|Hotel Photography Trends Explained by David Firestone.|
By Josiah Mackenzie
Thursday, 14th October 2010
InterContinental Hotels Group recently commissioned PhotoWeb to update the photography for all 3,500 of their properties.
In todayís interview, listen to PhotoWeb project manager David Firestone explain what he sees as the top trends in hotel photography:
Click here to download the MP3 version: http://gradigio.byoaudio.com/files/media/341366a0-4be3-d388-909d-4ec30be8aa9f.mp3
For those of you that prefer to read, Samantha transcribed this summary for youÖ.
Josiah: Why is great photography is so important for hotels?
David: Someone just said to me today that when they go and look at a hotel website and they realize that itís very poor photography, not only is it hard to get a good picture of the hotel, it gives the impression that the hotel doesnít care. If they donít care what their photography looks like, and they donít invest the money and time to get great photography, it looks to people that they may not care so much about the property itself.
Beyond that, things have changed so much in the industry; where it used to be, someone would always stay at the Hilton. They had total brand loyalty. But now, with third-party travel sites where you can look up immediately to see if the JW Marriott in the town youíre going to is cheaper than the Hilton, people canít rely on that brand loyalty, and they have to make sure of the images that they provide.
Not only on the brand site, but even more importantly, on the travel sites where theyíre compared to other hotels. They have to make sure that not only are they realistic and high-quality, but they also show everything that the guests want to see.
Josiah: Iíd like to hear more about how you plan on shooting the photos. It sounds like you want to create more than just the standard set of photographs that most hotels do.
David: Exactly. Thatís exactly right. We want to give a comprehensive view of the property. And also, one thing which I fully agree with that IHG is doing, is they want the property to look the way it will actually look when you get there. If weíre shooting a guest room, quite often the people at the hotel will want to bring a tree to put in every corner, wine glasses on the table, some golf clubs, and youíre trying to tell a little sales-related story by propping the images that way. But, IHG strictly requires that we not use models, that we not prop the images, that we simply show what the property will look like when the people arrive.
In fact, the only photo that we shoot where weíre allowed to have anyone is in the front desk shot. Simply because if you see a photo of a front desk with no one standing there, it gives you the impression that youíve just arrived and thereís no one there to help you.
Josiah: Can you tell me a little more about the big trends that you see in hotel photography?
David: Sure. One of the big trends, I think, in hotel photography is more and more hotels are moving towards including virtual tours in what they offer. Part of the benefit in virtual tours showing that 360-degree view is it shows your guest that youíre not trying to hide anything and youíre happy to show them everything that you have in your hotel.
Itís quite easy to take a still photo and show a beautiful area, but to get a virtual tour that shows that same area and also everything in that 360-degree circle gives people the confidence that theyíre actually seeing what the hotelís gonna look like.
There are other differences, too. One of the old trends thatís really gone away is people used to light the hotel rooms for photography in kind of a studio setting. They would use so many studio lights that it really no longer looked like a guest room. It kind of looked like high-end advertising photography. There are no shadows, everything is extremely, brightly lit, but it really doesnít look like your hotel room was gonna look like when you arrive.
So when we shoot a guest room, we only light the room organically; we only use two or three light sources, and we use natural light as well, and it gives a more realistic view of what the roomís gonna look like when you get there.
Josiah: From a guest perspective, what do you think is the most important thing they look for when looking at a library of hotel photos?
David: I think it varies so widely, and thatís why itís really important that we get this comprehensive look at the whole hotel. Iíve talked to guests thatíve told me that the only thing theyíre interested in is the bathroom. If the bathroom looks good, theyíre happy. They know that the rest of the hotel will be good. For other people, itís the dining outlets. Or, increasingly, the fitness room. They wanna see immediately if they have the type of fitness equipment that they expect or they use daily, and if they donít, they simply move on to the next hotel.
To me, if I had to pick one type of image thatís the most important, I would say the guest room photos. But, having said that, depending on the guest, it could be the meeting rooms, the leisure facilities; but once you show the entire hotel, then at least youíre covering all the expectations the guests may have as far as photography.
Josiah: How difficult is it to produce a virtual tour? Is it realistic for each property to think about putting together multiple virtual tours?
David: From a hotelís perspective, the photography of the virtual tours takes no longer than still photography. With any of our images, the majority of time is making sure that everything looks perfect in the room, the pillows are straight, the cords are hidden away as they normally are, things like that.
On our end, the virtual tours are a lot more intensive to create because each virtual tour is created from 6 still photos. So, where normally weíd take a single still photo and process that from raw, we have to take 6 still photos, process all of those from raw, do any necessary retouching for each of those photos and then stitch them together, which is the really intensive part. It takes quite a bit of time for the computer to work out the points where each of the images connects, and itís very important to us that there are no stitch errors.
If youíre looking at the bed, there shouldnít be a jagged line right in the middle of the bed. It should all come together so smoothly that you canít tell where the stitch lines are in those six photos.
Josiah: Is there anything else you want to add about the project or hotel photography in general?
David: The only thing Iíd like to mention that weíre doing differently with this project than weíve done in the past, is that a lot of the hotels that weíre photographing donít have much uplighting for their exterior shots and IHG is having us shoot an exterior both at daytime and at sunset, when you have that rich, blue, dark sky.
But a lot of the hotels donít have uplighting, which lights up the hotel, so each of our photographers carries with them a 3-million candle-power spotlight; itís a rechargable spotlight that can be used from up to a 100 feet away. So, when we take a sunset shot of the hotel, weíll do a long exposure, say 25-seconds, which gives us time to paint the hotel with light.
We simply point the spotlight at the hotel and smoothly move it back and forth over the entire front and in effect, this can increase the brightness by up to 4 times. So a picture wouldnít look dark and uninviting in the front, we can light it up with these portable spotlights that we carry with us.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, David.
|About the author
This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry.†