Looking for a good scare going into Halloween? While some people may consider spiders or ghosts frightening, not having your Halloween assets ready in time for the season is a truly terrifying thought.
While vampires won’t show up in photos, Lowe’s had plenty of Halloween-themed products that sure would. That’s why Lowe’s turned to TRG to capture the seasonal assets they needed to market their Halloween decorations and have a very happy Halloween.
What Lowe’s Needed
When you have a lot of Halloween decorations, you’re going to need a lot of photos. Lowe’s had nearly 1,000 different Halloween products ranging from small pumpkins to animatronic muskies over 10-feet tall, and they needed some quality photos of these devilish decorations.
However, Lowe’s wasn’t looking for basic product shots. Lowe’s wanted a collection of lifestyle photography that showcased all these decorations in living rooms, on front yards, and anywhere else people place their particular products. There also needed to be some variety in the different homes, meaning that this project had to include a mix of in-studio photography and different locations.
To sum it all up, Lowe’s needed a multimedia studio that could create more than 100 lifestyle images incorporating 1,000 products, all of which were set in multiple locations. Sounds like a lot, right? It absolutely is, and that’s why Lowe’s came to TRG for help.
How We Made That Happen
When you have a project of this size and complexity, planning is your best friend. Lowe’s gave us a lengthy shot list with all the different types of photos they wanted, and it was up to us to figure out how to turn those ideas into reality. That meant addressing the following challenges:
Identifying and securing a variety of locations
Creating a Halloween environment in May
Managing logistics for multiple photoshoots
Product assembly and styling
Identifying the right locations
Due to the sheer number and size of some of Lowe’s Halloween products, it was quickly apparent that we were going to need to find a variety of places to shoot their photos. Lowe’s had a high-level outline of the locations they needed, which called for various types of homes to speak to different homeowners. In short, we needed to borrow a few different front yards.
We used different location scouts and connections to find potential places. Lowe’s wanted to use places that felt lived in, with interesting architectural elements or features where they could showcase their products in different ways. It also didn’t hurt if the locations had personal items that we could use in their photos. While most of the props and furniture were pre-selected, including a planter, and outdoor rug, or other pre-existing items only added to that lived-in feeling.
If we particularly liked a location, we would ask the owners if we could use their space and send reference photos with different angles to Lowe’s so that they could get an overall look and feel of the scene. Once we were done, we got approval to shoot at five different homes. Meanwhile, we were able to use our own studio space to give us greater control of the lighting and set design for any interior shots that weren’t dependent on being outside.
Of course, working on location poses another challenge – you have to deal with the outside world. Shooting at people’s homes means that you must manage the neighbors as well. We took extra precautions to avoid potential problems. For example, some people might call the police if they heard high-pitched cackling on a random Tuesday evening in May. We’d contact each city to let them know what we were doing, when we’d be there, and any other details to avoid outside issues.
The first step to tackling any seasonal project is to start early. You can’t push Halloween back, so we started working in the spring to make sure that Lowe’s had all the assets they needed well in advance of when they would end up using them.
Of course, starting early means dealing with some other challenges when you need to shoot on location. One great example is that May tends to be a lot greener than October. Unless you’ve got some serious allergies, a healthy, green lawn and spring flowers don’t quite work for a spooky Halloween setting.
People tend to get mad if you tear up their front yards, so we had to get creative. We brought out fall plants and cobwebs to cover up lush landscaping with more seasonally appropriate sights. We also benefitted from knowing a few people who really hate raking, so we transported some dead leaves to our locations to give them a real touch of fall. Between practical effects and the magic of post-production, we could turn a spring setting into a spooky scene for multiple locations.
Managing multiple photoshoots
What do you do when you have a limited amount of time to complete a project? You maximize the time you have. For 10 days, we had multiple crews working at the same time. Each location would have its own team, which typically included:
An assistant for the photographer
A digital tech
A set stylist
A production assistant in charge of the products
Simply put, overseeing dozens of people at multiple locations takes a lot of careful planning and timing. If one person is delayed, it throws a proverbial wrench in the whole process. This is especially true when some products were needed at multiple locations.
We also had to consider that the sun doesn’t wait for anyone. Each workday would start around 2 p.m. and typically end around 2 a.m., giving us specific windows of daylight to work with before we put on our headlamps for the late hours.
All these factors made it pivotal to create an action plan during pre-production. After a lot of meticulous planning and preparation, we created a shot list to dictate what photos needed to be taken, where, and when. This also gave us a gameplan to help us figure out where products, props, furniture, and any other items needed to be on any given day.
We also took detailed notes to document every single shot since different products were showcased in different ways. We would track each product, where it was shot, the date, and any other details to give Lowe’s all the information they needed for their assets in case we needed to make adjustments.
Product assembly and styling
Have you ever assembled nearly 1,000 Halloween decorations before? We have, and we can confirm that it takes quite a lot of time. The sheer number and variety of the products was quite a challenge, but nothing that some expertise, massive amounts of storage space, and a bit of fishing wire couldn’t fix.
Before we did anything at a location, we would take restaging and insurance photos to ensure the homeowner’s personal items were moved back to where they belonged or protect us if someone claimed we did something like scratch their door.
Assembling everything took an ample amount of time, and not necessarily for reasons that most people would expect. For example, the average homeowner isn’t going to steam their inflatables before they go on the front lawn. However, that same homeowner isn’t going to take marketing photos with high-powered cameras, so we needed to take the time to make sure Jack Skellington and Mickey Mouse are ready for their closeups.
We also needed to be creative when it came to animatronics and other electrical products. Movement would negatively affect night photos, so we’d have to time certain shots or pose them in just the right way to capture the perfect image. Other product placements would depend on the nearest outlet (or whether we could sneak an extension cord into the scene). Between rigging up pulley systems, using fishing wire, and adding details in post, we always made sure we had a way to capture the right shots.
Once we were all done, we still had another job to do – pack everything up and return it to the client. We placed all the products back in their boxes, put them on pallets, and got them ready for when the truck came to pick them up to take them to their next destination.
After 10 days of shooting at five different off-site locations and multiple in-studio sets, we were able to capture all the shots Lowe’s needed months in advance of Halloween. Our efforts led to 110 stunning images and an animated GIF that Lowe’s could use to promote their Halloween decorations on their website, social media, and anywhere else that needed some Halloween spirit.
Got a big project for your brand? As you can tell, we’re pretty good at turning complicated jobs into quality content. Contact us today to have TRG bring your brand’s photo, video, and CGI assets to life.