When it comes to choosing a hotel room for our travels, many of us turn to the hotel’s website for guidance. We scroll through the photos of the various room types and amenities, hoping to get a sense of what our stay will be like.
But what if I told you that my criteria for choosing a hotel is actually based on the hotel with the worst photos or even stock photos?
The Art of Choosing Hotels with Bad Photos
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Why We Choose Hotels with the Worst Photos: The Logic Behind It
As professional hotel photographers, we know that bad photos can actually be a good thing for us. They often mean that the hotel is coming due for a renovation, or that they are losing money due to photos that don’t represent the actual location. On the flip side, stock photos usually mean that a hotel is either new or recently renovated. Either way , if reviews are good, I always choose the one with the worst photos!
Hotel brand standards require uniformity across all of their properties. Old photos mean that even if the rooms haven’t been updated, the linens must be. If I see a hotel that has old linens that are more than two or three iterations old, then I know that they will have been required to update the rooms, even if the rest of the hotel hasn’t been updated.
When that happens, they’re out of compliance with the hotel’s marketing standards, and that’s usually a hint to me that they’ll be required, within not too long, to update their photos, even if they’re not having a new renovation. It can also mean the hotel is or was in in distress and might have new ownership.
Reading Between the Lines: How Hotel Brand Standards can Reveal the Truth
As guests vs. vendors, we are treated with a level of respect and attention that we might not receive as a cold call walking into a hotel. This gives us the perfect opportunity to experience the hotel and its amenities while also getting a sense of how it feels to stay there. We can take note of the small details that may not be captured in website photos, such as the staff’s level of service and the cleanliness of the rooms.
- ‘A picture tells a thousand words’ is especially true for us after photographing more than a thousand hotels for more than 50 brands. We are familiar with most brand standards and even wrote the hotel photography standards for several hotel brands! That’s to say we know when an owner is cutting corners!
- When staying in a hotel as a guest, we not only get to experience the accommodations firsthand but also get a glimpse into what it would be like to work with the hotel ownership. If we notice that the hotel has a lot of deferred maintenance and unhappy staff, we have learned that it probably means the experience working with them as a hotel content creator or UGC creator would mirror that.
On the other hand, if we see that the hotel is well-maintained, and the staff is friendly and accommodating, it’s an excellent indication that they prioritize guest satisfaction and would likely be open to collaborations and partnerships.
The Bottom Line: Warm Welcome beats Cold Call
In addition to taking photos, creating a blog or social media account specifically for hotel content can be a great way to showcase your work and build a following. By consistently sharing high-quality photos and honest reviews, you can establish yourself as a trusted source for hotel recommendations and insights. Remember evergreen content such as YouTube videos and blog posts can generate traffic indefinitely.
Overall, visiting hotels as a guest or for a quick photo shoot can be a great way to build your portfolio and potentially open up new opportunities in the hospitality industry. Just remember to be respectful, follow the hotel’s policies, and give AND get credit where credit is due.
When Our Warm Cold Calls Turn into Referrals: The Story of a Successful Hotel Photo Shoot
This unconventional approach led us to one hotel in Roanoke, VA in the middle of the night, which took us a little bit out of our way but turned out to be a fantastic new hotel. Despite the unimpressive stock photos on their website, we were not surprised to find that the hotel was brand new and in pristine condition…and almost ready for photos!
During our quick stay, we introduced ourselves and left our card. On the way out of the parking lot, I emailed a thank you to the manager who forwarded it to the owner. Not only did we photograph that hotel, the owner has referred me to her peers and we recently photographed a sister property.
Sometimes, the worst photos can lead to the best experiences. This was certainly the case with both of these hotels. Thanks to the team at Holiday Inn Express and Suites Largo, MD for a great hotel photo shoot!