As a brand storyteller and filmmaker working in the travel industry, I have spent the last two years staying in countless boutique and luxury hotels all around the world. I have learned a wealth of ways to capture unique images that give life to a property: from making small spaces feel grand to making the most of unique design details. Here are tips and tricks I use to photograph luxury hotels (using only available natural light!) that will help you check out with the satisfaction of a photo-worthy stay.
SNAP + STAGE THE ROOM BEFORE + AFTER YOU DROP YOUR BAGS
With good intentions to just do it later… let’s be honest. You’ll probably get too cozy in those 1,000 thread count sheets or realize that you’d rather be poolside if you’re staying at a fabulous property. So don’t drop your bags, unzip your suitcase, or sink into the bed if you want the picture perfect shot of the untouched room. On the contrary, creating messy room shots can really add some character to your photos.
Image shot at Whitepod in Valais, Switzerland
GET STARTED ON SHARED SPACES WHEN THE SUN COMES UP
When people are booking a stay at a luxury hotel, their first inclination isn’t usually getting up for sunrise on vacation – which is perfect news for you! Be the early bird who gets all the best photos. Capturing images in public spaces like the pool, outdoor breakfast area, terrace, or garden when there are too many people or the shadows are overpowering can really dull the creative buzz. However, the morning light is incredible and you can try anything you want while everyone is still tucked in under the covers.
Image shot at Ani Villa’s Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
ADD A HUMAN…OR TWO, OR TEN
I think luxury hotel photography is far more interesting when adding human element. If you’re traveling alone, set your timer and pop your camera on a tripod.
Image shot at Villa La Semilla in Solimon, Bay – Tulum
PLAY WITH REFLECTIONS
Try playing with perspectives. For example, angles that open up the room or using mirrors to your advantage. If you have a room-with-a-view, have a friend model or set up your tripod on the timer and hop in to model yourself. If you get this right, you’ll get your audience doing a double take at the image you’ve created.
Image shot at Adlers Hotel in Innsbruck, Austria
CREATE WINDOW SCENES
If you have an incredible view, use the negative space to create interesting framing around a shadow figure in your image. If you have a really great window but no room-with-a-view, try photographing at a time of the day when light is streaming in. You can then give a dreamy effect while blowing out the background, hiding whatever non-inspiring scene or wall is outside.
Image shot at Preferred Hotels Metropole Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland
CAPTURING THE DETAILS
Close up shots (like this one from Salzburg Small Luxury Hotels) are all about the details. There was a pesky plug beside the fridge, so I added the white comforter to the foreground adding a dreamier feel to the otherwise sharpened image. Using an object in the foreground to hide things that throw off the aesthetic of your photos is essential – so get your creativity flowing!
Image shot at Small Luxury Hotels Hotel Goldgasse in Salzburg, Austria
USE UNIQUE DESIGN TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
A see-through pool is an opportunity to set up that tripod and create the feel of immersion in a luxury space. Keep an eye out for interesting details that make the space unique.
Image shot at Akyra Manor in Chiang Mai, Thailand
USE LONG EXPOSURE IN LOWER LIT ROOMS
Using a tripod to capture long exposure images will allow you the freedom of non-grainy images. Go into your camera settings and use the timer. Choose the two second timer if you are photographing someone in the scene or just the room, allowing for no-shake. Choose the 10 second option if you’re planning to hop in the scene yourself, but just remember to hold extra still so you look nice and crisp like the rest of the room. I also typically switch to my 50mm 2.8 lens if the space allows.
ASK FOR ACCESS
If there’s a really lovely spa space, call the front desk ahead of time and see if you can pop in before it opens or after it closes. Many of them will not mind, especially if you’re sharing their space on Instagram. Same goes for the spacious suite, villa, and penthouse on property that you may not be personally staying in, but want to share. If the room is free, you can usually get a quick peek or tour via hotel management.
Image shot at The Siam in Bangkok, Thailand
Did you find these tips useful? If so, find me @BorderFreeTravels on Instagram for more luxury and boutique hotel photography inspiration.