Before and After: Interior Hotel Photography at Waldorf Astoria DIFC, UAE

hospitality and hotel photography

Previously in this series, I’ve presented both interior and exterior photography for renowned hotel brands in different locations. In this blog I take you inside the Cigar Lounge at Waldorf Astoria DIFC in the United Arab Emirates.


Before – interior image of Cigar Lounge at Waldorf Astoria DIFC, photo by Gerry O’Leary

Situated on the 18th floor of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Dubai International Financial Centre, the Cigar Lounge is a sultry, stylish den right in the heart of the city. It’s my job to capture its essence and attract the right clientele through storytelling images.

Before setting up my camera, I had discussed with the Director of Sales and Marketing what kind of mood I should create in the photos. Although I decide on the composition, it’s important that we’re on the same page when it comes to telling the story.

Overcoming challenges in indoor hotel photography

At first glance, I knew that photographing the lounge was not without its challenges. When doing a recce, I noticed all the reflective surfaces, from the polished glass tables with decorative bronze edging and glass doors to the framed images hanging on the wall.

Previously, I’ve discussed how important natural light and timing are when shooting outdoors, however when I am photographing interiors I usually have to get creative when it comes to lighting.

I had to shoot the Cigar Lounge in the daytime, which meant that the floor-to-ceiling windows would allow a lot of sunlight into the room. This wasn’t setting the right ambiance for the lounge, so I had to simulate night to generate the desired effect.

I had to ‘black out’ the windows and use artificial lighting to set the mood.

What you can see from the ‘Before’ image is that natural light is seeping in. The Cigar Lounge’s expansive windows provide a great view of Dubai, however it washes out the room when photographed.

Staging the image

Staging the image is a crucial part of the photography process. I love symmetry in images, so I ensured the chairs at the front were equidistant from the tables before capturing the shot.

After: Interior Hotel Photography at Waldorf Astoria DIFC, UAE, Photography Gerry O'Leary
After – interior image of Cigar Lounge at Waldorf Astoria DIFC, photographed by Gerry O’Leary

Those with a keen eye will spot that not all the tables are matching in the ‘Before’ image. As this could distract the viewer’s eye, I had a member of housekeeping place a similar table to the ones in the foreground. This is where my extreme attention to detail comes into play. Some people might think it’s a small detail or unimportant, but I know it will make the final image perfect!

The final image

Once I’m satisfied that everything is in place to produce a good image, that’s when I click the shutter. Not once, but multiple times.

When you understand this process, the notion of a beautiful image being just ‘point and shoot’ fades away. If you capture a good image on your mobile phone, often that’s just luck. The world’s top hotel brands need to invest in their imagery as thousands of people view it daily.

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