Ice Cream or Mashed Potato?

Ever wondered how some photographs of food look so delicious, perhaps even too good to be true? Well, maybe they are. We worked with some professional food photographers within our community to bring you advice on how to shoot the best food photos.

Over the last year we have seen more people taking up photography whether it be for a new hobby or a new career. The Google Search term ‘food photography’ peaked during April 2020 and has stayed relatively popular ever since then. Searches for the lockdown food trend ‘banana bread’ also peaked in April, with the hashtag ‘#bananabread’ used on 1.7 million posts on Instagram and accounting for 178.4 million views on Tiktok. So, whether you’re on Youtube, browsing the web, or a Tiktok fan - you’ve probably read, watched or heard about the banana bread trend.

Although, food photography has always been popular on social media, with the ‘#food’ being used on 426 million Instagram posts we can see that the love of taking photos of our food is stronger than ever. We also discovered that people have also been looking for advice on food photography, with searches for ‘best apps for food photography 2020’ rising by over 5000% in the last 12 months. Noticing this, we wanted to help our community by sharing any expert advice that we had.

We’ve compiled a list, after consulting some of our top food photographers, of some of the tricks of the trade. From mashed potato as ice cream to eyeliner on meat, there really are some weird and wonderful tricks of the trade.

The top food photography secrets are:


Using Motor Oil as Syrup

Motor oil can be used as a substitute for syrup on pancakes or desserts as it doesn’t soak into the food meaning there is more time to photograph the food whilst the ‘syrup’ is still looking delicious.

Using PVA Glue Instead of Milk

Use a liquid white glue, such as PVA, instead of milk when photographing cereal, so that the cereal doesn't get soggy.


Using a Tampon to Create Steam

Typically, food will have been sitting out for hours before being photographed, so will look cold. If photographers are looking to give the illusion of steam coming from the food they can soak and microwave a tampon or cotton balls, to place behind the food.

Hair Spraying Vegetables

To give vegetables a glossy more aesthetically pleasing finish, spray them with hair spray!


Adding Make-up Sponges to Burgers

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a make-up sponge, but anything that adds height is often used in burgers to give them a taller, fuller look.

Mashed Potato as an Ice Cream Substitute

Photoshoots take a long time and unfortunately you usually have to take a few different shots to get the winner. Unless you’re in a freezer - which really wouldn’t be ideal working conditions - your ice cream is going to start melting pretty quickly. Turns out that if you put mashed potato in a cone, it looks the same!


Eyeliner to Create Perfect Grill Lines

To create those ‘just off the grill’ lines on some meat, you don’t even have to grill it! You can use eyeliner or a thin black marker to paint them on yourself. Try not to draw the lines too perfectly or you might give it away.

Spraying Deodorant to Give a Frosted Look

If you’re wanting to give grapes that fresh frosty coating, or lightly frost the top of an iced coffee glass just use some deodorant. Unlike actual frosting it won’t start melting as soon as it comes out of the freezer.


Brown Shoe Wax on Roasted Meats

Sometimes when you roast a chicken or turkey it doesn’t quite go as crispy as you want, especially without burning the whole bird. If you add some brown show wax to the top of a roasted bird you can add some extra ‘crisp’ on there in less than 5 minutes.

Dish Soap to Make Bubbles

This can be used for anything that needs extra bubbles, but is mostly used for photographing coffee. Black coffee especially can look flat and dull but with a little bit of dish soap in there you can add some bubbles to give your image some more life. Remember not to take a sip afterwards though.


What is it like being a food photographer?

We also wanted to get some insight into food photography from some experts within our community who are either currently working as a food photographer, or have in the past.

  • Bring an assistant if you think you need one - this is one for shooting outside of your home. If you’ve been commissioned to shoot for a hospitality venue for example, don’t expect one of the team to be your assistant all day, likely they will have other things to be getting on with. Imagine an assistant is a part of your equipment for the day, if you need one, bring them yourself!
  • Long hours - even with all of the tricks and tips in the world, sometimes things go wrong. Allow yourself enough time to get the winning shot, but also a little extra to account for any mistakes.
  • Natural lighting is key - sometimes artificial lighting can alter the colours, so although you may need extra lighting to accompany the natural light, always try to shoot in the day when you can.

Mark Condon of Shotkit said,

“This year is difficult for everyone; we want to help our community as much as possible by sharing expertise with our community. After having an increase in food photography related queries, we thought we’d utilize the platform we have to create a fun, easy to follow guide.

“We hope this guide will help some people get the most out of their new hobby or career! We have an abundance of other resources online too, so whatever type of photography you are interested in, I’m confident we can help.”