Dharmit Laxman’s Insight on Role of Photography in Hospitality

Founder of Eight Three Two Production Lane, Dharmit Laxman's Insight on Role of Photography in Hospitality
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In the first session of our article interview series titled “Capturing Hospitality: Elevating Hoteliers with Professional Photography Insights,” we had an exclusive conversation with the esteemed hotel photographer, Dharmit Laxman. In this interview, Dharmit shared his invaluable insights on the pivotal role photography plays in the hospitality industry, offering profound perspectives that illuminate the importance of visual storytelling in shaping guest perceptions and driving hotel success.

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Dharmit Laxman, the founder of Eight Three Two Production Lane, is an Indian-Portuguese commercial photographer currently based in Tanzania. With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from New York, he transitioned from the laboratory to pursue photography and cinematography, driven by a passion for visual storytelling. Dharmit’s diverse portfolio reflects his expertise in architectural, interior, food, and aerial photography, capturing the essence of Tanzanian society and beyond. Inspired by travel and constantly evolving, he creates captivating imagery that blends personal and commissioned projects. Supported by his wife Jeetal Laxman, Dharmit also crafts exceptional visual narratives for a wide range of clients, from prestigious hotels to social organizations.

Exclusive discussion with Dharmit Laxman

1. Signature Style and Impact:

Q. “Can you describe your signature style in hotel photography and how you believe it influences the viewer’s perception of a hotel? How has your unique approach helped hotels enhance their online presence and guest appeal?”

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Ans. In my approach to photography, I employ a signature style that revolves around using artificial light to create appealing and natural-looking images. Central to this method is the use of multiple exposures and off-camera lighting techniques to capture scenes in their fullest detail. 

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I believe that the key to achieving stunning results lies in seamlessly blending different exposures to replicate the wide dynamic range that our eyes naturally perceive. By carefully orchestrating external lighting sources to complement the existing natural light, I strive to produce images that feel both balanced and authentic. This approach allows me to highlight the unique features of each location while ensuring that the final images remain true to life. 

Ultimately, my goal is to create photographs that not only showcase the beauty of a space but also evoke a sense of connection and emotion which invites viewers to immerse themselves in the space.

By implementing this approach in our hotel photography, our primary objective is to capture images that authentically reflect the essence of the property while evoking genuine emotions in viewers. In the context of online hotel booking, where guests rely heavily on visual content to make informed decisions, this becomes paramount.

2. Challenges Overcome with Creative Solutions:

Q. “Photography often involves overcoming unexpected challenges, from lighting to layout constraints. Can you share an instance where you faced a significant challenge while shooting a hotel and how you creatively overcame it? How did this experience adds value to the final images?”

Ans. When shooting a hotel, one of the most significant challenges we usually encounter is managing varying lighting conditions throughout different areas of the property. For instance, balancing natural light from windows with artificial lighting indoors can be tricky, especially if the weather outside is changing rapidly or if there is a drastic difference in light levels.

One creative solution to this challenge is using a technique called exposure blending. This involves taking multiple shots of the same scene at different exposures and then blending them together in post-processing to ensure that both highlights and shadows are properly exposed. The key to this is also to use supplement lights and various diffusers to help control and enhance the lighting in specific areas.

Another challenge in hotel photography is capturing the essence of the space while also adhering to any layout restrictions imposed by the hotel management or via the hotel structure. In such cases, it’s important to carefully plan the composition of each shot to highlight the most attractive features of the hotel while also maintaining a sense of authenticity. In areas where we can rearrange furniture’s and move a few items around to showcase the space in the best possible way, we follow this approach and involve the hotel management in educating them on this process.

Overall, facing and overcoming these challenges in hotel photography requires a combination of technical skill, creative thinking, and effective communication with the client. By successfully navigating these obstacles, the final images not only showcase the beauty of the hotel but also convey a sense of professionalism and attention to detail, adding significant value to the overall presentation.

During a recent hotel photography assignment, I encountered a significant challenge when shooting the hotel’s lobby area. The space was beautifully designed with large windows and high ceilings with huge lighting fixtures that flooded the area with natural light, but this created harsh shadows and uneven lighting throughout the room including a massive exposure difference between the insides and outsides of the lobby.

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To overcome this challenge, we used the previously described technique of exposure bracketing and complementing it by using a source of artificial lights using our flashes. This enabled us to capture multiple shots of the lobby at different exposure levels, ensuring that I captured details in both the highlights and shadows, allowing us to later blend these exposures in post-processing to achieve a well-balanced final image with even lighting throughout the scene.

This experience not only required technical skill but also demanded creative problem-solving and adaptability. By effectively managing the lighting challenges in the lobby, I was able to produce high-quality images that showcased the hotel’s elegant design and welcoming atmosphere. The final

images not only met the client’s expectations but also added significant value by accurately representing the space in its best light.

3. Future of Hotel Photography:

Q. Dharmit, looking ahead, how do you see the role of professional photography evolving in the hotel industry? Are there any upcoming trends or technological advancements that hoteliers should know to stay ahead in marketing their properties?

Ans. In the evolving landscape of the hotel industry, professional photography continues to play a crucial role in attracting guests and showcasing the unique features of each property. Looking ahead, several trends and technological advancements are shaping the future of hotels including a few of the following:

  • 1. Drone Photography and Videography: The use of drones for capturing aerial views of hotels and their surroundings is becoming more common. Drone footage provides a unique perspective and allows hotels to showcase their location, architecture, and amenities in a visually stunning and more cost effective way. This trend is particularly relevant for properties situated in scenic or remote locations.
  • 2. 360-Degree Photography and Virtual Tours: 360-degree photography and virtual tours offer an immersive way for potential guests to explore hotel rooms, event spaces, and amenities from the comfort of their own homes. These interactive experiences help to create a sense of transparency and trust, allowing guests to make more informed booking decisions.
  • 3. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): VR and AR technologies are increasingly being integrated into hotel marketing strategies, allowing potential guests to virtually explore hotel rooms, amenities, and surrounding areas before making a booking. Hoteliers can leverage these immersive experiences to provide a more interactive and engaging way for guests to experience their properties.

Staying ahead in marketing their properties require hoteliers to embrace emerging technologies and trends in professional photography. Moreover, by leveraging VR, AR, drone photography and 360-degree imaging, hotels can create compelling visual content that resonates with their target audience and sets them apart from the competition.

While this is not related directly to professional photography, hoteliers can also use User Generated Content that clients post on their socials and cross tag hotels in order to drive and grow their social channels which gives a real-time feel to newer potential clients. Hoteliers can also use a more professional lifestyle photography approach to enhance their platforms too.

4. Advice for Hoteliers Seeking Photography Services:

Q. “For hoteliers looking to hire a professional photographer for the first time, Dharmit, what advice would you give them to ensure they choose the right photographer for their needs? What questions should they ask, and what criteria should they consider?”

Ans. For hoteliers looking to hire a professional photographer for the first time, here is some advice to ensure they choose the right photographer for their needs:

  • 1. Review Portfolios and Previous Work: Ask photographers to provide samples of their previous hotel photography work or portfolios. Look for photographers whose style and aesthetic align with the image you want to convey for your hotel.
  • 2. Ask About Experience and Expertise: Inquire about the photographer’s experience
  • specifically with hotel photography. Experienced hotel photographers will understand the unique challenges and requirements of shooting hospitality properties.
  • 3. Check References and Reviews: Request references from past clients or read online reviews to gauge the photographer’s professionalism, reliability, and the quality of their work.
  • 4. Discuss Equipment and Techniques: Ask photographers about the equipment and techniques they use for hotel photography. Ensure they have the necessary gear and expertise to capture high-quality images in various lighting conditions.
  • 5. Understand Pricing and Packages: Discuss pricing, packages, and any additional fees upfront to avoid surprises later. Compare quotes from multiple photographers in the same league to ensure you’re getting fair value for your investment. Do not compare prices, packages and portfolios of a wedding photographer or a food photographer to a professional hospitality photographer.
  • 6. Clarify Rights and Usage: Discuss usage rights and licensing agreements for the photographs. Make sure you understand how you can use the images for marketing purposes and whether there are any restrictions or additional fees for usage beyond the initial shoot.
  • 7. Communicate Your Vision: Clearly communicate your vision, branding guidelines, and specific requirements to the photographer. Provide examples of images you like and discuss any particular features or areas of the property you want to highlight.
  • 8. Ask About Post-Processing and Editing: Inquire about the photographer’s post-processing and editing techniques. Ensure they can enhance the images to showcase your hotel in the best possible light while maintaining a natural and appealing look.
  • 9. Discuss Timelines and Deliverables: Establish clear timelines for the photo shoot and delivery of the final images. Also, make sure the photographer can accommodate your schedule and deadlines.
  • 10. Evaluate Professionalism and Communication: Pay attention to the photographer’s professionalism, responsiveness, and communication style throughout the hiring process. Choose someone who is easy to work with and who understands your needs and preferences. 

By asking these questions and considering these criteria, hoteliers can make an informed decision when hiring a professional photographer for their property, ensuring they choose the right photographer to capture the essence and beauty of their hotel.

5. Success Stories:

Q. Dharmit, Could you share a success story where your photography directly contributed to a hotel’s increased bookings or improved brand image? What were the key elements in the photographs that you believe made a difference?”

Ans. As a company specializing in professional photography and cinematography services, quantifying the direct impact of our photographs on a hotel’s increased bookings poses a challenge. Our involvement typically concludes upon delivering the final images, making it difficult for us to track specific metrics tied to booking performance. Conversely, hotels and agencies utilizing our imagery for their social media and website platforms have direct access to metrics that gauge the effectiveness of our work, enabling them to assess the return on investment more accurately.

Nevertheless, when hotels engage our services, our initial focus is to evaluate their existing photography assets. We meticulously analyse their website and social media profiles to discern areas for improvement in their visual content. If we identify opportunities to enhance their online presence through our expertise, we initiate discussions with the hotel management. In Tanzania, where many hotels are privately owned and may not fully grasp the importance of professional imagery, part of our role involves educating clients about the significance of high-quality visuals in reaching a broader, global audience.

While established brands like Marriott and IHG hotels typically recognize the value of professional imagery, this awareness is often lacking among smaller private hotels and lesser-known brands in Tanzania and other regions. Consequently, we prioritize educating and enlightening our clients on the pivotal role that compelling visual content plays in attracting and engaging potential guests, thereby fostering a more robust online presence, and driving bookings.

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