Recently a photographer friend sent me a video that appears to reveal clever tricks food stylists use to make certain dishes look more enticing on camera. It’s equal parts fascinating and horrifying: shoe polish brushed on chicken to make it look perfectly browned, fabric protector misted over pancakes to prevent the butter and syrup from soaking in, mashed potatoes tinged with food coloring and scooped to look like ice cream because the real thing melts too quickly, and white glue substituting for almost anything (e.g., chocolate syrup, melted cheese, and frosting).
The problem is, most real food stylists don’t do any of this crazy stuff—at least not since digital photography became the norm. Sure, they handle food differently than you or I might at home since it’s their job to make it look tempting for a professional photo shoot, but some minimal corrections also happen in the editing room.
That’s why we asked a couple of experts to share some of the creative tricks food stylists use to entice you.