. One chocolate line took three days, and over 60 cakes were cooked and rejected before we had the right one...have you ever cut a sponge or a cake and found objectionable air bubbles in the wrong place or maybe the chocolate topping of an uneven thickness or a caramel which colours on an incorrect line?
"All this is to point out that food photography is not a con, it's a craft. It takes an awful lot of hard work and integrity to make a product look its best. I am not advocating misdirection or fraud, but would you really want to see a favourite food look average, uninteresting, and non-appetising? I doubt it."