A guide to hostel photography- how to photograph your dorms
Posted on 6 June 2018
Making your hostel look its best doesn’t require you to hire a professional photographer. While a pro will do a great job, you can save yourself time and money with a decent camera and a bit of knowhow. Here are the most important things to think about when photographing your hostel.
When photographing rooms and other areas in your hostel, make sure that you set them up a bit first. Staging a room is vital to get that professional looking shot. Staging tells a story and potential customers want to see that. Turn down a bed and put a couple of props like an open book, a cup of coffee and bowl of fruit into the scene to make it inviting. If you are photographing breakfast, be sure to get the freshest and best looking items you offer and set the table up in a way that entices someone to want to eat it. Exteriors should be cleaned thoroughly and staged to welcome guests.
As important as putting things in the room, is taking things out. Remove furniture and make room for better shots. Rooms already don’t have much space photographically. When you shoot a room, you are not trying to capture it exactly as it is, you are telling a story. Get rid of clutter and electrical cords. Take away the stack of magazines and small items that are filling the shelves. You should think about what you want to portray before you even take your first photo.
Lighting fundamentally changes a room. Outside shots are dependent on the sunlight, but indoor shots are too. Try using natural light if possible. Time your shoot so that you get the best light from the windows. Normally the morning or the golden hour around sunset give better lighting. NEVER take indoor photos at night time. Natural light is better, because a camera doesn’t see things in the same way as the human eye - it can’t adjust in the same way. Turn off the artificial lights and see the results in your photos. Lightbulbs will create strange shadows and reflect in the mirrors. If you must use lamps and lights, then stage them so that you get the most natural look possible and use only small flash units.
Choose an optimal lens to photograph your hostel’s interiors. Shooting the outside gives you a lot more room for manoeuvre, but inside, you need to open up the space. Do this with a wide angle lens. The temptation is to go super wide, but this distorts the image and can give you a fisheye look that is not desirable. Most professional photographers agree that a 16mm to 24mm lens achieves the best results. Use a standard lens for the closeups, but when you are shooting the room as a whole, go with the wide angle to make it appear more like it does to the human eye.
While you can be a little creative in terms of artistic angles and slanted shots outside your hostel, when you are photographing the inside, keep it simple. Shoot straight on and avoid dramatic angles. Use the architectural framework of the room as a guide when choosing your shots. If you have a grid in the viewfinder or screen of your camera, then use it to line up everything straight. High or low is not an issue, but having the camera straight will make a huge difference. Ensure that the vertical lines are straight up and down. This is the most important correction, because if the vertical lines of the room are narrower at the top or bottom, it will give the appearance of the room falling away and it is not pleasing to the eye. Shooting straight with strong vertical lines will make for a more balanced photo with more cropping options further down the line.
To really open up the space, shoot from the corner of the room. Positioning the camera as far into the corner as possible gives you the widest perspective. This means that you can capture more of the room and its character. If you can get the camera higher, but still straight, it will make for a grander shot, particularly in larger communal areas. Also, think about capturing the room through the doorway from another room if it gets you a better shot.
To keep your camera level, use a tripod. The tripod will stay steady when hands cannot so you can get a crisp, clean shot. They come with a spirit level built in ensuring a straight shot. Using the tripod will also allow for slower shutter speeds and more room to play with the aperture.
Knowing your aperture will enable you to get a better depth of field in your photos. The lower the aperture number (f-stop), the larger the hole and vice versa. If you are shooting a closeup, then you can use a low f-stop to get focus on the main item, but a blurred background. If you are shooting a whole room, then make sure your f-top is high for sharply focussed shots. This will enable you to tell the story you want by highlighting the elements you want people to notice in each photograph.
Most people tend to shoot in JPEG format, which means you lose a lot of data, as it is a compressed file. If you want to get all of the photographic data for post-production, then switch your camera settings to shoot in RAW. RAW is an uncompressed file type that keeps all of the raw data from the shot without pixelation. The benefits of shooting in raw are that it gives you a lot more control over the image when you process it. You will find that RAW allows you to retrieve the data from blown-out or underexposed images and manipulate it a lot better than in a JPEG. Photoshop and Lightroom both are excellent for working with RAW and will give you a JPEG output after processing.
Many people worry about using post production software such as Photoshop. When it comes to making your hostel shots really exciting, manipulating the images will give them a professional look. Since photos often don’t come out looking like you expect, you can play around with highlights, shadows, saturation, vibrancy and levels. You can crop the photo and make it look just like you want it to. You should not, however, rely entirely on post production to correct everything. Setting up the shot before shooting will make the post production a simpler operation.
When you add your hostel to the Dorms.com inventory, be sure to include large, high quality images, and follow the tips above to ensure your dorms are presented in the best possible way to customers.