Experience 07: Perhaps I Learned What Really Goes Into an Instagram Food Advertisement

(*From May 19, 2016.)

The visit to Applegate Farms today was tiresome but worthwhile. It was a lot of running back and forth to the kitchen and to the photoshoot area! Though I was mostly just a helping hand and wasn’t involved in the taking of pictures, I was able to observe as it all went down in between heating toppings up, grabbing forks and knifes and washing dishes. The cool part was that my hand-writing on the recipe cards was featured in a lot of the photographs!

Setting up was everything you’d expect. We had to lug in all of the coolers, dry goods, the placemats, cutting boards, and cooking ware, but with 4 people in total we were able to do so pretty quickly. The atmosphere of Applegate Farms Headquarters was very open and fun. They pride themselves on their sustainable, organic and natural meats and they’re concerned about animal welfare.

The photoshoot itself took place in the studio room called “Jugtown.” There were pictures on the walls that depicted the company’s history in sepia tones (very cool!) and Kate and Guy had to move some of the tables around so that the photoshoot could take place in the best lighting possible. It’s funny, I always thought that natural lighting was good, but it appeared like it was working against what they had envisioned for the pictures. Kate and Guy had to set up a tarp on one of the larger windows to dim the light out. I realized just how particular everything is for a photoshoot—it has to look really proper and tidy for social media and each and every aspect of the picture is scrutinized. Because the main focus of the pictures was the differently-dressed hot dogs, there was lots of fuss over “thumb placement” and how the model’s hands looked. Time is also of the essence here, you have to move quickly but not too quickly. Move too slow, and the hot dog will start to look old and stale and the toppings will move around; move too fast and obviously chaos will ensue and things will get sloppy.

One of the most redeeming parts of the visit was the networking and the people that I met. The people that work at Applegate Farms seem like they really value where they work and they have fun. They hire out a lot of young, health-minded individuals it seems (a lot of which didn’t really eat hot dogs or meat for that matter, which surprised me). The highlight of my day was being able to meet with the Research and Development staff of Applegate Farms (essentially, food scientists)! We had nearly an hour long discussion talking about what I could expect in college, what I could do with my major, intern opportunities, and the importance of staying curious about food. They told me that they too are foodies and food science “nerds.” It felt nice to have people to talk to that also take inspiration from looking at new products at the grocery store, and trying out weird and quirky food combinations. I met someone in marketing, who gave me a brief summary of what she does: essentially, she analyzes trends (through more than just social media) to see what customers like and what they believe will do well at retail stores.

From the experience today, I learned through discussing with two R&D specialists more about the industry that I will be a part of and the importance of maintaining one’s creative side when developing a recipe or product to put on the market. I learned what really goes into professional photography and what it takes to put a product on social media or on a grocery shelf. What I learned today was really essential but difficult to put into words, all said and done. I’m exhausted but it was a worthwhile experience.

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