One of the most frequent questions we hear is “should we include people in our shots?”. Depending upon where they “are” with photography – we make different recommendations. Hiring a professional photographer is a substantial marketing investment and return on this investment for our customers seems to come quickly–that is when the photography includes great room photos and general property photos. After these bases are covered, then it’s time to consider getting photos with people in them. Using people can make a powerful statement and bring a sense of warmth and excitement to the images. But this does not come without cost; producing a shot with people–”model style”–typically doubles the shoot time and therefore increases the cost. Here is our our priority list:
- great room photos
- food/common rooms
- area/setting shots
- people as “props”(not focused on face, gender or race)
- people shots–candid or “photojournalistic style” (actual guests actually enjoying themselves)
- people shots using models
We don’t recommend incorporating people into images until a property has good room, exterior, food and “setting” shots. Actually, shots without people can be very effective in creating the sense that a person has just left the scene, with props and styling still in place. Even with no people, this approach can warm up a room and help the viewer or prospective guest connect with the property, saying ” I can see myself here!
Often, we will include people-in-photos as part of Phase II, at a second shoot after the important basics are covered. This has worked well.
As listed above, I think of “people” shots as falling into 3 rough categories:
1. People as “props”, i.e. feet in hammock, silhouette of couple on dock, hands pouring syrup, etc.
2. People shots– candid or “photojournalistic style” i.e. real people doing real things at the inn–having tea, out on a canoe, breakfast experience, etc. (We have been asked repeatedly by the press and publicists for these types of shots. These can be useful and sometime be captured “on the fly”. This can be tricky as we like to respect the privacy of paying guests–we have to play it by ear on site and be very charming! Another potential stumbling block is when you encounter unattractive “real people” that are guests–it’s difficult to un-invite them from a shot!)
3. People shots using models–hired or staff models or “advertising style”. This is the toughest to pull off, but if you get a great authentic-feeling model shot, the media will use it. Often though, if you hire one couple, the whole site starts to focus on these specific individuals, their age, race, etc. These shots can often date the photos too, as fashions in hair and clothing change quickly. Casting these models is key: you will see their faces, and these faces will become the faces of your product! We are not fans of the “Way Too Happy Stock Photo Couple” look in hospitality-type photos. We think that authenticity is important; these shots can feel really fake.
We’d love to have your thoughts or share your experiences using people in photos.
We will follow this up soon with more on using people in pictures – specifically staff and innkeepers.