Your personal photos serve to capture a scene and a memory, but a marketing photo has another job: it must persuade and entice. But before it can even do those things, it has to catch someone’s attention. That means your marketing photos need to be arresting enough to stop thumbs and stand out among the sea of clutter that barrages people every day. Which begs the question:
What makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo?
By “dramatic,” I mean it evokes emotion, piques curiosity, and/or makes a bold statement. This is done through strategic use of angle, lighting, perspective, and subject choice. A dramatic tourism marketing photo can tell a story in one glance. And it can also get someone interested enough to stop and read the caption or other accompanying message you want to convey.
In that latter sense, the photo is just a lure. It’s bait, if you will, that hooks your audience into hearing what you have to say. So for a photo to hook as many people as possible, that bait needs to be nice and juicy.
A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words. Here are five dramatic tourism photos I’ve come across in the past month, and what each one says to its audience.
This says: private, remote, solitude, peace, quiet. It also says, “Breathe fresh air in the wilderness and get away from the noise and clutter of your daily life.”
In this sea of snowy bluish-white, your eye is drawn to two things: 1) that little patch of brown, where the cabin sits nestled in the woods, and 2) the blurry branches in the left foreground. And the rest of the image is just natural, uninhabited, snow-blanketed forest. In this photo, the perspective distance from the cabin and the upward angle that still allows the cabin to peek through the trees really nail the emotion here. The cabin alone or the blurry branches alone wouldn’t create the same impact. But they work together to hold the viewer’s attention, and that in turn communicates a message that viewers don’t even realize they’re receiving: this is literally “getting away from it all.”
This says: unhurried, no decisions to make, no responsibilities. It also says, “Be alone with your thoughts and slow down your speed.”
The curves and swirls that juxtapose white and blue are enough to stop someone’s scrolling thumbs, but then it’s the lone human walking near the water that really makes this photo. The aerial perspective, coupled with the person, convey the scale and context of the landscape in a way that neither a close up, nor the same photo without the person in it, ever could. And even though there’s a light frothy surf where the beach meets the shore, the timing of this photo evokes the feeling that everything on this beach is still and calm…and so the only movements are the ones YOU choose to make. The person in the photo is clearly walking, which is essential to the emotion of the photo. If the person were standing still, it wouldn’t create that same compelling dynamic.
This says: unforgettable, breathtaking, Instagrammable wedding memories. It also says, “If you’ve got joie de vivre and a fun spirit, we’re the right place for your wedding.”
A quick glance at this photo catches attention because the couple on the ski lift is clearly NOT wearing ski gear. And the “white space” around that couple ensures that they really pop…it makes a viewer want to stop and zoom in for a closer look. What helps here is that the background is SO majestic. It screams “classic Swiss Alps” for a wedding backdrop, and yet the mountains don’t dominate the scene. Moreover, the perspective looking up from the ground, and the simplicity of what’s captured in the frame, evoke the feeling that the newlyweds are high above and away from everyone… alone together, far removed from anyone and anything. I mean, could it get any more romantic than that?
This says: unusual experience. It also says, “Whatever that is, it looks cool.”
It looks like a shed sitting on a dock, and that might be enough for someone to stop and check it out. But then, it has steam coming out of the roof, so…what IS that? It’s the steam that really makes this shot because it piques curiosity. Then the caption tells you that this is a work-in-progress shot of the resort’s new wood fire cedar sauna and just like that…you want to be in that sauna. The downward perspective from an elevated viewpoint shows just enough context for the viewer to understand its cool location, and that super calm blue water surrounding it adds to the allure. BTW, you can see the finished sauna here.
This says: “You want wine? We’re not playing around. We’ve GOT wine.”
Landscape and nature aren’t the only subjects for dramatic tourism marketing photos. Look at these wine barrels. The way the rows curve at the back, along with the perfectly aligned strips of oak and burgundy coloring, really nail the drama for this photo. They draw the eye and give the impression that the barrels continue on to infinity. And nothing says “we’ve got plenty of wine” like a seemingly unlimited supply of wine barrels. Even better: this photo was used to promote inn’s wine pairings and menus for Maine Restaurant Week. Why is that better? Because it’s soooo different than the usual photo used to promote such an event, like a glass of wine next to a plated dinner. This stands out.
What’s the bottom line? What makes a dramatic tourism marketing photo isn’t necessarily having a dramatic subject. It’s CREATING a dramatic feeling by choosing how the subject will be photographed. It may take a little more investment on your part – time, money, expertise – but it’s well worth it to invest in this kind of marketing bait.
For more (undramatic) tourism marketing photography tips, find out the secret to a great tourism photo.