What is "Lifestyle Photography" and How Do You Prepare for a "Lifestyle" Shoot at Your Hotel?

As a Director of Sales and Marketing at a Resort or Hotel, you've probably recently been asked to ditch the tired stock photography and shoot some original "Lifestyle" images.

If you've never been involved with a lifestyle photo shoot, you may be in for a big surprise: the time and costs involved with such a shoot can be overwhelming, but there are certainly ways to contain costs and get great lifestyle images. In this article I talk about casting models or working with employees on property. Although you can save a lot of money by working with employees, I highly recommend that you hire models from a local agency whenever possible, this will ensure you get professional models who are used to being in front of the camera. Also, you will be able to cast models with the right ages and demographics and your models will be able to work the hours for which they are hired.

Regardless of whether you cast employees, friends or professional models the following are some guidelines to prepare for a successful photo shoot:

  1. Hire a hair and makeup artist from the modeling agency or from the spa on property if one is available to you. Note that the hair and make-up artist should always accompany the photographer to the set and be available for touch-ups.

  2. I highly recommend you also hire a clothing and/or prop stylist. Since it is very important that you have your models dressed properly for the activity they will be engaged in, you will need someone to get them ready for each shot. As simple as putting someone in the right clothes sounds, it's not. A skilled clothing stylist can put four or five models in clothes that will look good for the shoot and accessorize with wedding rings, beach bags, etc, depending upon the shot.

  3. Where do you get the clothes for the shoot? If you want to save money, some models will bring their own clothes. This can work, but you may have to find a few items that they didn't have and be prepared to purchase any items that get soiled during the photo shoot. You can also hire your clothing stylist to shop for clothes after you have the models' sizes. This will cost you about $750 per day of shopping and any other costs associated with the shopping process, such as, taxis, parking, meals, and/or shipping of clothes that cannot be sourced locally. As a guide, for each day of an actual photo shoot on property, a clothing stylist will typically charge a shopping day and a return day: so two extra days per day of shooting.

  4. Consider hiring a photo shoot producer if you intend to do more than 4 shots a day or if you do not have a highly organized person on property who can dedicate every ounce of their time to the production, both a week before the shoot, during the shoot, and for one or two days after the shoot. Producers cost between $500 and $1000 per day and will typically charge for several days before and after the shoot as well as the shoot day itself.

  5. You will now need a space for all of this hair and make-up, clothing styling and production to happen. A guest room is too small for this, so a meeting room or large suite, in the range of 750 to 1250 square feet will work well for 4 to 6 models, hair and make-up and clothing styling. This room should be made available 1 to 2 days before the photo shoot as well as during the shoot.

  6. Make sure you have 3 or 4 banquet tables and the same amount of clothing racks available in the meeting room. If you have a steamer on property, procure it for the duration of the photo shoot (although a stylist should also have a steamer on hand.)

  7. Set aside a day or two to scout the shoot locations with your photographer. Getting the right shots at the correct time of day for the best light is one of the most important things to ensure the success of the shots you want. Keep in mind you will most likely have to re-work your photo shoot schedule after scouting with the photographer, but it's well worth it!

  8. During scouting, ask your photographer to take scouting/location shots so you will be sure to get pictures from the correct angles to make sure to show in the images what you'd like to see/sell. If it's important to see a particular feature of your property in an image, make sure to ask your photographer if it's possible to include it in a shot.

Now that the crew is on property and scouting is done, let's examine how a day of a photo shoot works:

  1. Hair and makeup artist, clothing stylist, and models will arrive at least 1 hour before the first shot. Model(s) begin hair and make-up first and then are dressed by stylist. DOSM or the decisionmaker on property will usually consult on the clothes and hair and makeup.

  2. Photographer will be at the first shoot location setting up lighting and taking test shots.

  3. DOSM or Photo Producer will bring models to the first shoot location.

  4. Photographer should have test images on a computer or iPad for the DOSM to approve. After the angle is approved, models will be moved into position and shooting begins.

  5. Note: It is the photographer's responsibility to establish a rapport with the models and to direct the models. As a general rule, only one person should direct the models and usually this is the photographer. No comments should be directed towards the models and the set should be kept as quiet as possible to insure good communication between the photographer and the models. If you or someone else would like to direct the models, it is best to talk to the photographer about this beforehand.

  6. Photographer should shoot a number of images and then the images should be reviewed on the iPad or laptop. Hopefully you already have gotten a good image. The goal now is to improve the shot. Model positions can be changed slightly, clothing can be adjusted or changed, and shooting continues. At some point the photographer will look at more images with the decisionmaker and together they should decide if they've got some amazing shots and are ready to move on or need to shoot more images.

  7. After the conclusion of the first image, models are retuned to the production room, dressed for the next shot, and get hair and make-up touched up. Photographer has moved to the next location and is pre-lighting the 2nd shot. See #3 above and start shot number two.

In a nutshell, that is how your lifestyle photo shoot should proceed.

How many shots can you get done in a day?

With a good stills producer working on your shoot you can get approximately 7 to 8 shots a day, providing your models can work overtime. Professional models will need to get paid overtime for any hours over an 8 hour day and this includes any breaks and time in hair and make-up. Without a producer or someone on property who is a skilled event coordinator, 4 or 5 shots maximum is about what you can expect.


Greg Ceo is a professional hotel and resort photographer based in Brooklyn, NY and Savannah, GA. He has worked on an episode of Hotel Impossible and written for Lodging Magazine. He has shot for Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Omni, Starwood, Wyndham, and boutique hotel properties around the world. See more of his work at www.gregceostudio.com.