Planners are increasingly relying on digital resources, such as hotel websites and online sourcing platforms, to research and find venues. The key to those resources? Photos. Even if you feature videos and virtual-reality tours, planners still expect to see photos of meeting spaces, guest rooms, public spaces, and more. Vibrant, stunning hotel photography is also a great way to catch the eye of planners browsing through industry publications and platforms.
“Most, if not all, hotels have marketing goals and objectives, and a firm grasp of their brand identity and style, and an understanding of the individual and group sales demographic before they reach out to a photographer,” says Andrew Shafer, a professional photographer who specializes in the event, hospitality, and travel industries. “That being said, there is always a creative process and a collaborative approach between the photographer and the hotel. I would consider the photographer as the translator of the hotels goals into finished images.”
Get Your Hotel Camera-Ready
We asked Andrew for his advice about how hotels can best take and use photos to help grow their group business.
1. How can hotels and venues best utilize photography to make their property appeal to meeting and event planners?
The short answer is, have a variety of images. Meeting professionals are inherently visual people, and the more versatility you can showcase with your spaces, the better. Illustrate scale by showing how many rounds can fit into a space with a stage, and show the same space converted into a classroom or themed dinner party with food stations. It’s useful for planners to know that the hotel and its vendors can handle indoor rain contingencies with the same flair as a planned outdoor party. Images of unique food and beverage arrangements, entertainment options ranging from intimate to large-scale, and audiovisual setups are also key elements to helping you visually sell your venue. Additionally, hotels can leverage the images captured onsite by outside event photographers, which showcase their meeting spaces in a variety of setups and transformations. Event photographers are always happy to license their work, so be sure to make an introduction.
2. What’s your best advice for hotels or resorts that are preparing their property to be photographed for their website and other marketing channels?
Consider what the sales and marketing schedule and objectives are, and build a shot list of the property’s “must-have” images. Not only is a shot list important in receiving an accurate quote from the photographer, it also provides everyone involved a road map when it comes time to shoot. Having a comprehensive discussion with the photographer about your goals ensures that everyone is on the same page. Consider the season: Obviously, don’t schedule a shoot during monsoon season or during a dry summer when you need to showcase green foliage and blue skies. Remember that good photography takes time. If you have a shot list of several guest rooms, meeting spaces, the pool, and exercise areas, it’s safe to say you will need several days to capture. The photographer will be considering location, lighting direction, season, and time of day to help plan the shoot.
In addition, guest rooms, spas, cabanas, and other areas can be staged to add a “human element” — a couple of pieces of luggage, a sun hat, kids’ beach toys, a unique room amenity, ice-cold drinks, or fire-side cocoa and s’mores. If budget allows, coordinate to hire a couple models or a small family to better illustrate your brand style and target demographic. Be sure to have model releases available to sign for anyone photographed for the purpose of promoting the resort/hotel. Aside from these logistics, just make sure the rooms and spaces are clean, pillows are fluffed, bed linens are free of wrinkles, and corners are tight. Have the housekeeping manager work alongside the marketing team, and be prepared to collaborate and help “art direct” the photographer on what you’re looking for during the shoot.
3. How is photographing a hotel’s meeting space different than capturing its guest rooms, restaurants, and/or recreational facilities (pool, gym, etc.)?
The meeting spaces can be some of the most dynamic areas. Guest rooms, fitness centers, and restaurants have a relatively set aesthetic, whereas meeting spaces can be partitioned, embellished, staged, and transformed. Meeting areas can be where guests spend the majority of their time during the stay, so it’s important to emphasize scale, adaptability, A/V, technology, and even how food and beverage integrates into the space. Additionally, not all meeting spaces are indoors. Unique or intimate outdoor meeting areas can be great selling points and should be highlighted as locations to supplement days spent indoors.
4. Do you photograph spaces any differently based on whether a hotel is trying to attract group business, corporate business, or leisure business?
Working with the hotel and understanding their demographic and marketing goals is a big part of the relationship. The idea is that the photographer is helping to tell the story of the brand, the hotel, and what the experience will be for the guests. Although there can be a variety of amenities, the story should be consistent. The photography shot list should lean on what the target audience is, and hotels should stage rooms or hire talent accordingly.
5. Any other tips or tricks that hotels can use to put their best foot forward in photos?
Be sure the creative team works closely with the web developer and print designers to ensure that the images of your hotel are being displayed and used at the proper resolution. It’s important to see the quality all the way through. Marketing-wise, most hotels leverage social media to do the heavy lifting. User-submitted photos, hashtags, and reviews of their experience are gold. Start with great photography to illustrate the brand and quality and to tell the story — but let then let the guests be a part of the story!