Making lemonade at Harrods

A while back I wrote about how much of the job involves solving problems seemingly outside of photography: usually practical issues around the shoot which are unpredictable, unwanted or irritating. My argument was that however we may feel, they are very much part and parcel of a shoot. They must be dealt with, worked around, bulldozed over - or even leveraged to create something new.

Or in other words, when given lemons. And hence, "I don't want excuses - I want pictures." as the picture desks say. 

So, a case in point last week. Two brand-new Maserati models arriving in London, to be displayed in the window of Harrods. I was commissioned to document their arrival on Saturday night (straightforward), and return early the next morning - when they'd be setup up and window-dressed - to shoot "teaser" detail, close-up images of shiny chrome and brand logos, that sort of thing (arty). A taste of the display, but without revealing too much.

Part one (the arrival) went fine - just some cars being dropped off into a showroom at night:

Part two, however, was a different story. Very early on the Sunday morning, after wending my way through the labyrinthine underground catacombs of the store (you wouldn't believe), and finally arriving at the display, this scene greeted me: 

Oh, dear. A half-finished installation, with bubble wrap and sheeting covering the cars for their protection. And the sheeting was not going to be removed until the last moment (which was expected to be sometime in the early hours of the next morning).

Hmm. There would be no chrome. No close-ups of an ergonomic steering wheel or an Italian leather interior. No branding. No logos. How could I take evocatively teasing images when I could barely see the cars?

I was about to turn around and go home - really; did I mention it was a Sunday morning? - when it dawned on me that, in fact, the shots were right there. Not what I'd expected or hoped for, certainly - but possibilities for teaser images (of a rather different kind), just the same. A couple of dozen, as it turned out. So, here's a logo at the front:

If that was too abstract, a wider shot shows a little more. Like the Christmas wrapping around a bicycle, which shapes what's underneath rather predictably (and delightfully):

I then found that the sheeting and bubble-wrap could be pulled up over the wheels and part-way up the bonnet, meaning I could get shots nearer to what was expected:

Finally, a photo of a car as a whole is rather dull. This is a pity, as it's very much the definition of a teaser image:

But works just fine with one small change - here, the sheeting is being smoothed into place by one of the installation team. Job done: