How McDonald's uses Photoshop to touch up their menu burgers
McDONALD’S has disclosed how it most popular products look their tastiest best for advertising shoots and campaigns by using Photoshop.
The fast-food giant has disclosed the cinematic secrets around a laborious process called “food-styling”, which makes burgers appear bigger, juicier and tastier in public.
In a video posted online, it showed how technicians, photographers and McDonald’s executives spend hours ensuring the products are presented with absolute precision.
It lifts the lid on a McDonald's photo shoot that shows how they shrink cheese and shade the buns using Photoshop.
The candid approach, part of a project launched by its Canadian operations to increase transparency, has surprised some retail observers who have noted the surprising move could disclose some of its most sought-after trade secrets.
But it also raises questions that its images are being doctored as part of its multi-million pound public relations campaigns.
The subsequent tell-all video has, however, become a viral hit, having been viewed almost 400,000 thousand times since it was uploaded on YouTube earlier this week.
The video was posted after a young customer asked "Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?"
In response to the question from “Isabel M”, from Toronto, Hope Bagozzi, McDonald's Canada's director of marketing, proceeds over the following three-and-half minutes to explain how this is done.
She first visits a local McDonald's restaurant where she buys a Quarter Pounder with Cheese before she bring it back to one of the company’s trusted creative agencies.
It is then photographed alongside another Quarter Pounder with Cheese that had been prepped by agency officials, who have painstakingly deconstructed and rebuild the sandwich so that all the ingredients are visible.
While a burger bought in-store is made in about minute, the burger used in a photo shoot is constructed by a team of food stylists and photographers.
The cheese is carefully blasted with a blowtorch to achieve the right level of melted-ness, onion slices are positioned with surgical precision and ketchup and mustard then added using a syringe.
The image is then retouched to "finesse the product" with the sesame seeds repositioned on top and any errant crumbs removed.
Once photographed, the picture of the burger is tweaked digitally, with other blemishes airbrushed out in a similar way to a fashion shoot.
When the photographs of the burger made in the restaurant and that made in the studio are placed side-by-side, the differences are striking. Miss Bagozzi assures viewers that all the ingredients used for the photo were real.
She added: “That burger [made in a normal McDonald’s] was made in about a minute or so. The process we go through on the average shoot takes several hours.
“I think that it’s important to note that all the ingredients are the exact same ingredients that we use in the restaurant.
“So it is the exact same patty, it’s the exact same ketchup, mustard and onions, and same buns.”
She added that the photo shoot burger looks bigger than those bought in-store because steam generated from a newly-made burger when put in the box compresses the product.
She said: “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.”
A McDonald’s food stylist added: “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 video is part of a global campaign aimed at overhauling its poor transparency image. It has, however, previously backfired.
Earlier this year American executives attempted to harness the powers of Twitter by asking users to tell their "#McDStories”.
What transpired instead were customers and users detailing their disgust at the food.
Joel Yashinsky, McDonald's Canada chief marketing officer, said earlier this month: "We know that there are questions out there, and that there are myths out there.
“We need to have a conversation with our customers, and social media allows us to do that."