The tricks that commercial food photographers use to make dishes look delicious

Glue, soap, and motor oil are just a few of the secret ingredients that go into a successful food shoot.

The trend in food photography right now mirrors the food itself: Natural is better. For years, however, food stylists and commercial photographers have relied on a number of tricks—many of which leave the appetizing subjects inedible—to make the final images dazzle. A new video from Blossom shows off some of these well-known food hacks.

Small pieces of cardboard stacked between pancakes makes them sit up taller motor oil looks more delicious than actual syrup. Glue replaces milk in a bowl of cereal to keep things from sinking into the bowl. A touch of dish soap at the bottom of a glass enhances the head of a frosty beer. Want to make ice cream that won’t melt on set? Try corn syrup, food coloring, and shortening.

putting ketchup on a hamburger
Toothpicks and makeup sponges were used to hold this delicious looking burger together. Blossom

If you’re using these tricks on your food shoot we wouldn’t recommend snacking on the items once you’ve wrapped, but it’s certainly interesting to see the unexpected items that some photographers use to pull of their final shots.

Related: These vintage color food photos might make you lose your appetite

Regardless of how you are choosing to shoot food—au-natural or with these secret ingredients—you will want to photograph your dishes using a single color light source. Most people have a preconceived notion about the color that certain foods should be, and food photos with mixed lighting or strange color casts tend to be unappetizing.

Want more tips on food photography? Check out our interview with food photographer Cayla Zahoran.