Travel is a visual treasure. But using photographs that don’t generate client engagement can waste your time and sales efforts, two experts told a packed breakout session audience at the recently held Travel MarketPlace East.

Keys to success, they said, are knowing who your core client is, the fundamental aspects of your brand, and some basic photography truths that even amateurs can employ.

“Travel is one of top three purchases,” said Sandra Cottam McLemore, a travel marketing consultant based in Los Angeles and a speaker at the event. “You definitely want to make sure your photos are spot on and taken by a professional.”

Hiring a photographer “really elevates your brand to the next level and shows you for the expert that you are,” she said.

Tips for travel photos
McLemore said agents should first align their photo choices with their branding. One way to do that is to compare your branding to the branding of merchants where your clients might shop. Perhaps a luxury traveler might shop with high-end fashion retailers. Comparing the photography on those sites with various kinds of available travel photography would help align your efforts with the consumer’s mindset.

She also recommended agents take the time to scroll through their social media news feed to see which posts are performing the best, and what the photography in those posts might tell them about their brand and use of photos.

“You should always go back to metrics. Is it driving traffic? Is it bringing you sales?“ she said.

McLemore prefers agents use professional photos and recommended that agents sign up in the digital press rooms with suppliers and tourism authorities for free photos, but also recommended three websites for agents to peruse for free photos they can use for their digital marketing.

She likes Unsplash.com. She called this site “hit and miss,” depending on when you check in to the site. As a result, she tends to download photos she likes but doesn’t need immediately. She also recommended Pexels.com and Pixabay.com but reminded attendees to read the websites’ rules before using the photos.

Another tip McLemore provides is to reduce the amount of people in photographs that are trying to sell a destination. However, if you are selling experiences, she said, photographs of people doing something are a wise choice.

For you and your staff
Agents also should consider professional photography for pictures of themselves and, if they employ advisors or independent contractors, anyone else the public might encounter working with your agency.

“No one wants to give away a lot of money to a faceless brand they don’t know,” McLemore said. “A good start to someone getting to know you is a professional photograph.”

To ensure you use your money wisely, have a prep meeting with the photographer to discuss wardrobe, locations, angles, and other crucial aspects, said Dan Galbraith, owner of The Details Group. Galbraith, who presented with McLemore at Travel MarketPlace East, is based in Toronto and specializes in corporate photography, sports and travel.

For example, selecting a photo location likely requires a professional’s experience, as lighting, background and other environmental elements come into play.

“If you feel you have a good side, tell your photographer that so they know going into the shoot,” he said. Agents also should discuss financial terms and be prepared to pay a deposit up front, with final payment due when photos are delivered.

Galbraith works extensively with corporate headshots for marketing materials and social media, and advised agents to do their homework before hiring a professional. Reviewing samples from other clients and speaking with references is an excellent choice.

The location of your shoot can be critical, especially due to the weather and lighting possibilities. Indoors gives you better control of your environment, but outdoor shoots can make the colors of the subject in front “feel more vibrant,” he said.

One agent attending the session who focuses on the Caribbean asked about whether their niche could be incorporated into their headshot. Galbraith advised that they speak to a Caribbean tourism venue that likely has used professional photographers for a shoot on their island. Otherwise, “find a spot around your city. It would be better if you had a palm tree in the background, but in Toronto, we have lots of parks. Green is green,” he said.

For his clients, Galbraith typically delivers 3-4 finished images from an online gallery of 60-100 untouched photos. Retouching could include erasing a stray hair, softening up a facial feature, or removing glare. “Generally, I like to deliver a photo that is touched somehow,” he said.

For headshots, Galbraith recommends that agents attempt to appear the way they would at work, and that they not wear clothing or accessories that draw attention away from them. Additionally, he reminded the audience that dark clothing is slenderizing and that if they wear glasses, to remove them.

When it comes to posture, Galbraith advised agents to turn their face and body slightly away from the camera to better define their features, and to “smile with your eyes.”

If your staff or ICs are located nearby, it is cost effective to shoot everyone on one day, both speakers noted.

“You can have fun with your team,” Galbraith said, noting one corporate shoot where employees held Coca Cola bottles with their names on them in their hands. “Those photos became their email signature photos, and part of their personal branding.”

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