Insights from a Luxury Hotel + Travel Photographer

When Your Hotel's Image Is on the Line, Good Photography Always Matters

Have you heard the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” While that saying may certainly be true when it comes to family photos and images of lifelong friends, it’s not necessarily accurate in the realm of hotel photography.

Why is that? Because a picture has the potential to have more than sentimental value for a hotel. More specifically, a picture has the ability to bring guests through your doors.

Rebranding Campaign for Caruso Affiliated

Rebranding Campaign for Caruso Affiliated

The Power of Pictures

A recent study sponsored by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research examined the stages involved with booking hotel rooms online. Prior to booking a room, consumers go through the browsing and deliberation stages during which they focus on different aspects of their purchase. During the browsing stage, consumers focus mostly on information provided by a hotel, including its name, images, price, location and reviews. During the deliberation stage, they focus on images — above all other factors.

TripAdvisor recently examined the available lodging accommodations in the 25 cities reviewed the most on its website. TripAdvisor’s study revealed that having photos on your website greatly increases the likelihood that travelers will book a stay at your property. In fact, the study showed that having just one picture increased traveler engagement by 138 percent and increased the chances that travelers will make a reservation at your hotel by 225 percent compared to properties without photos on their property webpages.

While you may think less is more when it comes to photos, the reverse seems to be true when it comes to the relationship between images and traveler engagement and reservations. TripAdvisor reports when a hotel has 100 or more pictures on its website, traveler engagement increases by 151 percent and the likelihood that people will make a reservation rises 238 percent compared to accommodations that don’t have pictures of their property on their website.

Travelers aren’t just persuaded by stills when they’re planning trips. Many travelers are influenced by videos in the early stages of planning their trips. According to “The 2014 Traveler’s Road to Decision” prepared by Google:

  • 65% of leisure travelers watch travel videos when they’re considering taking a trip
  • 48% of recreational travelers view travel videos when they’re pondering what kind of trip to take
  • 61% of leisure travelers watch videos when they’re selecting a destination

With pictures and videos being so integral to a person’s decision to stay at your hotel or book a room somewhere else, the question no longer is, “Do professional photos matter?” The question you need to ask is, “What better investment can I make than hiring a professional hotel photographer for my property?” When you consider a single photo increases the odds that you’ll receive a booking inquiry by more than 200 percent, you’ll quickly realize there is no better way to invest your marketing dollars.

When you hire a professional luxury hotel photographer, you’re doing more than merely hiring someone to take pictures of your property. You’re hiring a talented professional who will distinguish your hotel from its competitors, edit photos so they appeal to new and repeat visitors and who will infuse creativity, consistency and innovation in your marketing efforts.

While that may seem like a lot to ask of a professional luxury hotel and travel photographer, it’s all in a day’s work for the experts at Mark DeLong Photography.

Custom Cinemagraph for Ford Europe. 

Custom Cinemagraph for Ford Europe. 

Research a Commercial Photographer for Hire

Even after you fully understand the potential quality pictures have to increase traveler engagement and the number of reservations people book with your hotel, you’ll still need a commercial photographer for hire who has the ability to take photos of your property. Finding a professional luxury photographer may seem like an easy task, but it’s one that requires some work to ensure you find the right photographer for your property.

Like other artists, professional hotel photographers tend to specialize in a particular style. Some excel in taking photographs involving people while others are great at snapping pictures in natural light. If you want to have an assortment of pictures, you’ll need to find a well-rounded photographer who shines in multiple styles of photography.

To find the photographer who’s right for your photo shoot, think about the kind of images you want and what you want them to convey about your property. Determine what you’re going to use the images for. Some types of photos may be better for print advertisements, others might be ideally suited for your website and still others may be more appropriate for your social media campaign.

When you’re looking through a photographer’s book, focus on the feelings their images convey rather than the actual subjects of their photos. This is particularly important if you run a luxury hotel because the subject matter of your photos might be different than what’s portrayed in a photographer’s book.

According to Gallup, one-third of luxury travelers are completely engaged in booking. This means they not only spend the most at the hotels they visit compared to other travelers, they have a connection with the high-end properties they frequent. Gallup reports that when upscale travelers select a hotel for the first time, they focus on the property’s environment, meaning they strongly consider the hotel’s look and feel.

Luxury travelers are confident in their judgment as well as their observations, which means your pictures can be the deciding factor that persuades them to book with you instead of a competitor. For these reasons, it’s critical to choose a photographer whose work can relay the feel and spirit of your property, not just its aesthetics and style.

Plan a Photo Shoot

Amenities are important to hotel guests. According to a study conducted by Hotels.com, free, stable Wi-Fi is still the top amenity global leisure and business travelers want their hotels to have, with 60 percent of the study’s respondents saying they wish free Wi-Fi was a standard amenity at hotels. A free breakfast is the second most sought-after amenity among global leisure travelers and the third most desired amenity among the world’s business travelers. Complimentary parking, high-end, in-room coffee makers or espresso machines and wired hotel rooms are also popular amenities among global business and leisure travelers.

Whether your property has a fantastic breakfast buffet, a five-star restaurant, a relaxing spa, a golf course or other desirable amenities, decide which you want to highlight in your photos. Once you decide which amenities to spotlight, come up with a plan for your photo shoot.

From taking pictures of guest rooms to photographing your property’s unique features and capturing images of your hotel’s exterior, your photo shoot is probably going to cover a lot of ground. Developing a plan will help ensure each captured image conveys the mood, style and message you want.

When you work with Mark DeLong Photography, you don’t have to develop your shoot plan alone. Having photographed luxury hotels throughout the world, DeLong can work with you to create a plan that will capture every aspect of your hotel the way you want it to be portrayed.

Here is what Professional Photographer Magazine had to say about DeLong’s creative prowess:

“In commercial photographer Mark DeLong’s case, it’s more precise to say that his creativity is so pliable that his style becomes the style of his client. He brings his ideas, inspiration and experience to the creative process with the goal of expressing the client’s vision in its truest, most effective form.”

Advertising Campaign Video for Hilton Hotels

Prepare Your Hotel

Once you have at least a tentative shot plan in place, prepare your property for the upcoming shoot. Depending on the professional luxury hotel photographer you choose, it’s critical that you make sure your property is photo shoot ready.

Some of the things you should do prior to the arrival of your photographer include:

  • Clean the carpets and press the linens
  • Check lighting for areas where photos will be taken
  • Replace broken objects and those with noticeable wear and tear
  • Landscape your property and power wash the exterior of your hotel
  • Ensure ample power is available in the areas where your photographer will work
  • Alert guests that designated areas will be unavailable during the photo shoot
  • Assign trustworthy, experienced staff members responsibility for last minute preparations
  • Appoint a responsible employee as the point person who’ll handle your photographer’s requests
  • Develop backup plans in case an area becomes unavailable for a photograph for any reason

While your photographer isn’t going to help shampoo your hotel’s carpets, the artist will do some advance prep work, too. When Mark DeLong works for Marriot, for instance, his team handles all the details related to a photo shoot, such as model casting, scouting locations, hair and makeup and post production work. This approach does more than take pressure off you to handle things you’re probably unfamiliar with like scheduling models. It also adds consistency to the entire process and the end result, your photos.

Whether he’s shooting in Milan or Africa, DeLong and his team understand the importance of collaborating with clients, which is why they’re so heavily involved with the preparation of your photo shoot. Working with you is how DeLong brings cohesion to your photos individually and as a whole. By collaborating with you, DeLong creates a consistency of purpose that enables him to promote your hotel in a way that’s meaningful to travelers around the world.

Rebranding Campaign for Caruso Affiliated

Rebranding Campaign for Caruso Affiliated

Allow for Creativity

Even after you’ve readied your hotel for your photo shoot and you and your photographer have developed a plan, things may still not go as you expect. Things happen and they’re not going to stop occurring just because you’ve scheduled a professional photo shoot. Even if you’re lucky enough not to have had a water leak or weather event affect an area of your property where you planned to shoot, opportunities for better shots may present themselves in the days or hours leading up to your shoot.

Quite often, a professional luxury photographer will arrive at your property several days before your photo shoot is scheduled. This will give your artist the chance to become familiar with the nuances of your location, such as when the sun sets, the amenities your guests enjoy the most and how certain parts of your property look at various times of day.

As your photographer becomes more intimate with your hotel, they may come up with some creative ideas about how they can make your photos even better. 

While you may have strong opinions about your photos and property, your photographer is an artist who has the professional experience to portray your hotel in the best light possible. Listen to your photographer and work with them, not against them. Creativity is a great thing, even when it strikes at the proverbial eleventh hour.

Advertising Campaign for Marriott Rewards

Advertising Campaign for Marriott Rewards

Schedule the Appropriate Amount of Time

Whether he’s shooting for award-winning brands or hotels such as Rosewood, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin or Park Hyatt, Mark DeLong has made properties on every continent appear irresistible to travelers around the world. While DeLong’s skills and commitment to his clients and craft are unmistakable, it still takes time for him to catch that perfect image.

Creativity can’t be rushed, and even talented artists like DeLong can’t make the sun rise or set any faster to get a shot taken quicker. While professional photographers work as efficiently as they can, it’s not unusual for a single shot to take an entire day to capture.

When you think about everything that goes into taking a great picture, it’s easy to understand why even the most skilled and efficient professional hotel photographer might average between two and five photos per day. Depending on the picture your photographer is trying to take, some things that might have to be done prior to the photo being captured include:

  • Setting up the room or space
  • Styling the room
  • Styling models
  • Adjusting the lighting
  • Positioning the camera

Given the time it takes to capture a quality photo, you must allot enough time for your photographer to do their job without making them feel rushed. Be realistic about the time you set aside for your photo shoot. If you want fantastic photos, schedule more than a few days for a professional luxury photographer to capture images of the inside and outside of your hotel.

Release the Creative Reigns

If you run a property for a luxury brand such as Oberoi, Banyan Tree, St. Regis, Pan Pacific or Shangri-La, you’re probably used to being in charge. That’s natural — you need to ensure your property and staff are at their best at all times so you can serve your clients in the manner they expect.

While you may manage a large staff on a daily basis, resist the temptation to manage your professional hotel photographer. You and your photographer are equal partners in executing your photo shoot. Even though you and your photographer will collaborate and exchange ideas, let your photographer practice their craft freely during your photo shoot.

Rebranding Campaign for Caruso Affiliated

Rebranding Campaign for Caruso Affiliated

Remain Flexible and Adaptive

Whether you run the Udaivilas in India, you’re the general manager of Banyan Tree’s Mayakaoba in Mexico or your property is in a remote destination in a far corner of the world, Mark DeLong will work with you to create the best stills and videos possible. DeLong’s ability to work as a Stills Photographer (photos), Director of Photography (motion) and Director (stills and motion) enables him to work across genres. His unique and desirable skill set make him one of the world’s most sought-after professional luxury hotel photographers.

One of the things that makes professional hotel photographers like DeLong so successful is their ability to remain flexible. No matter how well you’ve planned and prepared for your photo shoot, things may still not go as you’d hoped. Remain flexible and adaptive to change before, during and even after your photo shoot. Changes and unexpected events can often lead to new creative opportunities that may yield even better pictures in the end.

Maintain Communication

From the moment you meet with a professional luxury photographer through the delivery of the final product, maintain an open line of communication with the artist. Even the most talented photographer in the world cannot produce pictures or videos you’ll be happy with if they’re unaware of the specifics of what you want.

Mark DeLong values the input of his clients and welcomes them to share their ideas. By working with his clients, DeLong consistently surpasses their expectations by successfully bringing their vision to life in print, motion or both. According to “Professional Photographer Magazine,” DeLong conceptualizes projects “equally well” in both still and motion photography. By communicating with DeLong throughout your photo shoot, you’ll enable him to produce stills and videos that will portray your property beautifully and convey the mood, style and message to inspire travelers to book a stay at your luxury property.

Advertising Campaign for Marriott Rewards

Advertising Campaign for Marriott Rewards

Make the Investment

Are you ready to make the best investment possible for your hotel? Contact Mark DeLong to market your hotel through pictures taken by a true luxury photographer. When you experience Mark DeLong’s work, you’ll know there is no better investment you can make than choosing him as your professional luxury hotel photographer.