Last year I introduced my "guaranteed Irregular Choice" every week posts on both blogs, which I'm continuing in 2016. However it was also the year I really got into elaborate settings for shoe haul posts. It's something I (and you) enjoy doing (and seeing) immensely, so I thought I'd take a look back at those posts and discuss my reasoning for them and what I thought worked well (or didn't). Where possible I've included 'behind the scenes' type photos or images I haven't shared before, but I'll also link to each individual post for you to see the original photo sets.
It began rather tentatively with the Roarsum dinosaur heels in March. I can't quite remember, but I think my nephews had been playing with the dinosaurs in the toy box one day and knowing the dino heels were to launch soon, I'd looked at them and thought it would be cool to include some scattered among the shoes. It wasn't an extravagant setting, but just added a little something to it. With hindsight, they would look fantastic in a garden, peeking out from bushes or in grass, but I didn't have any of that to hand and I hadn't realised at that point the direction (and acceleration) my themed posts would take!
I wrote what I refer to as "my big Irregular Choice post" in July that year, photographing just a few of my collection in the garden. I still hadn't categorically decided that every 'special' shoe buy from then on would involve a themed display, but I'd had fun photographing my shoes in unusual spots and adding the dinosaurs.
So when the Squeezy bear heels came out in August, I knew I wanted to style them in a special setting (if I got them of course!). They look like old, cuddled and much loved teddies and can easily be mistaken for a soft toy rather than a pair of shoes, so I thought if they were nestled in amongst cuddly toys, they would indeed be utterly authentic. I gathered together my Ty Beanies, unicorns, poodles, 'Clara' (the teddy with the red bow I've had since a child), my Scary Spice soft doll and even a few of my sister's toys on my Zara Kids fleece blanket and burrowed a little hole for the shoes. This remains one of my favourite shoots. I loved how the photos turned out (I softened them around the edges to look even more 'atmospheric'), the shoes looked brilliant and inviting in that setting and I just wanted to snuggle up with them! This was my turning point, when I realised that I was wasted "straight shooting" (as I call it) when I could be doing awesome set-ups like this.
I'm not saying any of the shoes needed it, Irregular Choice are exciting enough without an elaborate setting, but I felt it added emotion or feeling. The teddies didn't detract from my usual style of showing off detailed views from every angle and pointing out heels and trims, so I knew I could still do those shots and get my points across whilst having fun with the background. I'd already made that decision and was going to do it regardless, but the amount of comments and messages I had from readers after that shoot, were overwhelmingly in support and further encouraged me! I'll honestly never tire of hearing stories of how you had no interest in something until you saw my photos and I really appreciate you telling me this. I feel like that means I'm doing my 'job' well, even though I'm doing it for free! Stock photos exist for a reason and you do get a clear idea of what a shoe (or anything) will look like before buying. However they are stark aren't they? Personality doesn't come across and you rarely feel that passion or excitement until you see a 'real' photo of them and that's where I come in! There's no point in me replicating stock images that already exist, they do their thing well and hopefully I'm doing my (different) thing well. Dinosaurs with dinosaurs and fluffy bears with fluffy toys were easily thought out. I had no idea what was coming next and would I have the resources required?
Irregular Choice threw me for a loop by announcing dice heels. Not an animal, an object. It wasn't difficult to think up an appropriate setting for these boots though. We have a 'games cupboard' in our house and so I raked out some vintage games. I used the boards as backdrops and the base and added things like my fashion wheel, dial-a-design, dice and counters and even spelt out "Irregular Choice" and "Poker Joker" (the style of boot) with Scrabble letters (though had to get creative when I discovered we only had one "k")! At the time I didn't think it was going to work as well as the teddies, because it was quite cluttered, but I was so happy with how the photos looked. The boots really stood out against the games, yet meshed well. I was pleased and it reiterated that I'd found my calling, if you like!
After further praise from you all, I really felt the pressure was on to smash another shoot with whatever would follow, the issue is, you have no idea what that is. Once more it was an object, in the form of light up heart heels. I'll be honest, I was a bit lost with this information. All I could think of was hearts and flowers and typical Valentine's mush (even though it was September), but not really anything 'inspired'. Not only am I attempting to do these shoes justice, I'm also trying to stay true to myself and add in personal bits that are very 'me', that you wouldn't get elsewhere (that's kinda the whole point of blogging). So I'm wary of doing something a bit...generic! Obviously when new shoes arrive I'm very excited about it, so I want that enthusiasm to come across as well. I ordered the shoes and still didn't know what to do, but it was always on my mind and the day before they arrived, inspiration struck while trying to sleep the night before! I envisioned a retro teen bedroom scene and to have it set up like a little desk or dressing table.
Thankfully my sister shared my vision and was amazing in helping me out with old copies of Smash Hits magazines with boyband covers, heart-throb posters and CD's, especially with little time. I wanted a kitsch feel, so everything I picked was very tongue in cheek, like the cheesy teddy with heart jumper that your first crush would give you! I added makeup, fluffy pens, diaries, an old key, origami bunny, a troll and my Jordan NKOTB doll from the early 90's. Don't even ask where I find these things from at short notice! I even made one of those paper fortune teller games with 'I heart IC' and the heart shoes drawn on it (attention to detail!) as I remember them being a staple during my primary schooling in the 80's! This was absolutely my favourite scene. I set it all up on a little table, using magnets to attach the posters to the radiator (I'm resourceful too) like a wall and it was just so special to look at, even before the shoes were included. It really had me feeling nostalgic and even now I enjoy looking back at those photos (so many cool things to see) and I'm not convinced I'll ever 'top' it. My favourite thing was the framed Justin & Britney photo my sister gave me. Like I say, it's the silly, little personal touches that really set it apart and make it special and unique and I was really chuffed with the whole thing.
Next to come was the Star Wars release in November. This was hard for me because I've never watched any of the movies. I kinda know some characters, but don't know enough about the people or plot to know what's relevant. While I may be in tune with fellow Irregular Choice fans, I was mindful of not wanting to do the wrong thing and upset or offend SW fans, by choosing something completely inappropriate or irrelevant. I still wanted it to look like a setting I'd choose though and something I'd be proud of. By sheer luck, my sister came home one day with rolls of gift wrap. She's using them as lining (backdrops) in display cabinets in her bedroom and whenever she unravelled this brightly coloured planet one, I knew that would be perfect for SW shoes (my blogger brain never switches off clearly), if I couldn't come up with anything else. This was some time before the release and I wasn't even sure I was getting any until the last minute, but I knew the R2D2 pair I wanted would look fantastic against this. My nephew was getting a Lego Star Wars calender as part of his Christmas and we found a Darth Vader Lego key-ring, but neither of them were enough or looked right with the shoes. So back to the wrapping paper it was and this was definitely one of the easier displays, with two sheets of paper (one as a base and the other draped behind as a backdrop). Had I bought another style, I'm not sure it would've had the same effect, but the colour of R2D2 were perfectly enhanced with the bright galaxy behind them. I thought the finished photos were stunning and striking and I actually realised this as I was shooting, that they were coming across really well. I do wish I'd had my nephews lightsaber to add in, but maybe something as busy as the teen bedroom wouldn't have shown off the shoes to their best in this case and I guess the lesson learnt is sometimes less is more (you all know I usually preach "more is more").
I thought that might be it for the year, but as Christmas approached there was news of not one, but three new character heels (five different pairs). I bought three styles (Rudolph, Bunnykins and Trixy and comparison photos), so had my work cut out trying to photograph so many. Since I'm being completely honest, I'll say I was a little disappointed with how my photos turned out. I had a clear idea of the setting, but there was a lot going against me that day. The shoes didn't arrive first thing, the light was dim (it is Scotland in winter) and I was really fighting against the clock to photograph all three before the sun set in the afternoon. I don't have a fancy studio or lights, it's just me and my camera, so I started with the darkest pair and finished with the lightest (in the conservatory as it had most light) as I thought this might help. My parents brought the Christmas tree down from the attic and I requested a branch or two as a backdrop (even they were getting irritated with my strange demands) and threw some decorations on it and hoped to nestle the shoes into the branches. I had so little time to set it up and the branches kept slipping against the kitchen counter top I was using as a base (it was spare when we recently had our kitchen renovated and has a glitter finish, so I kept it as it's ideal for photography), so I couldn't really push the shoes in any further or the whole thing would collapse. Also I was in a lot of pain this day so couldn't get a good angle, as I wasn't sitting in the optimal position (I photographed more base and less height than I'd have liked), but regardless of this, they came out not too bad. They had a real festive feel and for the two more Christmassy looking pairs (Rudolph and Trixy), the colours really fused well. I felt I could've done better though (I'm hard on myself), had the light been brighter, it would've helped a lot.
I'm hoping to continue with the extravagant themed settings as it's something I really enjoy and it's becoming my signature. I do have to remind myself (before my body does) that they can often take a lot of planning, sourcing, setting up and become quite physical at times (shifting loads of shoes up and down stairs!), so it's best to save them to the limited releases like character heels and that keeps it special for you too. They are sooo much fun to put together though, that it's worth the extra trouble and discomfort. Even I'm interested to see how I interpret each new release (!) and if this could be my real job, I'd love it! We could make it into a calendar or coffee table book! How can we make that happen? As always the feedback from you, hugely spurs me on and knowing that I made something look more interesting or appealing than you first thought is a pretty cool and unique thing to be able to do, so I really relish that aspect. Yesterday came news of an Alice In Wonderland collection coming soon, so the blogger brain is ticking with ideas already (if I get any shoes)! What are your thoughts, which has been your favourite shoot out of these?