Have you recognized the power of photo appeal? This is more important than curb appeal, because your potential customers are using the Internet to drive by your business. If they don't like what they see, your photographs will suck them over to another overnight stay with better pictures that appeal to their senses.
Quality photos make all the difference in marketing your hotel, resort or inn. You never know what device the consumer is viewing your pictures on. Imagine someone who has connected their 32-inch hi-definition TV to their computer. They're seeing your photographs near life-size. It better be sharp, providing clear details. If the pics you share are fuzzy or poorly lit, customers may wonder what you're hiding, at best, or they may conclude that you're a low-quality operation.
If we haven't convinced you yet, here are three additional reasons you want to upgrade any low-quality photographs you've been using on your website.
1. Photos sell. Even if you don't have fantastic views, you can choose angles that reveal the best qualities possible.
2. Photos foster trust. Booking a stay at a hotel, resort or inn you've never stayed at before includes a certain level of uncertainty. No on wants to have a negative experience during a time that's supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable. For hotels and resorts, interior shots are essential. For an inn, exterior views of both the inn and its setting are also critical. They say, "This place will meet my expectations.
3. Photos give you the opportunity to emphasize your service visually. Is there a service you provide that is outside normal expectations? Do more than describe it. Include photographs that creative a visual experience of that service. For example if you provide complementary wine include a picture showing the wine on ice in one of the rooms.
How to Take Great Photographs
Now that you know why only the best photographs are beneficial, let's explore how you can capture images that draw customers to you.
Use a Good Camera.
Smart phones can take sharp pictures. However, they have two severe limitations.
First, mobile phones do a horrible guessing game with lighting. Unless lighting is balanced, photos don't reflect the three-dimensional qualities of the room. Pictures look flat. No phone camera was designed to balance sunlight streaming in through a window with the room's indoor light sources. You need a combination of professional photographer's lighting equipment and lens filters to capture quality indoor shots.
In addition, mobile phones may zoom effectively. However they can't capture wide angle views.
The human eye sees the world at a wide-angle. Thus if you want to give tourists an accurate impression of what they will experience as they step into one of your rooms, you must use a wide angle lens. It is essential for interior photography. Otherwise the camera only captures a tunnel view. The resulting picture may be a good shot, yet it won't be as effective as it might have been.
Go for the Highest Resolution Possible.
Are you afraid of high resolution photographs? There's no need to be, as long as you use the right format--progressive JPEG. Your website still loads at Google-friendly speeds to your potential customer's browser with this photo format.
The larger a photograph, the more important progressive JPEG becomes. This is because progressive JPEGs load in stages. The first upload from your website to a potential customer's browser is a slightly blurry version. But this doesn't need to concern you. Each additional upload of information adds clarity to the photograph. This means you deliver the highest quality photographs of your travel destination without slowing down your website.
A smaller photograph may only require three progressions, while a larger photograph works better when there are at least five progressions.
Blurry pictures just don't work. So test every picture on a large screen. What seems perfectly acceptable on the digital rendering on your camera or smart phone may be blurred when enlarged.
Good composition is essential. It's what develops the core effectiveness of your photographs.
Begin with the rule of thirds. Imagine the room or landscape you are photographing were divided into a 3x3 grid (like a tic-tac-toe board). You don't want to place any of the important elements in the center. Instead chose one of the boxes to the left or right of the central box, or to the top and bottom.
Try the Golden Ratio, if the rule of thirds doesn't work. The Greeks invented the rule as a mathematical equation. It's easier to visualize than to describe it.
Place the focal point at the intersection of the largest square and the next smaller square. Balance the picture by keeping the space surrounding your focal point (especially the largest box) relatively empty. You don't want any objects there to draw the eye away from the primary focus.
Differentiate. Design layouts in your rooms that provide contrast. A light bedspread against darker walls and carpet for example. Contrast helps your visitors evaluate what they are seeing.
Group. Proximity helps your potential customers as well. Show the relationship between sleeping accommodations and dining spaces, for example.
Use closure. The human brain follows contours and fills in the gaps. This can help you frame the setting without actually using a 'frame.'
Look for leading lines. You want to draw visitors to your website into the photographs. A road can make a leading line. A fence can do it. Trees and walls are also great ways to frame a picture so you draw the eye into the scene. For interior shots consider doorways, windows and furniture potential leading lines.
Remember foreground versus background. This is the one time you may be able to use blur to your advantage. The foreground of a shot taken from inside would compete with the exterior view if it were as crisp as the exterior view. In this case, you can manipulate the depth of field so the focus is on the outdoor scene and not the one indoors.
Play With the Lighting.
Harsh lighting casts garish shadows. This is usually what you get when you depend upon overhead lights and/or windows as the sole source of Illumination.
Even if you have excellent natural lighting from windows, consider the time of day. Midday usually works best. Early morning or afternoon sun tends to create flares, even when you use a filter. These light patterns obscure the setting you're trying to capture.
Photographers use a range of techniques to get the lighting just right. When they use flash to fill in shadows, they add a flash diffuser. This prevents the flash from casting too strong a light upon the scene. With an open flash, shiny surfaces respond by returning bright images with few details. You don't want flash photography to wash the scene out.
Soft boxes are another tool you will find helpful. They produce a soft, flattering light, much like the light you get through a window. You still have shadows, yet they are subtle.
If your budget is tight, white photographer's umbrellas can be paired with lighting fixtures to soften the light. Just remember that yellow light bulbs can make your pictures look outdated. Look for light bulbs rated in the sunlight spectrum or at a Kelvin rating of 3100 to 4600.
Recognize the Power of Emotions.
For many people choosing between you or the competition is far more emotional than you may realize. This means your photographs must create an emotional bond between you and the person who is viewing your website. You want to explore ways of visualizing the experience that you give to your guests.
Photographs that show other tourists relaxing at your hotel, resort or inn helps draw website visitors toward imagining themselves there as well. At the same time, reserve pictures with people in them to public spaces. Showing people in the rooms in which you house your guests invades deeply entrenched needs for privacy. They don't want to picture their space--no matter how temporary it may be--with strangers in it.
Stage the Effect.
Planning is key to capturing the right shots. Think like a tourist. What will they want to know about your hotel, resort or inn? You need a photo that answers every question.
For example, eco tourists may be asking, "Does this destination recycle?" A vegetarian or vegan may be asking, "Can I get the food I want there?" A rock hound may be asking, "Are they near any good rock hounding sites." Answer questions asked by all the traveler types you want to attract. For every question, you'll need both verbiage and photos. The combination will amplify what you have to offer.
Professional, attractive photographs are you best defense against your competitors. Do this right and the pictures you share with the world won't push business toward the other vacation choices your potential customers could choose from.