Kelly Chandler gives the lowdown on how to get promotional photo shoots right for your venue.
First up – should you build photo shoots into your planned promotional and marketing activity as a successful wedding venue? Are they really essential? Absolutely!
Whereas inspiration shoots used to be purely for the ultra creative industries, they are now an essential ingredient in building a successful venue business and being able to present, and importantly attract, your target market, whatever and whoever that market is. I see great results time and again with my venue clients who have committed to regular seasonal shoots to showcase their spaces and these clients report being able to attract not only more business, but those couples who are the perfect match for them, making business easier to manage too.
So a question we’re often asked is how do you go about it? What’s the best route if you’re new to this? What’s the investment? Who pays?
What is your desired outcome?
Before running away with a photo shoot project, really consider the purpose of the shoot in detail. Yes it’s about having photos but is this about showcasing certain areas of your venue that you haven’t had photos of before, is it showing the versatility of your spaces set up in different ways, is it about showcasing a higher level of wedding detail than you’ve been able to attract before, or is it about showcasing a certain style or design that just works in your spaces?
And importantly, what is your desired target market you want to reach with this shoot? It is also vital to know how much you intend to use this shoot – is this something you want to last for a long time to form the basis of your website key pages, brochure and marketing campaigns or is this going to be just one of multiple shoots and serve a certain goal, for example promoting winter weddings?
Be sure that you communicate your goals with your team all the way through as it’s often when team members interpret the brief differently and have different goals and expectations that things don’t work so well.
How is it organised and paid for?
There are lots of ways of this working and there are a few things to be aware of.
It’s very tempting to take advantage of the requests of bridal designers, florists and cake designers to provide services in return for the shoot as shoot creation is very much part of their marketing mix. This can work well but do be careful of this option depending on your needs. I hear and see a lot of shoots which are beautiful but the focus of the shoot is on the bridal fashion for example not on practical shots of the venue spaces that really showcase what you have, for example, from a banqueting point of view.
This arrangement might work well if you are hosting a lot of shoots but if you are doing this for key images for your venue’s marketing, and because you don’t have certain shots you must have, then you really need to have a dedicated shoot to your brief and overseen in detail by your team; this can sometimes mean therefore being prepared to invest time and budget into it.
Stylists and bloggers
One option is to organise your shoot with the support of a professional stylist or wedding planner; they should have a flair and passion for creating wedding looks and the little white book of suppliers and products to bring it all together. This is a route I’d certainly look at and be open to as the results can be spectacular.
Be prepared to invest some budget however in a good stylist and particularly if media exposure to a large/relevant audience is guaranteed (some stylists are also professional bloggers and influencers so work with venues to style and then feature their shoot).
Some stylists may be looking to portfolio build or attract new markets to their business so may produce a shoot for you on a contra deal but everyone will be looking for some commercial angle – it could be some sort of trade off depending on how they obtain customers and pay their bills. Do have the “payment for time” conversation and be clear on what everyone is going to get out of it.
Pulling your team together
When you are putting your team together, it’s usual that your preferred/recommended supplier team (if you have them already) are invested into the shoot and will usually offer their services at a much reduced/at cost rate or on a complimentary basis (eg. it might be for covering the market rate of the flowers but not the time factor). It will depend on how much exposure the shoot will get, how much credit suppliers will get in the resulting coverage and how much business that supplier gets from your venue already. For general etiquette, if a supplier has given their time and service to be part of a shoot, then they should be mentioned and tagged in all social media every time and on key website pages wherever practical.
It’s also important to consider if you will submit the shoot to a professional blogger or media outlet – most of my venue clients focus a major shoot for their own branding and marketing purposes and blog coverage is secondary, but don’t forget to consider submitting to a well-matched professional blog and discuss suitability with your team. The other route is to work with a stylist/blogger combo from the start if you have a target publication in mind and blog coverage is a key marketing strategy for you.
It’s more usual for a venue working on a branding shoot that they are heading up to pick from their own excellent supplier team, and this would be my recommendation. They know your spaces and will have endless ideas of how these spaces work, what styles work best, which of their products work together and more. I’d suggest a team members’ use of a shared Pinterest board for on-going collaboration to work out the finer details of a shoot, and the details do matter – the more you can bring your spaces to life with creative touches that inspire your future couples, the greater success you’ll have.
A shoot does take time, particularly if you are not outsourcing to a stylist or planner so be prepared to put in the hours; it’s worth it!
When you’re in it you’re in it!
We’ve already spoken about the need to be specific about what you’re doing your shoot for and this is extended to really thinking through and writing down the exact set-ups and shots you need. Map out exactly the angles you want each space to be photographed from – do you want close ups from the front and back of the room? Do you want bird’s eye views? Often you’ll want a mix of close ups and wide angle/large space shots if you’re putting together entirely fresh marketing materials.
Make sure the entire team have this list with them on the day and use it as a tick list to ensure things aren’t forgotten.
If you’re going to the effort and cost of hosting a shoot you might as well make the most of it so do take the opportunity to plan lots of set ups and turn the spaces around where you need to show alternatives for your couples. Allow plenty of time for this – it does take longer than you might think and the more creative detail you have the longer it will take. A shoot with furniture movements and more can take several hours or a full day, even going into the evening. Don’t forget you will likely want to capture your spaces to show the versatility across a wedding day whether that’s daytime shots or nighttime ambience for partying with candles lit, for example. And don’t forget the outdoors – as if you would, being readers of Open Air Business magazine!
Want to know more?
This is a big topic with lots of information to take on-board. If you’d like to know more, then do come and join my private Facebook group just for wedding venues where there is a mini livestream training on photo shoot creation plus many other mini trainings to catch up on and in the planning for 2019. Search for ‘Wedding Spaces Going Places’ on Facebook and come and join over 250 other global venue colleagues there.
About the Author
Kelly Chandler is a long term preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw to prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 15 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of the trade body The Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business.
Photography from a venue photo shoot we planned and styled for our client, Warmwell House.
Warmwell House – www.warmwell-house.com
Imogen Xiana – www.imogenxiana.com
Gorgeous Film – www.gorgeousfilm.co.uk
Martha and the Meadow – www.marthaandthemeadow.com
Fancie Buns – www.fanciebuns.co.uk
Bridal Accessories, Hair and Make-up
Victoria Fergusson – www.victoriafergusson.co.uk
Tanya Louise Cumberland – www.tanyalouisecumberland.com
Naomi Neoh – www.naomineoh.com
Stationery and Paper Goods
Emily & Jo Stationery – www.emilyandjo.co.uk
Silk Ribbons and Runner
Pompom Blossom – www.pompomblossom.com
DP Marquees (cross back chairs and wooden bar unit for cake/champagne station) – www.dpmarquees.co.uk
The White Chair Company (white chairs for ceremony, pool furniture, white easel, gold cutlery) – www.thewhitechaircompany.co.uk
Couvert (glassware, charger plates, table cloths and napkins) – www.couvert.co.uk