Virtual tours have become an increasingly important marketing piece in recent years. From higher education to hospitality, a variety of industries can benefit from a virtual tour to attract, convince, and convert their audiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of the technology in these and other industries, but this is not a temporary marketing fad. Virtual tours are here to stay, offering unique ways to showcase your physical location and features to an audience who might be too far away, not yet committed, or lack the resources for a physical visit.
Of course, the benefits of these types of virtual experiences are not automatic. After the decision to build a tour, planning to get it right is absolutely vital. Among your first decisions: deciding exactly when the photography and videography for your virtual experience should occur.
So let’s dig into those details. In this guide, we’ll examine the most important considerations when choosing a season for your tour photography. Then, we’ll dig into the advantages and disadvantages of each season depending on the experience you’re looking to build.
5 Considerations for Picking the Best Virtual Tour Photography Season
Generally speaking, there is no single best time to photograph your physical facilities. Instead, there are several important considerations as you decide when to bring in a creative team to capture your campus in the best possible light. These are the most important ones.
1. Consider Your Virtual Tour’s Purpose
First, and perhaps most importantly, start with the core goal of the virtual tour you’re looking to build. This goal will have a major impact on the type of photography you need.
Virtual tours can range widely according to their purpose:
- Higher education institutions look to different tours to attract prospective students, engage alumni, and showcase the local community.
- Hotels and other hospitality organizations look to showcase both their interior spaces and the local surroundings.
- Data centers and other indoor facilities aim to highlight and increase spatial awareness of their large interior spaces.
- Large enterprises leverage digital experiences like virtual tours to present themselves as employers of choice to top-end talent.
Those, of course, are just a few examples. All of them might require different types of photography based on audience needs and expectations. For instance, an interior-only tour is relatively season-independent. Defining the tour’s purpose, in other words, should be the first step towards finding the right shooting time and season.
2. Consider Your Audience Background
At its best, the tour’s purpose satisfies and exceeds audience expectations. But that audience’s background also matters, especially as you’re looking to build a tour specifically designed to grab and hold their attention.
Consider: a university in Pennsylvania looks to attract students from Florida. Is showing the four seasons, including fall and winter, advantageous or disadvantageous? The answer largely depends on the background of those students and families from Florida. The tour should not be misleading at its best, but also present your campus in the best possible light.
Other variables beyond location can also come into play. The tours your audience has experienced from your direct and indirect competitors, for instance, could play a role in how they will perceive yours. That’s why a good understanding of your audience is critical.
3. Consider the Nature of Your Virtual Tour
Beyond your tour’s purpose and audience, the type of tour you want to create also plays a role in the optimum time for photography and any potential videography. A recruitment-focused tour, regardless of its audience or the nature of your business, aims to show your organization in the best possible light. For universities, that has traditionally meant fall. For a hotel or other attraction, it might be summer.
However, other virtual tours are more focused on training, which is showing the spaces in question in their most-used state becomes more important. Winter might become an option in that case, though it is largely the off-season for marketing-based tours.
And of course, indoor tours become more location-independent than their outside counterparts. The nuance here is showing indoor spaces with large windows, where the outside is still visible. All these variables result in your virtual tour being the third major consideration in choosing the optimal photography time.
4. Consider Any Events You Want to Capture
Some tours shine because they capture specific moments especially well. A university, for instance, may look to showcase the weekly fall football game day and all the excitement that comes with it. On the other hand, a talent recruitment-focused tour may want to feature the annual employee get-together or weekly happy hour.
Not all virtual tours feature specific events, of course. But if yours does, these events should play a major consideration in finding the ideal timing for tour photography. They tend to be limited specifically to specific dates and times of the year, making them the fourth major consideration as you build your photography schedule.
5. Consider Availability of Professionals
Finally, don’t plan your virtual tour production without the professionals who will capture the footage you need to make it shine. None of the above matters if you find your ideal time, and reach out to your ideal partner, only to find that they are unavailable.
In the vast majority of cases, you want to partner with your virtual tour platform on photography that matches their needs, specs, and best practices. So, finding that partner and connecting with them at the right time should always be a core step of the process.
That’s especially true if you work with industry-specific partners, who might be booked quickly at certain times. For example, since fall is the best time to represent many colleges and universities in geographic areas with four seasons, virtual tour providers tend to be busiest during that time to produce their tours. Connecting early is key to secure availability.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of All Seasons for Your Tour Photography
With the general considerations for tour photography in mind, let’s dig deeper into why some seasons tend to work better than others. Before we do that, though, a note of caution: all the below are generalities that might be slightly different for your specific situation. It’s always crucial to keep your unique environment and requirements in mind.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Spring Photography
When you time it right, spring can be beautiful. Flowers are sprouting, the leaves are getting green, and a feeling of freshness is in the air. It’s also when most people will likely be on campus, making the availability of any students, employees, or other groups who should be in the photographs a non-issue.
On the other hand, spring is relatively unpredictable. In large parts of the North East, it snowed this past April. That can make pre-scheduling any visual productions challenging, especially in early spring.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Summer Photography
Of all four seasons, summer is the most predictable. The weather is likely to be nice, the leaves are sure to be green, and spaces in all industries tend to be ready for showcasing.
However, the availability of people might be more limited. For universities, fewer students are on campus. In corporate environments, more employees will be on vacation. Especially if you are looking to showcase people in addition to your facilities, that could present a challenge.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Fall Photography
Fall is, for many venues and locations experiencing all four seasons, prime show-off season. The foliage is just too perfect not to, and many of the downfalls of summer (especially limited availability) are no longer concerns. In addition, many central events, especially at universities, take place during the fall.
On the other hand, the weather begins to become unpredictable once again. Unexpected snow begins as early as October, and temperatures begin to drop.
The Benefits and Disadvantages of Winter Photography
Finally, winter is probably the least advantageous season to get photography for your virtual tour. The grounds become muddy, the color goes away—and the snow, which might be desirable to show, is too unpredictable to prepare for with long-term planning.
There are limited advantages even to winter photography sessions, though. As mentioned above, it might simply be the most realistic setting depending on the purpose of your tour. In addition, especially if the tour is focused indoors, you might be able to get lower prices on photography thanks to the disadvantages mentioned above.
Ready to Schedule Your Virtual Tour Photography at the Perfect Time?
Ultimately, finding the right timing for your virtual tour visual production is vital to helping the experience become successful. What that timing depends on your location, the type of your tour, and other variables mentioned above.
Generally speaking, though, two things remain true: summer and early fall are great for most purposes, and you need to plan early to make sure you can get your photography done this year.