Food & Drink

Food Ads vs. Real Food Photos

When photographers become magicians.
09/04/2013 09:29am ET | Updated September 4, 2013

We've all fallen victim to false advertising at one point or another -- whether it be a very important message buried in the fine print, misleading phrases, or flat-out lies. But one of the worst types of false advertising is the type that you can see: deceitful food photography.

Food ads do a great job of seducing us, but the harsh reality is that, all too often, the food in person looks nothing like it did in pictures. In some sense, these food photographers are geniuses -- and magicians, wielding the powerful tools of professional lighting and Photoshop expertise. But for the customer, the discrepancy between food ads and reality can be a source of major culinary disappointment. So don't let yourself be fooled, check out the below match-ups of food ads vs. real pictures ... but be prepared, these pictures are not pretty.

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Lean Cuisine: Vegetable Eggroll (Ad)
Lean Cuisine
Totally edible, right?
Lean Cuisine: Vegetable Roll (Real)
Flickr: theimpulsivebuy
Wrong. Where is that weird liquid in the ad picture?
Kentucky Fried Chicken: Original Recipe (Ad)
Kentucky Fried Chicken
What crunchy, fried chicken memories look like.
Kentucky Fried Chicken: Original Recipe (Real)
Flickr: Calgary Reviews
Whoa. We are pretty sure Colonel Sanders (and the entire South) would not be pleased with this fried chicken.
Burger King: Double Cheeseburger (Ad)
Burger King
Do-able.
Burger King: Double Cheeseburger (Real)
Flickr: Razor512
The real-life version is uncomfortably flat.
Dunkin' Donuts: Egg and Cheese Sandwich
Dunkin' Donuts
'Heaven' may be a bit of an exaggeration, but this doesn't look half bad.
Dunkin' Donuts: Egg and Cheese Sandwich
Flickr: mandiberg
The unmelted cheese! The overcooked, not-at-all-real-looking egg! The horror!
Subway: Sweet Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich (Ad)
Subway
The chicken looks slightly questionable, but generally inoffensive.
Subway: Sweet Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich (Real)
Flickr: AlishaV
AH. So messy. So disorganized. So inedible-looking.
McDonald's: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
McDonald's
As far as fast food breakfasts go, this could be worse.
McDonald's: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
Flickr: theimpulsivebuy
Watery. In a paper cup. No.
Taco Bell: Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos (Ad)
Taco Bell
Even in this ad, the meat looks questionable.
Taco Bell: Nachos Tacos
Flickr: stevendepolo
There are multiple concerning elements in this photo (the glimpse of meat, the unmelted cheese...) but the most upsetting is the sauce. What is that, pomegranate?
Healthy Choice: Grilled Chicken Marinara With Parmesan (Ad)
Healthy Choice
Look at all that fresh broccoli, grilled chicken, and melted cheese!
Healthy Choice: Grilled Chicken Marinara With Parmesan (Real)
Flickr: theimpulsivebuy
Pretty sure any Top Chef contestant would be kicked off for this dish...
IHOP: Heart Ham & Cheese Omelette (Ad)
IHOP
Even professional lighting couldn't make that ham look good.
IHOP: Heart Ham & Cheese Omelette (Real)
Flickr: jimg944
We didn't know it was possible for the ham chunks to look worse.
Chipotle: Burrito Bowl (Ad)
Chipotle
Not the most authentic Mexican food we've ever seen, but this still looks good.
Chipotle: Burrito Bowl (Real)
Flickr: slgckgc
Looks significantly less filled (as well as slightly less fresh) than the advertisement.
Arby's: Beef 'n Cheddar Sandwich (Ad)
Arby's
Melted cheese, fresh-cut meats -- looking hopeful.
Arby's: Beef 'n Cheddar Sandwich (Real)
Flickr: goodiesfirst
Okay Arby's, this is ridiculous. Where is the melted cheese?! Or even, cheese at all?! Why does the meat look like it was ripped apart by an animal?!