Tips for On-location Photography: The Hotel Room

Undoubtedly, one of the most fulfilling experiences of any on-location photographer is being able to travel to a new, remote town, explore it, and take the client photos. One of the downsides is that you may not have access to a studio at the expected location. More often than not, your chosen hotel room will become the studio. But, using a hotel room as a studio has its own challenges, one of which is controlling light and reducing unwanted reflections of all the reflective surfaces. Below, I will describe some tips for on-location photography which will make the experience less onerous.

Draw the curtains

That’s right, you read that title correctly. One of the simplest ways to get more control of the amount of light bouncing around the area is by simply drawing the curtains, or closing the blinds. You may find that the position of the hotel room is designed to allow as much ambient light in as possible. Dependent on the type of photograph you are trying to take, this may work in or against your favor. However, the simplest way to take control of the space is to eliminate this variable out of the equation and draw the curtains.

Close open doors

A number of hotel rooms seek to have an airy studio style environment where the kitchenette, sleeping area, work area and or meeting area are within the same open space. Some however accommodate small families and may include multiple rooms which provide opportunities for light leeks. Close those doors and see to it that there aren’t any light leaks into your main makeshift studio space. Sometimes, light may pour in from beneath those closed doors. Fit a towel beneath the door if the light leak is encroaching on your photograph and creating distractions.

Turn of unneeded lamps

The larger the room, the more lights will be scattered across the room to help the occupant find his or her way around. Turn them off but keep at least one or two to help you find your equipment and your way. Be aware of the temperature of the light and the type of lights which you keep on as these may change the overall outcome of the image. One more thing, some hotels include kitchenettes with appliances such as microwaves or refrigerators. This may interfere with they photos by introducing lights which may reflect on surfaces like spectacles. Cover them up as needed or ask your model to change position slightly.

Move shiny surfaces out of the way

If possible, it is advisable to move shiny surfaces out of the way. Desks or tables with highly reflective table tops should be moved if they interfere with the photos. Paintings and wall photos should be taken down. Often times, hoteliers will include extra mirrors in a room to give they impression of a larger space. If possible, take them down. They may produce unwanted reflections into your photograph.

Cover fixed shiny surfaces

On the other hand, some of these shiny surfaces are not movable. For example, mirrors may be bolted to the wall to prevent guests from stealing them or to prevent guests from being hurt. So, here is another one of those tips for on-location photography which is a bit extemporaneous. In such a case it is recommended, to cover up such surfaces. Most hotels will provide a lot of extra towels for your room. Most are large enough to cover the mirrors and reduce unwanted reflections from your photographs.

To recap, on-location photography can be a rewarding experience in itself giving you the opportunity to travel to remote locations. However, it does come with its own challenges one of which is not having a fixed studio space. Your hotel room can be used as a studio space but comes with its own setbacks. But, the examples I have provided previously – drawing curtains, closing open doors, turning off unneeded lamps, covering shiny surfaces or just moving them out of the way – should help eliminate those setbacks and provide some useful tips for on-location photography.

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