This article is about why as a hotel owner or marketing manager, you shouldn’t attempt to take your own hotel advertising photography just to save money. By advertising photography, I mean photos of your rooms and facilities.
Mostly I see these DIY photos used by small independent hotels and motels who have taken the photos using either a point and shoot camera, or a larger DSLR with interchangeable lenses. You can normally spot these photos a mile away simply due to the following problems:
Poor lighting because a tripod was not used meaning a longer exposure was not possible, or the photo was just taken in “automatic” mode.
The camera is not level, again because a tripod wasn’t used.
A wide angle lens is not used, or worse, it's a cheap wide angle lens with fisheye distortion!
Firstly, it is really important to understand just how pivotal your hotel advertising photography is for attracting more guests. It is singularly the most vital “multiplier” to your hotel marketing. It underpins every single advertising and marketing campaign that you engage it whether it be social media, online travel agencies or Google My Business.
Photography is a really, really big deal for your hotel regardless of whether you have one room or one hundred rooms. If you are running a commercial venture selling accommodation, then in most cases (especially if your existing photography is mediocre) the best possible investment you can make is better photography.
If you are not a full-time, working professional commercial photographer with real estate or architectural photography experience, and a plethora of gear, you will not be able to achieve the best results.
The problem is that we are not looking to achieve “average” results (even for 2-3 star properties). We are looking to actually improve the photography on many levels, from the visual appeal of the room, to the conveying of vital information that assists in the buying process (such as critical room features).
Here are just a few things that better hotel photography can do:
Look more appealing and “expensive”, therefore attract more guests who are willing to pay a higher room rate.
Show more detail or information through the use of wider angles.
Specifically emphasise important features of the room over others using better composition.
Provide clear and tangible reasons for guests to upgrade/upsell to a better room type.
Sometimes Only the Best Will Do
A few years ago I smashed my knee cap into 32 pieces. I was offered a general orthopaedic surgeon in Brisbane, but after some research I discovered an incredibly well renowned and popular surgeon who specialised in knee surgery.
I was willing to pay the difference for this “star” surgeon because I wanted the best outcome. If things went pear shaped I was confident of being in good hands. He did an outstanding job, and I never regretted the decision to choose a more experienced and expensive surgeon. He was minimally invasive leaving few scars, and there were no complications afterwards.
The same principle should apply to choosing your hotel photographer. Not only should you not “do it yourself” but you shouldn’t just choose the closest or cheapest local photographer either. Sometimes it is worth going further afield, and investing more to get better results!
It's More Difficult Than it Looks
When I shoot a hotel room for example, I allocate about one hour per room. I might take 2-3 shots during that hour, sometimes just one. I agonise over every single technical detail in the shot from the height of the camera to the exposure, focus and aperture used.
I then make sure the tripod is perfectly level on all axes by first levelling the centre column, and then actual tripod head. That way if I pan the head slightly to frame the shot, it will still be level.
I am always referring to a printed information sheet about that particular room type. I want to know all the unique selling features of the room and which are the most important. Framing a hotel room shot is not just about taking a photo with good photographic composition that looks good (although that helps as well!). It’s about communicating information quickly.
Furthermore, the body of photos of your hotel form a gallery that must all work together to tell the same story. Consideration must be given to the entire portfolio, and not just individual photos.
Everything is a fine balance, and strategic compromise. If I move the camera 5 degrees to the left, I can capture the edge of the TV, but then the bed isn’t framed correctly... Do I go wider to capture both elements and risk distorting the image further?
The amount of gear you need to have on hand for every circumstance to really do the job properly is mind blowing. I carry spare light bulbs in different colour temperatures if the color casts are not conducive to a good shot. I even use a carpet rake to ensure even contours of the carpet.
Instinctively knowing when and how to use all of these techniques is essential for the best results.
Finally, taking a hotel room photo is almost never achieved with one photo. In almost every case, multiple photos will need to be taken and then blended and merged in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
Don’t Pawn Your Camera Yet
But don’t go selling that camera on Gumtree just yet. Just about any camera is going to be sufficient to take photography for social media like Facebook and Instagram.
I would absolutely recommend you actively improve your overall photography skills and understanding as a hotel marketing manager or owner. Use these improved skills to take better photographs to supplement your professional hotel advertising photography.
Use these improved skills to help you judge the portfolios of other professional photographers with confidence and not be taken for a ride.
Don’t assume you need to go out tomorrow and buy a fancy new camera. Your smartphone camera is probably good enough for hotel social media photography, and has the added advantage of being able to post directly to Facebook or Instagram without any delays.
But for your hotel advertising photography, the photos used on your website galleries, online travel agencies, TripAdvisor and many more places — do not compromise with these photos!
Hire a top professional photographer who has the gear, the experience and the attention to detail that matters.