Gimme some truth
Food photography is a place where there are lots of tricks of the trade – mashed potato for ice cream etc. The Big Mac as it appears on the restaurant’s menu board poses a fairly existentialist question on the nature of reality. If it is both real, and yet you cannot really believe your eyes, then what indeed is truth?
In a short film, McDonald’s director of marketing in Canada takes us ‘behind the scenes’ to show how the menu photography is produced, and to answer the question “why do real burgers not look like the photos?”
As you would expect, all the product is meticulously true to a commercially sold burger. However, individual seeds are moved around the bap for compositional balance. The real difference which, to the film’s credit, the team look us in the eye and explain, is that all the filling is pushed ‘to camera’ on the burger’s edge. This raises the bun, giving its ‘to camera’ side a flattering sense of scale height and richness of filling.
The reason given is that this is the best way to display the burger’s contents so we will all know what’s in there. I will leave it to you to decide if this is candor or disingenuousness. But I would observe there are other ways of passing on the same information. The film is an Internet hit – I wonder if shining daylight on magic is paying back for the brand or not.
I guess my point is that we in the communications business can choose how straight or how curly we want to be. My first day out of the office as a junior designer was to go on a food packaging shoot – and I was immediately complicit in pushing the truth around, happily sifting through tins of product to find an appealing mushroom. I guess as graduation season now blends into lots of first jobs for college leavers, this comes to mind. A much-missed colleague had a great phrase she passed on to all her juniors – ‘let your conscience be your guide’. It’s a simple, real sentiment to hold on to.