How to Photograph Hotel Interiors
I have had the pleasure of enjoying the profession of hotel photographer for several years now. I have taken photos of many properties for many leading brands around the Middle East, Africa, Russia and Europe as well as Maldives and Seychelles
So what is a Professional Hotel Photographer?
A mix of interiors and architectural photographer for hotels and resorts but to define it further the job encompasses the following areas of specialty:
Typically taking interior photos of the Hotel Rooms, Luxury Suites, Bathrooms, Hotel Lobby, F&B, Wellness, Meeting Rooms, Conference Rooms and Exterior.
An extension of skills of the hotel photographer as a resort would have more open spaces such as a large pool, beach, green areas and scenery.
I do believe that what is needed at a resort is an eye for Landscape Photography.
Lifestyle Photography within hotels, for me, should incorporate an element of the property within the photograph. You should be able to tell that the photo with the people was taken at that hotel or in that restaurant.
There may be a wish to have a tighter composition with a blurred background to capture the mood and emotion of the people. Consideration should be given that the photo may look like a stock image or a photo that ‘could have been taken anywhere’.
Lifestyle images used for social media, for example, are more likely to be a tighter composition on the people to capture the emotion or expression.
Food Photography generally can be broken down into:
- Menu Shots
- General Marketing
- Social Media
Again should the photo contain an element of the restaurant? Should it be quite restrictive or should just focus on the food with relevant styled elements and background?
It is always recommended to use a food stylist on a food shoot for a restaurant, and it’s a sensitive subject because ‘we don’t want to upset the chef’.
Chefs create amazing artistic masterpieces and design their dishes to be presented to the guest. The food stylist will be responsible for how to present the dish to the camera, and that presentation or angle can change between compositions.
Often, what looks good to the eye may not look good to the camera; smaller is better, and tricks may be needed to make the dish appear more appetizing to the camera.
As mentioned smaller is better when it comes to food photography, the stylist knows this and chooses elements that fit.
The chef is usually cautious with the food stylist initially, but by the end of the shoot they are best of friends and engage in discussion of all the food styling tricks and gadgets.
I let them get on with it.
This is an interesting subject as 360 photos have been around for many years. In the past, the implementation and viewing of 360 photos have been clunky, inconsistent and generally not a favorable user experience.
With the popularity of Google Maps and a standard way of viewing 360 images, I do believe they have become useful and beneficial to any property.
360 images uploaded to Google Maps can receive millions of views and drive potential clients to your website.
What may not be appreciated are the levels of quality of images from different 360 photographers. A photographer may turn up and place the camera in many locations and take shots of the space ‘as is’ without any setup.
This poor approach will reflect the images and won’t meet any brand standards but of course will be also a lower cost.
I apply the same meticulous approach to the preparation of the space as well as a level of post-production to ensure the 360 image is closer to our standard photography image.
Technology and the Photographer
The introduction of technology has enabled the field of photography and it has become a partner to the hotel photographer. Technology has made things possible that were somewhat impossible before.
Additionally technology has allowed us to take multiple exposures of a scene and blend them together in post-production to produce a final image that more accurately represents the scene.
The goal with this technical photography approach, partnering with the post-production, is to recreate the look as it was seen by the eye which is not possible even with modern technically advanced cameras.
The eye can see the detail in the shadow next to the bed and also see the daylight view outside. The camera can see one or the other but not both.
The Photo and the Render
The increase in perceived quality with a modern professional photo and it’s accompanying post production has been met with the increase in perceived quality of CGI or Renders. There can be a fine line between an image looking like a photograph or looking like a render.
Certainly, within the capabilities of modern post-production, it is possible that a photograph can be ‘pushed too far’ and look like a render. Although I must say, I do think it is more challenging for a render to look like a photograph. The gap is still closing.
Renders do have the distinct advantage that they are created before the subject is built. This is obvious but what is less obvious is that the composition or angle from a render may not be possible with a photograph due to limitations in space. A wall, a pillar or even a swimming pool could prevent the photographer from capturing the same composition.
The Primary Angle
Renders typically do showcase the primary angle of a space as the designer or architect created it. Often a space will only have 1 or 2 primary angles, and these are usually obvious to any photographer as well as anyone who took some time to make some informed observations.
The advances in technology that have been introduced to the photographer have likewise given opportunities to the hotel industry. The standard for images has increased, and the use of an image as an asset is more prominent with websites and digital marketing.
The selection of a hotel photographer is key for any brand. The photographer must not only have the knowledge and experience to shoot the varied spaces within a hotel; the photographer must also be familiar with the brand guidelines, be able to guide individual hotels towards the brand standards and be sensitive to the on-going day to day operations of the business.
What Should You Do Before Planning A Photoshoot?
Look at your competitors.
There are many different hotel brands of different standards and services, but any good marketing team will know who their direct or immediate competitors are within the city/region.
You should look at their photographs. Yours have to be at least as good as the competitor and preferably better.
If you choose a cheap in-experienced photographer and your photos are not as good as your competitors, then you will know, your boss will know, and more importantly, your clients will be checking in next door and not with you.
Choose Wisely When Selecting A Photographer
Of course, choose wisely when hiring your photographer and ensure they are experienced with the images you are looking for. Hotel Photography is quite a specialist area, so the different lighting conditions and the variety of subjects need careful planning and execution.
Request a portfolio of previous jobs the photographer has completed. It will be useful to see the different styles they are able to produce.
How many images?
Realistically there are only a few good compositions of any space, so it is not advisable to request too many images. However, there are requirements set by booking platforms for images which must be met.
Focus on the quality of individual images not quantity. It only takes one image to inspire a client to make that booking.
You can expect around 8-10 images per day from an experienced hotel photographer. It’s possible to take more if rooms are being taken and they are in close proximity.
Know your brand guidelines beforehand and make the relevant decisions. For example with the bedrooms and suites:
- Sheers Open or Closed
- Lights on or Natural Daylight look
- Remove all collateral
- Is the telephone allowed or not
- Can amenities be included
- TV should be visible
- Flowers can be included
- Fruits / Chocolates / Cookies can be included
On The Shoot
The process of the meticulous setup for each image is time-consuming. We connect the camera to a computer to make viewing possible for all involved to see. We de-clutter, re-position, and fill spaces and more.
You should have housekeeping available for the rooms as well as engineering, just in case something isn’t working, or we need to remove a door to get the best angle for a shot.
Beds need to be immaculate with linens crease free as much as possible.
The most significant thing you can do is BE INVOLVED and give input. Consider all that you could possibly want from the image and let the photographer know.
The shoot is a team effort for all involved. Ultimately you will be happier with your final images if you have thought of everything at the time of taking the images.
You know your market, and you know your customers. It is very difficult to make changes after the shoot to address things that were missed or to add items that were not available.
Using an experienced hotel interiors stylist will add an artistic touch, and this is invaluable for the top end luxury brands. Also, if you are paying a daily rate then using a stylist can actually make the shoot more efficient as you are likely to get more images per day. Cutting down the time to take a shot will also mean less disruption for your guests.
A hotel image is an asset that should be used to it’s full potential. It will be with you for 3-5 years so the time and effort spent upfront will ensure a ROI.
Find my profile on photographerlistings.org Photography Directory
I look forward to joining you on a shoot at your property to create images that will inform and inspire.