When out on safari, some of the hardest photos to get right are the ones of your accommodation. No matter how stunning the lodge, people are often disappointed that their pictures don’t show off just how special their stay was. Lover of creative and unusual accommodation, Characterstays was asked by Kosi Forest Lodge to let us in on some of the secrets of capturing that perfect shot of your holiday digs, even using a smartphone:
1. Create a mood
Characterful accommodation is often wonderfully impractical – the antithesis of our usually pragmatic lives. Cue all-white furniture, creamy upholstered deck chairs, or rustic cabins in the woods, outdoor baths and indoor basins in tents, tree houses and caravans.
Use the unique features of your lodge to sense and capture the mood of a place. Is it over-the-top luxurious? Is it earthy and natural? Is it wistfully romantic or does it encourage contemplative solitude? Use props like a journal, beautiful shoes, a hat or scarf to reflect the character of a space. Bring along romantic items like bubble bath, candles or white silk pyjamas to set your scene. Consider diagonals, off-centre features, symmetry and space to bring creative flair to your theme.
Remove or cover ugly interferences which detract from the mood you are creating – scan critically for electrical chords and plug points, fire extinguishers, notices and your partner’s scuffed suitcase and stinky socks.
Use humour and be bold to create interesting images. If you have an obliging partner, get him or her to do something that epitomises where you are staying, like reclining on a deck, viewing wildlife through binoculars, sipping a golden drink at sunset or lazing in a bubble bath with a view. Be creative about selfies, like taking a shot of your hands or feet to show how you are getting the most out of your holiday space.
2. Let the outside in
There is something infinitely luxurious about lying in a bed of white percale linen within metres of the great outdoors. Try to capture this sense of being both inside and outside when you take photographs of your lodge. This works especially well in spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms, which (in boring everyday life) tend to be more interior. Create that sense of risky openness, coupled with the privacy provided by nature and the decadence that one finds in many romantic lodges.
Mirror what is outside with the interior, for example picking up on matching colours or textures. Open doors and windows and let autumn leaves, flowers or vines flow into the room to transition the interior and exterior. Include birds and animals in your scene to create interest and a connection with nature.
Combining the outdoors and indoors into one image is technically tricky, because interiors tend to be darkened when you include a bright exterior view in your photograph. It may be easier to take this type of image in the early morning or late afternoon, when the exterior light is soft and golden. Or you can brighten the interior so that it stands up to the well-lit exterior. Gentle, reflected exterior light, for example the light on a tree, may be easier to incorporate than a harsh glare or direct sunlight.
3. Let the inside out
Equally romantic is the idea of bringing the inside out into nature – think of a picnic at a lake or silver-service dining in a game reserve. Don’t be shy to ask your hosts to set up that fantasy table by the sea or to take an upholstered chair or bed out into nature. Be creative in bringing your own picnic blanket and cushions to set the scene of your great escape. Bringing food and drinks outside immediately creates interest. Use water, such as pools or lakes, or incorporate interesting trees or natural features like mountains as the context to foster unusual contrasts between what is usually inside, outside.
Remember to step outside and look back in at your villa or tent to create an interesting perspective. Taking images of a glowing room at dusk, from outside, or a glamping space under starlight, creates an instant sense of cosy invitation.
4. Catch what shimmers
Images of interiors that are not well lit are flat, dull and frankly rather depressing. When you walk into a hotel room to take a photograph, the first thing you might do is turn on all the lights, especially bedside lights and gently lit corner lamps. Softer, warm lights tend to work better than harsh direct white light, which can splay on your image if you don’t have a filter. If you can, turn the light away from shining directly at your camera, for example angle a flexible bedside lamp to shine onto the bed or headboard.
Scan your room and let your eyes be drawn to that which shimmers – a mirror reflecting a light, the sheen on a fabric, the shine on a bathroom floor or a ripple of light from a swimming pool or dam.
Practise capturing this light, using different angles on your phone or varying the settings on your camera. Change your height to discover a different play of light, for example climb up onto the bed or a chair or get down low to see how your perspective and the light changes.
If you are staying in the same lodge for a while, see how the light moves across the room at different times during the day. Try to arrive at your chosen accommodation before sunset, as later afternoon and early morning light is often the most magical in capturing the essence of a beautiful room.
Use oil lamps, candles and fires to create warm light and atmosphere in a lodge.
5. Look for texture
Accommodation art, when it is done beautifully, is all about contrast. This usually includes a play of light and texture in the décor and architecture of a space. Characterful accommodation can be great for finding texture – look for exposed wooden beams, old lumpy walls and the warmth of wood and thatch. I love to contrast the old and rough with the clean and modern within one image.
Like the master designer Coco Chanel’s rule for clothing – before you leave the home, remove one accessory – the adage ‘less is more’ works with lodge photography too. All good art involves a certain amount of restraint, even when you are aiming for a particular theme or mood. Focus in on certain details and aspects of your room, like a bedside table, a pattern of fabric or a pretty feature. Simplify and let a beautiful piece of furniture or architecture sing alone.
Above all, have fun when practising lodge photography and release your creative juices. Let go of the perfect image of the resort that you saw on the hotel’s website or brochure and make your images your own. Personalise your travel memories and be real about what you appreciate in a creative holiday space. Draw on your own experience of the place to reflect your unique story of travel, adventure and that not-quite-forgotten happiness of a child.