McDonald’s reminds us that food photography is an art, and transparency is in

June 22, 2012 | by Alicia Kelso

Surely we have all been curious about the same issue at some point: Why doesn't food look like it does in pictures?

Those food photographers are brilliant. Or deceptive. Or both.

This curiosity spans the entire food industry – who really sees steam coming off a delivered pizza? Why are the chips pictured on the bag actually in one piece? Milk never splashes like that when I pour it on my cereal.

And, yes, McDonald's burgers aren't quite as big in person as they are in marketing materials. What's with the duping?

Perhaps food companies have received inquires about this subject before. But full explanations have never emerged. Until now.

With McDonald's Canada's new website (, the company has answered this elusive, often negatively toned, question: "Why doesn't my food look like the picture?"

Hope Bagozzi, director of Marketing at McDonald's Canada, walked consumers through the steps and provided behind-the-scenes video as to why, indeed.

Turns out, perhaps to the surprise of many, the food in the photos is actually the same food that is served over the counter. Same ingredients and everything! It's just prettied up a bit.

For example, in this shoot, onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard are all arranged in the forefront of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, so customers can see what is included with the burger. Those same ingredients fall in line with the bun when the product is created in store, and they tend to be concealed.

In other words, think of marketing shots as the runway models of the food world. Even Angelina Jolie looks different on the cover of a magazine than she does in person.

The McDonald's food photography video got a lot of buzz. Some were surprised that it was the same product, others were surprised there was some "fluffing" involved and maintained a bit of cynicism.

We're saying bravo, McDonald's. Transparency is a big deal in the age of immediacy and social networking, and the company answered a tricky question with refreshing honesty.

McDonald's not only answered the question, it owned its practices in a "Yeah, we gussy up our products for photo shoots, but it's still the same product" kind of way. Anyone fishing for manipulation or avoidance from McDonald's isn't going to find it this time around.

The company has launched a similar "behind-the-scenes" website in the United Kingdom. I, for one, am looking forward to reading how the company tackles other questions lobbed its way.

Check out the photo shoot behind-the-scenes video.

Topics: Food & Beverage , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social , Operations Management

Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with, and has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine.
View Alicia Kelso's profile on LinkedIn

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