Today we’d like to introduce you to Jillian McCann.
Jillian, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Professionally, I began my career as a commercial photo stylist, working my way up the ladder from the bottom. I was prepping products for photo shoots, everything from folding shirts, to steaming racks of clothes and cleaning small kitchen appliances. After a period of time, I was brought onto the photo set where I worked with photographers and styled apparel for a large online retailer. I styled apparel for a long time, but it wasn’t where my passions lied. I’ve always been a creatively visual person and I loved cooking, In other parts of the studio I would see food stylists working and I was drawn to the work they were doing. At some point, it made sense to marry my love of cooking with my skills as a photo stylist. After hours and on weekends, I began test shooting food with various local photographers and realized quickly that I could do it and do it well. After three years of doing both photo and food styling at a commercial photo studio, it became apparent to me that there weren’t enough opportunities there to do food styling full time. If I wanted to do it, I’d have to become a free-lance food stylist. I took the plunge and started my own business. My work started getting noticed and I worked hard to gain new clients and build my business. The industry in Chicago is always in flux so networking and marketing also became an important element to support my passion.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours, but I knew when I took the risk to go out on my own that it would be. Work doesn’t just come to you. You have to go out and find clients in order to build your business. In the beginning, I wasn’t prepared to creatively market myself. I had to essentially become not just a food stylist but a business entrepreneur. Of course, building relationships with clients is huge. One good job leads to another, and so on, but marketing myself has been a huge learning curve. Learning how to navigate social media and its growing impact on how business is transacted has been another big surprise. My business and social media have grown hand-in-hand, so in that sense, I’ve been lucky, but it’s also meant a lot of extra hours teaching myself a medium I had no experience with whatsoever. The biggest challenge has been getting my name out there and getting noticed. You can’t do that with good work alone or good marketing alone. You have to have both.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Jillian McCann Food Stylist story. Tell us more about the business.
My business is Jillian McCann Food Stylist. I’m a self-employed independent contractor. I do food styling for commercial clients in print, packaging, video, advertising, online shopping and catalog. My clientele is based primarily in the mid-west, but can also take me nationwide.
What sets me apart from others is the way I style, my vision for the photo. The aesthetic for my food styling is not the only current, but it looks natural and tasty to the end consumer. I don’t fake a lot of foods on set. I use foods in their natural form. Of course, I use a few tricks, but they’re minimal. They have to be in order for the end result to be pleasing to the eye.
One of my proudest moments was talking to a group of culinary art students at Kealakehe high school in Hawaii about career opportunities as a food stylist in the commercial food photography field. Many of the students haven’t heard of the career field and it was wonderful sharing with them other opportunities they can have in their future.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
There hasn’t been any one big break that’s lead me to be successful. It’s been a lot of hard work, commitment to my clients, creating my portfolio and networking with others. I am lucky to have met and work with many great people who have also helped me grow as a stylist and referred me to other leading jobs.
- Website: www.jillianmccannfoodstylist.com
Doug Human Photography, Gadi Solis Photography
Studio Miya by Ingrid Ascensio – personal photo