Food stylists are usually known for their work in fast food, magazines, television commercials, and print advertising for all manner of foods to be consumed by people. What a lot of people don’t realize is, many of us are hired to work as pet food stylists. Another surprising detail is that those same food stylists are usually held to higher standards when styling pet food than when we are working on food marketed for human consumption.
Prior to moving to St. Louis in 2016, I had lived and worked as a food stylist in New York City for fifteen years. I was fortunate enough to dabble in a few pet food shoots for companies such as PetFresh and Blue Buffalo on occasion. It wasn’t until I arrived in Missouri and began making the rounds to well-known studios, that I realized how big pet food manufacturing and marketing is in this region. Everyone in town has worked for the big “dogs” (and, yes, “cats” too), Purina. But much in the way that Budweiser Beer spawned multiple successful local microbreweries, former Purina disciples have created several smaller pet food-related firms. These companies also seek out local designers, photographers, and thankfully, food stylists to fulfill their creative needs.
And all of this makes sense when one looks at the region as a whole – Missouri is bordered in the West by Kansas, known for meat packing, as well as agriculture. To the East, Southern Illinois is filled with farms as far as the eye can see. The area’s rail hubs, as well as the lifeblood of the region, the Mississippi river, make the city an ideal distribution center for both established giants and new startups alike.
As a seasoned stylist, I have to admit that I enjoy working on shoots involving pet products. It’s a welcome change from scooping one more scoop of ice cream, or creating yet another perfect hamburger. And the best of those shoots have animal talent to entertain the crew and make the day go by a little faster.