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The great architectural photographer Mike Kelley once told me that you get hired for the work you display in your portfolio. Mike’s website is full of beautiful images highlighting the cutting edge in architecture and design—those are the images he loves to create, those are the images he displays to the world, and that’s the work that he gets hired to capture.

Subconsciously and strategically, it’s also why my portfolio has become full of hospitality photography—dramatic imagery of the best hotels, resorts and restaurants. Those are the images I love to look at and the pictures I yearn to create. And today, it makes up much of the work that I do.

Luxury Malibu mansion with pool and terraced landscape architecture at dusk

My niche has changed over the past 25 years. From boat photography to fashion, from travel to advertising and finally to architecture and hospitality, it has been a long and winding road, and I’ve loved every minute of my journey so far.

But why am I so drawn to hospitality photography, and what does it mean for my future as a photographer? To better understand what lies ahead, let’s first take a look back on 2023 and the designation that changed my career.

Chasing Marriott

When you think of big, beautiful hotel brands, what name comes to mind? For me and many others, it’s Marriott. From luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis to premium Marriott, Delta and Sheraton Hotels, Marriott is the largest hotel chain in the world and behind some of the biggest brands in hospitality.

Only, to photograph a Marriott hotel, you must first become a Marriott Approved Photographer. It’s a lengthy endeavour, and one that is bestowed only upon a small and select group of architecture and hospitality photographers. It was a big and meaningful accomplishment for me to achieve this designation in 2023.

After years of chasing the title, I had the opportunity to shoot multiple Marriott properties last year and have several Marriott properties to look forward to. It’s a highlight of my career and work I’m honoured to do, but it’s only a fragment of the hospitality work that’s found its way into my portfolio these past few months.

Among many others, last year also saw photoshoots for:

Towneplace Marriott hospitality photography by Shawn Talbot

Changing Perspectives and Trends

For the better part of the past decade, architectural work has been my life’s focus. But, as I dive deeper, I’ve discovered that the niche of hospitality architecture is where my skillset truly shines.

Why? Because it’s a blend of my worlds: architecture and commercial photography. Essentially, hospitality photography is advertising images of architecture. This subtle but important distinction brings a heightened level of creative control.

In architectural photography, the goal is to showcase the designer or architect’s work in a natural sense and in a way in which it authentically interacts with natural light. In hospitality photography, I get to make creative decisions by lighting the space in bold ways that grab your attention and really help to sell that space.

Beige has been all the rage in recent years. While I was happy to create bright and airy images that look like they should appear in Architectural Digest, I’m also happy that the pendulum is starting to swing back to the punchy, dramatic and cinematic look. It’s an eye-catching style that I naturally gravitate towards in my images.

Erica Jane Restaurant in Kelowna exterior image at dusk at One Water Street

The Road Ahead

From the recent Marriott designation to scoring a life and career-changing project I can’t yet announce, my journey to hospitality photography has been a thrilling ride. I can’t wait to tell you more about what I’ve been up to and share photographs I’m proud to add to my portfolio. You are about to start seeing a lot more of the Caribbean in my collection of images!

Interior Design and Finishings of New Moxies Kelowna Restaurant. Features Wood Construction and Restaurant Seating.

Need images that tell the story of your hotel, resort or restaurant? I’d love to help you capture your vision. Contact me online and check out my hospitality photography portfolio to get started.

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