The Sideshow

Why photos of McDonald’s burgers look so much better than the real thing

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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A McDonald's cheeseburger compared with the same burger styled for photography (YouTube/McDonald's Canada)

There's no denying that pretty much any photo of a fast-food burger looks better than the real thing. And in a fascinating development, McDonald's Canada has revealed the exacting process of food styling the company's burgers for advertising campaigns.

The qualitative gap between food advertising and the actual product raises all sorts of questions, not the least of which is, is it even the same stuff?

"I think that it's important to note that all the ingredients are the exact same ingredients that we use in the restaurant," Hope Bagozzi, director of marketing for McDonald's Canada, says in a new video posted to YouTube. "So, it is the exact same patty, it's the exact same ketchup, mustard and onions, and same buns."

McDonald's Canada has a "your questions" section on its website and Bagozzi was responding to a question from Toronto reader Isabel M. who asked, "Why does your food look different in the advertising than what's in the store?"

"It's a great question, Isabel," Bagozzi says in the video. "We get asked that a lot."

Here's the video of her response:

Bagozzi takes viewers into a local McDonald's, where she orders a quarter pounder with cheese. She then goes to the Watt International photography studio, which handles the burger photo campaigns for McDonald's Canada.

'That burger [made in McDonald's] was made in about a minute or so," Bagozzi says. "The process we go through on the average shoot takes several hours."

The main difference in the presentation is that the food stylist and the photographer deliberately and carefully place the ingredients so that each is visible in the most flattering way possible to the viewer.

'This way we can at least tell people you have ketchup, you have mustard, you have two pieces of cheese and you know what you're getting," the food stylist says.

The cheese is then carefully melted with a hot iron.

And when Bagozzi says, "It's like you're a surgeon in there," she's not too far off as Noah literally uses a syringe to garnish with the ketchup and mustard.

After the photos are shot, the photographer does some fine-tuning, removing discolorations and imperfections from the ingredients. Bagozzi even notes why the burgers in the pictures appear larger.

"Here you can definitely see that there is a size difference," she says. 'The boxes that our burgers come in keep the sandwiches warm, which creates a bit of a steam, and it does make the bun contract."

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