If you're in the middle of planning a photoshoot then it would be wise to hold off on buying any props or equipment for just a few days longer. Come November 1 there will be a tsunami of unique items and great savings to be had from all those Halloween festivities. Here's what to expect and the best places to hunt out a bargain.
Almost 10 years ago Strobist wrote about how the day after Halloween is a great time to buy fog machines and I have never forgotten that pearl of wisdom. Ever since I have not only bought the odd fog machine at this time of year, but also found the weirdest and wonderful props for my photoshoots at ridiculously low prices.
My work has always been about the props and the story they help to tell. I love how the addition of something small can really add or change the narrative of a photograph and it's for this reason that I am always on the lookout for items big and small to add to my collection. Halloween makes it much easier to get access to certain things and even though we are all connected to the Internet these days, it's handy to be able to walk into most stores come October and see the various Halloween related items they have for sale. Seeing things firsthand rather than relying on a picture online means I can actually decide if it is worth buying or not. In addition to this, just being able to go into places that are selling Halloween-related items can be enough for the imagination to fire up and give me an idea for my next photoshoot. For that inspiration alone it's well worth wading through the novelty items to find the odd gem.
Now for all of you who are thinking this article doesn't really apply to your kind of photography then think again. I'm not just talking about clown masks and fake blood here. Fog machines, smoke bombs, retro outfits, LED lighting, furniture, and even full-size custom made sets can all be used to make anything from product photography to architecture shoots or even wedding portraits much more interesting.
So without further ado, here are the places you should be checking out come November 1.
eBay and Craigslist
eBay has always been my first port of call for props all year round, but after Halloween you'll find the site gets flooded with certain items. Unless someone is thinking 12 months in advance or has a very late Halloween event to go to you will have very little competition when you bid for such items. I find just before Halloween and New Years Eve, eBay seems to go crazy with people desperate for items to wear or to have at their parties. Save yourself some money and increase your chances of winning the items you want by avoiding the weeks leading up to these two periods.
If you find something on either eBay or Craigslist that you like the look of then always check what else the seller has for sale. Quite often you'll find that people are trying to offload many more items to recoup some of their Halloween spend while others are just forced to sell because they have no space to store it.
Local Stores and Pop-Ups
This will obviously vary from place to place but I find that smaller stores can be quite competitive with their Halloween discounts as they are less likely to have the space to store it all for 12 months. Pop-up stores may also be in the same position so it's well worth checking them out too. With the pop-up stores be sure to get a contact number before October 31 as it's likely they won't be around after the festivities. The beauty of smaller stores and pop-ups is they tend to have more autonomy when it comes to making decisions so if you want to strike a deal you are much more likely to get one than at a big chain store.
Don't just look at what they have on sale as possible purchases but also check out their window displays too. The pop-ups in my hometown have the most amazing large-scale animated creations which change every single year. Maybe you could use one for your next photoshoot? It would be much easier than making it from scratch and you could always put it on eBay afterwards.
The Big Chains
Obviously, it's always worth checking out the big chain stores to see what kind of discounts they have on offer. These are the places where you're more likely to find cheap electrical items like fog machines and Halloween-related lighting, etc.
Your Local Neighborhood
Take a drive around your local neighborhood and see what amazing spectacles people have built to celebrate Halloween. In recent years, I have driven past the most amazing haunted houses which look more like full on movie sets. Some of those items may very well be for sale or to rent after Halloween or you could possibly ask to stage a photoshoot there instead? Even if you have to pay for the privilege it would be well worth it.
Everyone's social media will be flooded with Halloween related posts from your friends, colleagues, and loved ones soon enough. If you see anything interesting which you think might be handy for your next photoshoot then drop them a line. If you're lucky they may give or lend you said items or at least tell you where they purchased such things from. Hopefully, you can then visit those places in November and buy them for much less than they did.
So there you have it, just a few places you could look to find some inspiration and bargains for your next photoshoot. As I mentioned earlier this isn't just about buying up old cliche Halloween items but more to find the subtle props and gear which could potentially enhance a photoshoot. If you've been tempted to experiment with a fog machine, colored smoke grenades, or even try out light painting with strings of LEDs, now could be a very good time to give them a try at the fraction of the cost.
Have you ever made any Halloween related purchases for your photoshoots? I'd love to hear all about them in the comments below.
Lead image by Scott Webb from Pexels.