Azalea Rooms CottonExchange 05 M >8 Photo Styling Tips for Guestrooms: Balancing Appeal and Honesty
Cotton Exchange Suite at Azalea Inn in Savannah GA

(Click here to see a larger version of this image…without the numbers.)

Truth be told, Matthew usually writes these posts, but to answer the perennial question “what the heck does MARK do?” I thought I’d dissect a photo from our last shoot to show you how I style a typical guestroom. It’s a balance between keeping it real (i.e. not overselling) and making a room as visually appealing as possible. We do lots of furniture re-arranging and tweaking, but large-scale changes are taboo. The number one comment we hear from Innkeepers after the shoot is “I love how you changed the room–I’m going to keep it that way!” That might be the ultimate compliment.

Azalea FacadePorch 15 S >8 Photo Styling Tips for Guestrooms: Balancing Appeal and Honesty
The Porch at Azalea Inn

A room like this poses special challenges–and opportunities–for the photographer. Many of the challenges can be alleviated with a few styling tricks. In addition, mood is greatly enhanced with the right styling. In this beautiful suite at Azalea Inn and Gardens in Savannah, we added, moved and subtracted our way to a pleasing image, while still honoring what potential guests will see when they arrive. Here’s what I did:

1.) I added a table (actually an upside-down garbage can) in the foreground on which to place the champagne (sorry, ginger ale). When using champagne or white wine, it is best to keep it in the foreground;  it gets lost in the background. Also, when pouring “champagne” for a close up, it is best to use a funnel rather than pouring directly from the bottle, as bubbles tend to stick on the glass, creating a sloppy look which detracts from a clean appearance.

2.) Always turn on the water or the jets when photographing a whirlpool tub to add a sense of life to the photo. In this shot, I opted not to turn on the jets because I liked the serene reflection in the blue water. And the water spout was so nice, it was just the ticket.

3.) Always light the fire in the fireplace, assuming it is a working fireplace. How do you get that soft glowing effect? Matthew says it was accomplished by using a long (about 1/2 second) exposure.

4.) Since the mantle is in the middle-ground rather than the background, I definitely needed to prop it. Because middle-ground is not that close to the camera, the forms need to be “readable”, so it is best to use items for the mantle that are bold, like a great silhouette, candle sticks, books, etc. Avoid numerous small items or dark colors if the mantle itself is dark. In this case, a reindeer provided a great shape and created some interest. (For an ideal silhouette, it could have been moved 4 inches to the left.) Books are used to balance the space; turning the books more towards the camera might have been an improvement. It is always a balance: you want the items to read for the camera, but you also want them to be in a natural state, logical and not completely unreal-looking.

5.) I added a small, but taller round table, because I knew that the tulips would work great next to that window. That particular table, borrowed from another room, was perfect: I love the way the silhouette of the legs plays against the wall. I wanted a tall vase for drama, but the tulips were not long enough, so I dropped a small ramekin inside the vase to elevate the flowers and make them more substantial.

6.)  A throw is added to the chaise lounge, again to add life to the scene. A light colored pillow from the bed brightens the chaise. As we said in an earlier post “Getting Ready for the Photographer” – pillows and accessories can really make an image.

7.)  I tilted the desk towards the camera to add some dimension, and placed more books on top to bridge the gap between the height of the lamp and the desktop. Matthew and I debated removing the desk chair from the room to space in the back of the room, but opted to keep it–a desk without a chair just wasn’t real. It’s always a delicate dance between making a great photo and showing a potential guest what a room looks like, what it actually contains. The shot would be better without the chair, but hey…. the goal here is not to make the perfect picture, but to make the very best picture of THAT SPACE.

8.) The large tropical leaves were picked outside (with permission!) and placed in a vase to add another organic element to the scene. Don’t underestimate the importance of including organic elements when styling a space. They also serve to brighten the otherwise very dark side of the desk, which is too prominent to be so dark next to the white of the tub.

Voila! A very pretty room photo, full of mood…and honestly portrayed. Employing tips like these will make your room photos much more pleasing and add to the experiential feel of a photograph. These simple techniques go a long way in getting a potential guest to say “I want to be THERE!”

1 Comment

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