Why Now Is the Time to Refresh Your Photography

By Camille Leonard

Why Now Is the Time to Refresh Your Photography

Some photos we just recently found appropriate and exciting feel out of touch today. Times have obviously changed, and many of the images used previously to promote places will need to as well. As many DMOs work to replace some beloved content with “new normal” messaging, we've provided some guidance to help you curate photos that speak to the concerns of travelers today. Read time: 4 minutes

We’d like to start this article with a brief disclaimer: We do not advocate putting anyone at risk in order to promote any organization’s marketing effort. Any action outside of proper safety and social distancing measures in your community should be avoided. A few of the attached images were taken using Stamp staff a block from our historic downtown Montgomery office. We complied with city and state Safer at Home Policies. Other images were selected from photos taken for clients in the past few years that are in keeping with 2020 trends.

It has been a very different spring (now summer) for all of us. We are all looking forward to the time we can enjoy getting back to our “normal” routine—including seasonal travel and vacations. But we fully understand that “normal” will not look the same. 

As destinations begin to invite visitors back to their communities, it is critical to reassure them that their safety is a priority. Things have changed and the images chosen to promote places should, too. Much like dated clothing or older model cars in photos can paint an out-of-date portrait, some photos we found exciting and completely appropriate just six months ago feel out of touch today.

On the July 5, 2020 edition of Face the Nation, Tripadvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer noted research data revealing 9 in 10 people considering travel feel their health and safety are the most important factors to consider when making a destination decision.

As many DMOs work to replace some beloved content with “new normal” messaging, make sure to also consider doing so via photos that reflect safety measures your communities and stakeholders have adopted to keep your guests safe.

What does photography look like that reflects these times? Certainly, images that show people complying with social distancing and wearing masks are appropriate right now and likely will be in the foreseeable future. It might seem like making images of your community looking both safe and charming could be at odds. Ironically, pre-Covid photography blogs tout 2020 Trends that suit creating new imagery in these times nicely.

These trends focus on presenting images in a way that would depict your community in a flattering and fun light without the need to feature large groups of people interacting.

Authentic and candid images

Authenticity has been important for destinations for years. Right now images that feature real people going about their lives safely feel current and trustworthy. Potential visitors are comforted seeing signs of social distancing. The images that follow give the visitor a feeling for what it’s like to visit right now. People are wearing masks. Waiting lines are marked for 6-foot distancing.

While not candid, the following photos were taken for the purpose of illustrating that visitors wearing masks and social distancing does not necessarily diminish the persuasiveness of the image. Photos by Stamp photographer/videographer Stephen Poff. Models courtesy of Stamp first floor employees with a cameo appearance by blog author Camille Leonard, in the background!

Natural elements

In February 2020, this blog noted the importance of natural elements in photography as the environmental movement continues to grow. At this moment, we know the great outdoors is a much healthier place to be. Featuring your local natural amenities—parks, rivers, trails, beaches, etc. as an attractor is a smart marketing move now, and for the long term as well.

Shrimpers returning to port at sunset. Timing is everything when mother nature is your subject. Photo by Stephen Poff.

This beautiful drone image invites the viewer to enjoy a peaceful early morning stroll. Photo by Stephen Poff.

Drone and aerial photography

As the expense of drone equipment has gone down, enthusiasm for images and video footage from a bird’s eye view has gone up. These images give the viewer a sense of vastness and openness that’s interesting and exciting— and now more welcome than ever as social distancing continues. The benefit is that distance—when used in still and video imagery—lends a bit of mystery that’s intriguing. As people stay home, quieter, less-traveled streets communicate a more relaxed pace. Many “dreaming of travel” videos produced during the pre-recovery weeks featured gorgeous, sweeping, wanderlust-inspiring drone footage. It’s almost irresistible.

360 photography

Conversely, 360 imagery, once very popular for showcasing real estate and widely used by location-finding apps, is a wonderful tool for placing potential visitors on your streets. This photographic technique gives your target audience an opportunity to see a safe environment for dining, shopping and lining up for tours or small group activities.

These images from a blog on Depositphoto.com are a great example of the interesting effects and drama different landscapes and architecture create.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival Panoramic photo by Stephen Poff.

Bright saturated color

The Pantone Institute for color named Classic Blue the color of the year. Pantone stated “A timeless and enduring blue hue, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue is elegant in its simplicity. Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”

As the world transitions from isolation to cautious re-engagement, happier-looking imagery sends a much-needed message of welcoming positivity. Look for neons and bright yellows to appear in imagery and graphics as a way to both complement the color of the year and to evoke happier emotions.

Still Life photography

The fashion industry has been utilizing still-life "laydowns" for quite some time. Product is easily understood when photographed in this manner. Still, Life and Authenticity are the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the amount of control a photographer uses when creating an image. Everything is carefully composed in still-life photography. People are not traditionally the focus, although they may be included. Still, life techniques can be used to capture artfully composed food, interesting portions of architecture, a picnic basket stylishly displayed—all to tell the story of your community.

This map of the US shows pinned places indicating where visitors who stop in the Dauphin Island Visitor Center are from. Dauphin Island, Alabama is a small, old-fashioned beach community south of Mobile, Alabama. It’s quite impressive the distances people have traveled, but if you’ve been there at sunset you’d know why. (Note the stunning sunset illustrating Natural Elements above.) Photo by Stephen Poff.

Still Life with gorgeous craft cocktails taken in a busy restaurant last summer. This popular eatery would only allow us in to shoot their food and evening’s featured cocktail prior to opening. Good composition and shallow depth of field hide the empty dining room but the chilled and sparkling stemware sells the experience. Photo by Stephen Poff.

Diversity from all points of view

Inclusiveness is not new to marketing, but like the environmental movement, the need to express awareness of our wide variety of cultural norms is growing. Populating your images with people of all races, backgrounds, heritage, gender, ability, and age sends a welcoming message. After all, your marketing serves as an invitation for one and all to feel at home when they visit.

Albany, Georgia’s Radium Springs Park is an ideal spot for a picnic on a gorgeous spring day. When budgets are tight, models are often friends of the DMO staff or staff members themselves. You might encounter a family this photogenic when you're photographing a site. Remember to bring talent releases so you have permission to use the image. Photo by Stephen Poff.

Whether using imagery in social media or freshening up your website, helping a visitor understand that your destination strives to be a clean, safe and welcoming place is a matter of choosing images wisely. Updated photography that speaks to the concerns of travelers today and that looks current tells the world you are ready when they are.