Your independent hotel or motel is unique both in terms of its amenities, location and the typical types of guest avatars that stay there. Deciding on what types and level of photography to attract more guests will depend on these factors, in addition to your overall budget.
By considering the variations below, you can get a general idea of the potential scope of a photographers engagement which may range from between half a day to a week in total on site.
To give you a rough idea, I normally shoot about 25 photos per day of critical scenes like hotel rooms or facilities, and here are the categories of photos that would be discussed in detail before the shoot and as part of the scoping exercise for quotation purposes.
External Hero Shots
These shots are best taken at sunset (dusk) or sunrise and generally feature the front of your building or your pool area. They could be considered "architectural" in nature and will be shot with a tripod from the best vantage point when the weather is ideal.
This could be across the road on a tall tripod, or perhaps taken from the rooftop of a nearby building.
This shot may ultimately end up being the main shot or primary marketing image for your hotel or motel. Therefore, all efforts should be made to take the best possible external hero shot.
This photo should take at least an hour to shoot properly, but in more challenging situations it might take up to a day or longer.
Elevating the tripod using either a large commercial tripod or some other structure may also be worth considering although there should be a valid reason for doing this and not just for a gimmick.
That means carefully evaluating the pros and cons of a sunrise or sunset shot, whether to turn all the lights in the hotel on for added impact, and managing traffic and foreground obstacles liked parked cars and other eyesores.
The weather plays a vital part in this shot, and while the sky can be replaced in Photoshop, this normally results in images which for some reason, just don't look quite right.
Internal Room Shots
Room shots shouldn't be rushed. They are so important. I will suggest we replace light bulbs to make the light consistent, make styling and staging changes and carefully consider the composition of each shot.
Every room type should take about one hour to shoot properly and probably longer.
The size of the room type will dictate how many shots are required in total but normally between two and four, and many more for larger rooms or apartments.
Wide angle lenses are normally used, but as "least wide" as possible to achieve the best results.
In almost all cases room shots should be taken with at least some flash photography. This ensures a better colour representation of your walls and furnishings, and reduces the color casts caused by easier and quicker methods such as HDR (High Dynamic Range Photography).
The ability to reduce the ambient light in the room from windows and compensate with flash is vital to this process. This is achieved by using a slower shutter speed, and adding flash to the shot. These shots can then be combined with the ambient luminosity to create a balanced photo.
This exposure blending and compositing technique takes longer to shoot, requires more skill and thought on site and takes longer to process, but it is totally worth it.
Furthermore, every single room shot will likely do a round trip to Photoshop for advanced editing and retouching after basic colour grading.
The hotel pool area, dining and gym facilities are critical photos that are normally best taken at sunrise without guests. Your property may feature a number of facilities, from business centres to guest laundries, all of which need capturing at the best time.
This is where a detailed shot list and schedule comes into play. The careful and deliberate planning on each scene to coincide with the not only the best light, but the least disruption to guests and optimum results.
In most cases a simple lobby or reception shot that includes staff at the front desk is the most appropriate option. These are normally shot at sunrise or late morning when the lobby will be less busy, for minimal disruption.
If natural lighting is lacking, portable light strobes should be the first thing to consider. rather than using studio strobes with dangerous cables This will allow the photographer to light up large areas while eliminating the safety issues.
A good photographer can work with any situation, and through the use of compositing images in Photoshop actually remove extra people from a lobby shot as required. Using this technique, you may not even need to rope off or close the lobby.
Food & Beverage
Your restaurant, cafe or bar photography is normally a combination of establishing exterior shots, interior architectural photos without guests, and probably some hero dish food photography shots.
When choosing which dishes to photograph for advertising or website galleries you need to think about which dishes photograph best, are popular and perhaps are a little unusual or out of the ordinary as well.
Actual food photography can be taken environmentally "at the pass", on a table setting, or more lifestyle oriented with staged guests or models.
Restaurant photography simply for practical reasons of staffing is normally best taken mid morning or early afternoon. In some cases where the restaurant is always busy, we may elect to shoot these shots outside of normal restaurant opening hours.
Your hotel photographer should work closely with your chef and optionally a food stylist to maximise the impact of these shots.
That local convenience store or bar just around the corner may seem like an unlikely candidate for professional photography, but it does add to your value proposition.
Those "hyper local" attractions or sights that are walking distance from your hotel most certainly are valuable to photograph and can feature in blog articles, social media posts or hotel compendiums.
"Street Photography" of your local neighbourhood with its unique vibe and points of interest (even just a place to take a great selfie) can be very helpful for guests already checked in or sway them to book your hotel due to their own personal requirements and interests.
Regardless of the size of your hotel, your staff have their own personal recommendations for local bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, playgrounds etc. which are all make for very valuable and informative photography for use not only in your marketing, but to enhance the overall guest experience.
These photos can also be printed and used inside room compendiums, at reception or the concierge desk when guests ask "Where can I get a great steak?".
This works extremely well on Facebook and social media because it humanises the content (as the recommendation comes from a real person).
Character Staff Portraits
If your hotel has an acclaimed chef or particular characters like bar tenders that set the stage for the experience your guests can expect, then these are worth taking as environmental portraits as well.
For smaller independent hotels or motels, environmental portraits of the owners are often used on "About" pages or on social media to show friendliness and emphasise personal service.
Placed on TripAdvisor pages, they can also help to humanise the hotel or motel with guests and minimise negative reviews.
Who your characters are will depend on your hotel, and also the experience the guest has. A honeymooning couple might find rapport with the pool bartender whereas a family loves the lady at the creche who has taken care of their kids.
In any case, used on social media these portraits help bring back memories for past guests which (assuming they were good memories) is always a bonus!
Consider doing a "Employee" of the month type post on Facebook but make sure the posts are actually interesting, personal and don't sound too corporate.
Staged Lifestyle Shots
Lifestyle shots or aspirational photography showing glamorous guests looking like Calvin Klein models and drinking champagne at breakfast time, or arriving by limousine like they have "just stepped out of a salon" are, in my opinion, not always the best investment.
The problem with hiring models, make-up artists and fashion stylists is that it just makes your hotel look "unobtainable" for the average guest, regardless of its star rating.
They are best reserved for luxury or very boutique hotels with one or two guest personas (in my opinion).
if you really must do lifestyle photography then make sure it is exactly what you are guests are looking and not just a w*** on behalf of the photographer or stylists involved.
Photographers love doing these shots because they make their portfolios look good. But will they really increase the profitability of the hotel? That remains to be seen and is also very hard to actually guage.
Aerial Drone Photography
This is another style of photography that I don't rate highly for hotels despite it being touted as the best thing since sliced bread.
Drone photography shows little "detail" so it doesn't contain enough information for guests to be inspired to make a booking. It is very hard for the photographer to compose an image properly, and there are severe limitations and restrictions in terms of safety and regulations.
Research has shown that the shots people really care about are the guest rooms followed by the pool and lobby.
You may be able to negotiate with professional photographers who have recently shot events at your hotel. By simply crediting or attributing their work, they may allow you to use their copyrighted images in your promotional materials, and very likely at least on social media.
This gives you access to a smorgasbord of professional images that would otherwise cost you thousands of dollars to produce (or ten of thousands if you were paying for models!). It always pays to introduce yourself to any professional event photographers that are at your hotel shooting a wedding or corporate event.
This makes perfect fodder for Facebook and gives some relevance and meaning to the chronology of posts.
Establish a mutually beneficial relationship and take advantage of this wonderful resource of "user generated content"!
Hotel Photography covers the entire gamut of professional photographer genres from food photography to architectural photography and event photography.
It's important your hotel photographer can cover all of these bases, and understands the vital importance of photography for a hotel that surpasses almost every other business type.
In the end, your photography becomes an enormously useful asset to be used across your entire marketing mix from your content marketing to your advertising and social media fronts.