Purpose: This paper investigates visual narrative contents and expression of commercial and editorial food photographs, and explores the process of visual perception and sensory imagery creation among consumers. Originality: Despite the proliferation of food pictures in commercials and food media, little has been known about how consumers respond to different food pictures. We also know little about how the narrative power of food photographs affects their anticipated pleasure, desire to eat, and behavioural motivations. Key literature/theoretical perspective: This paper introduces the Immersed-Inferred-Induced (3Is) Model. We suggest that when consumers are exposed to food photographs they feel immersed in the visual narrative world. This leads to the stage when the multi-sensory experiences are inferred. These two mechanisms mediate to what extent consumers are induced. Our framework is grounded in theories of narrative (Barbatsis, 2005; Green and Brock, 2000, 2002) and mental imagery (Kosslyn, 1996). Design/methodology/approach: We interview 30 emerging and internationally renowned food stylists and photographers including those from the U.S.A., the U.K., and Australia. This interview investigates visual narrative contents and expression encoded by these professionals. After that, we interview 30 Australian consumers to examine their process of decoding sensory messages. Findings: Our study uncovers similarities and differences in sensory messages encoding and decoding between the creative professionals and consumers. Research limitations/implications: This paper provides insights into: the narration from the professionals to consumers, and the narration within the mind of consumers. Practical and social implications: This paper discusses practical guides on possible ways to maximise appetite appeal in food photographs, and implications for future research in sensory marketing.