You can have pretty food photos or edible food—but not both

A stack of blueberry pancakes drenched in syrup... or are they???
A stack of blueberry pancakes drenched in syrup... or are they???
Photo: Jeff Kauck (Getty Images)

As we noted earlier this week, there has been a lot less restaurant foodporn on Instagram since the pandemic started. At first this was because restaurants we closed. But now it’s because of shame: people don’t want their social media followers to know they’ve been engaging in potentially risky behavior like dining out.


But also: foodporn is not necessarily compatible with a delicious meal. A food photographer recently revealed her secrets to Insider, and, friends, they are not pretty. Well, they are pretty, but they’re not necessarily anything you’d want to eat.

For instance, that creamy milk you see in cereal photos. It’s not milk. It’s not even sour cream or any other kind of dairy. It’s glue. Like from the Elmer’s bottle.

Those pancakes aren’t fluffy because of some magical combination of baking soda and buttermilk. They’re fluffy because somebody slipped circles of cardboard between the individual pancakes. And the picturesque drizzle of maple syrup in those fancy photos doesn’t sink into the pancakes the way yours does because it’s not actually maple syrup. It’s motor oil.

Now that I think about it, this could be a whole new form of foodie Instagram: what other substances or tricks could you use to make your food look better than real life? We could call it #foodorfake. It would be fun!

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.


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This may be true of most food advertising, but the majority of food influencers on Instagram aren’t doing this shit, and they manage to take gorgeous food photos that I would argue look a lot more appetizing than the fake-ass food seen in major advertising. I can tell you for a fact all of Traeger Grill’s photos are real food with no shellac or glue or any crap like that. Food might be a little colder than you would like by the time it’s shot, but it’s real.