While many stock and studio product shots may not even use the real article of food or drink being imaged for marketing and advertising use, in my world, it's always the real thing, prepared by the real kitchen staff or poured by real bartenders or brewers into real glassware on location just as it would be for real customers. I can understand the need to use artificially created liquid with dye for more vibrant color and opacity in place of most actual light beer which is lacking in both. It's light color and relative transparency make it incredibly difficult to achieve the desired thirst evoking reaction in a photograph while still getting the typically brilliantly colored and reflective packaging or glassware and surrounding field of view properly illuminated for imagery creation, even in the age of maximum photoshop manipulation. I have to question it's necessity in soda advertisements, but since I don't photograph those, it's not relevant to me here. But as for food, I will venture a guess that most of us know that the marketing images of fast and processed food items, or even dishes pictured on restaurant menus and commercials are often times not the actual article offered for sale to paying customers. Or, if they do use similar ingredients, they have been treated to sustain shape, prevent melting, enhance reflectivity, color, and wetness, etc., and as such are inedible as presented in the resulting image. Very much similar to what good makeup artists do to actors, news anchors and other in studio "personalities" working "under the klieg lights". But, again, in my world, I always work with the genuine article to create the image. I may carefully arrange it for a hopefully pleasing composition and illuminate it to add to the depth of color, sometimes more carefully than others, which can then have deleterious effects in terms of reflections from other items in the field of view like glassware, silverware and other reflective surfaces. But I want to be sure that what is captured offers a bit more composition and light treatment than the typical social media upload from a smart phone pic, (BTW - smart phones are getting pretty darn good at taking pics these days). . Because I know that it also needs to be ready to use in print applications and not just in online renderings, which are often digitally compressed removing much of the delicious detail & vibrance from the original image. At the same time I seek to create an image that is a true representation of what is actually served to customers
As I think I mentioned in an earlier Blog Post, food and beverage imaging is a really good application for "HDR" images if you also have good "HDR" editing software like "Aurora HDR" for Mac's. It magically layers multiple exposures of slightly different light values, carefully selecting the best illumination and color from each of the layers to craft a single image that has a very "High Dynamic Range". These images have a great deal of richness in color, illumination, and resolution. These can then be enhanced using editing software tools for color saturation, sharpening, and spot retouching for surface blemishes that would otherwise detract from the color and texture of the food and beverage. The intent of this is to create an image that pops off the screen or page and hopefully evokes a response of invitation to the viewer. Which is really exactly the same reaction being sought when using modified and fortified articles in place of the real thing, only it is accomplished digitally, and I hope, results in images that are more true to life and evocative of the genuine article than sprayed, dyed, molded, & imitated articles. But maybe I'm just kidding myself?
Perhaps, like other propaganda and politics, substitution & imitation is simply obfuscation by degrees and is not as black and white as simple truth or fiction, with the ends justifying the means. Or just maybe, as I like to believe, there is still value in protecting things that are truly genuine, the real article, from the hands of their creator to represent things for trade as they actually are, instead of how we hope they are? How about the people you partner with in your business? Do you want them to truly represent their history, background & composition of character to you? While dressing in clean, nicely colored and crafted clothes and combing ones hair is one thing, substituting "look-alike" content of character for the real thing is quite another, at least it is to me. Most especially when the distance between the substitution and the "real deal" is enormous, and not suitable for consumption.
At any rate, keep all that in mind next time you see food and beverage imagery meant to invite you to consume. I guarantee you the burger in the wrapper will bear very little resemblance to the one painted or plasticized onto the side of the delivery truck going by you on the road. Let's hope that's not also the case with your business partners.
Heres to brilliant imagery! Cheers!