© 2012 Mario Madau

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Anatomy of Hotel and Resort Photography: A Guide. Episode 10 Photographing Lobbies

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 different.

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 experience.


 This lobby had a cool vibe going on and I wanted to make sure the gorgeous exterior stood out.

Anatomy of Hotel and Resort Photography: A Guide. Episode 9

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.

Anatomy of Hotel and Resort Phtography: A Guide. Episode 8

Episode 8;      Photographing Interiors


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 looking.


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 effective.


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 get upset.


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.