Welcome to Hotel Essence Photography

Welcome to our Hotel Essence blog, founded by award-winning hotel photographer Michelle Chaplow, specialist in luxury and historic hotels. Michelle shares her world of luxury hotel photography, and we also highlight individual Hotels from the cutting-edge contemporary to world-renowned heritage hotels.

To find out more about Michelle’s career trajectory, and the prestigious publications where her work has appeared, read her Bio.

We have sections on keynote speeches, hotel photography tips for hoteliers, and we share news on conferences, awards, interviews with hotel experts, exhibitions trends and travel.

Michelle also manages to find time for a number of ongoing Personal Projects, including the award-winning The Pool of Life, and you can read her individual take on various photographers, themes and topics in Contemporary Art Photography.  For friends who prefer to read in Spanish, a selection blog posts are also available in Entradas en español.

We do hope that you enjoy our Hotel Essence photography blog – you can Subscribe to the Blog and we would love to hear from you in our comments section.

The latest from the blog:

Contemporary Hotel Photography – two very Stylish Hotels.

Contemporary Hotel Photography

Every hotel that our hotel photography team photographs is unique.

The aim of contemporary hotel photography is to bring to the viewer´s eye, “take me there” modern imagery. We capture contemporary design by focusing on clean lines and stylish curves together with those all-important details, which provide clues of contemporary hotel living.

Take a closer look at this massage room, (you can click to enlarge the photograph) it’s just pure minimalist bliss. The straight architectural lines, the contrast of nature´s curves on the trees, a massage room with a very relaxing view, the perfectly ironed white sheets, understated cotemporary elegance.

Contemporary Hotel Photography

Contemporary Hotel Photography. Hotel Azerai

We have chosen two contemporary design hotels for this blog post one in the Far East, Luang Prabang in Laos and the second a European hotel near to Barcelona, Spain.

Azerai  Hotel, Luang Prabang

The name Luang Prabang means “Royal Buddha Image” – this is the spiritual centre for Theravada Buddhism in South East Asia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the small town has over 30 active temples, and is regarded as the cultural jewel of Laos.

The new hotel which was completely rebuilt on the footprint of the old Phousi Hotel, originally constructed as French colonial military quarters. The image below depicts the bistro.

Contemporary Hotel Photography Azerai Hotel Luang Prabang

Contemporary Hotel Photography Azerai Hotel Luang Prabang

The hotel is located right in the heart of the UNESCO-protected area, a place where no building can be higher than a coconut tree, where time has almost stood still.

The rooms are extremely comfortable, and the service was that of a five-star hotel; the architecture and the understated elegance are also winning elements. Thailand-based architect Pascal Trahan has integrated French colonial and Laotian style, resulting in a visually harmonious blend, respecting the original hotel’s footprint, as well as the native trees, including a 200-year-old banyan.

The four images below aim to capture magical moments within the hotel; late afternoon sun, streaming into the onsite bistro, the pool at twilight, with floating candles and exotic flowers, the zen minimalist massage retreat and a detail of two refreshing  cucumber coolers.

Azerai Hotel Lunang Prabang

More examples of images from this photo shoot can be viewed in Wallpaper*  and in the “Hotels and Resorts” section of  michellechaplow.com

Hotel Camiral, Girona, Spain

Hotel Camiral is a member of Leading Hotels of the World and is less than an hour away from Barcelona, yet surrounded by countryside, and enjoys unrestricted views over the golf course to the Pyrenees. The interior design in this contemporary hotel  was carried out by Lazaro Rosa-Violan.

Hotel Camiral is part of The PGA Catalunya Resorts, photographer Michelle Chaplow and her Hotel Essence Photography crew were commissioned to photograph a series of images from this contemporary hotel. These included the hotel arrival experience, the new duplex apartments, the garden lobby, the fishing pier, a signature shot of the hotel from the golf course, the kids’ club, the lounge and bar, a selection of rooms, suites and bathrooms, and the pool bar by night, plus those all-important hotel essence details.

Contemporary Hotel Photography at Hotel Camiral

The Garden Lobby. Contemporary Hotel Photography at Hotel Camiral

The flowers for the photo shoot were provided and styled by flower designer Eduard Maynegra Laguarda, who brought fresh blooms daily during the five-day photo shoot.

Contemporary Floral designs, resinate the style of Hotel Camiral

Contemporary floral designs, resinate the style of Hotel Camiral

The aroma from the flowers in the dedicated conference/props room was heavenly. Production assistant Sarah Gatward spent many hours downloading and cataloguing images in the midst of fragrant floral displays.

Contemporary Hotel Photography at Hotel Camiral

Contemporary Hotel Photography at Hotel Camiral

The eye of the photographer, working hand in hand with the stylist is a winning combination, look at the placement of the breakfast items, block out the pastries and you will see that the image totally changes, it´s the small details that make all the difference in photography. To create this image, Michelle worked alongside room stylist Allan Stuart proprietor of Inventory Barcelona.

Rosemary Trigg, director of marketing at the PGA Catalunya Resort: “Many thanks to you and your team for the photos, we are delighted with the results and will start to incorporate them on our website and collateral.”

 Hotel Camiral, Barcelona

More Photography shot for contemporary five-star Hotel Camiral can be viewed here

In Summary 

Contemporary hotel photography needs to be captured with style and careful preparation. An experienced and talented photography crew will literally capture contemporary hotels in their very best light.

Hotel Essence Photo Quality Classification Chart – A guide for Hoteliers


Hotel Essence Photo Quality Classification ChartA guide for Hoteliers

Hotel Essence Photo Quality Classification Chart - A guide for Hoteliers

Quality versus time in Hotel Photography.

Commissioning hotel photography is difficult, because a photo shoot is intangible – until you see the results. If you buy a car, that is a tangible product and you can compare specifications against price, as well as different models. In photography a huge chasm exists between commissioning low and high-quality photography, just like the difference between buying a Ford Fiesta and a Rolls-Royce.

Let’s start with a question – how long does it take to photograph a hotel room?

  1. 5 minutes
  2. 20 minutes
  3. 1 hour
  4. 2 hours
  5. 4 hours

The answer is, ‘as long as a piece of string’ – in other words, all the answers could be correct, because it all depends on quality.

‘as long as a piece of string’

Professional hotel photographers could easily spend four hours on shooting one hotel room, between ensuring that every last detail in the room is perfect, from the crisply-ironed sheets and fresh flowers, to the spotless carpet and smear-free mirror, as well as no unsightly cables. Not to mention the lighting, a key element of any hotel photo shoot.

A five-star hotel recently asked us for a quotation, and so we asked what type of quality shoot they wanted. They immediately replied, “The very highest.” And the cost? “Oh, we want low-cost.” It’s impossible to match the two, and we saw the need to explain this clearly: that in Hotel Photography, time is directly related to quality.

Skill, experience and equipment

Again and again I hear – and see – the story of a local wedding photographer who offered to take architectural photos of a hotel in return for a free holiday, or the GM´s cousin with a camera who will do the shoot for a knock-down price.

Ask yourself: would you let your hotel maintenance department retouch your frescoes? Of course not, because it is highly unlikely that they have the specific degree of skill and experience required. The same applies to professional hotel photography.

A little warning to hoteliers

Low-cost photos are the most expensive of all. Why? I hear you ask. Because hotel photos aren’t just seen by people in your local area; the images of your establishment are out there online for the whole world to see. The potential guest on the other side of the world searching for hotels in your town or city may spot them – but he or she is checking out before she even checked in.

Why? Because the photos are not appealing – and they don’t do your justice to your beautiful property; they don’t show its historic façade, exquisite salons, or stunning setting as these unique features – and key selling points – deserve to be shown.

Once those pictures go up, you will never get them down again, and the damage to your hotel brand will be unlimited. If global celebrities, with all their power and contacts, can’t get compromising photos taken down from the net, then how can one single hotel, however prestigious and respected it might be?

Another scenario is the inexpensive semi-pro: you could hit lucky, but if something goes wrong, it’s highly unlikely they will have brought back-up lighting or architectural lenses; perhaps just one camera body and a couple of general-purpose lenses are not suitable for hotel photography, let alone the lack of expertise in such a specialist field. Why take the risk?

Photo Quality Classification Chart

In order to help our readers to understand this concept, Hotel Essence Photography have developed and published the first edition of The Hotel Essence Photo Quality Classification Chart. This detailed three-page document explains specifically the levels of quality that you can expect from a photographer, depending on the amount of time and expertise on offer.

This invaluable document was created for Michelle Chaplow´s keynote speech on Hotel Photography at the Annual Conference of Historic Hotels of America held in Virginia USA: “Guests Can Check Out of Your Hotel Before They Check In, Based on the Quality of Your Hotel’s Photos.”

The chart defines five different Photo Quality Classifications that a photographer could supply: “walk-in photo”, “low-cost photo” “medium-quality photo”, “high-quality photo”, and “hero shot”.

The chart describes for each of the above-mentioned classifications, all the stages of the photography process including room preparation, styling, shoot time, equipment, lighting, and crew, through to the back-up security policy for your hotel images and presentation.

Compare two examples of the same hotel room with different levels of quality 

A "walk-in" hotel bedroom photo which takes less tahn 5 minutes to shoot.

A “walk-in” hotel bedroom photo which takes less than 5 minutes to shoot. No time for styling, lighting, waiting for the weather, nor much contemplation on composition

The ‘high-quality photo’. This photo will have taken at least two hours to take.
The room is styled, bed specially prepared, styling and lighting in bathroom, optimum time of day and weather, good visibility, view included.

The “high-quality photo”. This photo will have taken at least two hours to take.
 The room is professionally styled, the bed and pillows specially prepared, lighting in bathroom, taken at the optimum time of day good weather and visibility. An attractive room with a view, will attract guests.


How to obtain your own copy of the Hotel Essence Photo Quality Classification Chart

If you would like your own copy of the chart, please subscribe to the blog (there is a box in the left hand margin to subscribe) and then email: info [at] hotelessencephotography dot com and we would be delighted to send it to you.

With a copy of the Hotel Essence Photo Quality Classification Chart, you will have all the information you need to help you understand and specify different levels of quality when commissioning your next hotel photo shoot.

Your hotel imagery is your visual message to the world, so be sure to invest in quality hotel photography. It will reap rewards for many years to come.