We intuitively know the power of images- one picture is worth a thousand words. Poets know the power of images - they create visual impressions with language. Advertisers know the power of images - they invoke desire for products through pictures.
Food images can actually make us salivate. Interesting, then, that what we salivate over and crave is often not real food, but effective stand-ins that look better on camera than the real thing and stand up to the hot lights.
Images can make us desire food, and it's humbling to know that what creates that desire is not only often unpalatable, but also often dangerously inedible.
Not all food in photographs is fake; in fact, in advertising, the actual product must be shown. The fake food is food in a supporting role in the ad or in editorials and other food shots.
So the ice cream featured for sale is ice cream, but the ice cream underneath the topping (the actual item for sale) is most likely fake. The fast food hamburger is really the item, although it may well be browner from a combination of hoisin sauce and Angostura Bitters.
Spritzed with oil, dribbled with glue, food in photographs looks yummy, refreshing, satisfying, tasty. But it's no wonder that the real fast food burger never looks as good as the one in the ad. The ad is all about the image, and that poor old burger is just a burger.
My source is a book by Linda Bellingham - Food Styling for Photographers
Food photos are for interest and not to demonstrate fake food.
(iced tea photo - Arbor Teas)
(cake photo - Epicurious)