Phase Two of a Hotel Photoshoot:

10 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Hotel Photographer

Use this article to:

  • Find a hotel photographer that will help make your shoot a success

  • Make sure you’ve answered any legal and practical questions

  • Get more value from your shoot

  • Ensure your photographer is the right fit

This piece is part of a larger guide to The Six Phases of a Hotel Photoshoot, and provides a breakdown of Phase Two: 10 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Hotel Photographer. You may also want to read: Establishing Your hotel photography needs

Have you ever asked yourself “how do I know if this photographer is the right choice for us”? Well, you are not alone. Choosing the right hotel photographer for a project is a huge decision, and it’s a decision that might impact your marketing assets for years to come.

In this blog, we’ve outlined 10 questions you can use to ensure that your photographer suits your needs and is the right fit for your hotel. This blog will also guide you through some legal and practical questions, as well as a few questions designed to get the most value possible from your shoot.

So, pull up the website of that photographer you’re considering, and let’s dive in!

Download these free guides to help you thru every step of the process of planning your hotel photoshoot:

Do You Love Their Work?

No? Then cross them off the list. This isn’t a question of whether or not their photos are technically good, their budget is right for you, or they’re the most in-demand photographer in their industry. If the work a photographer produces doesn’t speak to you, you’re going to spend the whole process trying to shape them into a different photographer, and it won’t be a good experience for either of you.

When deciding if you like a photographer’s work or not, we recommend taking a look at their portfolio broadly and then going through a few individual photographs. When looking at their portfolio ask:

  • Does this grab my attention? Do I want to see more?
  • Is there variety in the images?
  • What look, feel, tone, texture, or personality is coming through?
  • What do I like about this portfolio, and is anything missing?

When looking at photos individually, ask:

  • Does this photo ‘feel’ right? Do the lighting, composition, styling, models, etc., work together to tell a cohesive story?
  • What feeling do I get from this image, and is it the right one?
  • What do I like and not like about this image?

Jotting down what you like and dislike about the photographer’s portfolio broadly and their individual images will help you start to understand exactly what you might be looking for.

Does the Photographer Have Experience in the Categories You Need to Shoot?

There are so many different kinds of photography that fall under the umbrella of “hotel photography” – including architecture, conceptual, destination, food/restaurant, hotel photography, interiorlifestyle – and your ideal photographer should to be able to deliver in all the categories you need to capture during the shoot.

If you’ve read Phase One of a Hotel Photoshoot: Establish Your Hotel Photography Needs and worked through our downloadable template  then you should have a fairly clear idea of the categories your photos fall into.

As you’re looking through a photographer’s portfolio, look for examples of all of the categories you’ve identified, and ask yourself if the photographer has great examples from each category. If not, can they provide you with examples?

There may times when you decide to hire a photographer even if they don’t have extensive experience in every category you’ve identified. For example, if they have a very strong portfolio of images in categories you’ve identified as high priority, and weaker examples in lower priority areas. Or, if it’s not necessary to have one photographer deliver in every aspect – for example, you might decide that you want to hire an additional photographer who specializes in culinary work to showcase your on-site restaurant. However, this is something you want to make an intentional, considered decision about. You don’t want to discover that your photographer is inexperienced with lifestyle photography right in the middle of a lifestyle shoot.

Think about what category each photo in your shot list falls under, and ask yourself, “does this photographer have great examples of these categories in their portfolio?” If not, can they provide you with examples, and tell you about their experience shooting each type?

Are You Comfortable with How the Photographer Works On-Location?

We definitely recommend having a conversation with your photographer about how they normally work on-location to make sure that their expectations are in line with yours. In our opinion, this question has two main facets:

  • Do they understand that your guests’ experience is always your top priority?
  • And, how involved can you be in the shoot itself?

The first line of questioning is about how experienced and accommodating your photographer is when working around guests, and whether or not they understand the unique demands of a hotel photoshoot. For example, are they prepared to shoot a breakfast buffet at 3am in the morning, or pack down quickly and discreetly if they’re photographing the pool when a guest arrives to use it? Do they understand that the nature of a hotel means that there may be last minute changes to the schedule, and are they comfortable with flexibility?

We also recommend discussing how willing your photographer is to be flexible. Sometimes, things go wrong on a photography shoot. The weather turns bad, people don’t show up, or there’s a last minute event at your hotel and you have to make changes. Chat to your photographer about possible scenarios, and what they could do to ensure you still get the photos you need.

The second line of questioning has to do with executing the shoot itself. We recommend asking your photographer to walk you through a normal day of shooting, and ask yourself if their needs and expectations for the shoot align with yours, and whether or not there’s space for you to be as involved in the shoot as you would like to be.

Does Your Photographer Rely Too Much on Natural Lighting, or Photoshop?

At Global Image Creation, we work in-camera using specially developed lighting techniques, which means that the photo we take when we press the shutter is a solid representation of the final, polished image we deliver to our clients. In practice, this means that our clients can see the image as it comes together (on an iPad, not on the camera’s tiny screen), be involved in making decisions on the day, make adjustments to the setting as needed, and know exactly what they’re getting. We can even send our clients images for approval as we work if they have to step away from the shoot for any reason.

With and Without Hotel Photography Lighting Example

It’s more than a photo, its your image. Global Image Creation is the hotel photographer of legendary hotels. How can we work together?

Other photographers may work in-camera but rely on natural lighting, which means they may have to work quickly and efficiently during limited windows of time, and may not be able to consult you during the process as much as you would like.

If your photographer relies mainly on natural light, you might want to ask:

  1. How will weather changes (such as a cloudy afternoon) affect your ability to shoot, and who will incur the costs for any delays?
  2. If you find that there isn’t sufficient natural light in the suite or room we need you to capture, do you have an alternative method for shooting? Is this a method that you’re equally as skilled and experienced in?
  3. How do ensure a consistent brand look across all of the photos you deliver without being able to control the lighting?

Many other photographers use a technique called HDR (High Dynamic Range), which involves capturing multiple photos of the same shot at various exposures that are merged later into one image. This is a valid approach to overcoming the difficulties of shooting interiors, however, it does mean that a lot of the work that goes into the image happens in Photoshop after the photographer has left, and you’ll have very limited input in the process. It also means the photographer will have limited control over the mood and lighting of the room, and you could end up with unnatural colors and contrast in your final images that will be almost impossible to completely fix in post.

Can You Preview Images on the Day of the Shoot?

A scene can look completely different in real-life than it does on camera, which is one of the reasons we choose to have clients involved in the shooting process and give their initial approval as we move through shoot. We believe that this is the best way to work, because the more our clients can see the photo develop and be involved, the more that final image will meet their needs.

Other photographers may not give you the option of previewing the images throughout the shoot, but may make the images available for you to give approval at the end of the day. This way you can ensure that the photographer has captured the images you need, and you’ll be able to make time to shoot anything they’ve missed – or reshoot any images that aren’t quite right – while the photographer is still on-site.

However, there are photographers who prefer not to share their work with a client until each image is finalized. This could be because the photographer relies on post-processing techniques to create the final image, as we discussed above, or simply because it’s their personal preferences.

You may trust your photographer implicitly and be happy to relinquish all control of the shoot until you receive the images, however, this is definitely something you want to discuss with your photographer beforehand. However, if your photographer does not give you the option of approving the images on the day, some questions you might want to ask include:

  1. When you leave the shoot, how can you ensure that we’ll be happy with the images you deliver?
  2. How many changes can we request to the final images before we’re charged extra?
  3. If we’re not happy with any of the final photos, will you charge us for an additional shoot?

Will They Deliver Images That Are Ready to Use and in the Formats You Need?

Before you commit to hiring a photographer, it’s important to have a discussion about how the final images will be delivered and how you want to use them (use cases) to make sure you will get exactly what you need. Some questions you might want to ask include:

  • How will I receive the photos? Will the photographer send a thumbdrive, or make the photos available for download?
  • Will I receive high resolution versions as well as ready to use versions in the exact formats I need?
  • Does the photographer have a good understanding of media use across different channels?
  • Can they provide versions of photos optimized for use in multiple places, including use in digital and print formats?
  • Can they make suggestions for uses for the images that we may not have thought of yet?
  • How long will the photographer retain the files in case you need to download them again?

Does Your Photographer Offer Any Valuable Additional Services?

If you’re going to all the trouble of arranging for a shoot, it might be worth considering if there’s any other assets that could be captured at the same time. For example, does the photographer you’re hiring offer video production services as well? If so, it is definitely worth asking your photographer if they can utilize their time on-site to capture media for a variety of assets, and get the most value possible from the shoot. Some questions you might consider asking are:

  • If your photographer offers video production services and you need videos for your marketing, would it be possible to expand the shoot to capture video as well?
  • What additional value-add footage or images can the photographer capture on the day? E.g. behind-the-scenes footage and images, or teaser images and clips for social media.
  • Can the photographer help you organize extra elements needed on the day, such as models, wardrobe, make-up artists, and set designers?
  • Does your photographer have a good understanding of hospitality marketing, and can they work with you to leverage the shoot more effectively?

If your photographer does have an understanding of hospitality marketing, we recommend having a discussion about maximizing the full marketing applications of the shoot. This could include:

  • Capturing and sharing fun behind-the-scenes footage and photos from the day and sharing on the hotel’s social media,
  • Sharing approved images on the photographer’s own blog or social media,
  • And looking for opportunities to leverage a shoot to get assets for all of your channels. For example, if you’re planning a lifestyle shoot by the pool for your website’s (short and wide) hero image, is your photographer also capturing compositions that will work for Instagram, Facebook, your blog, and other pages on your website?

Are You Clear on Pricing Structure?

This is one of the most important elements of the shoot to ensure you’ve completely clarified in advance. If you don’t understand exactly what expenses you might incur, your budget could end up getting blown out in additional shooting days and editing hours.

Most photographers will set either a ‘by day’ or ‘by set-up’ rate. A ‘by day’ rate is the most common fee structure, and if your photographer charges this way you should make sure to clarify:

  • How many consecutive hours constitute a day
  • How many shots can you expect to get each day
  • What additional fees there are if a shoot goes over its scheduled time
  • If there is the option to split a day into two parts to work around the availability of your shoot locations, and if this would incur any additional costs

A day rate can work really well for some types of shoots, however, it can create a rushed sense of urgency during the shoot, which can affect the strength of the final images, and lead to frustration and fatigue if there are delays or adjustments to the schedule.

The second option, a ‘by room’ or ‘by set-up’ rate, is the best option for hotels in our opinion. This structure means that the photographer will deliver a set number shots for a set price for each lighting or shoot set-up. For example, capturing two wide views of a room and two detailed shots of the same room would be incorporated into a single price. The bathroom would be a second set-up with a separate rate, and so on. Pricing by the set-up allows for a more flexible schedule that will not cost the client extra if a shoot takes longer than expected. This fee structure means that you can have a better idea of what the shoot will cost before your photographer arrives on your property.

What Are Your Use Rights?

Usage rights are another issue that is definitely worth discussing early so you can avoid problems later. The way the law works in most places, including the USA and Europe, is that a photographer retains the copyright for any image they take, and you only have the rights that a photographer grants you.

Some questions to ask your photographer include:

  1. Will we have the right to use the images for any of our marketing, including media use?
  2. Are there any uses that will require us to come to you for permission or pay an additional licensing fee?
  3. Are there any limits on how long we will use the images or can we use them in perpetuity?
  4. Will you be responsible for getting releases signed by any models, and ensuring their release doesn’t contradict the permissions you give us?
  5. Will you be responsible for keeping releases on file?

Your photographer should be able to supply you with a clear document that outlines all of the legal information before you hire them. You should also make sure that any agreements about license, usage, or permissions are spelled out in the contract you sign with your photographer.

Can They Work to Your Schedule?

You might have found the best photographer in the world, but if they’re not available until June 2021 or they take six months to deliver final photos, you’ll either have to do some extreme adjustments to your marketing plan or look for someone else. Early in the process of talking to a photographer, make sure that they can work to your schedule, especially if you have tight deadlines.

We recommend having a discussion about deadlines before the shoot and getting your expectations down in writing to ensure there’s no surprises later on. If there are any photos you need turned around quickly (for example, if you want to get something on social media the day after the shoot) it’s important to specify these needs now. With some advance notice, your photographer should be able to work some editing time into their shooting schedule to turn around a few photos quickly, however it’s not something they should be expected to deliver without any notice.

Be aware that if your photographer offers a very tight turn-around and promises to deliver hundreds of photos, this is likely a sign that they rely on ‘batch editing’ to finalize their images. Batch editing involves making automated bulk corrections to a number of photos at once using a program like Photoshop. If your photographer does rely on batch editing, you may receive hundreds of photos very quickly, but each individual photo won’t have received the care and attention it requires to really stand out.


Do They Feel like a Good Fit?

Even if a photographer ticks all of the right boxes, there’s really no guarantee they’re going to be the right option for you, so if there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right that’s something you should pay attention to.

If there are any specific reservations you have we recommend discussing these openly with the photographer you’re considering to see if they can put your mind at ease. For example, if you feel the photographer is rushing through your conversations and doesn’t have time for your ideas, during a frank conversation you might learn that they’re actually rushing because they’re concerned about taking up too much of your time.

If, after an open and honest conversation, they still don’t feel like someone you would like to work with, then it’s probably worth trusting your gut and looking around at your other options.

Hopefully, by the end of all of these questions you’ve found an awesome photographer you can form a great working relationship with and call on again in the future.

This piece is part of a larger guide to The Six Phases of a Hotel Photoshoot, and provides a breakdown of Phase Two: 10 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Hotel Photographer. You may also want to read: Establishing Your hotel photography needs

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