Fresh Flowers and Lit Candles
Picturesque scenery, beautiful outdoor furniture, and distinctive accessories decorate the pages of every Summer Classics catalog. You’ll see exquisite fabrics, and intricate tablescapes with colorful fruit and sparkling wine glasses. There’s our signature additions of fresh flowers and lit candles, as if the party is about to start. You’ll see settings that resonate with the high-end quality of our products such as outdoor gardens, open patios, and lakeside property. But behind all the effortless elegance that our photographers strive to convey, there’s a lot of hard work. At any Summer Classics photoshoot, dedicated employees can be found from sun-up to sun-down unpacking and hauling heavy furniture, making flower arrangements, cleaning and decorating, and unwrapping cushions. Even founder, Bew White, has had trouble getting cushions unwrapped. You’ve already seen the finished product in our latest catalog, but now, we’d like to offer a behind-the-scenes look at a Summer Classics photo shoot.
Waiting on a Cloud
It starts about 40 days prior to the shoot, finalizing designs and ordering samples. Two days in advance, products are unwrapped and loaded onto the truck from the warehouse. Then the real fun begins. Furniture is hefted off the truck, onto the patio setting, and carefully laid out for the shoot. In the photos above, Summer Classics employees unwrap cushions and set up chairs for an arrangement that will be tweaked until perfection. Product designer, Matt Scallions, comments that despite all the work, these days are enjoyable because there’s always great stories. He adds that it’s “like Christmas” because photo shoots are usually the first time that new products are revealed.
A crucial part of Summer Classics photography is choosing the right location for our outdoor furniture. For us, the environment must complement the design. The photo above exemplifies how we pair our collections with unique settings. The chaise lounges on the left are from the Coast Collection, and their contemporary style suits the cityscape view. By contrast, the Lattice collection features a traditional design that complements the peaceful lakeside patio. No matter the setting, we’re fortunate to have access to unbelievable local architecture near our headquarters in Alabama.
Once a location has been chosen and the furniture positioned, the rest isn’t always easy. When asked about unplanned setbacks from Summer Classics photo shoots, product development director Wright Currie comments, “Which letter, A-Z?” as a testament to the number of obstacles our employees have overcome to achieve great photography. Among these misadventures includes swimming in a thunderstorm in summer of 2015 to get some good shots, despite the weather. The above photo from a 2006 photo shoot of the Venice Collection was not quite as bad. But it did require fighting rain and a downstream current to capture this lattice-back collection in the iconic setting it deserves.
Above is the final product from the Venice Collection’s photo shoot. It landed on the cover of our 2006 catalog.
When it comes to photographing outdoor furniture, the natural world is often an unpredictable business partner. Matt shares that much of one photo shoot day was spent “waiting on a cloud” to balance the lighting. It’s not uncommon to see everyone scatter from the set when the photographer shouts, “Cloud!” so they won’t miss an opportune shot. But despite the natural world’s unpredictability, we work with nature more often than we fight against it. Over the years, we’ve tried to hone our core strength of photography by creating a natural feel in our photos. For example, fresh flowers and candles have been a critical part of Summer Classics shoots since the beginning. They complement our fresh designs and offer a holistic image of an outdoor space’s potential. When SC was in its infancy, founder Bew White bore the photoshoot burden alone with only his pickup truck, and the photographer. His wife, Wendy, a talented floral designer and wedding planner said “let me help you with that”, and accessorized the photoshoots from 1987 until 2005, until we had our merchandising team relive her.
Above, our team is preparing for a lifestyle shoot of the Charleston Collection. A hand truck, stacks of unwrapped cushions, and three people carrying furniture depict the photo shoot day. It’s also not uncommon for some of our team to model in these photos. On any given page of the catalog, the well-dressed person reading on a wicker lounge is quite possibly one of our own. We’re invested in the whole process, from hauling aluminum loveseats to posing in front of the camera.
The Summer Classics Lifestyle
Above is the Charleston Collection at the photo shoot’s conclusion. The fresh flowers, wine glasses, and candlelit lanterns create a luxurious setting for our aluminum furniture sets. But as Wright reminds us, “behind the camera of every great photo, there are 7 people about to pass out.” At the end of the day, the sweat and sore arms are indicative of our mission. We are not only selling products, but also a lifestyle. As such, we photograph our furniture holistically using elegant settings in order to convey Summer Classics in its intended habitat. Ultimately, we work hard for more than just a photoshoot. We work hard to tell our customers a story of luxury living, of “Life’s Best Moments. Furnished.”