Before – interior image of the hammam at Zara Spa, Grand Hyatt Amman, photo by Gerry O’Leary
Hospitality photography takes a lot of preparation. In this series, I demonstrate how I carefully prepare the scene to capture the best image.
Located just a short walk from downtown Amman, the Grand Hyatt Amman is a carved pink stone building that offers five-star luxury on the doorstep of some of the world’s most famous historic sites. I have been an approved professional hospitality photographer for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts for over a decade, photographing their grand properties across the globe so before I arrived to Jordan and did my recce, I was already familiar with the brand guidelines and the images that I was required to deliver.
The difficulties of professional spa photography
While Zara Spa is a zen haven that beckons you into relaxation, capturing the imagery presents some obstacles. It is never simply point and shoot. The Moroccan hammam is tiled, which means light bouncing around uncontrollably if I don’t carefully shape it and wield it the way I want it to. Lighting is such an integral tool in the professional hospitality photographers’ toolkit that I write about it regularly on this blog.
Staging a professional spa photo
The Moroccan hammam whispers stories of ancient rituals and contrasts with the modern design of Zara Spa. I wanted to reflect the serenity of the setting, while expressing how atmospheric the hammam is when you’re relaxing within. By being creative with the lighting, I could illustrate the warmth and rejuvenation one feels in the hammam. Needless to say, this image was not only lit by the candles in the image!
We decided to use a model for the photo, as it helps place the viewer at the heart of the image. They can imagine themselves there. Although only a tiny amount of the model’s face is on show, we can feel that she is content, almost smiling.
Creating the perfect photograph of a hotel spa
An image of a hotel spa like this can take an hour or more to set up, as I need to be satisfied with the staging. During the shoot, I might move a candle or small vase to ensure that I’m happy with what I see through my lens.
Then it’s time to press the shutter button, which I do multiple times. The transformation from ‘before’ to ‘after’ isn’t something that happens effortlessly, but my many years’ experience of luxury hotel photography contribute to making it easier for my clients.