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Secrets of successful hotel photography...

In one word: preparation. I know, you were probably hoping it would be something easy, like a special lens, an amazing light or some photoshop trickery. Sorry about that, but it really does come down to preparation and attention to detail.

Begin at the beginning- book your shoot in early. Then you can give everyone else in the hotel plenty of notice that you need to block the ballroom/presidential suite/whatever. Booking early will also get you a cheaper flight price, maybe a lower shoot rate and more flexibility on dates.

A good photographer should send you some pre-shoot notes (I do), outlining how to prepare rooms, what to do with f&b spaces and any special on-site needs. When these arrive, read them and then send on to Housekeeping, Engineering and M&E, depending which areas you are shooting.

It's a good idea to draw up an approximate schedule. It's a bad idea to share it with anyone. Send it to your photographer who can use it as a basis for making a more detail timing sheet once they have seen the property. Obviously, note when something is booked out or if it can only be photographed on a Tuesday.

Hopefully, you chose a photographer because you liked their style of photographs. Therefore, let them do their job and try not to micro-manage them- of course, point out any special requirements but let you photographer breathe a little.

All photographers are different, but I'm very inclusive & will ask your opinion on various things. I also like the GM should pass by a few times. Its much easier to change something on a shoot than it is two weeks later during post-production.

 

Rooms

Start with the bed- it will almost always be the focal point. Cover the basics- get the bases pushed tight together and square at the end, mattress sitting proportionally on the base. 

If your laundry is contracted out then it will be steam pressed and very difficult to remove the creases in the linen. Try wetting the linen and then hanging to dry before ironing whilst still damp. Pillows need to be ironed & crease-free and should be smartly puffed-up and not old and saggy. If your property uses goose down duvets then the top surface will be very uneven. It can be easier to use a polyester or hypo allergenic duvet for the shoot.

 

Flowers

It's incredible how much hotel flowers are now costing. They can make or break a space, so it's worthwhile thinking carefully about them.  

For a photograph, the overall size and shape of a floral arrangement is more significant than the type of flower. Normally, the flowers are accenting a scene and will not be featured in detail. Therefore, they need to be clean and bold not elaborate and fussy. Scale is particularly important in the public areas and the floral should be proportionate to the space. If it’s a double height lobby with columns, go for something tall & slim. If the ceiling has reduced height, go for a low display perhaps in triplicate.

Ask your florist to prepare bi-directional flowers- peonies on one side, blue hydrangeas on the other. As we only ever see one side when photographing, we can rotate accordingly. There you go- the flower bill halved in one easy move.

Order flowers several days in advance to ensure they are in bloom but still fresh and not wilting. A couple of small compact arrangements are useful to carry around and place in boardroom settings, bedside tables, etc. If it is hot then it may be necessary to remove the arrangements at the end of the day and store in a chiller cabinet overnight.

Don’t underestimate how many different florals will be needed. If you are shooting four different suites then it is a bad idea to keep using the same flowers every time. Also, it's not a good idea to re-use a banqueting flower in a room image or vice versa.

Ikea, Zara Home or similar depot store have a great choice of cheap & stylish vases.

I’m very happy to shoot artificial flowers, unlike my assistant who usually goes to pieces at the sight of them. The new ones are now very convincing, especially in photographs when you can’t touch them.

 

Afterwards

Around ten working days after the shoot, we upload a preview gallery for everyone to see and give feedback. People need to be realistic with feedback- we are aiming for a realistic representation of the hotel. There is no point to create something which doesn't exist, disappoint a guest and create grounds for complaints. Although Photoshop is very powerful, it is also like plastic surgery- a little here, a touch there can look good. But go too far and it's a horror show- fake windows, plastic looking beds etc