Everything about car campaigns is about excess, but as Slater points out, the expense is justified by the fact that the car is the biggest branded item most people will ever buy. And, judging by the latest brochure for the new Celica, shot by Willy von Recklinghausen in Los Angeles, long-standing client Toyota agrees.
‘The brochure is often for people who can’t easily get to a showroom, so it needs to be very persuasive,’ says Slater. In the Celica’s case, the car’s USPs determined that the brochure’s core concept needed both an overall dynamic and some hi-tech imagery. This meant lots of ‘face’ shots (opening shots of the car on the road) and shots from different angles and perspectives, in combination with close-up insets detailing technical capabilities and additional features.
Saatchi developed moodboards and a narrative storyboard before mocking up a full black and white brochure for the client. Once that was approved, Slater was able to start preparing the shoot, a three to four week task that included sending a scout to find locations, in this case LA.
‘As with any car shoot, the art director is looking for great backgrounds, and LA has them. It’s also got nine to ten months’ good light a year (essential for big, highly reflective objects), its own police department for film and photography issues, and dramatically changing scenery within a few hours of the cityÃ¤ I’ve shot there in November where it was 75 degrees downtown one day and -5 around Lake Mammoth in three foot of snow the next,’ says Slater.
A core team of five worked on the shoot with Slater and von Recklinghausen; location manager Ron Smotherman, two photographer’s assistants and two car riggers. Slater identifies other peripheral staff and considerations, such as a driver for shoot car transportation (cars are often top secret and are therefore never driven on the open road), models to drive the car, police to hold traffic flow, water trucks to wet down roads (for blacker tarmac), lighting if you’re shooting in low light situations and, most importantly, ‘a motor home for somewhere to pee’.
The rig construction used to shoot the Celica images is one of the most important elements of the shoot. ‘It enables the car and camera to have a rigid or fixed relationship, so when the car is pushed from behind at one or two miles an hour, on exposure times ranging from eight seconds to 12 minutes, it gives the appearance of driving at high speed,’ explains Slater. It takes around two hours to attach to the car, and that’s preceded by travelling time of anywhere between one and four hours and followed by one to two hours of Polariods to be sure the location really is working and getting the desired results.
All of that will hopefully result in just one major image daily. As most brochures have between ten and 12 main shots, a typical shoot will last around a month, including location checking, weather days and travel between locations. At £150 000-£500 000 for a shoot, including photographer’s day rates of between £1500 and £3000, that’s a lot per photo. Too much? ‘Car companies are a dream client in some ways; they understand the importance of the image so there’s no penny pinching,’ says Slater. n