While photo shoots are exciting, especially when you see the products of your hard work, managing your first hotel shoot can be a little nerve-racking. But don’t worry, your resourcefulness will get you through the endeavor. Here are 7 things you need to remember in managing a successful hotel shoot.
1. It is a necessity.
First, recognize the fact that you need a Hotel Shoot. There’s a ton of stock photos to choose from, but nothing compares to having your own pool of images. In some cases, you may purchase or download a photo based on a certain promotion. The photo then becomes tied to that single purpose, after the grueling effort of finding the closest thing to the actualities.
Moreover, when you do your own shoot, you get to stretch creativity, test your management skills, meet and collaborate with other talented individuals, and present your spaces or offers in the manner that actually fits your style.
Allocate budget for the shoot. After recognizing the fact that you need it, you should be prepared to allocate a chunk of your marketing budget for the said effort. It may cost you a lot once you execute it, but it will save you money, time and effort in the future. Remember that in doing a shoot, the collective effort of talents will be used, and believe me when I tell you that it costs more than what you would normally assume.
Approximately you would need the help of the following, especially when you’re doing the first official shoot of the property:
a. Photographer – Remember that photographers also have their fortes. Do your research, check their portfolios and talk to them. For base shoots, choose someone who has a keen eye for details like a fold on the bed sheet or a finger print on your glassware. Checking their portfolio will give you a preview of their style and editing skills. See if the photographer’s artistry fits the mood of your property.
b. Photographer’s Assistant(s) – Professional photographers will usually bring their editor(s) to discuss outputs play-by-play, and an actual assistant to manage lighting systems and coordinate during setups. Although smaller scale shoots like a new campaign for a restaurant may not require an assistant, hotel facilities are more complex and will need additional manning.
c. Stylist for the spaces - This could be you, but in case it’s your first time to manage a shoot, it wouldn’t hurt to add another expert on the field.
d. Model Manager / Coordinator - This would depend on the agency you’re working with. If you’re shooting a resort, an agency would normally ask someone to fly with their talents if they don’t personally know you or if your property is homegrown, as compared to an international chain.
e. Models - The number of models will also depend on your concept, purpose and spaces. Most cases, you will only require 1 male and 1 female model. Remember that you can also ask your colleagues to act different roles, but not all the time.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to hire a professional model with a fee than a good looking person without an experience. Professional models understand angles, emotions, and lighting systems, allowing them to deliver what is needed in one or two takes compared to a good looking friend who will hit-and-miss.
f. Hairstylist - For lifestyle shoots, your hairstylist must be prepared to comb, clip, and spray repeatedly. Models may be asked to stay active (dive into a pool, do an actual workout, etc.) to get the required shot, depending on the layout, setup, spaces and other external factors.
g. Makeup Artist – Don’t go overboard with the kind of makeup that you want the models to wear. Remember that you’re trying to imply actual hotel experience in your photo. Similar to the hairstylists, retouch and concealing impertinent details are done frequently. Although photos have become more “casual” and natural-looking, you can always enhance a canvas with a little touch of paint.
h. Wardrobe Stylist (and assistant) - Depending on how extensive your shoot is, wardrobe requirements range from one rack to two or three or four; uniforms included, unless you plan to shoot beautiful views and facilities without people to experience them and colleagues to deliver signature service.
As mentioned, colleagues can act roles different from their actual jobs. A Sales Executive can dress as your Guest Services Manager, depending on the look that you want your property to evoke. Although I’m pretty sure that every department involved in your layouts has someone who can deliver a genuine warm smile in front of the camera.
Stylists should be briefed with the other members of the crew, especially with your photographer. Discuss details with your stylist at least two weeks before the start of the shoot, then check everything a week before the starting date.
A certain garment (e.g. wedding gowns, swimwear, etc.) may look good on its own, but it may not work with a certain layout. Remember that the focus should always be your property or the product and service for that matter.
Although stylists bring extra clothing, always ask them to prepare one or two more per layout. One cannot be always lucky to have a perfect match just across the street.
i. Florist – The allocation for plants and flowers will depend on the number of spaces you want to shoot. It is advisable to coordinate with your in-house gardener to lower your cost. Occasionally, leaves can actually suffice.
Not so sensitive plants should be stored in the hotel before the starting day of the shoot, especially if you’re doing a resort. Otherwise, setup should start hours (and I mean hours) and end an hour before the schedule. Storage should be air conditioned or well ventilated at the very least, as high temperature will hasten the aging process of plants.
Some florists may go over than what is needed, as they would love to highlight the kinds of plants that they have in stock or can order. Just be present when they’re setting up. Be involved and learn how to edit. The concept of less is more will sometimes apply.
As for the accessories, check your inventory. What you already have in the hotel or purchased for some other purpose can potentially lower your rent.
Although they are creative individuals, it’s better to discuss pegs so both parties can be on the same page.
In addition to the talented individuals that you need to hire, you may also need to allocate budget for items not found in the property like accessories, card boards, etc.. Do ask the assistance of the Purchasing Department, as they may have a wider pool of suppliers.
In creating your budget, include room allocations, meals, other hotel services like spa treatments, and modes of transportation. Working closely with your Director of Revenue or Revenue Manager is important.
3. Lists, Lists and More Lists
a. List the spaces, lifestyles, and offers you want to capture. Are you going to cover all room categories? Restaurants? Offers? Facilities? Event Spaces? Event Themes? Event Layouts? Colleagues? Expatriates? Discuss them with your boss, the chefs and the service crew. Be prepared to trim down lists depending on your budget allocation and the time that the management allowed you to conduct the shoot.
b. Make a list of the payments you need to do, and when you need to do them. Some services will require same day payments. Others, 30 days after, at the most. Make sure that this list will reflect the values and number of official receipts and acknowledgement receipts that you have by the end of the entire activity.
c. List down the accessories and whatever resources that you can utilize in the hotel. Know where they are stored and the colleagues entrusted to keep them. Write their schedules and brief them or their respective department heads.
d. Check the list of events that will happen in the hotel. See if your target dates will be in conflict with other schedules. Do not schedule your shoot when you are expecting a VIP guest or if there is a major event in the hotel like a wedding. Do the shoot when occupancy is low, but if you’re going to do a pre-opening shoot, check the schedule of your construction team. See to it that angles needed for the shoot are finished.
e. Make a list of colleagues involved in your shoot. Do this ahead of time so that the departments can help you make their schedules work for you. You may or may not need the assistance of the following:
f. If you are shooting a resort, check available flights, and other transportation schedules. List the flights that will help you maximize the available time. Be in the property at least one day before the shoot. This will give you and the team enough time to coordinate and double check your other lists.
g. List all food and beverage items needed in the shoot, including welcome and turn down amenities. List and coordinate when these items are needed. Remember to highlight specialties for restaurants and bars.
h. Your crew list must include complete names, birthdays, nationalities, contact information, mailing address, food restrictions, and rooming assignments.
4. Pegs and Mood Boards
You may fully grasp the identity of your property and all its facilities, but not everyone can follow your abstract thoughts. Since everyone is more visual, pegs will not only help your colleagues and your crew understand their roles, they will also give your shoot direction, saving you more time and energy rather than going through your list from every now and then to check if everything is aligned. Also, they will help you connect the activity to the marketing collateral that you want to produce.
Personally, I use Pinterest for this purpose. I also download the images and create mood boards that I can present during meetings.
5. Timing is key.
Unlike studio shoots, a hotel shoot demands that you take a photo at a specific time frame. Remember to go around areas at least an hour before the start of the shoot, and give an extra hour checking the areas before you go to bed. Be prepared to adjust sleeping habits and body clocks. You may need to be up until 3 in the morning to do a setup and start shooting an hour after.
As much as you are strict with yourself, you also need to be strict with your team. Although hair and makeup, and wardrobe changes cannot be rushed, they too need to adjust to the agreed schedule. A breathtaking sunset will only last for minutes.
During the shoot, there are instances that you are lucky enough to squeeze a certain number of layouts in an hour. Check all possible shots that you can do per day. This will help you gain more time to do reshoots, and save money in case you finish ahead of schedule.
Although you regularly meet and coordinate with the departments and the crew, there will always be a certain margin of error. To avoid or minimize such challenge, make sure that all point persons have radios on hand. Smart phones and hotel phones can help you, but signal strength can also be difficult at times.
Make sure that departments assign at least one point person from Front Office, Concierge, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage, Engineering, and Security. You will also need a coordinator who knows the plan well enough to make decisions when you’re not present.
7. Be Thankful and Make Reports.
When the weeklong shoot is done, be thankful. Thank everyone for their hard work and for giving you assistance. Thank your crew, especially your photographer for sharing their talents. Thank your coordinator because he / she kept you sane throughout the activity. Thank your boss for trusting you. Lastly, thank yourself. You did a great job managing the shoot.
Make a post-mortem report. Include all the steps that you did to complete the shoot. Mention challenges, how you faced them, and how to improve the process so that the next time you manage or the hotel decides to carry out a shoot, those incidents will less likely to happen.
Liquidate your expenses. Make sure that internal and external costings are in line. Go back to your tabulation so that every centavo is accounted for.
When you get the edited images, remember to share them with the team. It’s a good feeling to know that you did something great outside the usual.
After all that I have mentioned here, just remember to enjoy because you are not alone in this endeavor. Do not be afraid to ask for help. At the end of the day, you are all service-oriented and goal-driven individuals, and giving the best products and services to your guests is second nature.
Niguel is an experienced creative and marketing professional pursuing his dreams while growing with infinite possibilities.