Last month we shared our upcoming instagram experiment with all of you. In two months we launch the TheBedandBrunchProject on Instagram. Those of you who are participating (or thinking about participating) have been tasked with taking lots of photos of your bed and breakfast over these summer months, so you’ll have plenty of pictures to choose from come September. But what can you do to make your bed and breakfast look flawless, especially when you’re innkeeper-in-chief and the resident photographer – shooting on a smartphone, no less? Well, to answer that, we turned to a pro: Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography. Many of you may already know Marcus. He specializes in hospitality imagery, has been at several innkeeping conferences, and has taken countless photos of bed and breakfasts, inns, boutique hotels, and others – in every nook and cranny across the United States.
Here are his 5 tips to take #Instagrammable photos of your B&B:
Tip #1: Lighting is key.
One of the main keys to great photography is great lighting. “There’s a different mood for each type of lighting at each B&B,” explains Marcus. “My desire is to capture the mood early in the morning or, not at night but at dusk, and primarily I like to get the lights on in the facility to provide that warmth.” He goes on to say that ambient lighting, that orange tone, and the hospitable feel, is “the pineapple of warmth.” It beckons you. “You’re greeted. You’re here to stay. You feel like you’re at home; that’s the whole concept.” He also says to remember to open the front door when you shoot the exterior so that it creates a sense of coming in. “You want the photo to say ‘Come in, the door’s open.’ You don’t want the door to be closed. A closed door is a block.” (See photo below for an example: )
Tip #2: When Shooting the Interior of Your B&B, Show the Outside Too.
“Do not shoot a room with sun shining into the windows, unless you have the appropriate lighting to make that shot really work,” stresses Marcus. “You want to shoot the interior when you can see the exterior as well. When people go to B&B they like the rooms but they want to see what’s outside, what the view is, where they’re located, that’s part of the reason why they’re there. They’re not coming to B&B just for the room. They’re coming because they want to see what’s around there.” Marcus suggests you open the windows and take the screens off you so that you can get a clear view. Just like with exterior shots, he suggests an early morning photo shoot of snapping pics at sunrise or at dusk. Also, turn some lights on in the room. If you’re good with Photoshop, make sure to remove ‘eyesores’ like lamp cables and wires from your photos. If computer software isn’t your forte, do your best to tuck or hide the cables so they’re not quite as visible.
Tip #3: Show Your B&Bs Personality.
Every bed and breakfast has its own unique personality. To show it off, create a mood. “Turn on the fireplace, create a place setting with cheese and crackers, or place a towel, some sunglasses, and orange juice or a Mai Tai by a poolside chair. You want to inspire the viewer to want to stay at your place. The mood is like the invitation of why they should stay,” says Marcus. If your B&B has a mug with a logo on it, put it in on a coffee table (make sure you can see the liquid), and position an open book nearby, maybe a pair of reading glasses, perhaps a pastry. Be creative and set the scene.
Tip #4: Mind Your Manners.
It’s important to keep boundaries (and legalities) in mind, says Marcus. “You never show a person in a bathtub or shower, that’s invasive. Now if you have a group of people sitting around a bonfire chit-chatting at dusk, shooting it from afar is nice,” he says. If you have guests that are camera-friendly and they don’t mind you taking a photo of them sitting on the porch enjoying the view or playing checkers get a photo of them involved in the game.” Marcus recalls once taking a photo of innkeepers playing ping pong with a guest. He took the photo from behind the guest and in front of the innkeeper – this way he caught the action, respected the guest’s privacy, and was able to get a person (the innkeeper) in the lens. “That worked well because that way I had approval for posting it and I didn’t need a legal document for a model release. If you show a face you need to get a model release,” he reminded.
Tip #5: Keep Coming Back to Lighting, Composition, and Angle.
Lighting we’ve just heard about but what about composition and angle? Actually, what are compositions and angles?
“Composition is what you have in the photograph,” explains Marcus. “Composition is being able to get the table with the chair with the roaring fireplace in view; maybe a little more to the right there’s an open door to a bathroom, and then you see the toilet seat is up. You don’t want that! You want to compose it so you get everything you want in the photo and not just your subject.” Marcus says to examine your photos closely –both as you take them and after. You want your shots free of garbage cans, clocks, radios, and any unnecessary items. “ Less is best,” is his mantra. “Our mind has an availability to create additional imagery.”
Angle refers to a unique style for each situation. “Take breakfast, for example, you want to get the right angle to shoot foods. If you have something tall you want to be to the side of it. You don’t want to be over it. Whereas if it’s flat, by shooting from the side you won’t see much; you want to shoot from the top,” he explains. “Then there’s lighting again,” Marcus reminds. “You want to be near a window or a light source to make sure it’s back lit.”
And here's another view: