Over the years, we have accumulated a stack of emails from customers touting the business increases they’ve received from their new photos. It seems like the folks that have the biggest “bumps” in occupancy and revenue from a photo investment are properties with views–that is, views which were previously not captured or poorly depicted. It is clear that if you are lucky enough to a have a property with views from a guest room, you simply must get great photos to sell those rooms. View shots from inside of a room really require the assistance of a professional, as they require a great deal of skill, lighting and know-how.
Over the past 12 years, we have become specialists in capturing views. It wasn’t a plan, but just happened over hundreds of shoots. It is not a “convenient” niche for a photographer; sometime we curse this speciality, to be totally honest! Why?? Because great view shots (especially interior shots featuring a view outside) require a multitude of conditions coming together perfectly, many of which are out of our control: weather, season, time of day, window/glass construction and lots of PATIENCE. It’s also less convenient for the property owner as rooms must be blocked-out longer to account for uncertainty of weather, etc. Windows need to be impeccably clean and maintained since they are really featured. But the pay-off is big with great photos!
We’ve just added a new gallery in our portfolio featuring “Views”- check it out here
So, how do we get great view shots from a room interior? What are the secrets?
Photoshop or Lighting??
As with most photography questions, 95% of the time lighting is the answer. Using high-powered off-camera flashes is our preferred method. The reason interior view shots are so difficult for the amateur is that there is a great disparity/contrast between the interior light and the exterior light. Using interior artificial lighting can help balance that scene so that the contrast is reduced, mimicking how your eye sees the scene. We often use Photoshop to remove unwanted reflections (often from our flashes). High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique is another way to mitigate contrast and get a view shot. HDR is basically blending several images of different exposures in a post-production tool such as Photoshop to create an image with less contrast. Unfortunately, this technique tends to yield much less natural-looking images that do not “ring true” and can feel a bit flat. We also use high-powered lighting to get great porch shots; this really makes the porch view SING!
What is the best way to compose a view shot?
One of the inherent problems with photographing a room with a view is that the best picture of a room RARELY meshes with the best view out the windows. You need a descriptive, wide shot to show the room on your website or booking engine, but if the room has a great view you’ll need a shot that captures that view. These are typically very different shots. When we are trying to capture a killer view, we start with the view, and then work the room around it by adapting the angle or moving/arranging furniture. These less literally descriptive shots that are selling the view are typically shot with a much less wide lens. For example, for a descriptive wide shot of a room one might use a wide angle (i.e. 28mm focal length), while a view shot would be more successful at 50mm or higher, because this greater focal length visually helps to bring the view IN. This is one of the most important elements of a great view shot: get tight, don’t use a wide angle lens!
What time of day, season and weather are best for view shots?
All of these elements greatly affect a view shot, in a big way! Waterfront properties usually require a clear day, since water is reflecting the sky and you want it to be BLUE. Typically you’ll want the sun behind the camera to capture a less washed-out look. Unlike water, mountains and greenery can be more forgiving with time of day and weather. Wooded scenes can be stunning on a cloudy day. Usually shooting at high noon is a big no-no, but the season and geographical location play a great role in this. For example, in November we can get great view shots at high-noon in some locations. One of our favorite times of day to shoot a view is at daybreak or sunset. The light is softer and more colorful and you can get moody shots that really conjure up emotion and a “moment in time”. Usually you’ll find that we try to provide some variety in what we deliver to our customers, often providing some daytime views and some sunset/sunrise views.
What props are good for view shot?
Think bold silhouettes as you gather props for views, such as binoculars, wine bottles, botanicals with interesting shapes, a human figure or a coffee cup. Keep the props simple; the star of a view photo is THE VIEW
Views: A Checklist for Getting Ready for the Photoshoot
- Be ready! Prepare a day early if you can. We may be able to change arrival date if weather is better a day earlier. Be ready early and be flexible.
- Clean windows well and remove screens. Photographers are expensive window washers…and we end up washing many windows!
- Blinds and window treatments should be in good condition as they are “framing” the view
- If you are lodging the photographer, put them in your best “view” room. (I know this sounds like a ploy, but it’s really not!) Believe me, you will want them to have access at all times of day and night to get that “signature” view shot.
- In general, block your rooms with views for a longer period than you need to, in order to account for time of day and weather issues.
- Be prepared for 5:30am or 9:00pm shoots. Basically give photographer access to rooms and props on a 24-hour basis.
- Invite an attractive repeat guest (who has mid-week flexibility) to return to the inn for free during the shoot, in exchange for letting us photograph them on balconies with views. Make them aware it could be a very early or late photo shoot. We have had great success with this. People provide context and interest for view shots.