Anatomy of Hotel and
Resort Photography: A Guide.
Episode 10: Photographing Lobbies
Lobbies have to be the most
difficult and most satisfying image you can take of a hotel and resort. A lobby is usually the first interior a guest
sees and feels. A lobby should recreate the feeling of home, of comfort and of
romance. As a public space a lobby has a
lot to do. The furniture and
architectural layout of a lobby should encourage rest or work( on tablets
or laptops) within a seemingly transitionary space.
First impressions are always
crucial. That is why photographing
lobbies can be challenging.
What is a lobby? Is it the comfortable arrangement of tuffed
armchairs and floral arrangements? Is it
the architecture? Is it the front desk?
Is it the lighting? Is it the fireplace? What about the vibe?
I say a lobby is all of
these. As a photographer, I’m always
asked if I can get all of these into one shot.
There is the challenge.
I loved the architecture in this shot.
You might get a shot of a really
cool architectural feature, but then is that the ultimate shot of the lobby? The front desk, which can be beautiful, also
is not the lobby.
So the basic challenge is to try
to get at the heart of the lobby you are photographing. Many times, I will rearrange the furniture to
make the shot more appealing. Some
times, I’ll bring in floral arrangements and large plants. Sometimes, depending on the shot, I remove
all the plants. Every lobby shot is
This lobby had a huge walk-in fireplace. I mean you could actually walk into it so I figured it should play a dominate role in the shot. The warmth of the fire and wooden interior invite the guest to sit and relax.
Time of day is critical as
well. Most of the time I shoot early in
the morning or in the middle of the night so as not to affect the guest’s
lobby had a cool vibe going on and I wanted to make sure the gorgeous exterior
Anatomy of Hotel and
Resort Photography: A Guide. Episode 9
Episode 9: Notes on Photographing Furniture
My friend Clint Abbott, a master
woodworker and budding designer made a unique long table for his sister. He asked me to photograph it. The problem was that its heavy and takes 3
people to move it around. I took the
challenge. The first thing I thought was
to shoot the piece in a living environment. However, once we set it up the
table didn’t stand out. We decided to photograph it by itself instead. That way you could concentrate on the table
instead of it’s environment.
We shot on a white background
using tungsten Fresnel lights (Arri). I
had to convert the tungsten lights(3200 degrees kelvin) to daylight(5600
degrees kelvin) by using Rosco converter gels – Full CTB - Colour Temperature Blue. The blue gels takes the 3200 degree output of
the light fixture and converts it to 5600 degrees daylight. I had to do this since we were shooting in a
live location and had no control of the daylight coming in from the windows. If I hadn’t converted my lights to match the
interior conditions and shot tungsten(again 3200) there would have been parts
of the table that would have had some blue colour, (from the daylight coming in
from the windows) and that’s not good.
Also, the really important part of this was to see the detail in the
design as well as the wood grain and texture. I didn’t want any weird colour to
be affecting these.
We decided on three angles; left
at 45 degrees, centre, and then right at
45 degrees. These three angles really
showed off the piece.
One major problem we encountered
was that since the table was so long, you really didn’t get a sense of
scale. So, we introduced some tasteful
props to give it scale. These included
an orchid in a white pot and some fruits in interesting bowls.
I also took some detail shots to
show off Clint’s creativity and workmanship.
I shot with my Nikon D3x and the
full 24megapixels and balanced the camera to daylight. The D3x sat on my trusty
and heavy old Gitzo tripod. Since the f stop was 14, the shutter speed was 2
seconds, I needed a really heavy tripod so the camera wouldn’t shake. In these
cases, I also use the “mirror up” function of the camera and a cable release.
When I depress the cable release once, the camera’s mirror opens and locks,
then I depress the cable release again and the lens iris opens and the shot is
taken. This further prevents vibration
from affecting the image.
Once back in my studio, I input
the images into photoshop and away I went.
I really love the D3x and the Nikon lens. The image was razor sharp and wood grain just
popped. I did what’s called a “close cut”
and cut the image out of it’s existing environment. I then created a new image, filled it with
white and copied the shot into that.
What I found was that even though
it was a nice shot, the table looked as if it was floating in air. I then made
a gradient from dark grey at the bottom to white at the top and copied the
table image into that. It looked better,
but still no joy. What worked eventually
was to create a shadow under the table so that it looked as if it was sitting
on the floor instead of floating in mid-air. So when you look at the shot you
look at the table in isolation which is what we wanted in the first place.
Clint can now take these images
and market himself.
When I’m photographing interiors
for hotels and resorts, I have to many times rebuild furniture( in photoshop of
course) to fix scratches, dents, marks, colour fade, etc. I always like to make
sure you can see the detail in the furniture.
Photographing interiors is a
large topic, but I’ll talk about some tips that will help you.
I believe that every interior has
a “heart” that needs to be found, the perfect angle and the proper time of
day. When shooting a guestroom , lets
say, you want to find the right angle that shows the room off perfectly.
Usually, you never shoot towards the entrance since seeing a door at the end of
your shot is not to appealing. You want to see the interior in its best
light. Windows in a guestroom are really
important since they will show the guest a view, and its that view you want to
capture in the overall shot.
Most of the time you want to
shoot from an angle that your guest would see first off – not to high and not
too low. What amenities do you want to
show? Normally, you would have a phone, a clock radio, a television, etc. You
have to ask yourself as well, if these items are modern or are they out of
date. I mean and old tv vs a flat screen.
Old televisions signify an old hotel that hasn’t kept up with the
times. So you have to be careful here.
Take out all the sales materials
such as hotel brochures and sales pamphlets.
These will affect the visual by making it look cluttered.
What type of bed coverings does
the bed have? Is it wrinkled or pressed?
What about the pillows? Do they look
tired or smart? I usually take apart the
bed and iron everything that the camera
sees. Make sure everything is crisp
What about the drapes? Are they messy or crisp? Sometimes I replace the curtains with new
ones and actually tape them to the floor so that they appear to be straight.
The existing interior light
fixtures are important. Replace all the
compact flourescents with regular soft
bulbs(40 – 100watts). The compact
fluorescent lights do not give off proper colour temperature. Some really come off looking too yellow and
others a mixture of green and yellow.
If the view out the window isn’t
particularly nice, just draw the shears and make sure you can balance the light
on the inside to the light on the outside.
Time of day is important here.
You don’t want sunlight blasting in that you can’t balance for. Typically daylight is so bright coming into a
room that it has to be balanced in some way so the areas the light is hitting
don’t get burnt out. I usually wait till
the sun is not directly coming into the room to shoot. Or, you can wait till dusk, and make the shot
a moody night image. This method is very
You can see in this shot that the
interior light and the exterior light are balanced quite well. The props in the room are minimal and gives
off the air that someone is already staying there. Notice that the interior lamps
have the proper exposure and colour rendition.
Photoshop can be used
successfully here as well, You can take an image from the general direction
that the room faces and insert that into the window. Make sure though, that the image you see in
the window is actually the real thing a guest would see. If you put something fake in there, they may
In this shot, the light inside the room and outside are balance. You can perfectly see the exterior in all its brilliance. The interior light fixtures and proper colour and intensity. The props are minimal giving a lived in feel. The flowers and plants really do give it that "caribbean" feel. The angle is lower than usual to give you a feeling that you are in side the shot.
Make sure the furniture in the
room is free of dings and scratches.
I’ve often even replaced chairs that looked to worn.
Be simple with your props and
don’t over do it. A room with nothing in
it except for bed, work table, dresser drawers, lamps, chairs, etc., can look
kind of boring sometimes. You can jazz a
room up with flowers, tea services, plants, etc. Just watch that you don’t overdo it. Try to find the balance. If you don’t want any props at all, then
that’s fine. Sometimes if you prop the
room to much, guests might believe that the room includes them. Thats a tough balance to walk, but it must be considered.