Help Your Hotel Stand Out From the Crowd Through Evocative Photography and Photogenic Design

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes | 1142 words

These days anyone can offer eco-friendly, luxury, state-of-the-art services but it’s the unique features, character and design of a place that are the most important and are what will make a hotel stand out above the rest. Capturing the essence of these through photography has never been more important as hotels compete fiercely for guest bookings. It’s the feel of a place and its location that will prompt guests to book.

Because of this, hoteliers are taking the time to review their online presence, their brand’s story, concept, feel and design to ensure they are aligned and being showcased accurately and authentically.

Does the story of your property come through in your marketing? Does your hotel’s visual narrative evoke the feeling a guest can expect if they were to stay with you? Or do the pictures make the viewer feel flat and uninspired, with no sense of what your hotel offers or experience they can look forward to?

The importance of providing an authentic visual portrayal of your hotel’s experience

Authenticity in how a hotel is portrayed is becoming increasingly important to travellers who want to see what a place is really like before they book, compared to its immaculate Instagram-worthy online representation that is rapidly being seen as unreliable.

Savvy brands are recruiting lifestyle photographers to capture the essence of their space as a key way to present an authentic brand image. Compare the honest and lived-in photography style of a slept in bed or disheveled towel on a deckchair versus a sterile shot of a perfectly made up room with an immaculate bed and all lights blazing.

“Many people are inspired to travel by researching destinations on social media, but when they finally arrive the reality can be somewhat disappointing. This has created a growing dissatisfaction for phoney representations of places and how people share their travels online – and this is set to forge a new type of influencer. One of honesty, humanity and connection as opposed to the current prevalence towards a carefully constructed online persona of unattainable perfection.”The Comms Collective

There are different ways to photograph a property

  1. Sterile photography; immaculate room, untouched bed, all lights on. 
  2. Lived-in homely feel; slept in bed, newspaper and half eaten breakfast on table. Tells a story, evocative. 

Meaningful travellers are increasingly wanting to feel something, to feel as though they live at a location even if only for a weekend as opposed to just having a bed to sleep in. They want a story to tell, but first we must present them with that story. We must create the story for them.

Below are some examples of evocative storytelling of a space through photography followed by a flatter, more manicured viewpoint of another property. One presents the feel, the other presents the facts.

Above: evocative storytelling of a space through photography.

Above: factual, emotionless, bland photography.

Photogenic design

By taking the time to curate and execute a beautiful design concept, photographers – hobbyists and professionals alike – will flock to your property to capture the essence of your space in their own way.

This is invaluable free marketing. When people see that a place is being shared on Instagram or Pinterest, they think “well, I want to go there and take a picture like that too”. Someone sharing a beautiful photo is the social media equivalent of a positive review.

When curating the feel that you want your space to possess, consider the textures that the eye can enjoy, the lighting that provides depth and intensity, a unique design feature or characteristic flaw to provide a sense of place and authenticity.

These organic features provide photographers with a plethora of moods, concepts and stories to play with and as such each will come up with their own unique viewpoint enabling your property to be seen in a wide array of styles and moods. This offers viewers an opportunity to appreciate your property through new eyes. Perhaps a bright and airy portrayal of your property is a commonly shared viewpoint, however one photographer might come in and capture an entirely different, darker, cosier mood thus giving a different take. This alternative take might appeal to certain viewers who were not so intrigued by the lighter images.

It’s worth investing in individual design, unique to one particular hotel, telling the story of the location and brand and sharing the local culture as opposed to a cookie-cutter design.

Sharing the essence of your hotel on Pinterest & Instagram

Pinterest and Instagram are visual platforms that savvy hotel marketers are increasingly utilising. They are often the first port of call during the research phase for tech-savvy travellers. Beautiful design/styling and good photography/video is essential to get seen on these platforms.

Your Website

Websites and social media are often the first impression a potential guest has of a hotel. To increase the desirability of a place, the website and social media must present a “vibe”, a story, a visual narrative, showcasing to a potential guest what it would feel like to stay there. This is done through an intuitively designed website, evocative photography and compelling videos.

An honest visual narrative and website copy will go a long way in securing the trust of guests. There’s nothing worse than turning up to a hotel that has been hyped up online only to find it falling short in the clear light of day.

If you have multiple hotels within your brand

To ensure a consistent feel is presented to the world when promoting multiple different hotels, it would be prudent to hire one photographer to stay at each of the hotels to photograph each individual hotel in their style. This way each hotel can portray their uniqueness but with a familiar and consistent thread throughout (the photographer’s style/eye). This will also help your social media account to have a consistent feel rather than an ad hoc visual narrative.

This will ensure that the photographic style, editing style, settings, colour, ambience and storytelling style is consistent regardless of how varied your properties and locations are.

An example of a brand doing this well is Unique Homestays, a British brand with curated collections of luxury retreats, from architect-designed masterpieces to pared-back beach houses and flamboyant country homes in acres of secret gardens. Their website and social media feeds provide a consistent feel, even though they showcase a wide variety of properties. This is due to their use of one individual photographer who stays in each location and tells the story of each place in their own style.

The Unique Homestays Instagram feed – @uniquehomestays


Exemplary service, opulent luxury and an inspiring location is no longer enough to stand out from the crowds. Your hotel must have something extra to inspire. These extras are provided through:

  • Characterful and photogenic design
  • Evocative storytelling through photography and video
  • Unique experiences (we will discuss this in depth during a future article, subscribe in the footer below to receive an email each time we publish)

Collectively, these extras are what make people say “I want to go there!”.

Unsure of your next step? Get clear on your hotel’s recovery strategy

Gain access to our COVID-19 Hotel Reopening Checklist

As COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear completely without an effective vaccine, it’s expected that we will have a W shaped recovery with lock downs repeatedly being enforced, relaxed and enforced again over time. Being prepared for this tumultuous recovery will stand you and your hotel in good stead to ride the waves to come.

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About Magpie Creative Co.

Magpie Creative Co. is a digital marketing and design consultancy with a worldwide client base. We provide branding, web design and online marketing for businesses that offer luxury guest experiences and require an efficient online booking system.

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