Want to see something really cool?

Good photography can do a lot for a hotel or resort. Especially if you’re doing any advertising or consider what a visual medium your website is. But, while technically excellent pictures are pretty much the norm, what one might call good photography is kind of rare.

Take a minute, fire up the Googletron and search images for, say, “New York City hotels.” Then maybe click the little “inside” circle. Or try something like “Florida resort hotels.” Maybe even just visit the websites of your comp set and look at the photos. Anything stand out? (Aside from the fact that there are almost no people in any of them, anywhere, that is. And that none of them show you what the view might be if you look out the window.)

No, not much stands out and most of the photography looks pretty much the same across the category doesn’t it? Certainly the building, pool, rooms, lobby, beach, restaurant or spa shots are in the lookalike camp. And don’t you wish you had a dollar for every picture you've seen of a white woman in a white one-piece bathing suit wearing a big hat sitting on a beach looking out at the water with her back to the camera?

Sure, there are certain photos you have to have. Potential guests need to see what the place is all about. But it’s not a selling tool when your photography is interchangeable with that of another property. The idea is to convey your personality and Brand, not just the fixtures and furnishings.

Fortunately, it’s an easy fix. It involves trust. Try giving your photographer some freedom to shoot what strikes them along with the shots you need. If they are any good, they’ll be excited. If they want specific "tell-me-this-then-that-this-way-exactly" instructions, you’ve got the wrong photographer. Assuming you have a good photographer, it’s not going to cost you more to let them do their best work than if you limit their creativity. It’s an opportunity to differentiate yourself that’s yours for the taking.

We’ve looked at a lot of photographers’ portfolios over the years. Almost without exception, some of the very best stuff turns up in the “personal work” section – the part where they shot what poked at their imagination, not what somebody told them to shoot.

So when you get onsite, carve out a certain amount of time to give your photographer free reign. Thing is, these people have shot a lot of hotels and resorts and they’ve got a good idea of what’s “been done” and what will stand out. A real good idea.

You’ve got the room shot you need, now let them shoot the room shot they’ve always wanted to shoot. The restaurant photography is done, now keep the models on hand for a while and let the photographer produce some art. Maybe even just turn your shooter loose for a whole day all alone to see what appeals to them. Again, if you've got the right photographer, he or she will relish the opportunity and deliver something special. Probaby something with some real humanity to it.

You don't have to use it. But odds are, you're going to want to.