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Is Your Hotel’s Photo Library Picture Perfect?

Book more business with authentically beautiful hotel images
Bob Case, President and Chief Creative Officer | Shaun Jensen, Creative Director

Is Your Hotel’s Photo Library Picture Perfect?Close your eyes. Picture in your mind the way you’d like potential guests to envision your hotel and spa.

What’s in the image?

If you’re like most hoteliers or marketers in the hospitality industry, everything was picture perfect.

Beautifully made beds in spotless rooms look as stylish as they are inviting to a weary traveler.

An artfully plated enchilada has every foodie west of the Mississippi headed your way to sample your newest Southwestern entrée. Or a maybe a sparkling pool beckons to those in cold Midwestern climates to warm themselves for a spell.

There aren’t any issues with lighting. Nothing in the frame is amiss.

Go ahead. Open your eyes. Whatever you saw, that’s what your hotel marketing images in real life should reflect. But do they? And be honest. Remember, production value matters.

Set the mood with hotel atmosphere imagery

If the hotel marketing images you have and what you need don’t quite match, it’s time to consider an upgrade. A great place to begin is with your hero image. And for that, you need a great mood setter.

Dress up your pool images, for example, by including a mom and dad playing with their kids. Do you have exceptionally cool or historic architecture? Make that the focus of your hero shot.

If you’re promoting your onsite restaurant, feature your resort’s chef along with a closeup of a popular dish. You get the idea.

Whatever you decide, think of your hero image as a documentary piece. It should look like what your guests can expect.

Know your hotel or resort audience

Before settling on the story your photos should tell, make sure you know who your audience is—and carefully cultivate images to match.

If you are a five-star hotel & spa your photos better showcase the luxury amenities your high-end guests expect. If you cater to hotel guests who want a clean, safe place to stay at budget prices, show images which reflect value.

Hotel imagery authenticity matters

Sometimes saving a buck or two doesn’t actually save a dime. Such is the case when marketers forego the authenticity only an onsite photoshoot can capture for cheap stock images.

Sure, a stock image of a starfish on a beach lets potential guests know your hotel or resort is close to the ocean. When it comes to architecture, landscape, skyline, pool area and other property-specific details, your images need to tell a story. And it must be authentic.

Especially now.

Today, millennial travelers value experiences over material goods. Not every experience, however, is considered equal. Younger travelers demand trips which immerse them in the local culture. They want the real deal, not a promotional version designed for tourists. If your marketing images look fake, you risk losing their trust—and their business.

Besides, why not do your own photoshoot when the cost of editing out what’s wrong with the image can cost as much or more than starting from scratch? The billable hours it can take to locate an image that is close enough to pass as yours—with a little editing—adds up quickly. Editing the image to meet the required specs tacks on even more time and money.

A good original photo, however, can be economical when you can use it more than once. And when you do a photoshoot which follows a specific brand, guests don’t need to see a logo when they see your ads. They instantly know exactly who it is.

When you use a stock image anyone else can also license, the opposite applies. Not only will your image not pop against the competition’s, it just might show up in an ad along with their logo.

If you do use stock for a portion of your portfolio, consider buying images which offer exclusive licenses. It’s worth the extra cost to avoid the hassle of someone possibly diluting your brand

Casino night in the ballroom, anyone?

If you have a ballroom, meeting area or other space you regularly rent out, show it off creatively in your hotel photo library. Event planners need to be able to visualize the space as it will look for their specific needs.

Don’t make them use their imaginations.

Instead, provide quality images demonstrating how your hotel or resort property can just as easily accommodate a conference of writers as a casino night fundraiser or a wedding reception.

Partner with a hotel ad agency for your photoshoot

Once you’ve decided to use original photos in lieu of stock, it’s time to decide how to go about the process. You could go it alone, depending on someone who has a good camera and reasonable photography skills.

When it comes to creating the money shot, however, there’s more to it than that. You need a detailed plan called a brief.

Partnering with a hotel advertising agency can help you plan a brief for the photographer, outlining a shot list. This alone can keep the process more economical by reducing the need for retakes, missed shots and confusion when it comes to the timing of when areas need to be ready at one or more locations.

You save time and money when you don’t criss-cross between properties on multiple days, and when you get every shot you need now and for the foreseeable future—the first time around. Think in terms of three years. With a good brand brief, your images could last up to eight years. Amortize the cost over that time.

Another bonus of working with a hotel marketing firm such as LAVIDGE is we have experience prepping rooms for photos. While a breezy image of a stylish hotel room with a breakfast tray beside a well-dressed bed might appear to happen organically, it doesn’t. It’s all thought out and scripted to tell a story.

A good script begins by determining the desired consumer takeaway. For example: “We are the best hotel west of I-17.” What would you include in your image to convey this story? Everything in the image should be placed within context of what the brand is trying to accomplish.

For Sanctuary Camelback Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Ariz., its world-class luxury pool provided the backdrop for an iconic image. People see it and instantly get what the upscale boutique hotel is about.

Whatever your story, bring it to life so when I am in my room deciding where to bring my 4-year-old, the appropriate image draws me in.

If you’re not sure of the message, an ad agency can help develop one as well.

Once you know what you are going to shoot, when, why and how, you need to choose your photographer. If you decide to stick with your marketing employee and their prosumer or prograde digital camera, that’s great. If you need to hire out, you might also consider partnering with an ad agency for guidance. We can do a better job of choosing a professional who is qualified to work with the agency and your brand goals based on the prepared brief. We can also do a better job of making sure those recommendations are being met.

Need help?

By now, you’re likely ready to investigate whether it’s time to give your photo library a refresh. We’d love to help.

Our full-service creative agency has worked with hospitality industry clients JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Sanctuary Camelback Resort & Spa, Bacara near Santa Barbara, Harbor View in Martha’s Vineyard, The Peaks at Telluride, Sheraton Anchorage, Wyndham Luxury Resorts and more. LAVIDGE can help your boutique hotel or resort and spa too.

To learn more, give us a call at 480.998.2600 or send email to [email protected].

Photoshoot Pre-Production Includes Meticulous Hotel Room Prep

If you want your photos to be effective, you need to do the hard work preparing for the perfect shot, long before you take the first frame. Here are a few tips to help your boutique hotel or resort and spa look its best on camera.

Keep it Clean & Clear

Tidy up the space. Waste baskets should be empty. Keep technology which can quickly become outdated out of the shot. If there are photos or artwork decorating the room, make sure you have permission to use them. Remove anything else that could distract from the story you wish to tell.

Leverage Natural Light

Check the rooms you wish to photograph at different times of day to see when you can capture the best natural light. Take note of potentially distracting shadows and be ready to supplement with fill lighting as needed. Also, test your flash or other lights in your kit for any hues they might cast. You don’t want to discover once your shoot is in session that everything seems to be overcast with blue, red or green.

Photo Editing is Your Friend

It’s OK if you don’t get the image exactly as you desired straight from the camera. Digital editing can crop out messy edges and soften harsh lighting. Don’t use it as a crutch, however, because there are limits to what it can do while still appearing authentic.

Change it Up

Something as simple as changing an angle can change the mood of an image. Experiment with a few angles to see which perspectives deliver best on the takeaway you want for your image.

Size Matters

Shoot in high resolution. You can always take a large image and size it down. It doesn’t work the same in reverse. If all you’ve got are low- or medium-resolution images, you might not get all of the value you otherwise could from your hotel image library. Aim to shoot so you have at least 2000 pixels in your raw images. Your photo editor can adjust as needed from there.



2019 Southwest Hospitality Industry Marketing Report

Marketing Report Brochure

This article is a brief abstract of our exclusive and authoritative study that takes the guesswork out of hospitality advertising and marketing. Rather than speculating about what will drive consumers to action, we've asked them.

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