Sod The Comments...
Get Them to Book First!

You may have thought that comments on feedback portals like TripAdvisor were the most important thing to get right for your castle...think again: 82% of Brits are put off solely by poor photography.

I am not staying that feedback is not important, far from it; this is more about how you manage your customer experience and how well you and your team perform when the client stays with you. If you get this right, feedback will never be a problem.

I expect that many hospitality owners may be focusing purely on service when it comes to a customer physically staying with them, however, if one in three people believe poor photos = poor service, many customers will not even consider a property. You are not even in the game! You won't have anyone to welcome or serve!

Introducing Marc-Olivier Giguère

Marc-Olivier Giguère, a photographer from Canada, grabbed my attention with some of his stunning images. When we connected, he shared his passion for historic properties and we found some common ground - how we share our passion for staying in historic castles.

Marc-Olivier

Marc-Olivier says “people don’t read your website any more; they see it. You may have the most beautiful hotel in the world, but potential clients judge the quality of service and the client experience based on the images they see. We say that an image is worth a thousand words, so make sure that those ‘words’ tell the best stories about your place with top-class imagery.” This backs up other research from the booking company Eviivo.

After many conversations, both Marc-Olivier and I were fortunate enough to work together. He travelled all they way from his home in Montréal to spend time with me in two castles to show the difference an image can make to a property.

Before and After Photographs

Before

After

You want to show the castle in context, place it in the picture, pick out the detail and get the exposure right, I like the star burst on the lights and the framing with the trees.

Before

After

There is a beautiful stone wall in this bedroom that you cannot see; showing more of the room and changing the position the image is taken from really opens up the room and, boy, doesn’t it look bigger?

Before

After

This is a sauna in the bathroom that is not featured. In the after shot the picture is crisper; it looks fresh and clean and the sauna highlights the feature in this bathroom.

Before

After

The bed now has character and depth; you pick up the details of the soft fabrics, the tapestry on the wall and detailed carving on the bed.

Before

After

This bathroom seems to have doubled in size and it looks spotless in the new image.

Before

After

Just the simple position of the window in the centre of the image creates balance and, again, you just see so much more of the great hall. You also see the fire place which brings warmth into the room, plus the whole image is in focus.

Before

After

This room is a large room but in the before image I am thinking...'what are trying to hide?' The after images show the full rooms; we lose the window detail but I can see the window seat

Before

After

The dining room image is in focus, the colours look more natural and the position of the camera gives an impression of space and not one of everyone squeezed into the room.

Before

After

This image looks like it was taken in 1970; it may well have been! The after images highlight the rich tapestry behind the bed; you can see the detailed carving on the 4-poster and the carpet looks clean! Again the window is not blown out.

See more of Marc-Olivier’s work

Watch Roger and Marc at Langley Castle

This just shows how a good images can transform a property. Better images will increase revenue and, if you pay a photographer (from about £2,500), it would not take long for that investment to be paid back. Plus, have you ever thought how the press would react – yes, free publicity! Better exposure and then more business, win win! It would make my job easier when I promote castles to the media for sure!

Hi Roger
This is great – many thanks. You make my job much easier. Yes, I’ve got loads of high-res images from you.

Best wishes
Andrew D Editorial Director

Styling Your Photographs

The booking company Eviivo carried out a similar exercise for bed and breakfast properties with Interior Designer Sophie Robinson.

When they showed the different images and, more interestingly, when asked how much they would value the two rooms, the average rate per night came in at £43 for “Before” and £91 for “After”; nearly double the price.  Yes, you will get a better room rate!

Furthermore, a majority of people (61%) believed that the photos were taken years apart, rather than just a few minutes.

Sophie's Top Tips

The way you style your photographs can make all the difference to the impression that they give your prospective guests. Here are Sophie Robinson's top tips to creating show-stopping shots

  • To help make the bed look more luxurious and comfy, consider turning down the top of the duvet, around 40cm, in front of the pillows, and tuck in neatly.
  • A small vase with a couple of fresh flowers always helps make a room look fresh and clean. Consider popping one on the bedside table, breakfast table or a larger arrangement in the hallway for your photo shoot.
  • When styling the bed it looks really inviting to have a few scatter cushions. My rule is that there should be at least two, set symmetrically for a smart yet minimal look, or three with one cushion preferably smaller than the back two. One cushion looks just mean and any more than three looks fussy. Don’t arrange your cushions like diamonds. That looks really naff!
  • As a rule lights and lamps look better switched off. Try and get as much natural daylight into your rooms as possible before you photograph them. Shooting your rooms at night is a total no no! If the room doesn’t have much natural light, use the lamps to create a cosy glow, but that’s always a second resort.
  • Edit out the necessary yet unaesthetic from your photos. Take away the waste paper bin, plug in heater, fan, ironing board, and piles of towels and make sure they don’t creep into your shot. Those things can be listed into your copy so your guests can expect to use them but not shown in the pictures, as they look plain ugly.
  • Avoid showing overtly branded products in your pictures. In the bathroom use a plain bar of soap in a dish or decant your liquid hand soap into a soap pump. In the breakfast room take away packets of cereal or decant them into stylish glass jars.
  • Photograph your rooms on a cloudy day. This avoids bright white streaks of sunlight bleaching out areas of your photograph and creating sharp shadows.
  • A few nicely arranged tight detail shots can really add the right mood to your listing. Think about a photograph of a welcoming mug of tea with some biscuits, a collection of pretty toiletries or a posy of fresh flowers on the breakfast table to let your guest know that you also think of the smaller details.
  • Whenever possible use plain white bed linen. This can be accessorised with a neat bed throw and cushions for interest. Before you take your photos make sure your rooms look their absolute best. Spick and span with smear free mirrors and taps, freshly laundered pressed bed linen, and every surface polished and gleaming.

For more, read the full article or visit Sophie's website.

What Next?

So it's really simple in my book...get better images for your castle! Tell the story.

Roger

If you need support in identifying how to improve your customer experience or would like Marc-Olivier to really make your property stand out, feel free to get in touch with me directly.

Roger Masterson
The Castle Man