Choosing the right photos is vital when it comes to marketing your travel products. It’s also one of the hardest things to get right. In this article, Erika Braeger talks to the experts, breaks things down, and presents some case studies to make things easier.

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Stunning landscapes and gleeful families on the beach have held their place as the ubiquitous norm amongst travel materials.

However, travelers are getting pickier.

Subtlety is key in inspiring your niche market to latch onto your idea. To sell more tours, people must first get an idea about the experience they’re buying, and effective photography is the best way to do it.

Consider Angkor Wat.

Companies offer cycling, walking, tuk-tuk, motorbike, and private air-conditioned vans to tote guests around the ruins. How do you want your customers to experience it? Do you want them to navigate the tropical heat on a sans-AC tuk-tuk? What emotions do you want to evoke?

The images on your page are key to selling these ideas of the “best” way to experience something, but putting the right images in the right places is key.

Your photos can be broadly divided into three categories: hero images, secondary images, and in-content images. Let’s look at each one individually

1. Hero Images

This is the very first picture your guests will see. A giant peripheral-filling image at the top of your page.

This should be the embodiment of the emotional appeal you are trying to sell. It should captivate and engage visitors. Consider your hero image the first impression. It needs to wow, pop, and make them pause to read the accompanying copy. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression so choose wisely.

These photos need to be professional, but if you don’t have the means to invest in a professional photographer, Tourism Tiger highlights ways around this.

Julie Vola, Photo Editor of Word Magazine and freelance photographer explains, “Photography is what grabs the audience’s attention and encourages them to explore the product – it’s the first thing people see. The same can be said for magazines. When people read a magazine, they flick through them and it’s the photos that first grab the audience. In a website, it isn’t the tours themselves that first grab the reader but the photos of the destinations.”

2. Secondary Images

These images supplement the hero image. They display below the hero image and are often image links to the experiences you’re trying to sell.

Since all your tours should be distinctly different, each photo should convey specific emotional experiences related to the tour.

Andy Parkinson, tour industry expert holds to the inspire and convince model. He says: “Whenever I think about selecting photos for products, I try to achieve two things: “inspire and convince.” Inspire photos are there to wow the audience: the astonishingly large cave or the spectacular sunset. Convince photos are close up photos of people participating in the product; people being active and having fun.”

Your hero images should be selected to inspire, whereas your secondary images need to convince.

3.In-content Images

These photos are placed alongside tour descriptions.

It’s important that they’re specific to each individual experience you’re selling. These are similar to the secondary images, but should have a more in-depth feel. Is it a whiskey tasting, countryside tour, or climbing experience? Go for the intimate angle that immediately puts the viewer in the photo, creating the feeling of being there, thus making the experience feel obtainable.

With over 16 years of tour industry experience, Parkinson explains what people are doing incorrectly, “The photographs you find on most travel company websites and inside brochures are either big photos that inspire but don’t convince or they are poorly composed images of real people. In terms of the big photos, it’s not enough to just have a landscape. You need people in the landscape to show the scale of the place and to help people visualize themselves there. The close-up shots that you see of people usually look staged and inauthentic.”

4. Bonus: Social Media Photos

We’ll cover social media in more in depth in another article, but it’s difficult to talk about website photos and completely ignore social media.

I’ll talk about the most image-friendly platform, Instagram, but many of the same rules apply to Facebook, Pinterest, and other platforms that you may be using.

When Instagram feeds are done right, they’re colorful, compelling, and are less singularly emotional than other types of images on your page.  Violet Tinder Studios explains the significance of Instagram, “It has helped create a way for individuals and small businesses to carve out a strong brand identity (beyond their website) and use it to find new business, while connecting with others in their field.”

Visit a business Instagram page and you should immediately get an idea of what they’re about from a quick scroll through. It’s more than taking beautiful photos. Build spider webs interconnecting and conveying the heart of your business. Because of the highly visual nature of the platform, people should be able to explain what they’ve seen in a few words. Keep this in mind every time you post.

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Still a little confused? Take a look at these websites and see what you think:


Experiences offered on Airbnb vary by city and country, but are always very specific to local culture. If you’re staying in the countryside why not walk around a local winery and explore the cellars? Experience the fashion industry in Paris, whiskey culture in Ireland, coffee production in Kenya, and hand-crafted perfumes in Prague. Each experience listed on Airbnb is accompanied by beautifully curated photos or videos that compel the user to watch, click, or find out more.

The photos and videos all have a common thread. The photos strike a balance between professional and appealing but still candid and real. People are cheers-ing at whiskey tastings while a gentleman with a scruffy beard explains the contents of a weathered wooden barrel. A group of friends lounge and laugh on a speedboat zipping through a scenic seaside town while a guide mingles. Don’t these seem more real and authentic than a lecturing tour guide?

Traveling Spoon

Traveling Spoon has built itself upon the concept of people wanting to eat like locals with locals, not necessarily in a restaurant setting. They want immersive dining experiences, in someone’s home. Travelers enjoy homecooked meals in conjunction with cultural and culinary traditions of the country they’re visiting.  Positioned as “like having a friend’s mom cook you a home cooked meal in every country you visit,” the international online booking platform is delighting travelers and creating chefs of all different abilities around the world. The photos on Traveling Spoon are close-ups of beautiful plated food, travelers eating with the host, and local markets. Like Airbnb, they inspire and convince.

Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises’s homepage greets you with an intimate video of the rainforest rivers from the eye level of a guest, immediately placing you in the experience. I’m cheating a little here as this is video, not photography, but the same rules still apply.

The visuals on the site although naturally beautiful, offer an imagery of tourism that is often idealized: untouched nature. Still images show tangles of snakes, mosquitos, riverside shacks and local life. Despite the visual honesty of the imagery, sleeping and living quarters are pristine and of 4- to 5-star quality, ensuring guests they can return to comfort after a day of ruggedness. The site’s photography deals with this intelligently, juxtaposing the honest raw images of life off the cruise ship with those of comfort and luxury on the cruise ship.

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