It's December, and that means the holidays are right around the corner...already. That probably means there's some holiday decorating in your future--and if you aren't decorating, your clients probably are. I live in a tiny downtown loft, and while my place certainly has the height for a tree, it doesn't have the floor space, which means I'd be hanging a tree upside down from the ceiling fan. I can hear the meows of encouragement from my cats right now on that one (and the sound of my landlord using my damage deposit refund cheque for wrapping paper, at the same time). So I get to keep it simple and enjoy what other people do with their places, living vicariously when I'm visiting with a camera. Besides decorating, one of the other great holiday traditions is...wait for it...saving things until the last minute! Or, taking pleasure in being that annoyingly well-organized person who's always bragging to your friends that you had your Christmas shopping all done before Hallowe'en. Here's a protip: if you want your photo to appear in holiday issues of your favourite design and shelter magazines, you want to be a few steps further ahead of the holiday rush than people in the "get it all done before Hallowe'en" crowd. Yes, I'm saying: if you have a seasonal project, get us to do your "holiday" photos now so you can be ready for the holidays NEXT YEAR.
Why so ridiculously early, you ask? Let's say you're a magazine that publishes bimonthly or quarterly, as a lot of high-end home and shelter magazines do. That means you have a November/December or December/January "holiday" issue, or a November-February "winter" issue which needs at least a few pieces of holiday content. Magazines have a month or more of 'lead time' before they go to press, which means putting together your holiday issue in September or October. This year back in October we'd just licked the last of our Georgie Awards shooting and had such generally bright weather that aside from fall colour, we could still pretty much make a place look like it was still midsummer. And back then, nobody had their Christmas decorations up yet. So what's an editor to do? You can of course put a bunch of holiday decorations up as staging and shoot them, or Photoshop them in, but both of those things are labour-intensive and expensive because you're going to have to commission someone to do all that (virtual or real) decorating, and then hire me to go out and photograph it as a special project. Or, if you're like most magazines that prefer to use submitted content rather than photographing their own articles, you're stuck with using projects that were photographed last winter. That way, by the time faithful readers are sitting by a fire watching the snow come down and catching up on a year's worth of periodicals, you can show images that look like you could magically move yourself in without even getting up out of your cozy chair.
Like that. And the only way to be the project that the editors pick for that issue is to have your images all ready for an early fall deadline is to shoot your project now and keep it around for next holiday season. You don't have to worry about being picked on for being ready too soon: editors and media folks will in fact love you for being ready and providing them with images that will work when they're desperately in need of them. The image above was part of a shoot for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation's regular article in Homes and Living Vancouver, shot...you guessed it...a year in advance. So, you have our full permission to be that person who's overly well-prepared. We'll even help with it! How cool is that?
Now, it might happen that you find yourself in the opposite situation: it's the holidays, but you're wanting to shoot non-holiday interiors and exteriors...possibly for your Ovation Awards entry, and you're an early bird so you don't want to wait for the new year to shoot for a January 19 drop-dead date. Your client decorated for Christmas, but you (and the judges, presumably) don't want to see the decorations in the photos. What are you going to do?
You have a couple of choices. Depending on how movable the decorations are, it might be your easiest option to wait until just after Christmas...and remember that giving your client a steady hand and an extra person on a tall ladder after Christmas to get their decorations down faster for a shoot could be really good customer service move on your part; just remember to bring the rum and eggnog or other seasonal beverage for when you're done! It's looking like we'll have a few days that are presently open for shooting right after Christmas, so for a lucky few of you who can coordinate this, the option's open.
Your other option, of course, is to temporarily take their decorations down and reinstall them, or work around them. This works quite well if the decorations lend themselves to moving and temporary pulling down and putting up, but it does require a bit of advance planning, care, and time, since you don't want to be the one who breaks the irreplaceable ornament off great-great-grandma's tree. A few years back, I did a series with the team at Gogo Telugo of about a half-dozen interiors for a local interior decorating firm where the only time we could actually shoot was the week before Christmas. Since we knew we were going to have to un-decorate and re-decorate for almost every interior, the designers would go in an hour or so before I came in, pop off a quick set of iPhone shots of the decorations so we could remember where everything went, and pull the decorations into a room that wasn't going to be photographed. I'd shoot the project, then while I was packing gear up and heading to the next project, they'd hustle around like a set of magical Christmas elves reinstalling all the decorations. And repeat. This was a bunch of extra work, but it did mean we had everything all ready to go by the time they wanted to relaunch their website for the New Year!