Fashion catalog shots done on location can add an entire dimension of entertainment to the visual appeal and personality of a book. The entertainment element becomes important to catalogers as consumers place higher expectations on these “wish books.” With the appearance and acceptance of “special logs” (special interest catalogs of narrow appeal and subject matter); and “magalogs” (catalogs containing a high content of editorial matter and general advertising which combine a catalog concept with that of a magazine) interesting backgrounds may be considered necessary in achieving the desired positioning of these books. Any shooting done outside of a studio is a location shoot, whether it takes place in the apartment of a friend, or in an elegant restaurant. A location shooting can be as exotic as a trek in the Himalayas or as accessible as a local park.
The difficulties of a location fashion shoot have to do with the logistics of moving people, camera equipment and merchandise from site to site. Careful checklists must be prepared, so that nothing is left behind. It is frustrating (and costly) to be at the site, all set up to shoot, only to realize that someone forgot to bring the belt or the hat! The problem of logistics can be alleviated by the use of these check lists, with the photographer and photographer’s assistant being responsible for all of the equipment, and the stylist and art director thoroughly checking the merchandise and accessories. Weather then becomes an item of concern on location shoots. On local sites, models can be booked with a “weather permit” proviso. But if the shooting is taking place half way around the world, the models are present whether or not the sun shines and allows a shoot.
It is a good idea to combine a certain number of indoor shoots into the plan, and to leave them loose in the schedule so that they can be quickly substituted in case of rain. Since production lead time for catalogs is lengthy (averaging 120 days for creative production and digital output), seasonality may present a problem for outdoor shoots.
Mailing schedules dictate that fashion merchandise should be offered well in advance of the need for such items. Therefore, the combined time requirements of production and mailing will result in having to shoot fur jackets in July, and bathing suits in December.
Imaginative art directors have found ways to camouflage the seasonality problem, but it usually involves extensive travel plans. For example, a foggy morning shoot on the rocky coast of Maine can look cold enough for furs, even in summer months. The sunlit deserts of Arizona provide a bathing suit atmosphere even in winter. And there are always choices like indoor pools, spas and resorts, ski lodges and cruise ships.
Any location shooting must be planned well in advance, with great attention to detail and budget. Approvals must be obtained for specific locales. If fees or credit lines are required for use of the premises, these agreements should be prearranged and budgeted.
Better known catalogs will have little trouble getting hotels, restaurants and resorts to accept a promotional credit line in lieu of a usage fee; i.e. “Photographed on location at the beautiful Famous Name Restaurant.” Foreign location fashion shootings can produce extraordinary photographic depictions, resulting in an ambience for the catalog. Models shown in front of interesting architectural or cultural landmarks of a foreign country will hold the reader’s attention longer. A cruise or vacation fashion book is more entertaining when photographed on a beach or around a pool than simply shot in studio in front of a blue no-seam. It is also easier to capture the models having fun and looking natural in such a setting.