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How to Become a Professional Lodging Photographer

By Ron Lee
Published: 02/21/17 Topics: AirBnB, Lodging Management, Marketing, Photography Comments: 0

Becoming a professional lodging photographer has never been easier.

All you need is a camera and business cards. Just put the words "Professional Photographer" on the cards and people will think you are a pro.

Can you imagine a doctor getting away with that? Would you go to a dentist who says, "I am a professional dentist" who didn't have the training? Yikes. Those people would be driven out of the industry.

Unfortunately, there have always been a greatly many people who love the idea of being an artist, a photographer. It sounds like such a great job. For Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals, photos are the way guests make instant decisions to view your property or pass on to the next.

No longer is it necessary to burn hundreds of dollars of physical film, toil in the dark room and only later learn if your photos were adequate. Now a good digital camera gives you a thumbnail view instantly that you can call "good enough."

But, great camera gear doesn't make you a true photographer any more than buying your new born child a piano and pronouncing them a "Concert Pianist."

Today, a new higher title has been added to the photography professional. Its called "High Dynamic Range," or HDR, and it is a vastly superior way of shooting, processing, and delivering world class photography. It is a requirement for almost all photos, but an absolute requirement for shooting interior architectural images.

HDR Photos are crisp, clean and brighter, but only enough to match what the human eye actually perceives. By comparison, non-HDR photos are fuzzy, bland, and actually underestimate and mis-represent the property.

Unfortunately, most professional photographers are no longer professional because they are more in love with being "Artists" than they are in spending thousands of hours mastering HDR.

That means more lodging operators are wasting lots of money hiring pros or don’t begin to understand HDR.

To see the difference between Pros and HDR Pros, all you have to do is spend a little time examining listings on your favorite websites like VRBO.com, Expedia.com, or even AirBnB.com.

A company called Evolve Vacation Rentals offers "Free Professional Photography" to property owners. Because Evolve does not have on site staff they must call any "professional photographer" they can find and hire them without realizing that non HDR photos are robbing their listings of maximum bookings.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Vacation Rentals does the same thing. Their recent foray into Matterport 3D photos is a good start, but ignoring HDR still photos causes them to lose bookings.

Turnkey Rentals out of Austin is trying to take over the world, but right there on their home page are fuzzy, out of focus, non-HDR photos. How could a management company call themselves professional when the number one listing tool - photos - are all messed up?

All of these companies talk the professional photographer game, but non walk the walk. And all because they refuse to spend the slightly more money necessary to find and employ high level HDR photographers.

Ignoring the absolute requirement for HDR photos is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If your manager does not understand the difference between truly professional HDR photos and want to be professional photographers, what else don’t they understand?

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Author: Ron Lee – Not a Photographer, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0521 – 02/21/17

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – It is not enough to have a camera and cards that say you are photographer. Today's technology demands study, practice and perfection along with an artists eye. Every Signatour photographer has all of those along with a support and professional staff to ensure the highest quality HDR photos. – Signatours.com

Leisure Link Says Bad Photos a Deadly Sin

By Noel Poage
Published: 09/25/15 Topics: Channel Managers, Photography Comments: 0

LeisureLink.com, a long time provider of technology, distribution and marketing services to lodging providers recently released a fascinating graphic that calls "Bad Photos" one of the seven deadly sins of (lodging) distribution.

Although the report does not seem to rank the severity of the seven sins, a review could indicate that having good photos is the most effective marketing tool available to every vacation rental and resort manager.

By comparison, Ivana Johnston, the report author, notes that 87% of Facebook pots with photos get interaction while no other post type (those without photos) received more than 4% interaction. Further, 84% of facebook posts with photos received more clicks than posts with just text or links.

Use of Facebook differs dramatically from conventional advertising listing websites in the way consumers interact with the website, but it should be presumed that these statistics would be similar on all websites.

Photos draw attention. Attention produces sales.

Although lodging can be considered part of the real estate industry, the path in which consumers buy travel is dissimilar. With a real estate purchase, photos draw the viewers attention after which they inquire, visit the property and possibly make a purchase.

With vacation rentals the guest sees the product, buys it and then days, weeks or months later gets to see what they bought. That is both effective and dangerous.

Not all photographers are created equal. Even with the proliferation of cameras including mobile phone cameras, amateurs often post fuzzy and ill-lit shots. Professionals take better photos but seldom invest the time to master High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos that are essential to shoot interiors properly.

Johnson notes that the other Deadly Sins - stagnant prices, lack of promotions, pooling of inventory, not having reviews, failing to yield to market price changes, and requiring lengthy minimum stays - can also decrease booking success.

Reversing some of the bad sins can take focus, energy and collaboration, while photography is the easiest and fastest way to increase occupancy and price. Find a proven HDR photography company and watch the bookings roll in.

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Author: Noel Poage – Photographer, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0415 – 09/25/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – If your property just outta gotta have Perfect Touch High Dynamic Range photos to grow bookings fast, call Signatours today. No body matches our accuracy and quality. – Signatour.com

Drones Will One Day Be Old News

By William May
Published: 05/01/15 Topics: Hotels, Photography Comments: 0

At a recent meeting of hotel operators the questions were all about drone photography.

Signatour Photo Team Experts were there to display dramatic " Before And After" photos showing how bad lodging properties can look online and how attractive they become when properly shot in the HDR photo technique.

But every admiring hotelier also wanted to know how to get an aerial photo shot of their hotel from a drone. Amazon.com is going to delivery packages with them. Hobbyists are sending drones into their neighbors yards and they are regularly featured on the news.

Of course, shooting an aerial, or a series of them, can be helpful in showing guests exactly where they may be staying. We are happy to provide that services to our clients.

But soon, every lodging property will have aerials and then property managers will need to find a new and better way to attract guests.

Good news - that ability already exists and it is called High Dynamic Range.

To clarify, HDR is not the HD as is common in High Definition television and computer monitors. Read our white paper: HDR is not the HD

Some hoteliers had regrets when seeing the Before and After photos that Signatour creates using proprietary High Dynamic Range HDR) techniques.

Said one, "Damn, I just paid a photo vendor, recommended by my Franchisor, a bunch of money for what are junk compared to yours."

More good news - Signatour guarantees our photos will impress and even stun you with their accuracy and vibrancy, or your money back.

Frankly it is an easy guarantee to make because we have spent a decade perfecting our Perfect Touch product. No one can match it. And we will throw in the drone shots too.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0395 – 05/01/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – Our Perfect Touch photos use High Dynamic Range (HDR) To create the most accurate and compelling photos every devised for architectur, hospitality and loding properties. Affordable Too. Just call 866-765-7520 today. Get more bookings tomorrow. – Sigantour.com

Website Magazine Warns Blogging Copyright Infringers

By Joseph Romain
Published: 04/01/15 Topics: Copyrights, Legal, Photography Comments: 0

The Internet has created a wonderful opportunity for people who want to steal the creative work of others.

The most visible thieves are those who steal copyrighted music which has forced the entertainment industry to institute rigorous methods of encrypting music. They have sued and forced equipment manufacturers, internet providers, music streaming sites and music sales websites to restrict the copying of music. Yet it is still rampant.

Photographers however have no such protections for their creative products. The internet makes it easy to publish photos to websites in digital form, but also easy for it to be stolen by people who do not want to pay for the photographers work.

Since the advent of the printing press, and more particularly the ability to print photographs would-be photo copyright infringers were stymied in their attempts because printed photos can not be accurately copied from a physical piece of paper.

But the Internet has removed those barriers to copying, made great works of art viewable by millions and easy pickings for thieves.

Copyright law makes no distinction between printed photos and digital ones. Fortunately, the internet also makes it easy for copyright owners to find those who illegally copy copyrighted works.

Website Magazine focuses on the internet and anything to do with websites any anything that affects them. Their latest article Bloggers Beware: Image Copyright Infringement Is Costly stands as a warning to those who want to copy the best creative work and pay nothing for it.

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Author: Joseph Romain – Creative Director, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0394 – 04/01/15

How to Choose a Vacation Rental Photographer

By William May
Published: 03/01/15 Topics: Photography Comments: 0

Exciting indeed is the increase in lodging consultants and experts who put great photos at the top of the list for improved bookings.

Guests give websites but a few scant seconds to decide if it's professional, if it has what they need, and whether they are willing to look further. In two seconds, most people can read only a few words but a glance at a photo reveals dozens of thoughts and conveys quality, emotion, and content.

So why do those who tout themselves as experts constantly talk about the need to hire a professional photographers but then recommend vendors whose work is not up to modern standards?

An easy comparison of various vacation rental photographers will reveal the obvious differences. To help illustrate the differences, here are questions to answer when considering a photographer for an Inn, Resort, Hotel, or Vacation Rental Home.

Education - Digital cameras are great but it is not easy to use every bell and whistle to create accurate, stunning photos. If your photographer did not get a professional education then they won't know how to do everything they should.

Self Taught - Teaching yourself to shoot photos is fine, but unless you have 40+ hours (per week) to devote to the craft and for many years, you can't keep up on technology.

Flash Lighting - If your photographer uses a flash attachment to shoot your homes, they are shooting incorrectly. With today's technology, all photos should be done using High Dynamic Range techniques. Because HDR relies on multiple shots and accounts for each pixel at different exposures, a flash should never be needed.

Raw format - All great HDR photos must be shown using a camera's raw format because it is the most densely packed number of pixels. With more pixels, color correction, toning, and sharpening have the best chance for establishing accuracy. Any photographer who does not shoot in RAW, is not up on technology.

License - Sometimes you can get a better deal on prices if you only need the photos for limited use. For example, if you put them on your website but not elsewhere the price maybe lower. If you want all internet rights, usually a bit higher. And if you want exclusive rights, even denying the photographer the right to display them on his portfolio website; that can get trickier.

Travel - If your photographer is local he is less likely to be at the top of his game. Great photographers are in demand which means they usually travel from destination to destination. That is because they are in demand.

Time - Hiring someone who is instantly available should make you wonder why they are always available. Sure you might get lucky to fit in a shoot between your photographers other sessions.

Speed - Anyone who can shoot your property one day and have dozens of quality HDR photos to you the next, is fooling you. Retouching photos and creating HDR masterpieces takes time and talent. A photographer who needs some time to complete work is more likely to produce excellent products.

Weather - Even interior photos look better if shot on a blue-sky, bright sun day. If your photographer can set a date days in advance and stick to them when the weather is bad, they are taking advantage of you. The schedule must slide if the sun "don't shine."

Cost - If the cost for shooting is anything under $500 for a condo, $750 for a house, or $2,000 for a complex then they are only shooting and not processing.

Great photo sessions and images can cost much more depending on the size, type, and location of the property.

Barter - If your photographer is willing to do all the work of shooting and processing great photos for the privilege of staying at your home when he does it, he isn't a professional. Sure everyone loves to go on vacation but a great travel photographer has more free stays than he can stomach.

Expert - Not everyone who says they are an expert is one. Great photographers are found by looking for great photographs. No sales pitch or self-professed expertise can make up for a lack of quality.

HOW TO CHOOSE

Now that you are ready to talk with photographers, get prices, and look at their portfolios; here is how to go about picking the very best one:

Big Screen - Be sure to look at each photographers portfolio using a very big computer screen. Not all guests have large monitors but many do. The larger screen will show you photos that are not sharp or explicitly in focus. If a photographers shots are not super clean, scratch them off your list.

Portfolio - Lastly, open a web browser, simultaneously pull up each photographer's website portfolio, and then switch back and forth. Great HDR photographs should stand out.

The difference between them and conventional (even professional) photos will be stunning.

Save your pennies until you have enough to hire an HDR expert photographer. The expenditure will pay off quickly and repeatedly with greater bookings and more occupancy. You'll make more money by spending the relatively small cost of finding a truly qualified lodging photographer.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0008 – 03/01/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – Perfecting how to shoot and process accurate compelling architectural photography for Inns, Resorts, Hotels and Vacation Rentals. Our Perfect-Touch program requires technical education, years of experience and the artistic skill that most profession photographers can not match. – Signatour.com

Expert Says Photos Best Return on Investment

By Joseph Romain
Published: 02/01/15 Topics: Marketing, Photography, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

In a recent blog post on his website VacationRentalMarketingBlog.com, Matt Landau proclaims professional photos to be the most effective marketing tools to increase bookings and revenue.

Landau says, "When you have limited resources, you must examine the return on investment (ROI) of everything you do." He then lists the Top 10 cost-effective Vacation Rental Marketing Activities.

Number one on his list is professional photos which he illustrates by providing a cost versus benefit graph clearly showing photos as the best investment.

Other steps, such as building a private website, increasing your paid listing rank, soliciting reviews and trying to speak with guests by phone also are beneficial.

While hiring a professional photographer is indeed a good idea, to this day many professionals have still not discovered or mastered the art of creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos.

Without that even the best cameras, a photographic education and lots of experience prohibit the photographer from creating truly accurate photos such as those HDR can create.

HDR photos are not easy and they are not cheap, but the benefit of having compelling and accurate photos attracts more guests, more bookings and more revenue.

Landau posits an analogy about whether a government should invest $10,000 to cure ten Malaria patients or the same amount to save a single AIDS patient. Tough call of course, but it illustrates that spending money on great photos is by far the most cost efficient treatment for vacation rental marketing.

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, an online resource for vacation rental owners and managers. He is also the owner of Los Cuatro Tulipanes vacation rentals in Panama, and a columnist for HomeAway and FlipKey, the world's two largest vacation rental marketplaces.

http://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com/top_10/

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Author: Joseph Romain – Creative Director, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0003 – 02/01/15