Picture this: it’s January 2018, and your webmaster informs you that 65% of the traffic to your lodging website is coming via a mobile device. It may seem unlikely, but if recent trends continue,  that is precisely where we are heading. Are you prepared for that?mobile4 171x300 Mobile is Moving Fast and Photos are More Important than Ever

We did a mini-study in conjunction with White Stone Marketing. We looked at analytics for 5 of their small lodging customers in very different geographical markets to see if mobile search numbers in the Inn/B&B/Boutique Lodging sector mirror what is happening in other sectors.(Across all industries, it’s been reported that mobile/tablet searches have reached the tipping point of more than 50%.) Here is what we found:

In 2010, we were at 3% mobile vs. 97% desktop…in 2015, the numbers jumped to 45% mobile vs. 55% desktop. WOW. Given this trend, it’s likely that we will see 65%–or more–of the traffic coming from mobile in a few years. Many adults under 30 have all but abandoned the traditional desktop and are using a mobile or tablet for just about everything. It’s not just a tool to stave off boredom on the bus or to look up random facts at a party. It’s a powerful force in our industry and it requires our attention. With this in mind, as photographers, we asked the question: How does this impact the KIND of photos we conceptualize, style, compose and curate for these “mini-websites”? We are always thinking and talking a lot about images that “stir the soul” and ultimately inspire the customer to “book now”. What kinds of images translate well to the small screen? Here are our thoughts:

1) Adventure and Wanderlust

Loads of people are grabbing their smart phones and hitting the road for a spontaneous road trip. They are adventure seekers. Experience seekers. Images depicting grandeur, expanse, discovery, awe or adventure are what these folks respond to.

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Cyclist on the driveway of Fort Lewis Lodge, Virginia

You may be saying, “But I don’t have a mile long driveway!” No worries–just think discovery…experience.

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A sense of DISCOVERY: The entry garden at Inn at Occidental in Sonoma Wine Country, CA

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EXPERIENCE: This image is on the homepage for Brampton Inn, MD

2) Keep it simple for greatest impact

Creating an effective image on a much smaller screen is a challenge. You must keep the image elemental (but not boring!), clean and well-composed with excellent lighting. From a photo styling perspective, that means removing items (especially small “knick-knacks”, but even extraneous furniture). Props have to be carefully placed and easily readable on a small screen; more than ever, less is more in the mobile world. If you want flowers in a shot, stay away from mixed arrangements as they are harder to read. Be sure any photo has a clear intent and concept. Ask yourself, “what do I want to say with this photo?” When pictures are small, simple, clear messages are the only way to go.

Professional stylists and photographers can make SIMPLE work. (If you need a recommendation, we know a good photography team…)

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KEEP IT SIMPLE AND BOLD. The styling in this shot is simple and effective at Inner Banks Inn in NC


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CLEAR MESSAGE. Using selective focus (a photography technique) can help simplify the subject matter of a picture. This is from Hawthorn Inn in Camden, ME.

3) Point of View, Color and Tactile Quality

To make an image “POP” when it’s small, use bold colors and look for a subject matter that appeals to our sense of touch. Shooting from the point of view of the guest is a great technique to draw the viewer in and create a high level of engagement. A compelling point of view creates  a sense of “realness” and spontaneity, which is the language of smart-phone photography.

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POV, COLOR and TEXTURE: This shot from Lang House in Burlington VT featuring their homemade granola is super effective on a mobile device because it employs color, striking POV and texture.


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POINT OF VIEW: Capturing the moment your breakfast is brought to your suite at Grand Harbor Inn in Camden, ME.

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POINT OF VIEW and DISCOVERY: Your mobile device “puts you in the action” and this interesting POV also puts you in the moment of discovering a mountain trail. This is from The Swag in NC. 

4) The Website and Booking Engine

To quote White Stone’s Scott Crumpton, photography is “the eggs for the omelet” in a hospitality website. Now that is more true than EVER. Face it: when you look at a mobile site, you are really just looking at images…in the mobile world, many of the elements of design and text simply drop away. You need to have a clean site that works in mobile and a booking engine that really looks and works great on a mobile device. Allison Crumpton of White Stone Marketing recommends ResNexus and Think Reservations as two of the best solutions for booking engines for mobile. In terms of design, think about a a cleaner, simpler design and a logo that has presence even on a tiny device.

White Stone Marketing are also integrating a photo gallery on all their new mobile sites. Their research has indicated that some mobile users just want to flip through pictures, like they are used to on a Yelp or Trip Advisor app.

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We love the logo design and simple navigation on the Inner Banks Inn mobile site   (Design by White Stone Marketing)

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A photo gallery is an excellent idea for your mobile site because the platform is very photo-forward. This gallery is from the mobile site of Fort Lewis Lodge, VA


Want to get a preview of what your site  (or another site) looks like on a series of different mobile devices and tablets? Check out this cool tool: http://mobiletest.me

For years, photos have been recognized as a vital component of your website–many would argue, the MOST important aspect. But now, with mobile sites consisting of essentially nothing BUT photos, and with the meteoric rise in searches conducted on mobile devices, impactful photos are not just important; they are key to your success. Your mobile impact requires careful composition and selection of your images so that they are compelling on these micro-screens. Otherwise, your website is just visual clutter…and it’s on to the next property.

Special Thanks to Allison at White Stone Marketing for helping up pull this together and to Guy Merrill Senior Art Director at Getty Images. Guy’s webinar for Getty Contributors (they are our agent)  “Small Screen – Big Picture” inspired us to write this post.



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