The Phoblographer’s Introduction to Shooting Photos in Hotels (And How to Not be a Jerk)

Take it from a photographer who travels more than I’d like to, shooting in hotels can be a logistical nightmare sometimes.

The first time I shot in a hotel, I made a big mistake. Looking back now, I honestly think that I still wasn’t in the right, but luckily I didn’t do anything that went on to scar my career. Additionally, I was quick, quiet, polite, and careful. I think that most folks who go about shooting in hotels tend to treat it like they’re on Spring Break all the time; but that shouldn’t be the aim. You’re there to work; even if you’re doing it for fun you should still conduct yourself professionally and be responsible. If you remember that you’re privileged to be able to shoot in nice hotels and not entitled to it, then you’ll already have one of the biggest ego checks in place. If you don’t have this, then please cease to continue reading this article. But if you want to get serious, read on.

Be Polite to a T

I think it should go without saying that you shouldn’t be a jerk; but you’d be shocked at how many folks lack common sense when it comes to things like obeying the rules of a hotel. Obviously:

  • Don’t break things
  • Don’t excessively disarrange the place or move things around
  • Don’t do anything that will break anything
  • Don’t start fires and make smoke alarms go off

Basically, don’t do anything to bring attention to yourself that’s unwanted. Say please, thank you, may I, etc. Obey their rules.

Scout the Area Around the Hotel

If you’re on a service like Orbitz, it’s sometimes easy to go around and find areas around a hotel that will work for other aspects of variety in the shoot. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, that could be cool for shooting as long as you’re not doing anything dangerous or illegal. If you’re in a bigger city, then you can consider shooting around the neighborhood if you’re in a more vibrant one. Don’t limit yourself to the room; you’re going to get cabin fever pretty fast.

Check the Rules about Photography

One of the biggest things that I’ll state is that every photographer should check the rules about photography. Most hotels ahve you sign a waiver and agreement of some sort. Some of said hotels have specific rules about shooting and doing photo shoots in their hotels. Be sure to check this beforehand.

Check to See if the Room has a Walk on Balcony

If your room has a balcony, then sometimes it can be the smallest little sliver of one. Ensure that it is a walk-on balcony. This will mean that you and your models can shoot outside and perhaps even get a scenic view. Either way, you get some more variation in the location.

Figure out Views From the Room

Pro Tip: To get better double exposures in the more common sense of the images, start with a silhouette.

Does your room have a view? Consider looking at the offerings that the room has. Windows with cool views can add spice to the shoot. It may mean that sometimes you’ll need to pay around $100 or so more. But ask yourself if that’s worth it to you.

Make Your Own Lighting

Be sure to bring your own lighting and make your own light. Hotel light tends to be rather…bland. But bringing small flashes or a monolight along with stuff like gels, you can make the scenes feel unique are more specific to the type of shoot that you’re trying to get done.

All Hotels Use White Sheets

Lastly, always remember that hotels use white sheets. This means that you’re bound to get them dirty. But they also work for great backgrounds at times. Hotels specifically use white because they tend to make folks feel like royalty.