Ask an Agent / Christmas in Summer!?

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column that answers all your dilemmas about the business of photography – a sort of photography agony aunt. Whatever area of the industry you are in, if you have any questions you’d like to ask please send them to  _NIC7496A-SANTA

I noticed on Twitter that you've been shooting a Christmas themed shoot over the past week - how on earth do you do that in this weather?! Chloe Whitehouse

Thanks for your question Chloe ( and thanks Tom for my lovely beard!) I've been saving this one for my annual festive themed 'Ask an Agent'! The shoot you're referring to was for Coca-Cola, shot by Nick Daly in the middle of the heat wave this summer. It must have been 35C when the team were having to get  estive with roast turkeys, Christmas trees and presents! In addition to Coca-Cola, we've also shot 'Christmas' in the summer for clients such as Boots and Harvester - we even did Halloween in January! We asked supremely talented LPA stylist Alice Timms how she makes it look like Christmas whatever time of the year it is.

IMG_5143 Alice Timms and Ros Keep (in sandals!) decorating a tree on set for the Boots Christmas catalogue.

Much of the Christmas shoot styling for advertising is done in July, which can bring quite a unique set of challenges. One of the main challenge is getting hold of all the decorations so far away from Christmas, so this requires a bit of forward planning and a  good knowledge of where to go.

There are props houses that stock a selection, but you can't just rely on these, so luckily there are specific shops that specialise in Christmas all year round. I have also been buying up decorations in the January sales for a while so have built up a good selection now of my own which I can use. It encourages you to be more creative and I have also made decorations from items available in haberdashery shops all year round, such as tassels and sequins. Paper wedding decorations also work well, and wrapping paper makes good paper chains.

IMG_5127 Alice and her home-made paper chains.

Christmas trees can be quite tricky to source in July, so I have a couple of back up fake trees at home, but if we need a real one then I have used a Christmas tree farm up in the far north of Scotland. The tree had to be cut at midnight the evening before the shoot and couriered down overnight. The problem in July is that the trees get lots of new growth which is a different colour so it needs trimming and lots and lots of water, as they don't like the heat. It needs to be kept outside in the shade until the last minute when you need to dress it, and then you have to be careful as the branches are too floppy to hold decorations that are too heavy. Tree branches with fairy lights also make good out of focus backgrounds.

IMG_5110 Getting that troublesome tree to look its best!

It might be 35 degrees and a heatwave, so I am used to decorating trees in my sandals now, we put on Christmas hats and listen to some jingle bells and get into the festive spirit. By the time Christmas really comes around , I have set it up already on 5 shoots so I leave it to my children to decorate our tree at home!

Thanks for that Alice! From a production point of view, we've covered everything from getting fake snow in the summer to arranging holiday shoots in the thick of winter - we know how to get the results whatever the weather or season!

Hopefully this has been helpful - make sure stay tuned for lots more handy tips and advice in 2014 - Merry Christmas to you all!