Margaritaville by SCPictures


A couple of months into COVID, a great-looking brief landed in our inbox that seemed like it came from another time. It was so 2019 in the middle of 2020. We quickly set up a call with the client to discuss their need: shoot and retouch about 100 photographs. Nothing to sneeze at, right? 

We discussed the parameters, expectations, limitations, and all the typical stuff that goes along with shooting a hotel grand opening. To keep to their originally scheduled mid-July opening date, the client decided to reduce the number of attendees. We hustled hard to land the job and were thrilled when we learned we’d won the business. Then the realization sunk in: we’d be shooting at an open hotel with guests, all while still following all safety precautions. Just another challenge. But, as we’ve learned, it’s all about how it’s produced.


We decided to split the shoot into two separate trips. We sometimes do this with big hotel shoots; we don’t want to tax the property’s infrastructure any longer than we have to. We try to be as unobtrusive as possible, but a production crew sometimes has to get in the way to achieve a client’s vision. In this case, half the images didn’t include people; the other half were “lifestyle” shots. The most cost-efficient approach was to have the right crew on hand for each segment of the project.

We brought along a smaller crew the first week, mostly drawing from our art department. They worked long days to make the hotel’s spaces look great on camera. Some projects require more post-production than others, and we spend our time marking everything and deciding what has to be done in advance. This way, the retouchers don’t need our input again until the project is nearly complete.

It was easy to manage all the COVID safety precautions during the first week since the shoot didn’t feature any talent. By splitting up the shoot, we were able to start planning week two while shooting week one.

We also took our time learning all the ins and outs of the property, like when the light was right in different areas and so on. We also got to make friends with key staff members so that later, if we got into a time crunch, they’d be eager to help and contribute to the project’s success.

Our producer worked with the creatives, clients, and logistics team to schedule and firm up plans for week two — when the talent arrived — while other team members took photographs and explored the property’s different areas. It’s always easier to sort everything out while you’re on location.

The second week was a huge success despite the weather delaying us for several days. We made it through our shot list smoothly, mostly because our styling team had been on-site for days before the talent arrived, prepping clothes and gathering feedback.

On the job, we often discover little gems to add to the shot list, then build them into the schedule. Having the first week to explore and come up with great ideas helped us maximize these “happy accidents.”

We wrapped the job forty-eight hours before a potential hurricane was bearing down on the hotel’s newly planted — but ultimately spared — palm trees. Editing, image selection with the client, and retouching took around four weeks from start to finish. We completed this successful project in six weeks (give or take), and all parties came away from the experience feeling very satisfied.

For our part, we just love shooting, so the two weeks we spent at Margaritaville during the summer of 2020 provided a much-needed escape and holiday.

The videos at the bottom of the presentation were added when we went back to the property in 2022 and added the additional visual dimension to the properties marketing initiative.

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