Tricks to Take Great Hotel Photos Even If You Are Not a Photographer

Last updated Oct 25, 2018 | Published on Oct 5, 2018

Pavla Bartonova, author of the article

Pavla Bartonova
Founder

You will agree that great photographs are inevitable for a hotel to inspire people to book their stay.

Fact:

Hotel photographs sell your place! They catch people’s atten­tion & make first impres­sion. They contain invit­ing moods and spark imag­i­na­tion.

You might also agree that the best option is to hire a profes­sion­al photog­ra­ph­er, but such services can be very pricey and some­times it is not easy to find a great one.

You might not be born a photog­ra­ph­er, but – there are a few TRICKS that could enor­mous­ly improve your own self‐made hotel photos.

If you apply some of these tips your photos will look much better.

If that sounds inter­est­ing, let’s dive right in!

Every month the Trivago content team rejects hundreds of images submit­ted by hotel managers. Why? The photos fail to meet our quality stan­dards. Secondly, it may sound cruel, but no image can be less damag­ing than a bad image. Trivago website

Examples of great hotel photos: state of the art photos of Palladium hotel

Example of great hotel photography - Palladium hotel Mykonos
The Great

Professional photo taken at an inter­est­ing angle from the pool, is full of light, has great compo­si­tion, it follows the rule of thirds.

Palladium hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Great hotel photo - Palladium hotel Mykonos
Inviting

This evening photo full of warm lights invites guests to come in. Great compo­si­tion.

Palladium hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Great hotel photo - Palladium hotel Mykonos well lit room
Bright & sunny

Combination of natural light and studio lights. The ceiling light and the lamp are switched on to add an extra warm mood.

Palladium hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Great hotel photo - Palladium hotel Mykonos dining room
Inviting & warm

Even at daylight, all lamps are on and give away warm yellow light to create a cosy atmos­phere.

Palladium hotel, Mykonos, Greece.

Examples of bad hotel photos: even upscale hotels in Miami can have crappy photos – and crappy style!

Bad hotel photo of an upscale hotel in Miami, Florida
Dark, compo­si­tion off

A big hotel that doesn’t invest in a photog­ra­ph­er nor a good camera will end up with photos like these.

Bad hotel photo of an upscale hotel in Miami, Florida
Uninteresting angle

Dark, unin­ter­est­ing, without a human touch.

Bad and dark hotel photo example of an upscale hotel in Miami, Florida
Dark & unin­spir­ing

This space looks like a desert­ed dining room no one really wants to have dinner in. It evokes lone­li­ness and an antic­i­pa­tion of bad food and service.

1. Buy, borrow or rent a good camera or phone

Phones

Dead serious, phones! You would be quite amazed at photog­ra­phy capa­bil­i­ties of the latest smart phones.

Like, the latest Huawei with Leica lens – the photos are wow.

And did you know you can use an exter­nal lens on smart­phones? How cool!

iPhone 6 sample photos

Yep, iPhone 6 is already an old model, but even this one could make some decent pics in favourable light condi­tions. Here a few unedit­ed straight from the device sample photos to demon­strate what photo quality you could get from an older phone (without photo light­ing, only natural light – or, a lack of it).

Sample of iPhone photo of The Westin Siray Bay Resort swimming pool in Phuket Thailand
iPhone 6 sample image

iPhone 6 takes good photos in bright light condi­tions.

Sample of iPhone photo of The Westin Siray Bay Resort hotel room in Phuket Thailand
iPhone 6 sample image

The iPhone doesn’t do so well in low light condi­tions. However, this photo could be improved in a photo editing program.

Sample of iPhone 6 photo of The Westin Siray Bay Resort swimming pool in Phuket Thailand
iPhone 6 sample image

Fine photo taken on a bright day.

Sample of iPhone 6 photo of Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort Marina restaurant
iPhone 6 sample image

The phone camera is not sensi­tive enough to produce a brighter image in a low light condi­tion. This photo needs editing or replace­ment.

Cameras

Honestly, depend­ing on which camera you get, the cost of equip­ment can be as high as hiring a photog­ra­ph­er – but will be cheaper in a long run.

You will be able to use your camera anytime you make reno­va­tions or style changes of your prop­er­ty without an extra cost in the future.

And surely you upload photos to your hotel’s Instagram account or Facebook regu­lar­ly? Getting a good camera is an invest­ment with a great return, you can use it again and again.

But which one is the best?

Mid‐range market cameras with inter­change­able lenses would be a good compro­mise between price and quality.

Avoid low‐end compact cameras, for sure.

Go for pricier high‐end cameras if you have the budget.

Additionally, you need to get a good lens for all these cameras.

Zoom lenses would be a good choice as you can take both land­scape and close‐up images with just 1 lens, as opposed to prime lenses (which can not zoom).

There are hundreds of lenses on the market, choos­ing one depends on your budget. Don’t go for the cheap­est ones. Reading product reviews of other lens buyers is very helpful.

Some cool cameras are:

  • Canon EOS 1100 D.
  • Nikon D3300 (begin­ner level, around $400) or Nikon 3400 (also begin­ner level, around $500).
  • Nikon D7200 (mid‐range, around $1300).
  • Canon EOS Rebel T5i (good for videos, around $600)
  • Olympus OM‐D E‐M10 Mark II (around $650).
  • Sony A7 models – they are seri­ous­ly GREAT, we tried! (Sony A7 – around $1100 for a body with 28 – 70 mm zoom lens, a good combi­na­tion for prop­er­ty photog­ra­phy. Or the latest models: Sony A7II R and S, Sony A7III /around $2500 & $2700/ or Sony A9 /this one might be a blow to one’s budget, price of $4500/).

The first 4 cameras are the ‘old good’ DSLR (digital single‐lens reflex) cameras, the latter ones (Olympus and Sony) cameras are the ‘latest hit’ MILC (mirror­less inter­change­able lens) cameras. This article discuss­es differ­ences between the 2.

A good tip: Sony A7IIS is special­ly tweaked for videog­ra­phy – you might find it very handy if you like to make videos of your prop­er­ty for Youtube etc. A superb thing to do!

Sony A7SII sample photo
Sample of Sony A7SII photo camera great light sensitivity
Sony A7SII sample image – unedit­ed

The camera has a max ISO of 409600. It makes great night shots. Great for dimly lit room photos.

Layla Gocek, Turkey.

2. Prepare your place – tidy, arrange, style

Arrange & style

Seriously, this could be the most impor­tant step in your hotel photog­ra­phy.

Styling is a form of art that creates the person­al­i­ty of a hotel.

What is gonna be in the photo must look good. No photo editing program will help you with badly styled room.

Slightly rearrange furni­ture, set chairs nicely around a table, open/close windows, fix curtains, posi­tion artwork, place ameni­ties, unclut­ter rooms – these do wonders for photos.

Beware, the prop­er­ty and rooms should look about the same way in the photographs as they do in reality. Move furni­ture too much, add things that will not be in the room when guests arrive – and leave your guests feeling deceived.

Very impor­tant part of styling rooms is select­ing the right colors that create harmony and mood.

Let’s discuss color harmony a bit more.

A visu­al­ly appeal­ing, well designed room is based on harmony and balance of color.

Color harmony

Harmony is some­thing that is pleas­ing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual expe­ri­ence.

You might know the desired effect of match­ing colors can create very differ­ent settings: a relax­ing, luxu­ri­ous, roman­tic, uplift­ing or ener­gized room..

Unfortunately, a room created without color harmony in mind can give away a feeling of chaos, cheap­ness, disor­der, bad taste and can influ­ence the guest’s deci­sion to book – in a nega­tive way.

The human brain rejects what it can not orga­nize, what it can not under­stand. The visual task requires that we present a logical struc­ture. Color harmony deliv­ers visual inter­est and a sense of order.

Therefore, before you start taking photographs of your rooms, double check if they have the right color balance.

Luckily, to get color harmony right is not hard.

If you are not natu­ral­ly gifted in combin­ing colors, use tools and guides to help you, in a paper or digital form. Such as color wheels (the colors of the visible spec­trum arranged into a circle) that help estab­lish harmo­nious color sets.

These online palette gener­a­tors are at your service for free and it is fun to use them:

More than one color in a room can look great, but keep it to three colors maximum. If you choose two bold colors, the third should be a neutral color – to give the eyes a break.

Check out this nice article: learn the basics of color theory to know what looks good.

And sure you know about the beau­ti­ful classic neutral palette that includes only colors not found on the color wheel – such as beige, brown, gray, ivory, taupe, black and white?

We could say these are hues that appear to be without color or have very little satu­ra­tion. These colors are a crit­i­cal compo­nent of great design. They are visu­al­ly relax­ing and restful and they work well with any deco­rat­ing style.

This article explains why neutral colors are the best.

Pantone company sells great paper color guides and has a handy phone appli­ca­tion Pantone Studio with a 7‐day free trial.

In addi­tion to color schemes, 60−30−10 rule for using colors says that for the most balanced, appeal­ing look you shall deco­rate with one domi­nant color the major­i­ty of the space (60 %), with another, secondary contrast color that fills roughly half as much space as the domi­nant color (30 %) and a third accent color (10 %).

For those who use Pinterest, we compiled a collec­tion beau­ti­ful use of colors in inte­ri­or design of mostly inte­ri­or photos with great color schemes that might inspire.

Room styling & color harmony photo examples

Color harmony got right
Example of great room styling and color harmony of Europa Grand Hotel in Lerici Italy
Neutrals combined

White matched with other neutral color, brown. Result – clean relax­ing luxu­ri­ous space.

Europa Grand hotel, Lerici, Cinque Terre, Italy.
Example of great room styling and color harmony of Salty Houses rooms in Mykonos island Greece
Neutrals and shades of green/blue

White, beige and turquoise shades – this combi­na­tion is really refresh­ing in hot Greek Summer.

Salty Houses, Mykonos, Greece.
Example of great room styling and color harmony of Palladium Hotel in Mykonos Greece
Calming, relax­ing

Calming combi­na­tion of neutrals – white, beige (light brown) – and blue. Blue items in the room match the color of the swim­ming pool.

Palladium hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Example of great room styling and color harmony of Windmill Bella Vista hotel in Sifnos Greece
Energetic green & red

Green and red are oppo­site to each other on the color wheel, they are comple­men­tary colors. Their high contrast creates a vibrant look. The strength of these colors is eased out by neutrals.

Windmill Bella Vista, Artemonas, Sifnos, Greece.
Example of great room styling and color harmony of Arheo Apartments in Dubrovnik Croatia
Neutral beige and white

Beside white, beige combines well also with blue, brown, emerald, black and red. And this is exactly what they did here – notice the subtle emerald detail on the pillow. Like a cherry on the cake!

Arheo apart­ments, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Room styling & color harmony got wrong
Example of bad room styling and color harmony
Too much

There was an inten­tion here to combine colors but they are break­ing one impor­tant rule: “Keep it to 3 colors maximum. If you are going with 2 bold colors, the 3rd should be a neutral to give your eye a break”. Too many colors in a room will create a visu­al­ly ‘loud’ space.

Example of bad room styling and color harmony
One piece ruins it all

This styling breaks the same rule as the previ­ous one – too many colors. The bed cover already contains three bold colors and also combines roses, squares and lines. Example of how just a single piece of fabric can ruin every­thing.

Example of bad room styling and color harmony
Wrong color match

Too many colors and patterns that do not create harmony.

3. Take into consideration your unique selling point (USP)

You are the person who knows best why your prop­er­ty is unique and why your guests would choose you over someone else.

Highlight this unique­ness in your photos. Show your website visi­tors the bene­fits of staying at your place. Bring all the awesome things about your hotel out to them.

Unique selling point examples

Number 12 B&B Victorian style - example of unique selling point (USP)
Unique selling point – Victorian style

Very nice B&B near the centre of Brisbane is built in an old Victorian/Edwardian style.

Number 12 B&B, Brisbane, Australia.
Example of unique selling point (USP) of Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel, New Zealand - natural thermal mineral hot springs pools
Unique selling point – hot springs

Okoroire hotel has 3 natural thermal mineral hot springs on site.

4. Be ready at the golden hours (early morning & dawn) on a bright day – ALIAS importance of light & mood!

Are you an early riser?

Good news for you!

Early morning (and late afternoon/early evening) are the times to take your photos!

Called the golden hour – a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky.

You bet, the golden hour will make your hotel photos MAGICAL!

Even this article says so: how to make your photos magical.

Golden light shows up during golden hour, which is an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset. These aren’t exact times though, since it depends on where in the world you live! You might get more or less time for golden hour. Photography Concentrate

Just stop taking pictures on a grey cloudy day – they will be dull, color­less and boring.

Include evening pics and show a cosy atmos­phere created by your light­ing, guests can picture them­selves sitting at your veranda enjoy­ing their dinner or the roman­tic sunset views.

Importance of light

There would be no photog­ra­phy without light. After all, the word photog­ra­phy comes from the Greek ‘fotos’ (light) and ‘grafi’ (write, draw) – togeth­er meaning ‘writing with light’.

Having enough light is vital for taking great photos, even more so in room photog­ra­phy, that’s why it is impor­tant to catch the moment when the highest amount of natural light comes into the room through the doors and windows.

Therefore your main concern at a photo shoot is to ensure there is as much light as possi­ble avail­able by choos­ing the right day, the right time of the day, and if natural light isn’t enough, to bring in arti­fi­cial lights to help you.

Lamps, flash lights, photo lights – all you can find, bring it in!

Of all the crucial factors in photog­ra­phy, nothing is more impor­tant than light. Without light (whether natural or arti­fi­cial) there is no photo­graph!

Find ways to discreet­ly place addi­tion­al light sources to illu­mi­nate dark spots, shadowy places and corners.

This video by photog­ra­ph­er Noah Fallis is inter­est­ing. He is about to take photos of a hotel room and he smartly installed (hid) photo lights in several places. The equip­ment will not be visible in the photo but its light will bright­en up the shadows. Notice that the room already has a lot of natural light coming from huge windows. And yet, extra lights are still used!

Examples of mood changes in photos taken at different day times

Archipelagos Hotel
Morning hotel photo good example - Archipelagos Hotel Mykonos Greece swimming pool
After sunrise

Morning photo, clear and fresh!

Archipelagos Hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Romantic sunset hotel photo of swimming pool of Archipelagos Hotel Mykonos Greece
Before sunset

Romantic and invit­ing evening photo

Archipelagos Hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Nissaki Boutique Hotel
Beautiful morning hotel photo of swimming pool and building of Nissaki Hotel Mykonos Greece
Morning

So crisp, bright, refresh­ing.

Nissaki Boutique Hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Romantic night hotel photo of swimming pool and building of Nissaki Hotel Mykonos Greece
Around sunset

Even more roman­tic.

Nissaki Boutique Hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Ambassador Chicago
Romantic sunset hotel photo of lady in robe enjoying view from balcony of Ambassador Chicago Hotel
So atmos­pher­ic

Do you want to be on that balcony, with this view, right now, as well?

Ambassador Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Beautifully shot sunset hotel photo detail of a meal in Ambassador Chicago Hotel
Detail

Additional detail to the previ­ous photo.

Ambassador Chicago, Illinois, USA.

5. Take lots of photos of everything including details – in DRO or Auto HDR mode

Find DRO or Auto HDR setting in your camera or phone and shoot in this mode.

DRO stands for dynamic range opti­miza­tion, HDR for a high dynamic range.

Both func­tions improve the overall expo­sure, they bring out more details into both dark areas and bright areas.

This is espe­cial­ly useful in one partic­u­lar moment when taking images of rooms becomes diffi­cult – it is when there are strong value differ­ences between the lit and shadowy areas of the room – i.e. a dark room and a bright window.

The result­ing images can then be either over exposed or under exposed. DRO and HDR help to improve this.

Gary Fong shares how he takes HDR photos in his video with Sony A7 camera.

Take the best quality images your camera allows you to take – the biggest size, the best format – to have the best mate­r­i­al to work with after­wards – you will resize your images to a smaller size for the web use later.

Using a tripod will help you set up your shot, ensure your images are not blurred and is a must to take images in a darker envi­ron­ment when the shutter of the camera needs to stay open for longer expo­sures.

If your camera has a hot‐shoe on the top, you can attach an exter­nal flash – you can direct/bend this flash towards the walls or ceiling – the light then bounces off and helps make a room brighter.

You wonder why is it best not to use the flash that is on the camera itself (built‐in flash)?

This flash fires light direct­ly into the room (into the open space, there­fore the light doesn’t bounce) and can create stark shadows or glare of the more reflec­tive objects in the room.

Knowledge of some of the rules of photo­graph­ic compo­si­tion is not neces­sary – just helpful.

You could have a quick look at just one of them that might help make your photos more inter­est­ing – the rule of thirds.

This rule is about divid­ing your image into nine equal sections by a set of two verti­cal and two hori­zon­tal lines.

With the imag­i­nary frame in place, you should place the most impor­tant element(s) in your shot on one of the lines or where the lines meet (see image below).

Cameras are smart – they will help you use this rule – there is an option in most cameras to switch on a viewfind­er helper grid.

Rule of thirds grid illustrating its use in hotel photo composition
The Rule of thirds

The object of inter­est here is the hotel build­ing. It was placed on the upper right inter­sec­tion of the grid. Left part of the build­ing ends at the other upper inter­sec­tion.

Nissaki Boutique Hotel, Mykonos, Greece.

NOW LET’S FINALLY GET TO WORK!

Take photos of your rooms, bath­rooms, recep­tion, gardens, balcony views, swim­ming pools, dining rooms, confer­ence rooms!

Take wide views.

And include mean­ing­ful details that are of impor­tance to the guests, too.

Examples of good photos of details

Oia Collection Suites display beautiful photos of rooms’ details
Towels on bed - example of great hotel photos of details of Oia Collection Suites Santorini
Details draw atten­tion

The suites use photos of details to draw atten­tion to special ameni­ties and to evoke a partic­u­lar feeling or mood.

Oia Collection Suites, Santorini, Greece.
Books and lamps - example of great hotel photos of details of Oia Collection Suites Santorini
Human touch

Lamps are switched on. Books add a warm human touch. They also create a ‘story’ (see further about story­telling).

Oia Collection Suites, Santorini, Greece.
Mirror and lamp - example of great hotel photos of details of Oia Collection Suites Santorini
Meaningful details
Oia Collection Suites, Santorini, Greece.

Example of a bad photo of a detail

Example of bad hotel photography of details
Not useful

This detail photo posted on an OTA website by an Italian apart­ment is a useless piece of infor­ma­tion to a guest.

6. Use people in your photos

It is great when a hotel uses people in their photos.

This way, guests can relate and imagine how they would feel staying at that place.

Pleasantly looking guests enjoy­ing their stay – if you include them in your photos, your images will stand out and your place will look alive!

And if none – people should appear at least in your recep­tion photos so guests feel there is someone to take care of them and your place is alive.

Remember, people with recog­niz­able faces in your hotel photographs must give their consent to be in the images.

Good examples of people in hotel photography

Example of good hotel photography showing happy guests at breakfast at Mykonos Ammos hotel in Greece
Happy friends

That’s always a good subject for your rental photos. People’s photos give life to your place.

Mykonos Ammos hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Example of great hotel photography showing happy couple on balcony at Mykonos Ammos hotel in Greece
Happy couples
Mykonos Ammos hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Example of good hotel photography showing satisfied guest at breakfast at Mykonos Ammos hotel in Greece
Delicious expe­ri­ence!

Hotel’s appeal to young sexy people.

Mykonos Ammos hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Example of great hotel photography showing beautifully served drink at Mykonos Ammos hotel in Greece
Skillful staff

Refreshing drink prepared by a skill­ful barman (& outstand­ing hygien­ic prac­tices).

Mykonos Ammos hotel, Mykonos, Greece.
Hotel guest lady having breakfast at Ambassador Chicago room - example of great hotel photography using people
No face is fine

No face, but it is great to use such photo, too.

Ambassador Chicago, Illinois, USA.

7. Tell a story with your photos

This one is big!

Not just showing your place’s photos but telling a simple story will lift the quality of your pics and tempt guests to book with you.

You can achieve this very simply!

Throw a few addi­tions to the scene – person­al items in the room, a nice robe over the bed,  bottle of chilled wine and glasses, a piece of luggage, jewellery on a table, an open book, wedding flower bouquet, wedding dress hanging on the door, people, cute animals.

Use your imag­i­na­tion!

Breathe life into your photos and change the boring prop­er­ty images into pictures that inspire to take a trip to your place.

Great hotel photography using storytelling technique - open book on bed
Story in a photo

There is a guest staying in the room enjoy­ing time reading a book. Feeling cosy.

Oia Collection Suites, Santorini, Greece.

8. Do computer corrections

You did a great job, took lots of photos, select­ed the best ones and now there is one last thing you could do to make them ROCK – improve them in a photo editing soft­ware.

By and large, every photo will gain on attrac­tive­ness by the means of photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop or even your basic image viewer that allows for bright­ness, contrast and satu­ra­tion correc­tions.

Do some basic enhance­ments to your pics by using ‘auto correc­tion’ of your photo editing app.

Just keep your photos looking natural, avoid overly high contrasts or over­sat­u­ra­tion.

Or better – hire a graphic designer/retoucher to do a pro job – you will be amazed – they can do WONDERS for your photos!

This is a fun to watch video by Mike Kelley – how to retouch a hotel room photo in 10 minutes.

Done!

Conclusion

The take­away is:

You can make great hotel photos by using a few tricks: have great styling, LOOOTS of light, add a magic mood by taking photos in the early morning and evening, use happy people in your photos, tell a story and show off your unique selling points.

Set your camera to take photos with the highest possi­ble quality.

Note:

Before you upload your photos to your website, you need to ‘prepare’ them for the web.

Most of the time, your photos should not be uploaded to your server without being resized, down­sam­pled (lower­ing their reso­lu­tion) and compressed.

For more details, check out our photo opti­miza­tion guide.

Good luck taking your own gorgeous hotel photos!

Do you have extra tips on taking better hotel photos? Please share with us.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven­teen − 1 =

Would you like to have your hotel website made by us?