Getting a new, glossy decorating catalog in the mail is such fun. I love looking through the pages, but I admit that I rarely buy what they are selling. Why? Firstly, it seems like everything is always way too expensive for my cheap taste. Secondly, I know they are trying to trick us into thinking whatever we buy is going to look just as good as it does in the catalog.
Trick us? Yep, that’s right. The catalog photographers use lighting, extra props, and backdrops to set the scene. Just as fashion magazines airbrush their models to give you the illusion of perfection, home decor catalogs do whatever they can to suck you into buying their goods.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s deconstruct a photo from a recent Crate and Barrel catalog that arrived in my mailbox. I was really drawn to this photo of their Regatta Lounge Set.
What they are selling here is $4800 worth of patio furniture (and I’m not even exaggerating the price). I love this photo, but it’s not the furniture I love. I am drawn to this because of the feeling it conveys.
So, let’s start taking away some things and see when we stop loving it. The first thing I’m going to remove via my super awesome photoshop skills (ha!) is the gorgeous background that overlooks the ocean. Obviously, the vast majority of us don’t have this view from our back patio.
Okay, that’s not really that large of a change. Now, let’s take away the lanterns that are placed in the foreground of the shot. You may have one or two lanterns on your patio, but you certainly don’t have them spread all over the floor.
And I’ll take away the backgammon board, because I’d assume you don’t have one of those just laying around on your patio, either.
Let’s now take away the tray of decorations and the beautiful cocktails from the coffee table. Maybe I should have left the glasses since you would probably have those on the table if you were throwing a party, but they wouldn’t be there every day so I took them out.
Now, let’s take away the rug. You might have a rug under you set, but I would guess it wouldn’t be the nearly $400 rug that’s pictured here.
Okay, now it’s getting really interesting! What if we removed the other table top accessories and bucket of iced beverages?
A ha! Now it’s looking more like something I’d actually have in my backyard. And honestly, I really am not loving it all that much anymore. Let’s remove the pillows, though, since just those four would cost about $130.
And just because I thought it would be more realistic, I went ahead and removed the beautiful wooden decking. If you are lucky enough to have a deck in your backyard, it’s probably stained closer to the color of the above chairs. If you are like me, you just have a slab of boring concrete.
Woah. Here’s what they are really trying to sell you – the $4800 patio set. It looks a lot different without all of the extras and the beautiful scenery, doesn’t it?
I show you this not to discourage you from falling in love with a catalog and magazine photo. I love taking that sort of inspiration and tweaking it to fit my reality. If I had the above set, I’d add a few accessories, but it would still look nothing like the original photo. I show you this to help you see through the styling tricks and encourage you to see what they are really selling.
Just for giggles, I put together an animation of all the layers being stripped from the original photo. I found it really interesting!
What do you think about all of this? Have you ever been drawn to a feeling conveyed in a catalog photograph and then been let down when you saw the actual item that was being sold?