Work holiday sales
Some holidays are based on the modern calendar. Some are based on lunar/solar calendars. However, they all occur annually. This means there's a need for similar images each year.
Publishers buy illustrative studio images about three-to-six months before these annual holidays. New photographers will find it's difficult to find out-of-season props when publishers want these images.
Consequently, the best day to buy props is the day after a holiday. Rather than storing merchandise for a year, many retailers offer holiday items at severe discounts on Jan. 2, July 5, Nov. 1 and Dec. 26 and similar dates.
While this is particularly important to commercial stock photographers, PJs can take advantage of these sales as well.
Anyone who's read the "A penny saved..." post will immediately understand. If someone else pays prop fees for "Christmas in July," get new stuff. Otherwise, wait until it's on sale, and get more for less. All props are a write off, but it's pointless to waste money.
Basic capitalism suggests we should "buy low and sell high." If we buy holiday-themed props the day after the holiday, we can get merchandise for pennies on the dollar. Our selection may be limited, but we're taking advantage of a buyer's market.
Rather than scrambling to locate Easter items in October, we have six months to work with the plastic and ceramic items we purchased in the spring. Hopefully, we'll find additional uses for the items as well.
Find timeless items
Many "fad" items are sold each year. Ignore those items on the bargain shelf and look for classic, repetitive items. Also look for items that could be useful for other shoots.
Colored lights, fall leaves, artificial pumpkins, plastic grass, fake snow and other non-perishable items can be used for non-holiday illustrations. While everyone needs to avoid items with printed dates (particularly on New Year props), commercial stock shooters also need to avoid items with logos and trademarks.
However, any shooter could use a fog machine all year. They're available this week for about 20 percent of next year's price. For the price of a single fog machine, a wise PJ can buy the machine, fog juice, cleaner and some ghoulish props this week.
If a studio specializes in children's portraits, they could scoop up all the leftover costumes and reap the benefits throughout the year. If children get to dress like a princess, cowboy, firefighter or bumblebee, they don't care what day of the year it is.
Likewise, early November is greeting card portrait season. Photo greeting cards become family keepsakes. Clients need enough time to have the cards printed, addressed and mailed. If these aren't shot and at the lab by Nov. 15, there's going to be problems.
Smart PJs can offer portrait specials and stay busy through Thanksgiving Day. The smartest PJs already have a box of props from last year. They probably picked up discounted Bing Crosby CDs one year to put subjects in the mood as well.
Enough for now,