If you could talk with one of the best hotel photographers - What would you ask them?

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If you’ve ever scrolled through Instagram and found yourself in a daze of dreamy hotel suites in exotic locations – then you’ve probably come across Mauro Risch, also known as The Hotel Photographer. In today’s episode of the podcast, we offer a taste of photographic insight from an industry great, who is one of Australia’s most sought-after hotel photographers with a keen sense of style and an eye for seeing great angles.

In this episode, Mauro shares a detailed “Shot List” of what you need to be thinking about when taking photos of your accommodation. We talk about what to shoot, how to find the right photographer, what you can do with a limited budget, and how you can get the most bang out of your images. 

Mauro Risch’s passion for telling stories through pictures has made him a specialist in hotel and resort photography. Being versatile, his photoshoot types cover a range of interior, exterior, luxury, food and beverages, travel, lifestyle, aerial drone shoots, and videography. Risch’s ability to beautifully capture details makes him a highly sought-after hotel photographer in Australia. His compelling images showcase key areas of your hotel in the most enticing way to attract guests. With Mauro Risch’s photography, you can present your hotel in the best light.

What we cover in this episode:

-Why it is essential to have good photographs of your property.

– How to stage your property well and get good photos.

– Should you hire a professional photographer?

-Things to consider before posting photos.

– How professional photos increase your CTR (Click Through Rate).

Over the last decade, Mauro Risch has become known simply as The Hotel Photographer. He is trusted by PR and marketing teams, hotel managers, and executive brand teams right across the Asia Pacific region.

I don’t say this lightly, but I feel humbled to have Mauro share his insights with us! So, I encourage you to take advantage of the gold in this episode! 

We captured such a great episode for you guys. What. A. Legend. Enjoy

📣   Listen to the episode here
👓   Watch the episode here


Hello and welcome back to The Accommodation Show. We help accommodation owners like you get the knowledge and skills that you need to grow your business, improve your guests experience and increase your profitability. 

Everybody’s welcome back to another episode of The Accommodation Show. This week we’re going to be talking about all things photography with our beautiful wonderful guest Mauro Risch Welcome to the show.

Mauro: Your Pleasure to be here.

Bart: I’ve been so excited to have you on because I love photography. I love a good picture. I appreciate how important it is to have fantastic photography in our accommodation businesses. And there’s nothing that brings me more pleasure than to have someone on that I would say renowned, a world leader that knows this particular industry in this particular space. So I’ve been looking forward to this for months now. But Mauro I would love you to give everybody a bit of an introduction as to who you are and what you do within the accommodation space.

Mauro: It’s great. I’ve been a photographer my whole life. Been a commercial photographer for many, many years. For the last close to 15 years now. I’ve been specializing in hotels and resorts and motels as well. So it’s been really a nice journey. Sometimes you think you own your career path, but not always. So the market will dictate what career path you will follow. And it’s been amazing. I’ve had the chance to meet some of the most amazing people hoteliers around Australia and the Asia Pacific as well because I do work with a few hotels in the Asia Pacific region. And to know Australia traveling to almost every place of course there are still places that I haven’t been yet but it’s been fantastic working with this industry is amazing. It’s a dream come true. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Bart: So I think what excited me the most was actually looking at your photos and that’s one of the best things for me is looking at my guest’s Instagrams and the work that they actually do. And now I know that you’ve already got a very, very good reputation in the industry. You know you’re on the conference circuit and you’re doing work for all sorts of big companies. But where I really love this sort of thing is a photo tells no lies, you know, like I can look at a photo and I can go Oh, I love it, you know, Oh, you don’t like it. You can be both ways about it. But you have to have a bit of an eye for detail and it really exposes the person before you even met them. So I’ve been following your work. I’ve been looking at what you do and I guess what I’m getting at is if anyone’s tuned in to this particular episode and you’re watching on YouTube, or if you’re listening on the podcast and make sure you check out the website what’s the website address again?

Mauro: hotelphotographer.com.au

Bart: So nice and simple. So hotelphotography.com.au. Today you are checking out Instagram which is that hotel photographer. And the reason why I’m encouraging you to start off in this particular way and to have a look at these this profile on these pages is so that you can start to get the idea of that elevation of just having regular photos and then having phenomenal photos and what the difference is going to make and this episode is all geared around how a great photo can generate 1000 bookings. Now that isn’t my title. That’s Mauro’s title. But can you tell me a bit more about that sort of that theme and that idea?

Mauro: Well, look, it’s been a learning curve, probably 20 years ago, and knew nothing about the hospitality industry. I had a request to do work for a hotel in Brazil. It was a five-star hotel in Rio. And that was my first ever experience with the hotel photoshoot was amazing. But there are a lot of things that you start learning once you start listening to hoteliers from all different areas. You start learning, what are their pain points, whether they struggle when it comes to selling the rooms, and to print their names out there. So there are some amazing things that I’ve been learning of course now I know all the acronyms, the ADRs and the KPIs, and everything that is really peculiar to the hospitality industry. But I do understand I get a lot of feedback from my clients, especially in regard to what they’re struggling with. 

I remember coming to Australia for the first time 12 years ago before we decided to move here and we photographed a very nice hotel in Brisbane, a five-star hotel by the river. And the general manager asked me to photograph only rooms with a story Bridge view. It’s always shot we spent two days photographing rooms, probably six room types, and all of them have the most beautiful view of Stourbridge, sunset, and dust shots. A few days later, a few weeks later, he called me and said now we have a problem because now everyone who is booking our rooms Yes, we showed our best rooms our best stop even Tori is all of the amazing reviews. But some people are getting that they’re not booking exactly what they are checking in so the rooms do not always reflect what they have. So this is one thing that changed. Now, especially with all the guests. We have to keep it honest Yes. 

Let’s find a beautiful way to tell your story to show your room and say what your product is like. But at the end of the day, we have to keep it honest and keep it real otherwise it becomes a painful experience, especially for the front desk with the guests coming downstairs. And listening to all the little things that we guess are complaining about now.

Bart: Yeah. And so that’s a really interesting one. And that’s something that we’ve spoken about in the past. Who do you work for? Do you just work for the big hotels or do you work? Mary and John run a small accommodation portfolio, they might have one or two or some short-term rentals and that sort of thing. And it doesn’t really matter right like that, that experience in that journey that you’re trying to reflect on? No matter what size of business you still need to have great photos. Even if have budgets stuck, right?

Mauro: I don’t think it’s really a matter of how many stores are the size of the property. I think every hotelier has a story to tell size or a room number, their property. It’s regional or its big city or its south pacific islands. It does not really matter every property has a story to tell them. And it’s the one thing I’ve learned and probably it’s an interesting story because I used to feel that small operators felt not very proud of their properties. And I felt that really soon and they would feel intimidated if I told them that I am a preferred photographer for four of the top 10 hotel chains in the world. They would say no, you’re too expensive or you’re too good for me. And I see now that this is very important because as a photographer, I’m not there to judge their product. I’m there to make them see and for the guests to find out how beautiful their story is and how beautiful the rooms are to see things that they probably are not used to seeing anymore as an operator. 

I’m sure if you own a hotel or a motel or resort, in every scene you see cracks in the wall. A little bit of dust on top of the cabinet. And as a photographer, I’m here to help you find beauty where you can no longer find it. So it’s an interesting thing. This year has been interesting because regional Australia is just exploding. So New South Wales Queensland and Victoria I’ve been working nonstop with regional properties and they are so amazing, amazing. You can photograph using drones, you know everything dust during the day. The rooms are clean up beautiful, spacious, and generous in size. The food is fantastic sometimes I go too far in north Queensland and the little motel has a French chef to cook and it’s amazing you know there’s the stereotypical approach is no longer there. Any property can be amazing and needs to have its story told this is what I’ve learned from the last few years.

Bart: Yes. So I guess what you’re saying is it’s all about telling the story and that story that’s congruent with what you’ve actually got to show and you can find beauty within that particular story. The other thing that I find interesting about photography is that its kind of like looking after your reviews, looking after your website as a whole and looking after your business. Now if you’re a business owner that doesn’t really spend much time in business and doesn’t really care about the business, then this probably this conversation isn’t going to apply to you regardless but I find that getting the right shots and telling the right story shows that you care. And that’s what’s more important than the actual shot representing selling that it’s not it’s actually showing look, I care enough. I’m a small business owner, but I care enough to really tell my story in the appropriate way for you to understand it. And then from your perspective Mauro, it’s about you seeing well, I can help you tell that story.

Mauro: 100% and I love that challenge sometimes because the feedback we get from the owner or from the operator or just for the Director of Sales and Marketing is that they have 100 challenges. How to portray their rooms or their property well, and having someone who’s specializing in understanding what hospitality is, I think can help them a lot. I can see through the fog and through the smoke. Sometimes when we’re talking about that. Sometimes marketing manager or director of sales and marketing come to me and will say, Well, I think we have some not very sexy rooms to shoot and the conference rooms are not very sexy, but at the same time, I’m not there to judge that. You hire me to make it look as amazing as possible with a limit and be honest, we’re never going to lie or the thing that we used to use Photoshop for everything 20 years ago is no longer acceptable. People want to see real otherwise create problems. So there is always a way to tell your story in a beautiful way and simple and where people can connect. There’s a unique side to every property. This is the one thing that having the right person there to tell you a story we’ll help you with.

Bart: And so one of the things that we talk about a lot, often within Ibotta online when we’re looking at direct bookings, when we’re doing training when we’re doing courses, when we’re doing these episodes were very often focused on the guest Avatar the demographic who were talking to what kind of travel is coming. When you’re going and doing photos, and when you’re doing this kind of issue. I assume that that’s something that’s front of mind for you. But in a practical sense. What are you thinking about in terms of Avatar? And demographic and how much research do you do? Or is it now hey, you know what, I’ve been doing this for so long that it just comes instinctively to me. What is your process?

Mauro:  I do a lot of research. Most of the time I do a lot of research. Though with the groups that you work you’d be working for 10 years. You already understand those guidelines. Although, yeah, there’s always a moment where you want to break the rules and go over the guidelines, most of the time, you know, and you understand what works with that brand. But with the new ones. Yeah, it’s important to just get going and understand what the demographic is because it will change the way I tell my images. So some brands will like things moodier and darker and more intimate. 

Some brands want to show more space and natural daylight. So every brand and every property will require different approaches. It’s very interesting, but one thing that I’ve noticed is that is quite good to hear from the clients from the people who are hiring me, being the hotel owner, motel owner or Director of Sales and Marketing is what does not work for them. This is the one thing that for me is gold. Have you done something in the past that did not work for you or something that you didn’t get good feedback on in the past? And that gives me some direction on where not to go or what is the other way that we can tell your story so that we can avoid bringing you problems are putting you in trouble situations. So that’s one thing I’ve been trying to get to my client, especially with new ones, and this year has been a cascade of new people that I’ve never met before. They’re all interested. All of a sudden they all want images and they have the urgency to do so. It’s been fantastic to be able to tell that look, don’t worry, I’m not there to judge your property. I’m here to help you find the best way to portray it and tell your story.

Bart: So let’s talk about the evolution of photography and online presence. And that sort of thing. And it kind of leads back into that title of the pictures generating 1000 bookings. What do you feel is happening in the photography landscape? Why are photos so important? Now it’s gonna seem obvious to those that are in marketing and sales. But in terms of the evolution of technology, and now you’re seen as people wanting more and more photos, what’s the convergence? What is the story?

Mauro: Well, the changes are nonstop. Everything is changing my world. Everything is changing so quickly. From the beginning from Yeah, 20 plus years ago, we used to shoot film and negative and everything that was digital so is the world so that is the media so is how people have their booking experiences. I hear I don’t know exactly what the percentage is. But a lot of people book their trips and hotel rooms on mobile. They spend 1.7 seconds on each image. And people booking on desktops spent 2.5 seconds on each image. So if you don’t have the right image, the perfect one for when they look in browsing through your images. Yeah, you lost gold there. So you lost the chance to dig and find diamonds. And yeah, I don’t know when the chase is going to come back. But it’s very important not to underestimate the power of those images. Everything is digital. Everything is quick. It’s incredible. I don’t know where we’re going to get in the next few years but I know now we are going through large changes. They could help everyone who is on top of that.

Bart: Let’s jump into that. So we’ve got a new methodology. So you’ve got the image we’ve got moving image that can also be incorporated, which I don’t want to talk about too much today is a whole nother a whole nother episode. But drone shots and that sort of thing. That’s one of those questions that I get asked quite a lot and it’s quite untrained to get the drone out and to do some things. What’s your take on drones?

Mauro: I love drones because before we had drones, I used to have to hire a helicopter for $3,000 an hour just to go up, do a few shots, and go down. Not every client would be happy with spending $1,000 an hour for a helicopter flight and getting two or three shots. So the drone gives me the option to do that in a more autonomous way. But also, the aerial shot is so amazing because especially for destination properties in regional Australia, it gives you a sense of place. It gives you a great deal of what the destination is. It’s not just because it’s a drone, it’s funky and everyone wants it. It’s really an amazing tool. I understand why people are getting crazy about it. I love it. I really love being able to set my camera up there as an extension of me and check all angles sunrise and sunset, looking from above heavy models there on the pool looking up. It’s such a great way to tell your story out of the norm you know, it’s not that common thing anymore. It’s really really good.

Bart: And on that, you kind of you’re leaving me so well done. So many questions that I had. One of the most common questions that I get is should I have people in the photos or shouldn’t I have people in the photos What’s your take on this?

Mauro: I will always say use as many tools as you can. If getting your demographics engaged with your brand and your product is a must. Yes, use all the tools. Models are I’m a big fan of dude lifestyle shots. I just came from Sydney I was shooting lifestyle shots is Tuesday. And it was amazing because you get the chance to give the guests or the travel shoppers who are looking for a room to see themselves and how they do how do they perceive that brand. It is very important but you have to be aware of what images with people date quicker than images without. So it might be an expensive exercise sometimes it’s very important that you are aware of that. You can have the models to the image rights forever. You always have a license for one, two, or five years, but in five years, whatever they are wearing, will probably be a bit dated fashion wise so they have a short shelf life so to speak while the interior shots are not the same level.

Bart: Yeah and that’s why bases are also you will have different styles and different trends on the interior but generally, you know you’re remodeling or revamping the whole room regardless if and that’s when you’re going to need new shots are going to tell a little story and we actually got to meet Mauro and you did some headshots and some shots for myself. And not only was it a great experience, but one of the things that I found interesting and something that I tell all my clients all the time is what you said to me within the first maybe 10 minutes when we meet again in six months’ time, we’ll take some more shots, and then we’ll hold on a second. We’ve just met we haven’t even started shooting and you’re already planted planting some seeds saying Hey mate, this is in six months’ time we’re doing this again. And that’s what I try to tell my clients all the time that you’re gonna need to review this. I don’t want to take words out of your mouth. Can you give me a little bit of insight as to why you say we’ll do it in six months and also how that would apply to accommodation?

Mauro: Well, it’s has been my approach actually with my background in advertising. Yes, you have to be. We used to have cycles in advertising. With hotels. I remember when I first showed a hotel hard, full refurbishment would happen every 10 years and a soft refurbishment would happen from two to five years. Now I think these cycles are getting shorter when it comes to representing your product and your brand. Same thing. Cycles are getting shorter and I do work with a few hotel brands in Australia specifically, there are so aware of that, that they keep refreshing their image gallery every month. So I think they know what they’re doing. Because every time you upload new images to your web gallery or to the OTAs your ranking is affected and I think your ranking is most affected on the upside. 

So they know what they’re doing and how they’re spending their money. It’s an expensive exercise if it’s a small operator, but still, you have to be aware to be there. Fresh as often as you can. Things do change people want to see more we are very hungry for imagery. It’s a visual world visual will always say that everything visual could be photos, videos, virtual tours, drone images, everything just go there and show and tell your story as much as you can. People want to see that they are hungry to consume that visual content all the time.

Bart: Yeah, it’s I just find it so fascinating that you can go and you can almost do exactly the same photos. Six months later, but yet it comes out completely different. Right. Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve got anything more to add to that.

Mauro: Yes, I do. Even changing the mood a little bit when you add models or when you don’t have the models. Do ask me well, I have a specific budget a limited budget. What should I do with this budget? Should I do models? Should I do drones? Should I do underwater photography? If it’s a word overwater bungalow in Vanuatu, I will always say start with your basics because, first of all, as a traveler myself I would want to see your rooms first. Even if you don’t think that that’s the sexiest thing for you to show to your potential guests. I would say cover the rooms first. All room types. OTAs are requesting four to six images per room time. That’s a recent thing. When I came to Australia 12 years ago, a photography package consisted of eight images. 

You spent the whole day and it got eight images. How do you cover enough with eight images? Now one room is six images. So that tells a lot and keeps creating fresh imagery. You know, be aware of that, even if it’s in a more unpolished way or unfinished way especially when you’re talking about social media aspects with Instagram and reels and Tik Tok. It’s not about the polished image but about being present. They’re getting engagement all the time, which is a whole new beast, you know a lot more than I do when it comes to that area because it’s a nonstop changing industry and unbelievable. 

Bart: And that’s the interesting thing is that the imagery, the photos, the ideas, they just need to keep coming in. You need to be super engaged, keep your audience following what you’re actually doing. And that’s why I encourage the use of not only someone like yourself to really capture the spirit and the story of what you’re doing, but if you want to keep that story going then you do need content, right and you’re constantly creating content throughout what it is that you actually do. And the nice thing is you well know Mauro that iPhones are unbelievable at taking photos nowadays in comparison to what they were in the past and latest phones. 

They sometimes can be almost imperceptible in the quality of the image of his taken correctly. So you’ve got kind of that funnel as well, that you can go down. I’m very aware that I have a million questions and I’m very aware that we have limited time and I do try to keep the episodes short to get everybody thinking about the value of what we’re talking about. I want to go back to our main topic, which is that the photo will get you 1000 bookings, right? And I think that one of the things that we talked about before we got started was some of the mistakes that people are making. Things that you see like Oh, for God’s sake, can you please stop doing that? If you were to condense down this topic, the overall topic into maybe three main points or three main ideas or just sort of like a summary of you know, what action our host needs to take from where they are right now. What would you say?

Mauro: That’s an amazing question. Thank you for that. But one thing I see I think that is quite effective and this comes from my experience with hotel years in this part of the world is that sometimes the owners of the smaller operators get confused between their own personal taste and what they should be showing to the demographics to their own audience. And this is a very hot topic. I can’t come to the owner and say, Look, you’re doing it wrong. You should be you know, changing your beds instead of having a Maru doing a cover on your bed. Maybe it’s time for you to go full white with all-white pillows and white linen. And that’s gonna give you what most surveys tell me that is the number one topic for guests looking for a hotel room, which is the cleanliness that helps you tell the story of clean is very subjective, but at the same time, it’s there psychologically works so it makes the room brighter, more spacious and more welcoming. 

And this is one of the things that I do see happening. I have seen also things like very successful owners who are doing a discussion of what direction should he be going in regards to the images and I will say, Well, maybe it’s time for you to think of new images. And they would come back to me and say, Well, I’ve had these images for 12 years. Why do I need new ones? I have many answers to that. But I don’t want to be offensive at the same time and at the same time, If you’re in a market like Sydney, for example, where 90% occupancy is just the average. Why would you actually change your photos if you have been successful for so long? So it’s there’s a bit of a conundrum. I do believe that having new images Yes, will represent your brand and your product in a better way. But at the same time, I cannot force anyone. I can only recommend and if they want to work with me as I’m sure I can add so much value to what they already have. Maybe instead of 90%, you could enjoy 97% you could be enjoying 99% That’s what I always wish my clients will I wish you the best from now on let’s hope that you have 105% occupancy from now on. 

Bart: It’s an amazing one because you know even if you feel like you’re going well but there are parts of your business that you haven’t updated or haven’t refreshed, it’s so important to do it because if things start to go the other way, then you’ve got no recourse. You’ve got nothing you can do. You don’t really even understand whether that’s a problem point of your business. But the other thing is that people would say hey, I’m full all the time. It’s like well, why don’t you just charge more, be a little bit less for a lot less work, and get all these fundamentals in the right place? Mauro you are going to wrap us up there for today. Thank you so much for spending your time. I know that it’s incredibly valuable. I know that you’re traveling all over the place producing fantastic photos now folks, if you are tuned in and if you want to connect with mero then jump on to his Instagram, which is the hotel photographer. Jump on to his website and you’ll find him there as well. 

We’ll put all the links in the show notes for you to be able to find him. And the one thing that I would say is it doesn’t matter what business size you are, you can reach out and you can at least start that conversation and figure out what you need to be done. The beautiful thing and this is something that I know is if you get it right and if you improve it well you will drive more business right there’s no doubt right no doubt money back guarantee that it happens right? Like that’s the main thing and so Mauro just I don’t think was out of your mouth, but am I right in saying that pretty much anyone can approach you to have a conversation?

Mauro: Anyone, there’s no property too big or too small. It’s always an amazing experience to be with these professionals in the hotel industry. Hoteliers are the kind of people that I love dealing with always say they should be a special place in heaven for hoteliers because they make me feel amazing. And the one thing that I love the most is the feedback where they come back to me and say, Mauro, it was an amazing experience. I didn’t think it would be such an easy-going kind of couple of days working in doing photography that makes me feel so good, but more than anything it’s knowing them and knowing that they can add value to whatever they try to achieve. It’s just a fantastic feeling. Their feedback makes me want to do more. That’s the one thing I can never forget.

Bart: Thank you so much and folks if you are listening to the podcast then make sure you give us a positive review. Five stars is amazing. Leave us some comments and your feedback. You can also catch us on the Facebook group. That’s where we chat with everybody. So make sure you jump onto there and have a bit of a chat and then lastly, if you’re watching on YouTube, make sure you message, subscribe, like put some comments in the box below so that we know how you’re going, how you go with your photography. And if you have any questions whatsoever, we are more than happy to help mero you’re amazing. Thank you so much. Once again, I appreciate you so much, and I look forward to seeing you. I don’t know the next conference, in the next event, I’m sure what is it in five months and we’re doing the next set of photos.

Mauro: You tell me you’re the boss.

Bart:  Love it. Thank you so much. Take care. My pleasure. 

Thank you so much for listening to the show. You can find us at theaccommodationsshow.com where you can find all the show notes. links to resources we have talked about in transcripts from the show. I really do appreciate you listening and if you’d like to support the show, and please subscribe leave a comment, share it with others.

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