"Ugly Location" Photo Challenge

About a year ago, I saw a post online on the website PetaPixel from photographer Jenna Martin, about challenging herself to take pretty photos in an “ugly” location. She took one of her models to the local Lowe’s, and looked around for some places to take photos.

I wanted to do the same!

My friend and regular model, Caroline, is always up for fun photo experiences, so we met at the Home Depot that was halfway between our hometowns, and got to work.

Just like Jenna Martin, there were a few rules I wanted to follow.

  1. Work with what was already in the store. Just my camera, no artificial light, no additional props.

  2. No rearranging store displays.

  3. Stop shooting if someone was shopping. If anyone came into the background, we made ourselves look less “out of place”

  4. If any employees told us to stop, we’d pack up and go.

  5. Patronize the store. When I’ve done the “Hobby Lobby Challenge” in the past, I always felt bad if we just walked in, took photos, and walked out. As someone who used to work retail, I know the struggles of making your numbers every day, so Caroline and I stopped by the garden center and picked out some succulents to take home.

We went in on a weekday in the early afternoon. There was a decent amount of customers looking for pieces for their home improvement projects, but it wasn’t overly crowded. We absolutely did what we could to stay out of everyone’s way! Our first stop was easy: we had to go to the lighting section.

The Lighting Aisles


The biggest challenge we came across was the angle of the lights themselves. The solution? Shoot from below. I’ve seen some YouTube videos for this challenge where the models were sitting on the display shelves. I didn’t want to make Caroline feel unsafe in anyway, so I made it a “me problem”. After some tweaking in Photoshop to hide the pesky price tags, and get some cool effects, we ended up with some great photos.


The Aisles

Next, we wandered through various aisles that sold anything from window blinds to bathtubs. These aisles were the most heavily populated with shoppers. We didn’t want to lurk anywhere near the cash registers, so we stuck to the aisles in the back, and we found interesting spots in front of lumber, peeking through shutter samples, and even sitting in one of the tub samples! As Caroline was getting out of the tub, a shopper was passing by and asked “is it a good fit?”


The Garden Center


This was the area I was second-most excited to visit. Why? Plants!! When planning a photoshoot for the day, we originally wanted to go to a farm stand, but we were worried about the weather. I’m glad this was our plan (even though I still want to do a shoot at that farm stand!). There were so many places to explore in Home Depot’s garden center: the open area with natural light, and the roofed-off greenhouse. I also took this as an opportunity to get a photo of Caroline inside the shopping cart! They were much more difficult to sit in than we imagined, but we made it work.


The Paint Samples

This was the spot I was most excited for! Jenna Martin’s images in front of the paint samples at her Lowe’s were gorgeous, and I hoped I could make something just as special. When we originally wanted to shoot here, the aisle was pretty crowded. It took patience, it was our last stop of the day, but it was worth it. Just LOOK at those colors! (Obviously I had some fun with Photoshop for some of these!)


This was such a fun challenge! I’d love to find some more “ugly locations” and photograph some more models in unique places.

Check out the full gallery on the Stasia Steuart Photography Facebook page!