I have just been commissioned to shoot three beautiful, old hotels in the Lake District (all part of the same group) and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been thinking about hotel photography and why I enjoy it so much. My particular interests are interiors and gardens – I love the atmosphere of a fine room that manages to somehow embody the owner’s personality and capturing the very special mood of a beautiful garden at dawn is one of my great pleasures. Both of these I do for magazines where the editor wants a sumptuous set of four to six pages that will convey a particular atmosphere. Very different indeed to commercial work where, while the client will want a bit of ‘mood’, more important, is the element of ‘product reality’ – a kitchen maker for instance will be keen to show off the special design details to their best advantage in the hope of attracting further commissions.
Hotel photography, it seems to me, is where many of these different disciplines come together. A mood must be conveyed while always remembering that I’m actually working for a commercial client. Give me a day or two at a hotel and I can shoot any number of atmospheric photographs – bedrooms be they intimate and cocooning or just out and out luxurious with sweeping views across a vast four-poster to the parkland beyond. Public areas like bars, restaurants and receptions must appear convivial while maintaining an air of efficiency. I will always throw in a few ‘wow’ shots such as swimming pools lit at dusk or a long shot of the hotel that draws in the surrounding landscape too.
Hotels are places of work of course and I’m often asked to photograph some of the staff – perhaps pouring drinks at the bar, polishing glasses in the restaurants or ‘checking in’ new guests – a great way for the client to show off the friendly side to the operation. It’s nice too, particularly at smaller, family run places, to take informal portraits of the owners and guests find them surprisingly useful when choosing a place to stay.
Food photography is terribly important these days. I specialise in informal food shots – current trends seem to have moved on from the old fashioned dining experience with its stiff, white napery and endless courses to a much more relaxed approach where fresh ingredients and no nonsense presentation are much more the order of the day. I like to shoot without lights using natural daylight and it’s great if the chef can present the food just as it would be served and I can photograph it quickly and without too much fuss.