Thinking about a photoshoot to showcase your destination brand? Here’s what you need to know

Planning a photoshoot can be a lot of work – but the reward is undeniable! The ability to control how you show off your destination brand is priceless. Rather than searching through stock photos and running the risk of using imagery that is overused, cheesy or just off-brand, using on-location photographs gives your marketing efforts authenticity. It shows, rather than tells, your potential customers what they are really going to experience at your business. It helps them self-qualify their interest and legitimizes your brand when visitors see how transparently and authentically you are marketing your destination.

Conceptualizing the scene

Executing a photoshoot allows you to create an entire tone, reflect your target audience in the shots, connect with people on their interests and passions, and integrate brand clues into the scenes. Consider the style you are going for. Is it highly stylized? Editorial? Observational or documentary? Is there an emotional tone you are trying to convey? What kind of vibe do you want to resonate? Casual and cozy? Or sleek and modern? When it comes to creative control over your brand, you can literally bring your exact vision to life!

To begin, put yourself in the shoes of your customer. How do people interact with your destination and what activities does it offer? Consider adding intriguing details that reflect your brand, like brand colours in attire, props and décor, or even branded elements like brochures, signage and flags to push location and legitimize your brand. If handled by the experts, photoshoots have an elevated look, allowing you to precisely execute your vision and convey subtle messaging through imagery.

So you’ve decided you want to do a photoshoot – when should you do it?

Consider seasonality. Whatever season will best show off your destination is when you should shoot – maybe that is every season! This is especially important for capturing the outdoors, but still relevant for interiors. You don’t want to photograph skiers and snowboarders in your beautiful lobby with a backdrop of lush greenery in the windows behind them. The entire scene needs to be considered and make sense in combination. Though it is difficult to control, overcast days are generally best for capturing images with vibrant colours and keeping shadows on people and objects to a minimum. Scout locations that can offer shade or consider equipment that can falsify desirable shade and light in your budget (like these super affordable light reflectors from Amazon!).

Consider significant dates. Start planning a photoshoot for when there will be an attraction or unique selling feature of your destination ready to show off. Ensure it is planned for when development, construction or renovations will not pose an obstacle. Are there other significant dates in the calendar that would present an opportune time for a photoshoot? Perhaps an internal or community event where you can capture lifestyle photography. Or perhaps there is a holiday or closure in the area that will allow you to capture your destination with a clean palate of low or no traffic.

Remember – plan ahead! Start planning your photoshoot weeks, if not months ahead. Depending on the scale of your shoot you may need an abundance of time to get all your ducks in a row. Finding the right photographer for the subject and the right models to represent your brand can take time. As does the location scouting, shot list and photography package development that are necessities to ensure your days on location are efficient and comprehensive of all you want to capture.

The all-encompassing photography package

Generally, the art director for the photoshoot will be the one to put together a photography package. This package is a hub for the details of orchestrating the photoshoot, gets everyone aligned on what is going to happen before the big day and acts as a schedule on the day of the photoshoot.

A well-thought photography package should include:

  • Contact info for all parties involved:
    • Art director / designated emergency contact
    • Photographer
    • Models + handlers
    • Destination client contacts
    • Persons required for location access
    • Persons responsible for special props, equipment, PPE and snacks + refreshments
  • List of locations, addresses + parking details
  • Set times
  • Shot list with photo schedule
  • Moodboard depicting the look, feel and tone to be achieved
  • Model requirements:
    • Direction on the demographic they are representing
    • Details on hair, attire, shoes and accessories
    • Special information regarding activity requirements, ie. interacting with animals
  • Props list + who is responsible for each
  • Equipment list + who is responsible for each
  • PPE list (if required) + who is responsible for each
  • Snacks and refreshments list + who is responsible for each
  • Health and safety precautions
  • Contingency plan

Once you have the details of your photography package nailed down, it is crucial to ensure everyone involved has the package and understands their responsibilities. It is also important to address any health and safety precautions that the team might need to know in advance such as identifying uneven surfaces or heights, the activities being performed if they require specialized skills or health precautions like Covid-19 procedures. Make a contingency plan for additional challenges that could present during the big day like weather, illness, construction and traffic. Also ensure the photography package is on hand the day of the photoshoot!

Download our photography package inclusions list here:

Tips and tricks for planning a photoshoot

Even with a lower-scale photoshoot there are a lot of moving parts and uncontrollable factors. The best you can do is plan ahead, be prepared and know that you will need to be flexible on the day of the photoshoot.

Here are a few tips to help ensure a smooth photoshoot day:

  1. Visit the site in advance:
    • Make sure you are familiar with the space so you can highlight it in the best way possible
  2. Remember your budget:
    • Models, props and special equipment can add up, make sure these items fit within the budget and will add value to the concept
  3. Plan ahead:
    • Make sure your photography packages are well-considered, comprehensive and that everyone involved is on the same page
  4. Allocate time – and more time:
    • It takes more time than you think to move between locations and set up, ensure you schedule enough time between each shot to accommodate
  5. Prioritize photos:
    • If your shot list is ambitious, prioritize it into “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” so that if you’re running behind you can focus on the priorities and can cut the rest
  6. Schedule breaks:
    • You can’t expect your team in front of and behind the camera to work without breaks, so make sure these are accounted for in your photo schedule
  7. Create variety:
    • Bring alternate attire, props and décor to the set to add variety from one image to another, adding more bang for your buck
  8. Keep it classic:
    • Trends change, keeping attire, props and décor neutral and classic will give longevity to the images. No crocs (that’s just our personal bias though)!
  9. Bring release waivers:
    • Whether you are doing a photoshoot with models or without, it doesn’t hurt to bring release waivers along in case a beautiful member of the public crosses the scene

That’s a wrap!

Sound overwhelming? Managing a photoshoot is a lot of work. That is why working with experienced professionals across all departments involved is key for success and getting value out of the endeavour. Remember, Chatterson is always here to help!