David Rogers shares important lessons for lodge owners and marketers to get the most from your lodge photography.
David Rogers has photographed hundreds of lodges for clients and in the media and shares some of his tips for making the most of your photographic content. You can see some of David Rogers latest work and other examples showcased on photosandafrica and villasandafrica
Keeping images fresh and up to date
I am fortunate to visit some properties, such as Onguma every few years to update their images and create new content for websites, Instagram, Facebook and other media. I develop a relationship with the people and places and its fun to explore new ideas and content and to reflect the changing styles of photography and also of the lodges themselves. Learning trends and developing relationships is a key to creating images that can put “heads in beds”.
Enjoying the job
I love photographing lodges as it gives me a chance to be in the wilds and in an industry that I love. Keeping it fun is so important. Early wake ups and long days do put stress on the lodge team and keeping good relations with staff which are often required to work overtime to create good images is essential. Having good relationships with management or key staff interested in the photographic process guides the production. It is the lodge owners whose vision must be reflected and its so important to remain open to their ideas.
What images should you be putting onto your lodge website?
Your website should always show a good mix of images of the wonderful lodgings you have created, the warm and friendly people that you have trained in service, and of course the beauty of the landscapes and the wildlife that your guests have come so far to see. During the books that I have done of lodges I guess that the most important things that I have learned are the elements that makes a lodge special and also the greatest angles for a particular lodge. Romance, happiness and drama are all key elements for great lodge images. I call these “the wish you were here shots”.
How to keep your lodge photography reflecting your brand
We recommend that lodges choose and manage images as carefully as they manage any aspect of the guest experience. While its so important not to create false expectations this is also the chance to look as good as possible. Make sure that your lodge staff are well dressed and look up to date. Clothing like décor really does change with the fashion. We have enjoyed our relationship as brand ambassadors with outfitters and lodge suppliers African Nature, which has really improved their styles in recent months. They are used by Wilderness Safaris, Singita and many of the top lodges.
Its amazing how often lodges pay a great deal of money to get someone to photograph their lodge and when we get there the pool is dirty or the lawn is not made. We have a checklist for lodges to make sure that they are ready for us when we arrive and make the most our our time.
People or no people
Include some images with people and some without. Teams change quite often. We recently had to remove some people from an image because they had moved on to greener pastures. I do think that having some sign of people in a picture is important to go beyond the sterile interior design look.
Keep it short
Remember the adage: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. Choose few good images rather than lots of average ones that can dilute your message! If mediocre images are included in your website its a very bad message about attention to detail. Cull out the bad ones and leave only those images that are well captured, well edited and well delivered.
If your photographer is not offering retouching fees he is probably not doing it.
We spend at least 30 minutes an image retouching our client images, making sure that they look their best. This does not mean that we change the rooms to look a certain way but there are lots of little things (wrinkles on the sheets, perspective issues, colour correction, sharpening, dodging and burning, exposure issues) that take time to correct. We do also remove unsightly plugs, cables and now and then a little speck of dust that we might find on the floor!
How to store and share your lodge images
Images should be stored in hi-res and lo-res formats so that they can be used accordingly. Its a good idea to label them accordingly. Also make sure that images are loaded at the appropriate size so that they load quickly. A small image might be OK at 500 K. But for a full page keep size between 800 KB and 2 MB. Create a platform for storing both hi-res and low-res for sharing your images with your agents.
I recommend saving all images on at least two hard drives in case of failure. Hosting images on the cloud is also ideal. Dropbox allows you to share folders with selected people. The WETU platform also has a great looking functionality for members wanting to share images, brochures and videos. Even if you do not subscribe to WETU for these enhanced itinerary features, its worth checking out the free content that the platform has preloaded and make sure they reflect your image correctly.
Getting the best SEO from your images
If you want to get the Google crawlers finding your pictures, you need to get the content correct. For SEO purposes all images should have a useful title and also have keywords and descriptions included in the metadata. So don’t label the image of a sunset in the Kalahari as 3450.jpg ,but rather call it Sunset at Kalahari Lodge. Its also very important to put your keywords and data into the ALT field. If the image cannot be shared for any reason (eg images are turned off) the content will still be picked up by search engines.
Training your guides
We also run a guides photographic training course that helps your guides to help your guests become better photographers. The pictures that your guests share with their friends via Facebook and Instagram are great communication tools. Suggest that they tag your lodge and perhaps consider running a photographic competition for the best guest photographs.
Its not always possible to have a photographer return year after year. Do you have anyone in your lodge that is interested in photography. Sharing images via Facebook and Instagram is free and will create engagement with your community. Find a content hero and then make sure that you find a word and picture specialist to ensure that you keep the quality up to standard.