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Working with Hotels - How to photograph hospitality


Photographing hotels is an exciting yet demanding experience. With a mix of artistic vision and an unique touch, a photographer can not only showcase the beauty of the property but also share the experience of being there. In this article, we'll explore the ins and outs of working with hotels and offer tips to make your work experience more enjoyable and productive.


The guests always choose the particular hotel, because of the location they want to visit in the first place and your job is to enhance this connection.

How a typical hotel photography job look like?

A "typical hotel photography job" involves capturing various aspects of the hotel experience. This includes interior shots of rooms and common areas, as well as exterior shots. To achieve the best quality, it's essential to start early in the morning, preferably at sunrise. This time of day allows you to capture the room's interior without overexposing the outside view. It's also an ideal moment to photograph the busy areas like restaurants, pools, and lobbies yet without the hotel guests. Being discreet and not disrupt the guests' comfort is crucial, even though some level of disturbance might be unavoidable. Midday is often the busiest time in hotels, making it an excellent opportunity to review your work and catch your breath. The evening is an another great opportunity to get some additional shots. If I don’t have a specific plan, I will use this time to shoot outside the property. Don't miss the "blue hour," as it provides a chance for very unique shots, especially if the property has a striking exterior.


Preparation is Key

Before embarking on a hotel photography project, a proper preparation is essential. When discussing the project with the hotel management team, avoid vague terms like "some photos" or "+/- a certain number of photos." Instead, agree on a specific number to set clear expectations.

Hotels have typically specific guidelines regarding to images they show. Every hotel has some places which the management is proud of and wants to promote and some places which might need a future upgrade and shouldn’t be currently shown.. Investigate the hotel's website, social media to understand what things they would like to see. Engage in direct communication with the client about places or experiences they would like to highlight. Discussing the outcome with your client is crucial, as it assures that both parties are on the same page. There might be a theme on which the hotel would like to emphasise, such connectivity to the nature or being family friendly. Create a mood board featuring locations the hotel wants to highlight and places you find visually appealing. Your challenge is to add a unique touch to well-known angles, perhaps by incorporating a human subject, changing the focal length, or experimenting with different compositions.


The Right Gear for Hotel

Nothing can smoothen the work like having the right equipment. It's beneficial to have a camera with excellent low-light capabilities, such as the Sony A7IV, which I use for my work. Read more: SONY A7IV Long-Term Review: Real-World Insights

The focal lengths which I use are typically between 14-85 mm, with the most frequently used lenses including 24-70 mm f/2.8, 35 mm f/1.4, 14-24 mm f/2.8, 55 mm f/1.8, and 85 mm f/1.8. Each lens has its unique effect, but I could do most of the work with only a 24-70 mm and a wide angle prime, like 14 mm, but having more options for different focal lengths will always allow you to create a more diverse content. Art is a subjective matter, so creating a brother variety of photographs can help you to achieve better results. Drones are a fantastic tool for hotel photography. To my experience, the hotel team always appreciates to receive some aerial shots of the hotel and its surroundings. The most needed accessory would be a solid tripod, which will allow you to get sharp and well exposed photos with the use of HDR, which we’ll discuss later. Additionally, a polariser filter will be a great addition to this set, to reduce reflections on reflective surfaces, enhancing window views.





What to Photograph in a hotel?

When photographing a hotel, your client may provide a specific plan and expectations. However, in some cases, creative freedom is granted to the photographer. This often happen with the higher end hotels. In such situations, create a mental shot list that includes interior and exterior shots. Vary your focal lengths and f-stops to have a range of options during the selection process. Experiment with different angles, such as shooting from a higher ground (stairs) or closer to the floor (capturing intriguing reflections). When photographing the exterior, focus on elements that connect the property with its surroundings, as the location is a key factor for guests, who always choose the particular hotel, because of the location they want to visit in the first place and your job is to enhance this connection. In situations when you have to deal with challenging lighting conditions, consider using HDR photography. To create an HDR photograph, set your camera on a tripod and compose your frame. Then, take 3 images with a different exposure. Include an image with a well exposed brightest areas and another one with visible details on the darker areas, plus an additional photo between. Later, merge these 3 photos together in Adobe Lightroom to get a brother spectrum of details in your shot.



Working with Models

If your hotel photography project involves models, ensure their outfits fit the surroundings and tell a compelling story. Experiment with different focal lengths and f-stops to find the best composition for the narrative. Models should enhance their environment rather than steal the spotlight. Position your models in a way that doesn't make the photos feel overly personal. Encourage interaction between the model and the environment to create a cohesive and engaging story.



Highlighting the Details

Don't overlook the details when photographing hotels, especially if the property pays the attention to them. You can start with some unique decorations, especially wort capturing are seasonal decorations, like Christmas or spring. Create artistic shots by shooting through a blurred subject, offering a unique perspective and directing the attention to your subject. If the hotel has its own line of accessories or products, consider incorporating fashion-style photographs to feature these items too.




Aerial Shots

Hotel management always appreciates aerial photographs. Drone shots can showcase both the property and its surroundings, including some local landmarks. In cases where the hotel is situated in a valley, making it challenging to capture everything in a single frame, experiment with vertical panoramas. Read more about Vertical Panoramas.



Composing for Different Uses

Always create both vertical and horizontal compositions for every shot. You surely don't want to have a situation when the GM complements your picture, but is asking for a horizontal version of it, which you don't have. Knowing where your photos will be used is very important. It's a good idea to ask the property about it right from the start because this understanding can assist you in creating more effective pictures. Common places for photo usage include social media, website, booking apps, email newsletters, brochures, TV displays, and printed decorations.


In summary, working with hotels can be an engaging and rewarding experience. It challenges your creativity and technical skills, allowing you to grow as a photographer. Establishing positive relationships with hotel management can lead to long-term partnerships regarding various events and promotions in their property.


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