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It’s been 26 years, and I’m still in awe of where my camera and luxury resort photography have taken me.

When I started my career in 1998, the prospect of travelling across the province for the BC Film Commission filled me with excitement. In the years that followed, I had the chance to photograph lava flows in Hawaii, ice caves in Iceland, rice farmers in China and the rugged deserts of the American Southwest.

Now, I’ve added a new destination to my portfolio: the Caribbean. And it all started with an email from one of the biggest names in hospitality, Sandals Resorts.

Night aerial photography over water by Shawn Talbot for Sandals Resorts

The World’s Leading All-inclusive Resorts

Sandals is synonymous with the Caribbean and all-inclusive beach resorts. But, back in the ‘80s, this was something of a novel concept. That is, until Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the owner of a successful appliance and air conditioning service company, was contracted to work on a new resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Sandals Resorts Montego Bay pool drone aerial photography by Shawn Talbot

The Kingston-born entrepreneur saw an opportunity in Jamaica’s burgeoning tourism industry and bought an old hotel on the beach in Montego Bay. In 1981, after seven months and $4 million in renovations, Sandals Montego Bay opened its doors and reimagined the world of all-inclusive resorts. Instead of buffets, Sandals had gourmet restaurants, swim-up bars, and every land and water activity possible included in the resort fee.

Sandals flourished, and couples who loved the all-inclusive lifestyle asked for a family-friendly option to share the experience with their kids. In 1997, Sandals launched Beaches Resorts.

Today, Butch’s son Adam Stewart leads Sandals and Beaches Resorts and oversees 20 resorts on 10 islands across the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Curaçao, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Turks & Caicos.

Kelowna to the Caribbean

With such an impressive legacy and well-regarded brand, I had to pinch myself when I saw the Sandals name in my inbox last fall. They found my luxury resort photography portfolio on Google and wanted a proposal.

I was up against incredible hospitality photographers from England, Japan and the USA, and after multiple rounds of interviews and proposals, I was chosen for the job. A few short weeks later, I left my home in Kelowna, went to the airport and hopped on a flight to Jamaica.

My assistant and I spent a month in Montego Bay shooting for 12 hours every day to capture between eight and ten completed images. Each room, each scene, had to be perfect. But, unlike luxury resort photography shoots we’ve done in the past, where we spend the first 45 minutes arranging furniture and ironing drapes, all of the styling details were being taken care of for us.

Sandals flew in a talented styling team from Miami who always stayed one step ahead of us. Armed with 29 giant tubs of props, the stylists worked tirelessly with us to craft each scene. Instead of worrying about styling, we got to spend every minute of the shoot focused on lighting and composition.

In a normal year, I might add 10 new photos to my portfolio. With Sandals, we were getting a new portfolio shot every day.

The Challenges of Luxury Resort Photography

Sandals Resorts are busy! Everywhere you look and everywhere you go, people are smiling, relaxing and enjoying this beautiful slice of paradise. As a guest, it’s a wonderful thing. As a luxury resort photographer, it creates a balancing act of being inconspicuous, taking a great picture and doing your best not to impact the guest experience.

But sometimes you just need to get the shot.

Sandals Resorts Montego Bay main pool

One of the pools at Sandals Montego Bay is surrounded by a lush grove of trees. If you’re not shooting it at one o’clock, the pool is covered in shadow. Working around the guests as to not disrupt their fun under the Caribbean sun is quite the challenge, but when you get the image—a perfect and inviting snapshot of the pool at just the right time with clean and open views of the ocean—it’s all worthwhile.

Looking to the Horizon

Beyond the islands of paradise, I’m thrilled to join the extended team of the world’s best luxury hospitality photographer, Brandon Barré. For as long as I’ve been a photographer, I’ve looked up to Brandon and just recently joined his agency. As a Barré Studio Photographer, Brandon represents and enlists me to tackle his client’s projects when he is unable to do so. Being asked by Brandon to shoot for his clients and to represent his brand is an immense honor and one that I am really looking forward to.

Looking for luxury resort photography that tells a story?
I’d love to capture your vision. Contact me online to get started.

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