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Saturday, 23 June 2012


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I think it was worth noting that when she first pulled the burger out at the restaurant, it look much better than it did by the time they were able to photograph it.

The shoot you witnessed was before computer-generated imagery, too, I guess.

This just so happens to be from *exactly* three years ago, minus one month: http://www.eatmedaily.com/2009/07/digital-big-mac-suggests-the-end-of-photography/

One might suspect that this McDonald's Canada video is actually acting as a cover for the use of CGI... if one we're cynical.

Unfortunately we never got to see Hope's buns.

As a Canadian resident and former fashion and product retoucher, I was sent this video by many of my friends. Narrative (and workflow) compression is definitely rampant here...

All I can add is kudos to McDonald's Canada for actually answering the question informatively and providing some explanations along with it (e.g., the steam of the hot product in a box causes the bun to compress... hence the height difference)!

I think Ms. Bagozzi and the studio crew did a fine job of dealing with the subject in a constructive way. Bravo!

I, too, have had some exposure to food photography and styling (NOT as a practitioner) and was impressed by its science and fanatical complexity (on high-end projects).

To answer the question of this article's title, it's neither "information" nor "disguise". It's business, and a very good one at that. High-end food photography is perhaps the most competitive and consistently lucrative segment of the true pro photography service market.

Errr.... well, from my perspective out here in Vancouver, Hope Bagozzi shows you how Canadian-friends-from-Ontario say "out" and "about". We're different here and..... oh, don't get us started. ;-)

gotta love McDonald's PR push to show you exactly how innocent and benign everything is behind the scenes. how about a behind the scenes look at the poultry and cattle farms that they source their product from?

Now I understand: It's the steam in the box that turns the burger into a limp excuse.

As I said on John Nack's blog, most of the things we see in this BTS are pretty mundane and don't really strike me as unethical--except one, the practice of using raw beef patties that have just been browned on the top and sides. That's also the one part of the process they didn't explain. Hmmm...

Unfortunately shooting raw seems universal when it comes to hamburger photos, despite being the misleading, unethical, and potentially lawsuit-worthy. I don't know why McDonalds won't show the final, cooked hamburger, and would rather present us with an unsafe, bloated, inedible piece of meat instead of the slightly smaller, fully cooked, safe, realistically-sized final product.

Quite frankly, it's not the reality that mcdonalds burgers are junk that bothers me. It's the claim that they're doing this for YOUR benefit - to provide you with "information". How lucky we are!

The marketing folks think we can't see through this, and unfortunately in many cases they're right. Personally I'd feel much better about it if they came right out and said "listen, our burgers look like they're been sweating under someone's armpit for three days. Nobody will buy them if we don't doctor them up."

"Because we're in a one-dimensional world in the camera..."

Who'd a thunk it? And I eat Macdonalds all the time....

Minded me a bit of the old mashed potato / ice-cream strick

You should see a turkey shoot. They cook the bird just long enough to firm the meat, then they Air Brush the skin, to give it the look they want. No way you could actually eat it. This goes for most food shoots. The steam coming off hot food (steaks, pizza, etc) is two part smoke, applied to the food, just before the camera rolls.

BTW this is just as honest as 'Shopping a photo.

I've worked on many food commercials (including dog and cat food), over the years, As well as clothing, cars, motorcycles and oriental rugs.

I found her accent hard to pin down. But nothing in the content is particularly surprising.

Interesting clip. Burgers seem to follow my studio Harley-Davidson shoots about somewhat relentlessly. First McDonalds in one hire studio and now Burger King in another. Even in the age of Photoshop they still use stacks of plastic bakery trays of buns.

Back in the 1970 I worked for a biscuit company re-photographing their entire range when packaging here in Oz went metric. It was before any Trade Practices legislation and so it was free-reign on how things were shot. For cream biscuits we would roll together stands of coloured plasticene between glass to make long ribbons of filling which were then laid around the edges of the biscuit bottom and then the top was placed on (also pushed back a tad).

The shots were all 1:1 life size and shot on 8x10 film at impossible f/stops like f128.

Another time but the principles of deception still apply.



a polished turd is still a turd.

See also Kirk Tuck's post from April, Saturday is restaurant day. Photographing food. Celebrating new beginnings, about a photo shoot he did for a restaurant. An excerpt:

None of the food is in any way adulterated, oiled or treated. To do so is really a misrepresentation. Good food that looks good should photograph well without the kind of tricks that led the FTC to mandate certain rules about food advertising. The primary rule is that the "hero" of the ad (the product you are selling) is representative of product that the consumer could find on the shelves of a store or in a restaurant. No oil or shoe polish allowed.

I bring this up because there's a myth that the food in a food shoot is inedible. Not so.

Well, this case is not a big deal, really. First of all the idea of showing ingredients is quite convincing. Secondly, this is only McDonalds and honestly, no one expects that it offers something more than a mediocre (but even) quality meal. Especially this pseudo-cheese, I still wonder how is this possible that they cannot simply slice a real cheese, is it so expensive in the USA ? And chicken ? They use minced chicken meat all the time. Even fries seem not be real (to me they form them from some kind of semi-product instead of slicing potatoes). So really, for Mac standards, this photo is 200% real ;-)

I still won't eat one...

So.. did you shoot the burger and eat it too ?

At least they still used actual objects.* A while back on Youtube there was a short video depicting a Micky D's ad. The viewer gets close up shots of a burger, steaming fries and a cold Dr. Pepper as seductive female voice narrates the content. Suddenly the video goes into rewind, and we see that it is all computer graphics--even the sweat on the drink cup.

I have read that many, if not most, auto ads are now done on computers. I suppose that for some areas, it has become more cost effective and easier to hire a computer graphics expert rather than a photographer and crew to create ad content.

*(I hesitate to say "real food" as that is debatable in the case of consumables.

I'm not quite sure, but I think this is a really clever bit of marketing. Everyone already knows that the burger looks different in the ad. But the explanation presents this in the most innocuous light, while still giving an appearance of openness and transparency. What we seem to be learning is that none of the differences have to do with ingredients or (implicitly) taste. Thus, what the local McDonalds serves is actually equivalent to the burger in the ad. Or so we are supposed to think. And maybe the real burger tastes a little better because of the image of the advertising burger in the back of our minds.

My dog and I faced a similar situation--fake burger vs. real burger. http://goo.gl/yJd2h

I’d just like to point out my own spelling mistake of “McDonalds” - I would hate for the might of the trademark department of McDonalds to fall on TOP. Mike of course got it right.

I spelt it automatically with “Mac” as I am by blood a MacDonald of the Isles, a clan that was the scourge of the Scottish and later British Kings. Three generations of my family - grandfather, son and 3 grandsons - were hanged on the same day from the battlements of Edinburgh Castle in 1494 for rebellion and sedition, which must have made for a depressing evening for their wives. For those who are fans of Teddy Roosevelt, he was a MacDonald as well, through his mother. We regard the “Mc” sub-branch of the family as a lost tribe....

So whether you are a historian, or merely looking forward to a burger this evening,

”Ni h-eibhneas gan Chlainn Domhnaill” - It is no joy without Clan Donald.


Well one thing for sure, if they ever took the same time to prepare the burger behind the counter, I'll never get served.

If one takes the view that "food" is nutitious and good for you that creates a valid argument for saying that anything McDonalds produces cannot be considered food.

All well done commercial photography is a fantasy, no one wants to sell reality, really :)


Here we have a small army of skilled professionals employing their talents to create sophisticated disinformation on behalf of a product that if eaten regularly over the long term is likely to shorten your life.

It's said that a company expresses it's values by how it spends it's money. The burgers served to customers are factory-prepped by inexperienced (indifferent?) teenagers. The ones used in advertising are painstakingly "composed" by highly paid professionals.

They'll spare no expense to get you into their store and will cut every corner after they have your money to maximize their profit from the sale. No worries, it's only your FOOD, right?

The "as 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 web site: http://www.alphaila.com/articles/failure/fast-food-false-advertising-vs-reality/

The film obviously intended to persuade us that there is nothing wrong with the fact that the burgers on the ad look different. They tell us that they use the same ingredients etc. However I have the feeling that for most people it's actually a confirmation that something... smells not nice. ;)

This is just like fashion magazines, the models who appear are carefully selected, styled beyond what is reasonable then photoshopped. And we expect nothing else, I read once they tried putting ordinary people on the covers and those issues sold poorly.

As the other Ed points out, if there is a problem with this it is that their undoctored burger isn't typical of over the counter examples.

At one point I had a personal project that highlighted single entrée items that were over 900 calories from each of the large fast food chains. I got 3 items into the project before the vegetarian in the office started to complain about the smell. The whole point was to show the item in the packaging and then out of it. Just to play with one's expectations and ultimately disappointment. Anyway, here's the set thus far.


MacDonald's is not one of the fast foods I eat (I'm a Taco Bell man and a Wendy's man), so I can't comment on what the burgers they sell actually look like. But the food from Wendy's and Taco Bell that I actually get is about the same distance from the product photography as the examples shown in the film.

I do congratulate MacDonald's for making the video. I'm sure at bottom it comes out of the promotional budget, but it's the kind of honest promotion I can admire; it seems to be giving real information, and letting us talk to the people who really do the work (though I'm sure it doesn't actually tell the whole truth, or go out of its way to show the worst hamburgers they can get from a store on a bad day).

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