When it comes to planning new photography for your website, whether it’s for a small boutique hotel, a luxury villa, or a big hotel chain, interior photography is the key to showing your property in its best light and making it stand out from the crowd.
The initial impression that photography makes on your website’s visitors, will likely determine whether they make a booking or keep searching elsewhere.
In fact, many of your potential customers will not even visit your website directly but will book via OTAs. There your hotel will be presented only via a set a basic set of photos, which makes photography even more important.
WHO’S YOUR AUDIENCE?
The most important thing you need to know before you begin preparing your property for a photo shoot, are your clients. Who are you aiming at? Romantic couples? Families with kids? Business travelers? Your target audience will determine the mood you’ll want to achieve with your property’s photographs.
Knowing your audience will help you decide whether you should style your interiors with props, such as wine bottles for a more romantic setup, or kids’ toys in the pool area for families. Or maybe you’ll want to keep it clean and modern? It all depends on who do you see as your preferred guest.
Tourists traveling to tropical islands and beachside locations tend to expect something extra, such as flowers on the bed or decorated breakfast – think Instagram perfection! On the other hand, most city hotels will have a hard time getting away with overdone bedrooms, vases of roses, bowls of fruits and other clichés as part of their interiors, but they might be exactly what visitors to remote destinations will be looking for.
STEP BY STEP PREPARATIONS
- Make sure that all surfaces are spotless.
- Ask your staﬀ to pay special attention to details, explain to them that even the smallest details become visible in photographs.
- Mirrors, sinks, windows and all other shiny surfaces are always a challenge. Ask the cleaning team to carefully check all these areas with a ﬂashlight (the one in a smartphone will suffice) so there are no smudges left behind.
- Cleaning should be done in advance, before the photographer’s arrival, so you have some spare time in case some details need fixing.
- It’s crucial that all sheets and bedspreads are perfectly ironed. Wrinkles are very hard to correct in photographic post-production and too much Photoshop can leave your bedding look unnatural. Nice and tidy beds always look very welcoming. For best results have the sheets ironed before the beds are made.
- If necessary, you can ﬁx bedsheets on already made beds using water spray and then ironing them when they are still a little wet.
- While the pool area should be cleaned just before the photo shoot, a deep clean of the pool should be performed at least a day earlier, so that the water is perfectly clear.
- All leaves should be cleared away right before the photo shoot.
- All sunbeds should be set to the same position and height and aligned perfectly with towels rolled on the side.
- Make sure that pool umbrellas look fresh and clean. Ask your staﬀ to tidy up all umbrellas’ cords – best if they are rolled up rather than hanging loose.
- If any of the outside furniture is damaged, its always better to replace it, or at least repaint it before the photo shoot. Many faults can be ﬁxed in postproduction, but it’s often a time-consuming process and the real thing ensures a better effect than Photoshop manipulation.
STYLING THE INTERIORS
To give your interior a complete overhaul you’ll need to hire an interior stylist, but there are some simple things you can do yourself before the photographer shows up.
Usually, the first and easiest step in styling the interior is decluttering it. Removing all unnecessary things will give your interior a clean, fresh look.
- First and foremost, remove all promotional brochures, magazines, plastic brochure holders and anything else that does not add value to the interior.
- Remove all the messy cables. This will sometimes require disconnecting the TVs and other devices, but it can make all the difference and will be the ﬁrst thing the photographer will ask you to do anyway. You can save some precious by doing it yourself before the photographer arrives. Moreover, if you disconnect the cables yourself, or ask a member of your staff to do it, it will be easier to reassemble after the shoot.
- It’s a good habit to ask your staﬀ to take a few smartphone photos of the wiring before they are disconnected, to help put everything back in place after the photoshoot–audio-video setups can be very sophisticated these days, especially in luxury villas.
- All small notepads with pens, small water bottles along with any guest information booklets, etc. are best removed. City hotels and hotel chains are an exception, with their own guidelines to follow.
WHAT TO ADD?
A well-placed prop can bring new life into a room. Decorations can have a great impact on your property’s photography, this is especially true for luxury villas or a destination resorts.
- Some examples of props that can do the trick include: a breakfast tray, books, fresh ﬂowers, fruits bowl, pillows, etc. It’s best to have a stylist present at the photo shoot, who, together with the photographer, will decide how to arrange the props for the best results.
- Hotel rooms can also be styled with props, depending on their location and mood. Think a breakfast tray, a bottle of champagne, ﬂowers, an open magazine, etc.
- Nevertheless, in most cases, hotel rooms are better clean and decluttered. A few hero shots with props are enough.
- Don’t forget to have the coﬀee making facilities set up properly and tidied up.
As mentioned before, the look you’ll aim for will depend on the clients you target. A more romantic hotel can benefit from some ﬂowers placed inside the bathtubs, but they won’t work in a city business hotel or a chain hotel with strict style rules to follow.
• The dining table has to look stunning! Always! It’s usually one of the most important areas in the house, and a perfect opportunity to highlight its luxury feel.
• Prepare the same number of setups as there are sitting places – there are no shortcuts, if the table sits 10 people, there should be 10 dining sets.
• Elegant napkins can provide a major visual boost and provide the dining room a more fine-dining ambiance.
• It’s worth spending some extra money on flowers. A dining table with an intricate floral composition can become the hero shot of your luxury estate.
• Make sure that all the glasses and cutlery are sparkly clean. Smudges are highly visible in photographs (as well as on video!), and often cannot be edited out later!
• A good practice is to remove all foot mats and towels from the floor.
• Bathtubs usually look more inviting when they are ﬁlled up with fresh water. Careful though—some tubs take hours to ﬁll up, so advise your staﬀ to start ﬁlling them up in advance.
• As pretty as they are, ﬂowers in the bathroom, especially in the bathtubs, will not last long. Best prepare them fresh, on the morning of the photoshoot day, to ensure the best colors and a fresh look that you desire.
• Polished all sinks, glass surfaces, windows – there is not space for smudges!
• The key to the great bedroom photography are perfectly ironed bedsheets.
• Decide beforehand if you want bed runners in the photographs. The photographer will not be able to make this decision on set.
• Remember that bed runners and other fabrics are worth photographing if they are of superior quality, match the room’s style and are to be used long-term. Otherwise, your photos might go quickly out of date due to future decoration changes.
• Make sure that the ﬂoors are cleaned before the photographer arrives – this should be the last thing to do before the shoot.
• Check if all the lightbulbs are in a working condition.
Garden and exterior
• Ask your gardener to hide all the water hoses and gardening tools.
• Have all the dead leaves removed.
• Make sure that all major gardening works are performed a day before the shoot, even if you’re shooting interiors – from my experience, gardeners can be clearly visible through windows and waiting for them to finish is a waste of the photoshoot time.
• Check if the pool overﬂow works properly. Make sure there is enough water so there are no dry edges. The pool cannot be filled at the last minute during the photo shoot.
• Inform your staff that there will be a drone in use.
• When the drone is ﬂying, tell all staff to stay indoors and not to look out from the windows or from behind the walls – aerial photography is of a very high quality these days and even the smallest details can be visible in the final photos and videos.
• Ask your staff to remove all cars and motorbikes from the property, unless they are luxury cars you want to be featured in the photos.
• Ask the gardeners to water the grass a few days before the shoot so that it’s nice and green.
• If your property is on a beachfront, make sure that it’s clean and tidy. It’s a big selling point!
• Check if all the outside lights are working properly
• Check the pool lights – this is something that cannot be fixed at the last minute.
• For the evening photography, all the lights in the house and in the garden need to be turned on. The best shots are usually taken before the so-called “blue hour” (it’s that magical time right after sunset, when lights are already on but it’s not yet pitch black) so make sure that your staﬀ know what and when to do – it’s a lot of switches to flip! Best if all lights are lit an hour before the sunset so that the photographer will be able to capture more angles and choose the best ones.
• Once the “blue hour” is gone, the photoshoot is usually ﬁnished. Soft romantic evening light works great, pitch darkness not so much.
• Evening photography is usually the most challenging, due to technical restrictions and limited time. For best results make sure the staﬀ is aware of what’s happening and will be able to assist the photographer.
Other areas: cinema, game room, spa room, etc.
• Decluttering is usually the key to presenting these areas at their best. Remember to remove all unnecessary cables, remote controllers, etc. to set the right mood.
• Make sure that a member of your staff knows how to turn the video system on and off.
• Candles always benefit spa rooms.
A good photographer, along with a good stylist, will be able to create great images that highlight the best features of your property. But nothing can give your photos (and bookings!) a bigger boost that having the place properly prepared for the photoshoot. Make it looks as good in real life as in the photographs, and your guests will never be disappointed.