Captivating visual content will set your hotel apart from the competition, hands down. Even if you have great rates and a solid reputation, people tend to prefer accommodations that meet their emotional needs as well as their logistical ones. They’re not just looking for a bed; they’re looking for a memorable stay.

You probably aren’t the only property in your area offering competitive rates and providing decent service for it either. The average traveler spends between 3 and 4 weeks planning their accommodations prior to their intended check-in date. This means that they’ve seen a lot of hotel profiles before booking—profiles with pictures of beds, towels, and outdated dining rooms.

But if you could somehow stand out against local competition without costly renovations or steep price reductions, wouldn’t that be grand?

What if you could convey your authenticity to the traveler and establish rapport through select visual content, incentivizing online browsers to book rather than bounce?

I’m going to share 5 tips for better visual content that will connect travelers emotionally to your hotel, increasing your brand awareness and booking potential.

Show your hotel in the best possible light

Lighting is everything. A photo with excellent lighting can change the way we perceive the subject of the photo completely. Lighting determines the mood, feel, and attractiveness.

Bad lighting is devastating. If you have the choice between posting a poorly lit photo of a particular amenity or no photo at all, you should opt for the latter.

When you’re showcasing your hotel online, it’s essential to have both exterior and interior photos. But if your hotel profile has images of bedrooms alone, it’s not going to attract travelers. Regardless of how high quality the photos are, you need to provide travelers with plenty of images to browse. Most travelers skim written descriptions and head straight to your image library. If there are only a few images, travelers will move on to the next profile that’s more engaging.

This is because people want to know the full context of your hotel as much as they want to know about the look and feel of their own rooms.

To make your rooms look their best, utilize natural light as much as possible. When you’re shooting your hotel exterior, play to the lighting patterns of the day. If your hotel is west facing—shoot in the evening. If it’s east facing—shoot in the morning.

And shoot more than just the bedrooms, facade, and breakfast bar. The most successful hotel profiles have well over a dozen photos.

By shooting in good light, you’re able to use more of your images, save time editing, and make the final selection process easier.

Show the elements that make it unique

Ok, so let’s assume you’ve got well-lit photos of your property’s essentials: the interior rooms, amenities, and exterior. These address the rational factors of an accommodation. Photos showing your main assets are also the ones you use to keep your online hotel profiles relevant.

But you want to let travelers know why your property is unique as well. So it’s time to start building on the emotional element of a guest’s stay.

To do this, you have to start thinking about the aspects that really define your hotel and make it special. Are you known for your kitchen’s scrumptious, freshly baked cookies on weekends? Perhaps you have a house wine produced onsite or locally for your hotel.

Maybe there’s a stray cat that calls your hotel home, or your property is on a vineyard, a lake, or nestled in the midst of a mountain range.

Whatever it is that makes your hotel unique, take a photo of it. These photos should be high quality (at least 2000 pixels in width) and should reveal your hotel’s character—one image at a time. Upload them to your hotel profiles, social media accounts, and of course, your website.

But this is only the beginning.

Social media channels are a means of connecting socially. The popularity of sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter stems from their ability to connect people and brands emotionally. This happens through candid photos, status updates, and by “sharing” content.

Share authentic photos that reveal your hotel to the world, highlighting different parts of its distinctive story.

A boat docked in the nearby harbor, the details on your antique entranceway, and a wine glass raised with your hotel amenities in the background are all images of interest to travelers online.

Utilize these more creative shots for your social profiles and feel free to take them from your smartphone too.

Use free and low-cost editing software

You don’t need to be a professional photographer with expensive editing software to have great hotel pictures. The best images are those that are well framed and cleanly edited. Don’t fall into the trap of using tons of different filters over your images either. Instead, choose one style and stick with it. This may be an extra hint of sharpness, a boost in clarity, an increase in contrast, or a focus on bold colors, showing your property off in its best light.

Don’t, however, mistake this for heavy editing.

It’s like makeup: the best faces are those that look like they’re not wearing any makeup at all and are naturally beautiful. You want to apply a similar philosophy to your hotel images.

You can also take photos with your phone if you’ve got excellent natural lighting. If you’re doing this, check out Snap Seed and Aviary as apps for editing them afterward. Another free tool that I personally use from time to time is Gimp.

When it comes to social media, these tools can take your content-creation time down from hours to mere minutes. Set the scene, snap the photo, edit, and upload it, all from the comfort of your own smartphone.

Mateus wineyard in Portugal

Have a hashtag

Chances are good that guests are snapping pictures from their stay at your hotel and sharing them with friends, family, and followers online. To see them, enter your property’s name into the search bar of any social media site. They’ll show up whether you have a page or not.

If you do have a page on the particular platform you’re searching in, you’ll want to share the best of these images on it.

To save time in the future, encourage guests to “tag” your hotel in their images. This is as simple as creating a hashtag and advertising it on social media and throughout your hotel.

An intuitive hashtag can help you further organize pictures of your hotel as they are taken and shared by guests. When I travel to a destination to work with hoteliers, venues, and destinations on a press trip, I use the hashtag #ThisIsMy______ and add in the name of the place. In this way, I’m curating a story online that anyone can follow and contribute to.

By creating your hashtag and advertising it to guests, you’re encouraging them to share photos of your place on social media.

It’s free and it helps you to connect with both travelers and people online alike, while incorporating them into your hotel’s story.

Video is your friend

Don’t stop at photos. Videos are easy to make thanks to the power of smartphones and social sites like Snap Chat and Facebook.

For example, when it comes to Facebook, you don’t even need a camera anymore. Just open up your hotel’s page, click the video icon in the “update status” section and start filming.

It’s as simple as that.

As always, good lighting is key, but equally important is the authentic nature of these “homegrown” videos.

The best-performing videos are 30 – 45 seconds in length. Use them to further enhance your visual storytelling on social media.

It’s trending so don’t shy away from it. It’s another free tool that will help you connect with guests in a way not previously possible for independent hoteliers on a budget.

As the old adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And a video, even more.

So, it begs the question: what is your hotel’s visual content saying about your accommodations? Is it something good, or something bad?

Give travelers an extra reason to book their stay with you by establishing trust—and instilling confidence in their booking—through better visual content. Let me know how these tips help you via the comments below.

Mateusz Chojnacki

Born in the UK and raised in the States, Mateusz set out to capture life through the lens at an early age, armed with his father’s old camera, a sense of curiosity, and an open mind. After leading the double life of an analyst by day, amateur photographer by night, Mateusz eventually turned his hobby into a profession, and now consults hospitality and retail brands on how they can tell their stories through visual content.

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