Expectations: Photos and First Impressions
May 24, 2022
Guests work hard all year for their time away, and they want the home they select to match the needs and desires of everyone in their party. It is important to grab their attention with eye-catching, informative photos that evoke an emotional connection to your properties, thus reducing their anxiety and booking decision fatigue. A well-curated carousel of professional photos can also immediately begin building trust with your guests, setting the tone for the level of service you provide during their visit. Updating your photos on your website can seem like a daunting task, let alone keeping them updated as property improvements are made or photography techniques improve. We have used our 20+ years of experience to compile best practices for ensuring success when working with your staff photographer or photography vendor, in this installment of Expectations: Photos and First Impressions.
Scheduling the Appointment: What’s Your Goal – Success Starts Here
“Excellence is in the details. Give attention to the details, and excellence will come.”Perry Paxton
What do you need?
- Think about what variety of products will best suit your needs from a company standard and a property level. There are many options now- photography, floor plans, interactive tours, 3D tours, videos, drone/elevated photography, and social media or detail packages. Knowing your end goal also allows your scheduling team to plan for the appropriate resources and time allotments.
- Where do you expect to use the products? Do you add photos or floorplans digitally to your website, OTAs, social media, online ads, email marketing, and guest/owner portals? Do you print them for use in your properties, office, direct mail ads/brochures, etc.? Your scheduling team can suggest ideal options based on these use scenarios.
- Ask questions. Make sure you know about all the latest features so you can plan and make informed decisions before the appointment. While some products and features can be added after an appointment, some require additional time and work onsite that will need to be considered. If you find out later you would have loved a product that requires additional onsite work, you’ll need to fit in another appointment.
- Set expectations. What does your team or provider expect from you and vice versa? What happens during the appointment? What is expected that day from the photographer? What are you expected to provide/have ready? What needs to be done if something changes? When can you expect to see the final product after the appointment?
- Ensure your provider has a list of company standards for all of your photography. These should be able to be kept on file for all your future orders. Think of things you always want to happen. Do you always want a photo of the front door? Do you want the shower curtains closed? Should they photograph closets with doors open or closed? Should they make sure the coffee maker and blender are visible in the kitchen photos? There are many things the photographers have to think about and make best-guess decisions about onsite, so ironing out these details ahead of time will ensure you get just the right results for you.
- Let your scheduling team know what to do if questions arise on the appointment day. Who should they contact, and how should they reach out to them?
Details, Details, Details…
- What is the property type and size?
- Is it an individual home requiring its own exteriors, or is it a multi-family property with shared exteriors and spaces?
- Is there more than one building that needs to be included? Ex. Detached apartment
- Is this a unit that can be rented as two halves or as a whole?
- Is this property part of a building or community where certain amenities would be included with their stay?
- Make sure your scheduling team knows the list and when and how to access the different areas.
- Don’t include things too far away or that wouldn’t be included as part of their stay. Leave those things for an About the Area or Visitor Page on your website.
- What do you feel are the most important features of the property not to be missed by the photographer? Think about that specific home experience. You are the ones that know your homes and areas the best- tell us why they are so special!
- Does it have specific views you want to highlight?
- Has the owner put lots of effort into creating outdoor spaces requiring more exterior photos than usual?
- Are there elements that make the unit more grand or luxurious that you want to highlight?
- Do you want to take some “experience” type photos highlighting luxury or niche features?
- What other features should the photographer make sure to capture? Conversely, is there anything you want them to avoid?
Timing is Everything…
- Is there a specific time of day desired to capture sun location or tides?
- Will anything else be happening at the property on the scheduled day, making it wiser to hold off until the next available time slot?
Before the Appointment: Confirm the Time – Get Prepared
“A winning effort begins with preparation.”Joe Gibbs
Point Them in the Right Direction
- Ensure your scheduling team has access information, so the photographer knows how to obtain access that day. Do they need to pick up a key at a specific office, a code for wireless locks, or a pass for a community gate?
- Provide directions if you know the property is hard to locate or is in a new development that isn’t mappable yet.
- When you get your appointment reminder, check to ensure the day and time is still feasible.
- Your provider is like an extension of your team, working for you regularly and building up mutual trust and respect to provide products to promote your properties best. Do your best to let your provider know as far in advance as possible if you think something will prevent the appointment from occurring.
- Some things to consider
- Last-minute reservations: Everyone understands a booking providing additional income can outweigh a paid service being performed.
- Something came up: Have the owners decided to come down? Do you see maintenance needs to get in to fix something? Is construction ongoing?
- Late risers and early birds- Guests may check out late or try to get on the property early. How badly will this cut into photoshoot timing with all the other processes that need to happen?
- MultiTasking- Can you clean and make beds before the arrival time? If you plan to do extra prep or stage, will you be able to squeeze that in?
- Weather! We know this is something no one can control, and your provider will likely check the area weather when reviewing schedules at the beginning of the week. If you know something will cause cancellation due to weather or being able to get to a property due to closures, reach out as early as possible.
- Make sure you’ve talked with your scheduling team to know what you can expect the photographers to take care of onsite. TruPlace photographers for instance are expected to do tasks upon arrival and departures like opening/closing blinds or curtains and turning lights on/off.
- Make sure expectations are clear with your provider regarding your responsibilities for property readiness. The ideal setup is for photographers to arrive at a clean, tidy, pre-staged property with beds made.
- You’ll want to make sure items you want to be photographed are primed, such as umbrellas open, hot tubs/pool covers off, and outdoor furniture setup.
- Tuck away items you don’t want to show in photos in a hall or bathroom closet (yes, this means those plungers, extra toilet paper, garbage cans).
- Click here for a checklist of tips to prep your properties for photos.
- If you plan to stage the property make sure everything is in place before arrival. If you do stage, some things to think about…
- Think about what could be construed as a misrepresentation. Don’t bring in furniture, bedding, or equipment that is not going to be at the house when guests arrive. It would be much easier to explain that the fruit bowl isn’t there like in the photo because it was decoration, or they can set the table like the photo if they want to, than to try to explain that the pool toys their kids loved in the photo don’t come with the house.
- Some things we’ve seen that add nice little touches to create an experience are notepads on desks to designate a work space, branded swag bags, linen sets, table settings, fruit bowls, drink and serving trays, flowers, coffee on the patio/deck, blankets on the couch, towel over a beach chair, toys by the pool (if they come with the house), game room setup, etc
Appointment Delay: Have a Plan – Stay Focused
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”Harvey MacKay
First Things First…
See the Before the Appointment section above for what to have ready before the appointment
- Photographers will obtain a key or be given a code provided for property access and are generally alone on site. However, if desired they are fine with someone from your office meeting them at the property with the assumption it will not distract from the standard flow of work.
- Keep in mind photographers follow standard procedures to ensure all photos and measurements are completed and consistency is maintained across client inventories. Make sure to provide specific requests and details in advance of the appointment so the photographers can review the notes prior to arrival and know what is expected of them as they move throughout the home.
- There are often multiple appointments in a day so keeping on schedule is vital. If the photographer should be delayed or emergency arises where they cannot make the appointment during the allotted time slot, you will be notified and next steps will be discussed- whether it be delayed arrival or reschedule. Please monitor property schedules as close as possible and contact your customer service teams as soon as possible if you foresee any potential delays, crossover of crews, or last minute bookings which would prevent the appointment from occuring. They will reach out to the photographer regarding next steps.
After the Appointment: Review Results – Follow Up
“Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicates excellence”John C. Maxwell
- Know when to expect results review your completed product, then follow up as needed.
- Be honest. Share your point of view about great work and areas that may need improvement.
- Reach out If you notice something doesn’t seem right or up to usual standards or if you have questions about why something was or wasn’t done. They will think they are doing a good job and you are happy with the results unless you tell them otherwise!
- Get to know any admin tools you’re provided. If you are just starting or need a refresher, reach out to your provider to schedule a training session.
- Regularly check in with your account team for updates and yearly planning. Let them know how you use their products daily so they can make recommendations for products and services best suited to your needs. Find out what options you have to use your photography in different ways, whether it be slideshow videos, distribution, or added effects (like adding tv screens, illuminating lights, creating virtual fireplace effects, evening/twilight simulations.
- If you ever think, “It would be great if I could have someone else do this thing I do every day.“ or “I wish we could do this with our photos.” send your account team a quick note. It may be something already existing you didn’t know about, something in the works, or something that could be created to help you save time. .
- When your representatives reach out, make sure to let them if all is on track and going well or if a check in may be needed. “All is good, I’m crazy busy’ is a great response. It lets them know there are no current concerns and to circle back in another few weeks.
- Make letting your provider know when properties leave your program. This will save you time when reviewing invoices!
- Reach out to schedule properties with recent updates. Your scheduling team can arrange for re-shooting appointments when everything is complete. You’ll want to make sure to update all visuals that reference the updated area so your guest won’t be confused.
- Keep all of your inventory photography in the same general date range for a consistent brand experience. Technology changes so guests can likely distinguish between a crisp, clean recent photo and one that would have been considered crisp and clean 4 years ago.
Following these tips should save you lots of time, money, and effort. Make sure you lay out all the expectations at the beginning of the process, have open, clear communication, check in along the way, and provide lots of details, and your property imagery process should run smoothly for years to come!