For large luxury hotel photoshoots, you have to be able to work under extreme pressure and have capabilities in multiple types of photography. We need to be able to capture still life, food, people in service, architecture and lifestyle. We work very closely with the marketing, communication and PR teams to portray the brand in its best light. It's not about turning up to the location and doing what you want. Instead, we have to pre-plan everything, ensuring that the equipment, lighting, and any support from assistants or clients are organised in advance. Then the focus is on assuring that we complete the project on time, on budget and exceed expectations.
While client satisfaction is the number one priority in any project, work of this nature is gained predominantly through agency partners. It's also essential that budgets and timeframes are adhered to; otherwise, we wouldn't be given jobs like it again. Similarly, in a creative and competitive industry like commercial photography, the broader community's positive reputation and reception are invaluable in the continued generation of projects.
Quite often, we're shooting in these buildings before they're open to the public. They're beautiful luxury hotels, but next to us, there might be a guy pouring concrete or using a jackhammer - you don't see that part in the final images!
There was a project that we shot in Dubai for Mandarin Oriental that was being built at the time. We're often on-site before it's open to the public, so whole sections are closed off at any one time. We can spend up to a month photographing a hotel like this. The Mandarin Oriental Dubai was an exciting project as it was just Cathy, my stylist and partner, our assistants and me staying in the whole venue. We gradually shot each section of the hotel as it became ready. It's an example of a project where retouching could be required to fill parts that might not have been built yet. This experience is so special as you see the whole thing evolve as a project and come to life.
Another example of the juxtaposition between the photos we create and the environment in which it's created was the first time I photographed the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London before it opened in 2000. The contrast between how London is such a busy, non-compromising place and the enormity of this hotel, prior to being filled with guests, was exciting. Being able to shoot this exceptional venue on large format film emphasised the satisfaction of achieving a successful project like this one.
We've been very lucky to have stayed in some of the most extravagant suites that we've shot, but grand hotels are not just about the space - their success hinges on the quality of service they provide. Even if you're in a beautiful space, if the service and food are poor, you're not going to enjoy your stay.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Crown Resorts are focused on providing a quality experience as well as luxurious spaces and are brands with which I'm proud to have a long working history.
Another of my longstanding clients is the premium Australian brand Baillie Lodges with which I’m very proud to be associated. We completed a shoot recently at Silky Oaks, Daintree Rainforest, in far-north Queensland. The venue is in a lavish setting, but it's the full experience that makes this premium accommodation a wonderful place to visit.
I appreciate that we're treated exceptionally well whenever we travel for a shoot. I'm lucky enough to have spent decades travelling to photograph, so we now have a smooth and efficient process. During a project, we work up to 16 hours a day, so there's less opportunity to enjoy all these hotels offer. Instead, we must have an office to operate and somewhere to sleep! A vital part of the experience for us is ensuring that we have access to super-fast wifi, as these days we're sending files all around the world. For example, on a project in Switzerland, I would upload what I'd captured that day each evening and send it to the retoucher I worked with back in Melbourne. By the time I woke up the following morning, the images were updated and ready to go.
When you distil it down, the premium hotels I have the pleasure of photographing need an intense and high-quality project to launch the experience they offer to the world. The first impression is the best impression, always.