As the experiential travel market continues to grow, with guests focusing on adventure, unique and shareable experiences, and local immersion, it is more important now than ever that B&B owners differentiate themselves from competition. To our minds, there is no stronger format for capturing the minds of experiential travelers than experiential hospitality photography. The content below is a supplement to our recent podcast interview with Mark Smith and Matthew Lovette of Jumping Rocks Photography.
Using Photography to Drive Bookings
Quality hospitality photography should go beyond describing a space, the fare of your everyday real estate photographer, and should strive to conjure up mood and emotion. When done right, these types of photos will lead to increased occupancy, higher room rates and a tangible effect on your bottom line. Mark Smith and Matthew Lovette of Jumping Rocks Photography combine propping with artificial lighting to replicate time of day and create an experience that transports potential guests to the Inn. According to Mark, “the most important part is the feeling and mood you are creating that makes people respond to and act on that picture.”
What’s Outside Counts
This powerful tool goes beyond interior shots of coffee in guestrooms and enjoying evening wine by the fireplace. Understanding the guest perspective is critical to creating photographs that drive bookings. Does your Inn have a set of chairs in the backyard that face a river? Then that’s where guests want to be! Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and prop the outside of your Inn so that your future guests can imagine sitting or swinging (hammocks anyone?) by the river.
According to Matthew Lovette and supported by the huge popularity of Instagram, Food Network, and beyond – food drives people’s travels . As a Bed and Breakfast, it is critical to round out the Inn experience. First off, your website should feature quality photos of your food. (Fortunately, food photography is one of the most accessible forms for the non-professional. See Jumping Rocks’ blog on the subject here.) The vacation rental market doesn’t offer food service typically and the food service element of B&Bs is how Inns differentiate themselves and support their rates. Don’t underestimate the value of your service and the quality of your breakfasts!
There has been an explosion of growth in video on social media in recent years which raises the question of whether B&Bs need to board the bandwagon. Mark and Matthew acknowledge that video can be a great thing to have, but it is not fundamental for most Inns.
Video can be a powerful tool if you have a unique story to tell (think bicycle tours, horseback riding, canoeing, cooking classes, etc.). While these videos can be professional shot, user or guest generated content, including video shot on a cell phone, will be compelling to your guests because there’s a compelling story to tell. Videography of interiors that can measure up to still photography is a very rare thing, simply because of the high cost of producing high quality (motion picture level) video.
A word to the wise: don’t drop thousands of dollars to produce a quick video segment if you don’t already have your marketing bread and butter – quality, experiential photos.
Bedding and Styling
A good hospitality photographer should go beyond shooting rooms and will not only prop the Inn for the shoot, but will offer suggestions for styling based on industry trends. A guiding principle when considering the decor and styling of your Inn is that when you walk into a guestroom the first view should excite you.
When you step into a guest room your eye is drawn immediately to the bed. When made up with white, crisp sheets and decorative touches, the bed becomes a statement in the room which can instantly add a feeling of luxury and comfort to the guest experience. (As an aside, avoid too many decorative pillows – it’s an issue of sanitation and will keep housekeeper’s happy.)
Too often there’s no artwork on the wall, or there may be a large wall with a very small piece of art. Mark and Matthew note that it isn’t expensive to find art that addresses the area surrounding the Inn. Build meaningful collections from pieces purchased at flea markets and thrift stores to add to your individual brand.
Advice for New Innkeepers
- If you can invest in one thing bedding is first. Before you bring a photographer in, do your research, talk to linen experts to determine your style and generally de-clutter the guestrooms.
- After one of month of ownership, invest in a photo shoot. At the very least, have some quality photos taken for homepage pictures and for press/directories.
- Hire a hospitality photographer that specializes in small lodging. There are a few great photographers out there and they often end up re-shooting the work of generalists photographers. Too often photos are doing a disservice to the Inn.
To end with a final word from Mark Smith, “Pictures are the goose that laid the golden egg – they draw people to the Inn and keep money in your bank account.”