This just in from the no shit, Sherlock school of scientific research: pictures of food can make you feel hungry. Images of fatty foods "activated brain regions that control appetite and reward" in the participants of an American study. The Daily Mail wonders whether this means that fast food advertising is partly to blame for rising levels of obesity.
Food photography is always a kind of advertising: it tries to entice people into a lifestyle – to cook a dish or visit a restaurant. But it's extremely hard to do well. McDonald's recently released a film showing how much work goes into each of its shoots. The wrong lighting or composition, melting ice cream, leaky puddles of grease and even changes in aesthetics will all ruin a decent photograph.
Above is a picture of a deep-fried Mars bar. It's a fatty food, but as I looked at it my "appetite and reward" brain regions remained strangely unactivated.
The vomity chocolate dribble, the class A scattering of icing sugar, the super-close up money shot and the scorched and overexposed flash combined to make this less than appetising. Perhaps the photo is a homage to the food.
Cupcakes are the most photographed foods in the world. The unbearable faux-vintage iPhone hipster toss-app Instagram doubles as a kind of cupcake Grindr: its users eat nothing else.
The cupcakes here are slightly are out of focus, but the lighting and exposure are fine and you certainly know what you're looking at. In fact, these cupcakes are more appealing in a photograph than they would be in the spongy flesh, so whoever snapped them was a genius.
Last, a shot that someone has clearly spent time putting together, but what a disaster it is: the skin is wrinkled and flabby and unevenly cooked. It's also weirdly shiny: the lights make it look as though it's visiting the dentist. The yellow flowers clash with the orange-brown bird, the pubic tendrils of thyme add nothing, and it all looks dry and dated. You just know the food is cold.
The food photographer Paul Winch-Furness tells me that a little spraying with oil and water helps to make food look appetising. "There's a trend at the moment for 'aerial' shots," he says. "Everyone is hovering the camera over the table and shooting straight down. But that'll pass."
I've got a cookbook from a well-known food writer from the early 90s. Every dish in it is bright orange, because a vague notion of "warmth" was obviously in vogue back then. Reading it is like being on The Only Way is Essex. It takes more than a Polaroid of lard to make people hungry.
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