In digital marketing for hotels, photographs make up a huge component of the nonverbal brand. After all, when it comes to hotel social media content, a picture is worth a thousand words. It is how we portray our mission and message beyond words, through photos, videos, colors, font and style.
When done well, owned photography captures your property’s essence, showcasing its uniqueness and helping users envision themselves at the property. This not only elevates your property’s presence in the minds of potential guests; the compelling content increases engagement, drives awareness and delivers bookings.
So how does a hotel ensure that its content is top-notch and representative of the quality that guests can expect on property? Scheduled photo shoots. As a supplement to more organic content creation (such as influencers or spontaneous snapshots), planned shoots are opportunities to showcase your property at its best.
Conducting a photo shoot for social media can often feel daunting. There are endless decisions to make from making a mood board, to choosing the right props to choosing models that would best fit the brand. Here are a few things we’ve learned after producing thousands of shoots for clients. A little preparation goes a long way to ensuring that you get the most quality content out of each photo shoot.
The Three Types of Hotel Social Media Content
Creativity and visual appeal is the currency of social media, especially Instagram, which is why your shoots must be oriented to your chosen platforms’ typical visual cues.
In addition to planning based on each platform’s visual vibe, you have to decide which blend of content to capture on shoot day. There are three primary types of content:
Architectural. These are photos and videos that showcase your property’s key features and amenities. Architectural shoots, including room types and the interior/exteriors, help potential guests visualize the experience. Beyond social, these shots can be repurposed across your owned media channels.
Situational. This content focuses on specific aspects of your property that can boost awareness and consideration. These would include craft cocktails from your bar chef, notable special dishes from your kitchen team, and spa treatments.
Lifestyle. These photos and videos bring your hotel to life. They visually connect your property to its destination and set it apart from competitors. Effective lifestyle content portrays your property just as you’d like it to, appealing to core demographics who may be scrolling social media seeking inspiration.
We take a very lifestyle-centric approach to capturing content. We mostly focus on showcasing imagery of the property’s features, with guest “models” included where possible (interacting with staff, enjoying onsite amenities, etc.)
Along with this, we also capture tighter shots of property features, such as unique interior elements, amenity offerings and food & beverage highlights. These are all facets of the pre-planning process, which is what we’ll cover next.
Plan Your Shoot Like The Hotel Social Media Experts
Once you’ve found a photographer – or decided to stay in house with your marketing team or agency partner – it’s time to sit down and sculpt your shoot.
Start the planning process at least 6 weeks in advance. You need to have everything in order so that there are as few surprises as possible day-of. That means plenty of preparation, with clear expectations and concrete goals set and shared in advance.
Before the Shoot
Pre-production starts with a detailed list of deliverables. These are all of the things a hotel will receive from the shoot, as well as a list of tasks that must be completed prior to shoot day. Questions to answer as a team:
- How many photos and/or videos are we creating
- When the assets will be delivered
- What needs to be sourced, such as models, contracts and any rental equipment not being provided by the photographer.
From there, create an agenda that will be the reference document for the team. We recommend delivering the agenda 4 weeks ahead of the shoot.
The agenda should include a detailed shot list that reflects the hotel’s priorities around lighting and timing. Some brands like to focus on golden hour, which is the time around dusk that gives photos and videos a welcoming glow. Other brands like to avoid having harsh lighting and prefer shooting in early mornings. The choice depends on your hotel’s brand position and the type of content bring created.
Explore your property at different times of day to determine whether sunrise, sunset, bright noonday sunshine, or even night will enhance the photos. Then, build your shot list based on these ideal times.
When building out your shot list, be specific. “5pm-5:30pm: Sunset at the pool” and then break down each shot so that it can be checked off during the shoot. We then determine more specific needs such as the type of shots at each location. Do we need close-ups, candid shots, group shots, landscapes. Having this clarity is what helps us achieve our social media photography goals.
Once you align on timing and lighting preferences, finalize the agenda and share it with each department. The agenda aligns everyone so they are familiar with what’s happening on property and how it may impact individual departments. If associates are going to be stepping in as models (whether in their role or not), they need direction on wardrobe, etc.
Staying organized during shoot day is much easier when you have a detailed plan. In fact, shoot day can be nearly stress-free if everyone’s aligned around the detailed plan. It’s more a moment of execution, putting the pieces together and methodically checking off each shot.
As you work your way through the plan, it’s crucial that all models, whether associates, guests, or models who are participating in a shoot in any way sign a brand approved model release form. This allows a hotel to utilize the content across social, the website, and in the brand image library.
After the Shoot
Now is the time to edit your photos and videos to get them ready for social media. If you’ve done the proper pre-production process, then this should be relatively straightforward. Your shot list becomes your post-production to-do list, guiding the team towards successfully uniting everything into a cohesive end product.
A Note on Frequency
Now that you know how to plan and execute a photoshoot, the other question is how often to schedule shoots. The frequency really depends on each property’s needs, such as seasonal activity, periodic events or other short-term promotions that may need quality content for digital marketing.
The best approach here is to add photoshoot scheduling to your annual planning process. Then you can take a look at your entire year to identify key campaigns that augment planned promotions. Break your needs into quarterly chunks, and then work with your vendor to schedule the sessions with enough time for planning, shooting, and editing. Plus, by being more organized, you’ll often save some money with larger upfront commitments to a certain level of work each quarter!
Creative design is a key element in increasing visibility, engagement, and elevating social presence. Elevated visual aesthetics set content apart from their comp set who may not find the value in creative design or content shoots. Brands looking to capture visibility and increase engagement should leverage the full menu of visual content, including Stories, videos, carousels, IG guides, reels, dynamic ads, and Story Highlights. All of this should be done with diverse, dynamic content — which is exactly what deliverables your photo shoot provides.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few examples to inspire you. Remember that every hotel is different and your photo shoot should be tailored to your needs.
As you can see with the above examples, creative content does wonders for engaging potential guests. Immersive quality content attracts potential guests and creates consideration of your property. Planning your next photo shoot may seem daunting — but it’s completely worth the added cachet that your fresh, quality content brings to your brand.
For more creative inspiration, visit Our Work page.
Ready to explore a more targeted social strategy? Contact a specialist and let’s craft a strategic platform plan that can produce greater ROI across your social marketing mix.