Ever wonder why the food in professional photographs looks so much better than your food? Despite the fact that they have fancy cameras and a good eye, food is food right? Well maybe not…

Photoshoots can last 10 hours, so food stylists have to get creative in order to keep the food looking perfect and tempting.  I talked with food stylists Denise Stillman, who’s worked with companies like Coca-Cola and Breyer’s Ice Cream, and Charlotte Omnès who’s photographed for The Food Network and your beloved Chipotle.  I only talked to stylists for big ads, but food bloggers could use them too. Here are some of their secrets that will change the way you look at food.

food styling

Photo by Taka Kawachi

1. The food is always real…kind of

food styling

Photo by Marshall Troy

Stylists don’t use fake food. They legally have to use the product they are selling, but any other foods used in the shoot are fair game and can be fake or a combination of weird foods.  For example, in a photoshoot for Hersey’s chocolate syrup, the ice cream the chocolate syrup is poured over could be a mixture of crisco and powdered sugar so it doesn’t melt, but the actual Hersey’s chocolate can’t be messed with.

2. You might not want to eat that meat

food styling

Photo from http://www.thcfinder.com/uploads/files/perfect-thanksgiving-turkey-recipe.jpg

The beautiful turkey in that Thanksgiving commercial might have only been cooked for 20 minutes so it doesn’t look dried out.

3. The food combinations get real weird

food styling

Photo by Kelda Balijon

When photographing tacos, Denise Stillman mixes the beans with syrup so they don’t dry out.

4. Some of the tools could be found at Home Depot

food styling

Photo by Kirby Barth

To melt cheese or brown food on the spot, Denise uses paint strippers, which are usually used to take off paint with heat.  But, Charlotte uses steam to melt cheese so it doesn’t look greasy.

5. Food needs makeup artists too

food styling

Photo by Liana Lis

Need a perfect-looking, bright red strawberry? No problem, Denise Stillman colors in the white parts with some lipstick.

6. Photographers actually hate your favorite foods

food styling

Photo by Kate Mathis

Ice cream is the hardest thing to photograph, according to Charlotte, for obvious reasons.  But, Denise hates trying to get the perfect stringy-cheese shot when photographing pizza.

7. The ice will probably never melt…ever

food styling

Photo by thekitchn.com

The ice in that perfect frozen drink might actually be shaved gelatin.

8. Paper towels are a must on set

food styling

Photo by Kristine Auble

To keep food from drying out during a 10 hour photoshoot, Charlotte puts wet paper towels over the food.

9. When all else fails…

food styling

Photo by Juliette Kelly

Some stylists order styling products from a company called Trengove Studios.  They have products like aqua gels to create water droplets on glass or enhance the foam on beer.