Capture: Hotel Room Hacks

11/14/2018 - 16:20
Traveling to-and-from assignments & shooting on-location, I’ve spent a lot of time in hotel rooms. So much so, I’ve become to think of them as temporary studios that I get to occupy for a short period of time.

Even the most meager of accommodations can host a wealth of photographic opportunities. If you think about it, a hotel room is basically just a really cheap photo studio that you rent by the day, and that you can sleep in.

Portraits, headshots, product images, HDR cityscapes & time-lapse photography are just some of the types of images I’ve shot from the relative comfort of a hotel room.

Each room & location will have its advantages and weaknesses. I thought I would offer a few points for consideration when checking into a hotel for photographic purposes.

Checking in: 

Speaking with the front desk or concierge after making reservations. Often, explaining I am a photographer on-assignment, I can ask for a room with a view and can be accommodated.

You can also verify if they allow for early check-in.   In my experience, there is no better time to explore a city then the hour or two you are waiting for your room to be ready. If the hotel allows for early check-in, you can leave your bags at the front desk and start shooting. 

If you haven’t had time to research the local points of interest, the front desk is also an excellent place to receive Information. Often they will have a map or can point you in the best general direction to explore.

(Pro tip: Ask the person at the desk where they would hang out on their day off in the area. Quite often, it is the best way to see something both truly special and local, as well as avoid a tourist trap.)

In the room: 


Snoot – Hot coffee sleeve – Can double as a snoot for your flash. Take a creative portrait, pull the flash off camera for even more dramatic results.

Softbox –  Utilizing an off camera flash set up. A shower curtain or frosted glass (higher end hotels) can work as a giant softbox.

Backdrop – Using HDTV as a LED backdrop. Stream images or project through HDMI port to create custom digital backgrounds for in-room product shoots/conceptual images.

Light Blocking curtains – Perhaps the best feature of any hotel room. Regardless of the light outside, you have the ability to create mood and ambiance using little more than a blackout curtain, and a bedside lamp.

Shooting a seductive portrait that looks like it was taken at a jazzy nightclub or a clean bright professional looking headshot are both possible any time of day, with some adjustments to the light in the room. 

Tripod: Don’t have a tripod for camera stabilization? On the tops of most lamps, shades is a “1/4 screw. Which means if your camera isn’t too heavy it can also double as a tripod.

Views:  You can capture an amazing time-lapse out of the window. Whether using your phone or a DSLR camera make sure that the lens pressed flush against the glass and this will limit reflections. | Shoot early and late – golden hours. 


Every hotel offers different amenities, quite often these items can be as useful on set as they are for their intended purpose. I’ve included some common amenities and my favorite hacks below. 

First aid kits, Earplugs, feminine hygiene products, shoe shine, sewing kits, toiletries, and kitchen supplies (i.e. dishes, microwave) have all been available via free listed hotel amenities.

Toothbrush – 

Emergency eyebrow brush
Hair flyaways
Fingernail dirt / Clean hands
Clean Jewlwery/Products

Toothpaste – 
Eliminate haze on your car headlights by scrubbing them with toothpaste.
Dab a bit of toothpaste on a pimple for the old tried and true and acne clearing trick.
Use toothpaste to soothe a small bug bite. The toothpaste will stop the itch and cool the skin.
Mirror De-fogger
Nail hole spackle

Toothpaste & toothbrush – clean shoes, jewelry or you know, brush your teeth.

Razor – 
Remove pills/lint from clothing.
A client that hasn’t had a chance to shave (it happens)
Glass scraper, remove price tags from products, etc.

Shower Cap – 
Emergency rain cover for camera
Seat Cover for rented bicycle
Doggy Poo Bag/ travel dog bowl
Ice Pack 
Covers for dirty shoes 

Dental Floss- 
Hang things
Emergency thread

Ear Plugs –
For when the DJ plays cupid shuffle for the 4th time! 


Unless you really need the room cleaned, leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for added security.

Ask for Dishes – microwave – use instant coffee maker as electric kettle | heat water – Ramen, Instant Oatmeal, Etc.

If it’s available; Take that protein bar & bottle of water. Guarantee you’ll be needing them later.

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