Creating depth in hotel room photography

The human eye sees so much more than the camera can. It has peripheral vision that the lens can’t capture, and depth perception that’s difficult to simulate.

Therein lies the art of an experienced photographer: the ability to translate the depth and of our three-dimensional surroundings to an inviting, two-dimensional image. Technique makes it entirely possible.

Here’s how we do it:

  • Keep objects to a minimum. The space shouldn’t feel crowded or congested. Less truly is more, especially when some space must be allocated for proper lighting.

  • Preserve space between objects. This prevents objects from “stacking” in the image. The space between objects generates flow, and works to lead the eye through the image. Sometimes we’ll even remove an item or shift objects within the frame in order to promote better flow.

  • Create an entrance. We keep the foreground free of large objects, creating a visual entrance to the space. Often we’ll capture flooring in the foreground to make it more welcoming, as though the viewer could step right into the image frame.

A properly composed image is easy to look at. It invites the viewer to be part of the space, and leads the eye from start to finish.  

Deep spaces...
a place for lingering.

If you have interior spaces to capture at your hotel or resort property, let’s talk. Experience makes all the difference in showing your property at its best.

Preserving image integrity in the digital world

You’d be hard-pressed to find a photographer who still shoots film. The digital camera has rendered film a bit of a relic, while ushering in countless tools for image retouching geared to all levels of experience.

It’s a blessing and somewhat of a curse.

The good

Digital photography allows us to preview images immediately, when before we shot Polaroids to get a sense of what the camera could see. It also allows us to shoot tethered to a computer, where we can control the camera from the keyboard and minimize disruption of the equipment. Digital photography even lets us share images with our clients onsite, enabling them to make decisions on-the-spot when necessary.

The not-so-good

Digital photography has brought with it many, many tools for image manipulation and retouching. Quality image retouching, however, is an art. In inexperienced hands, software can inadvertently create a false sense of reality that doesn’t serve the purpose of our work. In addition, every effort to correct an image deficiency with software is an opportunity to degrade its technical quality.

How we preserve image integrity in the digital world:

  • We shoot in raw format. This allows us to gather the most information from the camera in terms of color and tonal range.
     
  • We fix before we shoot. It’s almost always easier, faster and less costly to fix a composition on set than to retouch it in post-production. We take a purist approach in that we do as much of our work as possible “in the camera” rather than deferring to software for addressing deficiencies after the fact.
     
  • We use professional post-production software for necessary and creative adjustments. This includes color correction, saturation adjustments, and minimal compositing.  

Digital photography and its variety of software applications are valuable tools to the craft of image making. It is a blend of art and science, with an appropriate space for both.

If you have interior spaces to capture at your hotel or resort property, let’s talk. Experience makes all the difference in showing your property at its best.

Photographing outdoors using natural light

Natural light brings an inimitable quality to outdoor images, but it can be tricky to work with. Our primary light source (the sun) is constantly on the move and cannot be easily controlled or manipulated.

Instead of manipulating the light source, we have to adapt the composition and timing of our shots to take advantage of the sunlight when it’s at its best.

We begin with a thorough scout of the location, and observe the sunlight throughout the day, noting where shadows fall, how far they extend, and how long they last. We determine the best time of day for each shot depending on how the light behaves, and plan our day of photography accordingly.

Time of day, however, isn’t the only consideration—natural light changes seasonally, too.

In the summer, for example, the midday sun is directly overhead. This is the most unfavorable direction for light, as it tends to create harshness and too much contrast. For these reasons, we rarely shoot outdoors in the summer at midday. During the winter, however, the sun is lower in the sky. The direction of the light casts more favorable shadows, and sends the light through more layers of atmosphere which serve to soften the light's effect. In winter months, we can often shoot for the entire day. 

What’s most important with outdoor photography is being prepared for what you can plan, and anticipating what you can’t plan.

An experienced photographer understands the variables and time constraints involved in shooting with natural light, and can capture the best moments revealed by a challenging light source.    

Outdoor spaces...
a place in the sun.

If you have outdoor spaces to capture at your hotel or resort property, let’s talk. Experience makes all the difference in showing your property at its best.

 

Photographing a twilight interior

Twilight —the space of 15 to 20 minutes that occurs after sunset, is one of the best times to photograph interior spaces with windows using continues tungsten lighting. It's the time of day when we can beautifully match the intensity of the interior lighting with that of the outside. 

How it’s done, naturally

The goal of lighting an interior space for a twilight photograph is to make it look and feel as real as possible. Here’s how we do it:

  • We use as much of the existing lamps and overheads as possible, and add our own continuous light sources to supplement. Balancing the intensity of interior and exterior light is what allows us to photograph windows without forcing them to go dark or having their views blown out.

  • We tastefully light the space to the point of what the human eye would see, which is more than the camera would see on its own. The lights we add compensate for the camera’s 'blindness'.
     
  • We position our lights to amplify existing ambient light sources, and give us the desired highlights and shadows with careful attention to keeping a realistic look and feel.   
  • Our lighting also focuses on separation between the different elements of a shot thereby creating depth and helping with the three dimensional feel of the image.

Twilight shots typically require two to three hours of setup time, and once twilight arrives, there are only 15 to 20 minutes available for shooting. This typically means only one evening twilight image can be shot each day. 

Why we do it this way

The majority of our work happens “in the camera”—not in Photoshop. This promotes the most realistic looking images, and allows us to share our work with the client while we’re still onsite. Digital tools certainly have their place–we use them to make minor adjustments after the shoot–but we don’t advocate them as a substitute for what can be achieved with proper lighting, setup and technique. This is the craft of photography, and it's much of what sets us apart.

Twilight spaces...
a place for illumination.

If you have interior spaces to capture at your hotel or resort property, let’s talk. Experience makes all the difference in showing your property at its best.

A blended approach to photographing small spaces

An assignment from a boutique hotel property came my way with the specification that the photographer be “an interior specialist.” That was a clue that the spaces were probably small, and wide-angle lens expertise might be required. I was right on both counts.

The challenge in photographing small spaces is to strike a perfect balance between reality and perception.

A wide-angle lens allows the photographer to back up to a wall or corner and capture as much of the space as possible, showing all of the amenities. Wide angle images are much preferred because it is a great way to show guests everything that is in the space. The drawback is that this technique, especially if taken too far, often makes the space seem larger than it really is.  Lighting these shots requires advanced skills, too, because minimal equipment can be brought into the space while simultaneously keeping it out of the images.

To show a realistic representation of the property and make it inviting to guests, I approach small-space photography with a blended technique - a mix of carefully planned wide angle shots with tighter outtakes that–rather than being a literal inventory of what is in the room–serve to evoke a feeling of what it is like to be in the space.

My blended approach gives the guest a reasonable sense of the size of the space, along with a focus on special elemental details (like color, texture and pattern) that give the space character and feeling. Suddenly a small space becomes cozy, a guest experience becomes something unique, and a room rate becomes a better value.

Small spaces...
a place to shine.

If you have small or unique spaces to capture at your hotel or resort property, let’s talk. Technique makes all the difference in showing your property at its best.

 

Luxury Blues

CASE STUDY

PROJECT:  The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s brand-new luxury oasis, the Indigo Pool and Bar, which just received a multi-million dollar makeover — including an expansive new pool, infinity waterfall, bar, luxury cabanas and designer daybeds, all set against stunning views of the Ojai Mountains.

CLIENT:  The prestigious Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a Five Diamond Resort owned and operated by the Crown family.

TASK:  New pool and grounds beautifully photographed for the client’s website, print and online social media outlets. Showcasing the stunning renovation of this popular space attracts guests who desire only the best amenities.

THE TEAM:  Led by Gaszton Gal – Photographer in collaboration with Ojai Valley Inn & Spa personnel including Chris Kandziora – Director of Sales and Marketing, Heather Dillon – Public Relations, Ashleigh Tripp - Director of Digital Marketing & Social Media, Tim Hepworth – Interior Designer, and assisted by Edgar Landeros – Photo Assistant.

HOW WE DID IT:  Studying every possible angle, we straightened lounge chairs, unfurled umbrellas, fluffed pillows and neatly rolled towels. We rippled the surface of the pool, juggled cameras and computers, all while hustling to stay ahead of the clock.

SURPRISE ELEMENT:  “June Gloom.” For Southern Californians, this phrase says it all! Weather is the most unpredictable element on any photoshoot, but an experienced architectural photographer will use every tool available to minimize or manipulate weather — as much as Mother Nature allows!

WHY IT’S WORTH IT: Great design needs great images. When you’ve hired the best designers, architects and builders to create a beautiful space — like Indigo Pool at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa — you need to hire an excellent architectural photographer who can capture gorgeous images of your space!

THE RESULT:  AMEX Fine Hotels & Resorts front cover submission. Recognition of your work through publication is as valuable for the photographer as it is for the designers and architects