Tips for Taking Better Property Photos

Do-it-yourself advice from professional hotel photographers

If a picture is “worth a thousand words,” are the property photos on your profile telling potential customers what you want them to say? If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer, there are ways to make your own property photos the best they can be.

When travelers are in the process of selecting accommodations, quality photos will help yours stand apart from the rest. Here are some tips from hotel photography pros, based on techniques they use for their own clients.

Consider Composition

“Spaces with really interesting lighting make for beautiful photographs,” advises Ken Wan, principal of ARC - Architectural Photography in Vancouver. Natural or artificial light work, so long as it’s abundant. “I also think spaces that allow the viewer to imagine themselves there, whether it’s a beautiful room with a view or an outdoor pool, can be really appealing and inviting.”

Conversely, he warns that using people in your images will communicate your property’s target clientele, and could turn off those who don’t fit that look.

All types of accommodations need photo inventories of entire rooms, especially the guest rooms. But there are other images you should incorporate into your portfolio as well.

DO try to include:

  • Candid portrayals of staff acting naturally.
  • Architectural details accentuated by natural light.
  • Lifestyle details (décor, furniture, food), shot in soft light.
  • Night time scenes that look “cozy.”

AVOID these types of images:

  • Staff or guests looking at the camera.
  • Pictures of empty lobbies, hallways, or room doors.
  • Rooms that aren’t tidy or clean.
  • Busy images with too much in them (don’t use a wide angle lens or a panorama view).

"Don’t be afraid to spend time moving furniture until the composition is right. Straighten the sheets on the bed, remove the dustbin, and straighten the pictures on the wall.” - Mark Bolton of Mark Bolton Hotel Photography

Set the Scene

Before you snap the first shot, stage your spaces correctly. Based in London, Mark Bolton of Mark Bolton Hotel Photography shoots hotels all over the world. “Don’t be afraid to spend time moving furniture until the composition is right,” he says. “Straighten the sheets on the bed, remove the dustbin, and straighten the pictures on the wall.”

Also consider the time of day to take advantage of natural light. Early morning on a sunny, clear day is ideal.

Maximize Your Equipment

You don’t need expensive and elaborate camera equipment to take good photos, but you should become familiar with the tools and settings on the camera to enhance the results. Relatively inexpensive accessories are also worth the investment. 

Bolton suggests using a tripod, which facilitates a level shot. “Try to shoot with the camera level so you don’t get dodgy angles, known as converging verticals,” he says. “You can buy a very small spirit level to fit on your camera.”

He also recommends using a small aperture on your camera to get deep depth of focus, which will bring all foreground and background objects equally into focus. Conversely, larger apertures will blur the background. Switch off tungsten lights, and set the ISO values at up to 400 ISO so that you don’t get too much “noise” in the image. A higher ISO number increases the camera’s sensitivity to light.

Wan recommends taking a few test shots and viewing them on a computer. “What looks right in person often looks weird in photographs,” he points out.

Integrate On-Trend Imagery

If you want your property images to feel current, consider the trends in hotel photography. Bolton is seeing a lot of natural light in images, with compositions that pay more attention to lifestyle (décor and cuisine, for example) than the architectural elements. It’s an “editorial feel” that portrays personal interactions, and moments in time that incorporate the senses.

However, trends come and go, as Wan warns, so he advises that you concentrate more about the message you want to communicate. Those lifestyle photographs that show people will be dated after a few years as clothing and hair styles change.

Take the time to create a photo portfolio that lets your property shine. Enticing images send the right messages to the customers you want to attract. 

Manage your TripAdvisor photos

Manage your TripAdvisor photos

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Traci Suppa

Traci Suppa

Travel Blogger

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Last Updated: April 13, 2016