Hotel Exterior Photography 101: Essential Tips for Success

Michael • May 3, 2023 • 8 min read

Hotel Exterior Photography

In today’s digital age, hotel exterior photography has become an essential marketing tool for hoteliers, as it provides potential guests with a visually compelling and inviting glimpse into the property. A well-executed photograph can entice travelers, persuade them to book a stay, and ultimately contribute to the hotel’s success.

In this article, we’ll explore various techniques and tips to capture stunning hotel exterior photographs that will make any property stand out. We’ll discuss pre-photography preparation, the optimal time of day for shooting, selecting angles and compositions, enhancing the hotel exterior, post-production editing, and sharing the final images.


1. Pre-Photography Preparation

A. Identifying the objective of the shoot

Before embarking on your hotel photography adventure, it’s crucial to establish the goal of the shoot. Are you aiming to showcase the property’s architectural splendor, promote its amenities, or highlight its picturesque surroundings?

Perhaps you want to create images for hotel branding, interior architecture photography, or even food and beverage photos. Having a clear objective will help guide your creative decisions throughout the process and ensure that your images effectively convey the hotel’s unique selling points. 

B. Researching the property and surroundings

Familiarize yourself with the hotel and its environment. Study its architectural style, unique features, and the surrounding landscape. This knowledge will allow you to anticipate potential challenges and opportunities when planning your shoot. Look for any visually striking elements, such as a majestic entrance, an eye-catching façade, or a beautifully landscaped garden.

Additionally, consider the hotel’s location and how it fits into the local context. Is it nestled within a bustling urban setting, perched atop a scenic cliff, or enveloped by a serene forest? Understanding the property’s relationship with its surroundings will help you capture images that tell a compelling story.

Monitor the weather forecast

C. Checking weather conditions

Monitor the weather forecast and select a day with favorable conditions for your shoot. Overcast skies can create a soft, even light, while a sunny day can lead to dramatic shadows and contrast.

Keep in mind that different weather conditions can evoke various moods and atmospheres, so choose the one that best aligns with your objective.

For instance, a misty morning might lend a touch of mystery to a historic hotel, while a golden sunset can accentuate the warmth and charm of a beachfront resort.

D. Gathering equipment and accessories

Ensure you have all the necessary equipment and accessories to execute your shoot successfully. A high-quality DSLR or mirrorless camera with a wide-angle lens is essential for capturing sweeping exterior shots. A tripod will provide stability and allow for long exposures, especially during sunrise and sunset photography.

Don’t forget extra batteries, memory cards, and a lens cleaning kit to keep your gear in top shape.

Obtaining necessary permissions and permits

E. Obtaining necessary permissions and permits

Before setting foot on the property, make sure you have the required permissions and permits. Reach out to the hotel management and discuss your plans, ensuring they understand the purpose and scope of your shoot.

Some locations may require a photography permit, particularly if you’re shooting for commercial purposes. Obtaining the necessary approvals in advance will help avoid any legal issues or misunderstandings during the shoot.

F. Preparing a shot list

A well-prepared shot list will serve as a roadmap for your shoot, helping you stay organized and efficient. Start by listing the key exterior features and angles you’d like to capture, prioritizing them based on your objectives.

Consider incorporating a mix of wide shots that showcase the entire property, medium shots that highlight specific architectural details, and close-ups that reveal interesting textures and materials. Read all about how to prepare for a hotel photo shoot.

Remember to include a variety of perspectives, such as eye-level views, low-angle shots, and elevated vantage points, to create a dynamic and engaging visual narrative.

Golden hour

2. Choosing the Right Time of Day

A. The importance of lighting

Lighting plays a critical role in hotel exterior photography, as it can dramatically influence the mood, atmosphere, and overall visual appeal of your images. The right lighting can enhance the property’s architectural features, emphasize its unique characteristics, and create a sense of depth and dimension.

Conversely, poor lighting can result in flat, uninteresting images that fail to capture the hotel’s true essence. As such, it’s essential to carefully plan your shoot around the optimal times of day to ensure that your images are bathed in the most flattering and captivating light.

B. Golden hour and blue hour

Two of the most magical times to photograph a hotel exterior are during the golden hour and the blue hour. The golden hour refers to the brief period just after sunrise and before sunset when the sun is low in the sky, casting a warm, soft light that bathes the landscape in a golden glow.

This enchanting light can imbue your images with a sense of warmth and romance, accentuating the hotel’s architectural details and creating long, dramatic shadows.

The blue hour, on the other hand, occurs just before sunrise and after sunset, when the sky takes on a deep blue hue and the ambient light casts a cool, tranquil glow.

During this time, artificial lights – such as street lamps, building lights, and illuminated signs – begin to balance with the natural light, creating a visually striking contrast between the hotel’s warm interior glow and the cool blue tones of the sky.

Photographing a hotel exterior during the blue hour can lend a sense of serenity and sophistication to your images, setting the stage for a memorable and inviting visual narrative.

C. Avoiding harsh midday light

While the golden hour and blue hour offer prime opportunities for hotel exterior photography, it’s generally best to avoid shooting during the harsh midday light.

When the sun is high in the sky, it can cast intense, direct light that results in unflattering shadows, overexposed highlights, and a lack of contrast. This unforgiving light can flatten the hotel’s architectural features, making it difficult to capture the property’s true charm and character.

If you must photograph a hotel exterior during the middle of the day, try to find creative ways to work with the challenging lighting conditions. For instance, you could use a polarizing filter to cut through glare and enhance the sky’s color, or you could seek out shaded areas where the light is more diffused and even.

Alternatively, you could experiment with high dynamic range (HDR) photography techniques to better capture the range of tones and shadows in the scene.

Ultimately, by carefully considering the time of day and lighting conditions, you can ensure that your hotel exterior photographs are as visually captivating and evocative as possible.

Shooting Angles and Compositions

3. Selecting Shooting Angles and Compositions

A. Identifying the property’s best angles and features

To create visually captivating hotel exterior photographs, it’s essential to identify the property’s best angles and features. Start by walking around the hotel and scouting for unique perspectives that showcase the building’s architectural elements, such as grand entrances, intricate façades, or sweeping staircases.

Look for views that emphasize the hotel’s relationship with its surroundings, whether that means capturing a bustling cityscape or framing the property against a breathtaking mountain backdrop.

Experiment with different vantage points, such as shooting from a low angle to emphasize the hotel’s grandeur or using an elevated position to capture a bird’s-eye view of the property. Keep in mind that some angles may be more flattering than others, so be sure to review your images on the camera’s LCD screen and adjust your position as needed.

B. Avoiding visual distractions

When composing your shots, it’s important to eliminate visual distractions that could detract from the hotel’s beauty. This may include cluttered foregrounds, unsightly objects, or intrusive elements like power lines and traffic signs. Be mindful of your framing and use creative techniques, such as selective focus or strategic positioning, to minimize or eliminate these distractions.

C. Considering camera height and tilt

The camera height and tilt can significantly impact the perception of a hotel’s size and scale in your images. Shooting at eye level can create a sense of familiarity and relatability, while shooting from a lower angle can make the hotel appear more imposing and majestic.

Conversely, shooting from an elevated position can provide a unique bird’s-eye view of the property, revealing patterns and shapes that may be hidden from ground level.

When adjusting your camera’s tilt, be mindful of vertical lines and perspective distortion. Tilting the camera up can cause vertical lines to converge, making the building appear to lean backward, while tilting the camera down can make the lines diverge, creating a sense of distortion.

To maintain straight vertical lines, keep your camera level and parallel to the ground, or consider using a tilt-shift lens to correct perspective distortion.

symmetry and leading lines

D. Utilizing symmetry and leading lines

Incorporating symmetry and leading lines in your compositions can create a sense of balance, harmony, and depth, drawing the viewer’s eye through the image and toward the hotel’s most striking features.

Look for elements such as pathways, hedges, or architectural lines that can serve as leading lines, guiding the viewer’s attention to the hotel’s entrance or other focal points.

Symmetry can be achieved by carefully aligning the camera with the center of the building or finding a vantage point that showcases the hotel’s balanced proportions. This can create a sense of order and elegance, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of your images.

When utilizing symmetry and leading lines, remember to keep your horizons level and your vertical lines straight to maintain a polished and professional appearance.

4. Enhancing the Hotel Exterior

A. Preparing the environment

Before you begin shooting, take the time to prepare the hotel’s exterior environment to ensure that your images are as visually appealing as possible. This may involve tidying up the landscape, removing any litter or debris, and arranging outdoor furniture to create a welcoming and inviting scene.

If the hotel has exterior lighting, such as pathway lights or façade illumination, ensure that they are switched on and functioning properly. This not only enhances the property’s appearance but also adds depth and interest to your photographs.

Working with props and models

B. Working with props and models

Incorporating props and models into your hotel exterior photography can help bring the scene to life, providing a sense of scale and creating a more relatable and engaging visual narrative and lifestyle feeling.

For instance, you might stage a luxury car in front of the hotel’s entrance or arrange a group of elegantly dressed models to evoke a sense of sophistication and glamour.

When working with props and models, be mindful of their placement and ensure that they complement the hotel’s overall aesthetic without detracting from the property’s architectural features. Additionally, consider using props and models to tell a story, whether that means showcasing the hotel’s unique amenities or highlighting the property’s connection to its local community.

C. Enhancing the landscape

The hotel’s surrounding landscape can greatly impact the overall perception of the property, so it’s essential to ensure that it’s well-maintained and visually appealing. This may involve trimming overgrown vegetation, planting colorful flowers, or adding decorative elements like fountains or sculptures.

If you’re shooting during a particular season, consider incorporating seasonal elements into your images, such as fall foliage, blooming flowers, or freshly fallen snow. This not only adds visual interest to your photographs but also helps convey a sense of time and place, allowing potential guests to envision themselves at the hotel throughout the year.

D. Adding special effects

While it’s essential to capture the hotel’s true essence, incorporating special effects can add an extra layer of intrigue and creativity to your images. This might involve using long exposures to blur moving elements like clouds or water, or employing light painting techniques to create vibrant streaks of color across the scene.

When experimenting with special effects, it’s crucial to strike a balance between creativity and realism, ensuring that your images remain visually engaging without veering too far from the hotel’s authentic appearance. Additionally, be mindful of overusing special effects, as they can quickly become gimmicky and detract from the property’s unique features and charm.

For a deeper dive into photo ideas, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide about Hotel Photography Ideas.

Post-Production Editing

5. Post-Production Editing

A. Basic adjustments and enhancements

Once you’ve captured your hotel exterior photographs, the post-production editing process begins. Start with basic adjustments and enhancements to improve the overall quality of your images.

This may involve adjusting the exposure, contrast, and saturation to ensure that the photos are well-balanced and visually appealing.

You might also tweak the white balance to achieve a natural and accurate representation of colors or apply sharpening to emphasize the hotel’s architectural details.

B. Advanced editing techniques

After making basic adjustments, you can explore advanced editing techniques to further refine your images. These techniques may include:

  • Dodging and burning: Selectively brighten or darken specific areas of your image to create a sense of depth and dimension, drawing attention to the hotel’s most striking features.
  • HDR (High Dynamic Range) blending: Combine multiple exposures of the same scene to create a single image with a greater range of tones and details in both the shadows and highlights.
  • Panorama stitching: Merge several images taken from the same vantage point to create a wide-angle or 360-degree view of the hotel’s exterior.

When applying advanced editing techniques, be mindful of maintaining a natural and authentic appearance, as over-editing can result in images that appear artificial or unrealistic.

C. Removing unwanted elements

In some cases, you may need to remove unwanted elements from your images, such as distracting objects, unsightly blemishes, or people who inadvertently wandered into the frame. Use tools like the Clone Stamp or Healing Brush in editing software like Adobe Photoshop to seamlessly eliminate these distractions, ensuring that your images remain focused on the hotel’s exterior and its unique features.

D. Creating a consistent image style

Finally, strive to create a consistent image style across your entire collection of hotel exterior photographs. This may involve applying similar color grading, tonal adjustments, or filters to ensure that your images maintain a cohesive look and feel.

A consistent image style not only enhances the overall professionalism of your portfolio but also helps to convey the hotel’s distinct brand identity.

By carefully considering each step of the post-production editing process, from basic adjustments to advanced techniques, you can transform your raw hotel exterior photographs into polished, captivating images that effectively showcase the property and its unique characteristics.

6. 5 Hotels with Appealing Exterior Photos

  1. Burj Al Arab, Dubai – The sail-shaped hotel located on a private island is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. URL: 
  2. Bvlgari Resort Bali, Indonesia – The exotic and luxurious cliffside resort with Balinese-style architecture and stunning ocean views offers a unique and indulgent escape. 
  3. Atlantis The Palm, Dubai – The iconic resort with a unique ocean-themed design is a favorite among families and adventure-seekers. URL: 
  4. La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco – The historic palace-turned-hotel with a beautiful Moorish-style exterior and stunning gardens is a haven for relaxation and luxury. 
  5. Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino, Italy – The picturesque pink and yellow building nestled in a hillside overlooking the sea exudes Old World glamour. 

7. Conclusion

In this article, we’ve explored the various aspects of hotel exterior photography, including:

  • Pre-photography preparation: Identifying the objective of the shoot, researching the property and surroundings, checking weather conditions, gathering equipment and accessories, obtaining necessary permissions and permits, and preparing a shot list.
  • Choosing the right time of day: The importance of lighting, golden hour and blue hour, and avoiding harsh midday light.
  • Selecting shooting angles and compositions: Identifying the property’s best angles and features, avoiding visual distractions, considering camera height and tilt, and utilizing symmetry and leading lines.
  • Enhancing the hotel exterior: Preparing the environment, working with props and models, enhancing the landscape, and adding special effects.
  • Post-production editing: Basic adjustments and enhancements, advanced editing techniques, removing unwanted elements, and creating a consistent image style.

Final thoughts and recommendations

Hotel exterior photography is an art form that requires careful planning, creative vision, and technical expertise. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can create captivating images that effectively showcase the hotel’s unique characteristics and appeal to potential guests.

Remember to approach each shoot with a clear objective in mind, and take the time to thoroughly research and prepare for each session. Experiment with different angles, compositions, and lighting conditions to capture the hotel’s essence and convey a sense of atmosphere and emotion.

Enhance your images with creative props, models, and special effects, and refine your photographs with post-production editing to create a polished and professional final product.

By consistently applying these principles and practices, you can elevate your hotel exterior photography skills and create stunning images that effectively capture the beauty, elegance, and allure of the world’s most exceptional properties.

What are your thoughts on Hotel Exterior Photography? Let us know in the comments.

By Furoore team member Michael
Furoore Team is here to assist you in capturing the most significant moments in your life. To create exciting photographs, discover photography guides, find unique photo ideas, and limitless image inspiration.


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