Vikki Sloviter Photography
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Blog

Occasional updates, observations and comments about my work as a ballet photographer.

On Location in Target and IKEA

  Target's bathroom floors are very slippery, but fortunately this one had grout lines and stall walls that helped provide traction for posing on pointe.

Target's bathroom floors are very slippery, but fortunately this one had grout lines and stall walls that helped provide traction for posing on pointe.

  Got milk? Shaelynn in the dairy section of Target.

Got milk? Shaelynn in the dairy section of Target.

 

Shooting on location is always a challenge for any number of reasons — light, weather, on-lookers. Since I've had my studio, I haven't worked outside or in other locations very much. But, the recent popularity on social media of maternity and engagement shoots done in big box stores made me rise to the challenge: could I shoot a dancer in a Target or IKEA (or both)?

Fortunately, Shaelynn Estrada of Houston Ballet was visiting Philadelphia recently and agreed to be my test subject. If we were kicked out of Target then we'd just head to my studio and do dramatic portraits. But we were really hoping shooting in Target and IKEA would work.

I was particularly worried about being asked to stop by store employees. When I tried shooting in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market once, the dancer and I were told to stop immediately since it was an "eating establishment" and the (male) dancer was shirtless. I was also told to stop shooting outside of a children's museum once because it simply "wasn't allowed." So, I expected the store employees to ask me if I was taking professional photos (uh, no, of course not) or to just tell me I couldn't take pictures in their stores. Surprisingly, no one batted an eye, even when we rearranged furniture and accessories to create a less cluttered space. I intentionally wanted Shaelynn in regular street clothes and not wear a leotard and tights (or tutu) to help prevent her from attracting too much attention to our project. Though when she was posing in Target, several on-lookers were in awe and thought she was a store mannequin.

  Target's seasonal store display was the perfect setting for an editorial-style shoot.

Target's seasonal store display was the perfect setting for an editorial-style shoot.

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We spent two hours in Target and then headed to the IKEA nearby. The most difficult aspects about shooting in IKEA were the spot lighting and the enormous hangtags that are on every single item. I had to either hide the tags or edit them out, and they're not small! Fortunately, in the sample bathroom where I photographed Shaelynn in the tub, the only visible tags were on the shower curtains and I was able to carefully tuck them away. 

  Rub-a-dub-dub, one dancer in a tub.

Rub-a-dub-dub, one dancer in a tub.

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  Challenging lighting: bright spot light on just the corner of the sofa in this IKEA sample display living room. 

Challenging lighting: bright spot light on just the corner of the sofa in this IKEA sample display living room. 

  This wooden room divider near the IKEA restaurant was great for leading lines, though the spot lights above and bright hallway to the bathroom in the background posed a lighting challenge.

This wooden room divider near the IKEA restaurant was great for leading lines, though the spot lights above and bright hallway to the bathroom in the background posed a lighting challenge.

  Shooting in the IKEA elevator posed not just a lighting issue but a timing one as well. We had no assistant (my kids were at home) so I had to press and hold the "hold open" button while Shaelynn got into position, and then I had about two seconds to back out of the elevator and take two shots before the doors closed. We also had to wait until the elevator was actually empty, and on a Sunday after Thanksgiving, it wasn't empty that much. The elevator floor was also super slippery, so any weight Shaelynn put on the cart would make it move around, so she had to not only keep the cart still while posing, but also point her feet, too.

Shooting in the IKEA elevator posed not just a lighting issue but a timing one as well. We had no assistant (my kids were at home) so I had to press and hold the "hold open" button while Shaelynn got into position, and then I had about two seconds to back out of the elevator and take two shots before the doors closed. We also had to wait until the elevator was actually empty, and on a Sunday after Thanksgiving, it wasn't empty that much. The elevator floor was also super slippery, so any weight Shaelynn put on the cart would make it move around, so she had to not only keep the cart still while posing, but also point her feet, too.

All the lighting was ambient store lighting—no flashes, no strobes. Making the existing light work for us was a challenge, but a good and fun one.