Perfect Burger Animated

On a recent burger photo shoot for one of my amazing clients, I was in pre-production with the food stylist discussing ways to style the burgers—as you do!

We realised that there are definite differences we automatically work towards, and wanted to share these great insights with you.

The Advertising Burger—versus—The Editorial Burger

One is a burger you may be tempted buy at a fast food restaurant, the other a burger you may see in a magazine that you may be inspired to make at home. These are two very different scenarios with two vastly different goals for the client:

Ad burger = perfection promise

You’re selling the burger of a large restaurant chain directly to burger-loving people.

Ed burger = imperfectly achievable

You’re selling the magazine or cookbook directly which may inspire burger-making.

The Advertising Burger

Psychological testing has shown that we eat with our eyes! Besides looking absolutely drool-worthy delicious, the burger image has to visually do two things immediately:

  • Show each ingredient clearly and accurately.
  • Represent the exact weight and size.

As a food photographer, with the advertising burger I finesse these elements:

  • The lighting needs to enhance the glisten on the sauce; it needs to define the texture of the bun; and, it needs to bring out the colour and freshness of the ingredients. Mmm sauce.
  • The composition ensures the burger is the star on set, where peripheral props and accompaniments support rather than distract the eye.
  • The angle gives all the ingredients a chance to shine.
  • The depth of field focuses on the most important item on set, yep you guessed it, the burger.
  • The props need to be specially selected and proportionally sized to give the burger scale.

Ad burger = perfection promise

The advert burger needs styling with balance and attention to detail in each layer. Herein lies the magic. The food stylist’s level of detail needs to be meticulous because the burger advert is likely to be delivered in an extremely large format (think posters & billboards) and gazed upon longingly by hungry punters.

The last (but not least) important skill is in choosing the quality and freshness of the ingredients. These must be impeccable or the viewers’ appetites can be reduced. Big no-nos are dead spots on the lettuce, torn skin on the tomato, creases in the bun. It can be subconscious but if a food image is tarnished I guarantee it will not trigger the viewer’s appetite nor urge people to buy the burger.

The food stylist employs guarded tricks of the trade to prepare the fresh ingredients and build an impressive burger—things like how to stop food wilting under hot studio lighting; how and when to add the sauce; and how to handle the perfect cheese melt.

For an advert burger, we want the image to look so darn good that people to want to lick the page!

The Editorial Burger

The main aim is to inspire burger-making at home and an ideal lifestyle. The image shows the burger is attainable through its adorable imperfection—some well-placed drips, drops and crumbs. I want the viewer to be inspired to sink their teeth in and imagine a satisfying ooze of homemade relish left behind on their chin. Mmm relish….

They can also imagine all their loved ones’ compliments raining down on their culinary efforts. Bravo! The editorial burger is all about casual charm.

         “This burger looks amazing!”

          “Oh? It’s just a little something I whipped up,” you answer with casual charm.”

As a food photographer, for the editorial burger I work on these elements:

  • The lighting needs to reflect the burger’s environment. Generally, the burger is less ‘lit’ while still enhancing every single ingredient in all its fresh glory. The light also works to express the mood of the setting.
  • The composition needs to be balanced but looser, a little less structured and adorably imperfect—a realistic burger scene.
  • The camera focus needs to draw the viewer into the mood of the shot. This impact is created by relaxing the attention to detail of each lettuce leaf and pickle. Mmm pickle.
  • The props and surfaces need to be chosen to reflect the mood of the shot. Less emphasis can go towards solidifying the scale and the visual hygiene. Mmm hygienic burger—just kidding! It means so fresh and so clean.

Ed burger = imperfectly achievable

The overall look of the editorial burger needs to feel homemade in all its glorious sauciness, but still stylish. For both the photographer and the food stylist an editorial shoot allows more creative freedom to choose what will look best in shot, including which ingredients are freshest on the shoot day, be that a sesame-seed bun or a poppy-seed bun. More individual seeds can even be added in shot. Not so for the advertising burger.

So that’s a wrap, a few of my tips on burger nuances uncovered.

Got an appetite for food photography? Give us a call to learn how we can make your product sizzle.

Photography: By Nadine Shaw
Food Styling: By Wendy Berecry