Behind the Shot: Artificial Food Styling

Artificial Food Styling

Before diving into the behind the scenes setup of one of the photos in my book, I’d like to first announce the winner of last week’s Food Blogging For Dummies giveaway. The winner, as selected by, is Lily (comment number 20)!

I still have two copies of Food Blogging For Dummies to give away, and due to the book shipping out earlier than anticipated, I’m giving away the final two copies in this post. Read on to learn about artificial food styling and then leave a comment on this post for your chance to win! 

I spend a significant portion of the book covering the ins and outs of food styling and photography. After all, food photographs are one of the biggest draws to any popular food blog. One of the topics that inevitably arises when discussing food styling is the difference between the artificial and natural approaches to making a dish look its best. I’m over on today discussing those differences, but wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at one of the artificially-styled shots featured in the book.

Artificial Food Styling

Substituting glue for milk is one of the oldest food styling tricks in existence. The sticky substance is a spot-on swap-in due to its shiny white color. But it’s glue’s thicker texture that allows it to support the weight of cereal, which absorbs far less glue than it does milk. Because I am a one-woman team when it comes to the cooking, styling and photography for Just a Taste, I didn’t have a helper to hold the bottle of glue while I captured the dripping shot below. The solution? A few strategically-placed clamps and rocks to do the dirty work!

You’ll also note in the image below that I crafted what’s known as a false bottom. Rather than fill the entire bowl with glue—a wasteful and pricey option—I fashioned a plastic lid and tape across the top and used less than one bottle of Elmer’s to get the full bowl of milk effect.

Artificial Food Styling

The photo below is how the final shot turned out for the book. It’s important to note that food bloggers don’t generally use the artificial approach to food styling because food bloggers eat what they make and post about on their blogs. But the technique is popular among advertisers looking to stage the perfect shot that will last for hours on set. There are also truth-in-advertising laws that apply to the appearance of food products, which you can read more about on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

I adhere strictly to the natural (re: edible) approach to food styling, but I find the artificial approach to be a fascinating alternative and definitely worthy of discussion!

Artificial Food Styling


To enter to win a copy of Food Blogging For Dummies, leave a comment below that answers the following question:

What is the single most enticing element that draws you to a food blog?

Two individual winners will be selected via and announced on Monday, April 9. This giveaway closes on Sunday, April 8 at 12 p.m. EST.

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  1. For me it’s the “behind-the-scenes” work. I’m always fascinated by the use of everyday things that have absolutely nothing to do with the food itself. Here’s another tip for you: Use motor oil as a substitute for maple syrup on those yummy pancakes! along with colorful little fruits.

  2. I just found your blog through a Pinterest website, and have already marked a few recipes I want to try! Your food looks delicious, I can’t wait to find more recipes here and give them a try. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for the artificial food styling tip — never knew glue can be used beyond what we all thought it could do :)

  4. OF COURSE, in a nutshell, the photos that highlight the potential beauty of a dish do much to make me pause long enough to decide on the other questions. For me, it’s the appeal of the recipe…is this something that I will want to cook?…that will be easy yet challenging enough?…that will allow me to expand my repertoire of meals? that I would enjoy preparing…etc?

  5. I like a good mix of recipes, step by step pictures, and when the author adds their personal life in the blogs.

  6. Beautiful photography is the first thing that draws me in but the writing has to be creative and personable for me to return.

  7. Great photos are what typically grabs me off of Tastepotting, but for me to come back it is the honesty of the writer about the process and results. Everyone has fails in the kitchen and when the blogger can say something like, “Really, I wouldn’t rate this as a favorite” or something along those lines gives me a sense of security in trying the recipes that he or she did give rave reviews.

  8. Hands down, it’s the photos that draw me in, but it’s the writing that keeps me coming back. If someone takes stunning photos but doesn’t have anything to say, I can easily just spend my time on pinterest or food gawker looking at photos.

  9. Quite honestly? The food photography. Once I’m on the site though, the recipes have to stand up to scrutiny or I’m out within minutes, but the photography brings me in. Thank you so much for sharing this bit of info though. Its funny, but I never thought about people taking photos of fake food, but it makes sense. Probably why the food you order at restaurants never looks like the photo. ;)

  10. Color.i’ve always “eaten” with my eyes first. Once my sister-in-law served blue ice cubes in Dr. Pepper in honor of our home team, and thirsty or not, I couldn’t swallow it. Congrats on your book debut!

  11. Pictures of desserts that just came out of the oven, and are oozing with chocolatey goodness, yuum so good!
    BTW to find more great recipes just google, “thebakingapprentice”
    Thanks for the awesome recipes you post!!!

  12. I love how you left uncovered the secrets of the cereal boxes pictures! I’ve always been curious about what the food in the photos in advertisement and packages is made of. When I visit a food blog, I’m mostly attracted to the photos, obviously! Specially in sites like foodgawker or tastespotting, if the plate in the photo looks doable by a non-chef person, then I go for it! I love to cook real food, so if it looks like it came out of a beauty salon, I generally don’t open the recipe.

  13. I definitely eat with my eyes first… the photos draw me in and then the recipe usually catches me for good!!! I’m a tastespotting addict, checking it daily for inspiring pictures, recipes and simply for fun!!

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