Mario Madau Photography

Mario Madau's Photography/Video Blog

Anatomy of Hotel and Resort Photography; Episode 2;

The Basic Equipment you need.


In today’s fast paced technological change – new ideas, new computer programs, new cameras, etc., the basics of photography still hold true.  You still need a hi-resolution camera and a heavy tripod.  Many people will disagree with me because they believe that Photoshop can fix everything.  I love Photoshop and use it all the time.  However, it’s overuse can make images feel “mechanical” instead of “emotional.”  My whole concept has always been to get the image “in camera.”  Do everything you can to make the image great before you release the shutter.  Old school?  Probably, but this methodology has always worked.  The benefit of this is less time doing Photoshop and more time capturing images. 


My first camera (in the days before Photoshop) was a Sinar 4x5.  The actual film was 4 inches by 5 inches and if you wanted to go crazy you could get an 8x10 back – the film being 8 inches by 10 inches. The benefits of this camera was that you could move the film back and the lens independently and get perfect horizontal and vertical linesAlso the4”x5” negative or transparency size produced really hi-res images great for large venues such as sides of buildings or highway billboards.  This was a great analog camera for its time and I enjoyed using it.  However, for practical purposes, I can’t use it in the commercial world. Firstly, you have to buy the proper film.  Secondly, you have to process the film.  Thirdly, you have to scan the film to a digital format.  You also had to shoot Polaroids so you could see the proper exposure and composition.  When you were shooting with this camera, there was no room for error.  You either got the shot or you didn’t.  There was no way of fixing any mistakes.  So people using this camera had to be really disciplined in image capture.  Oh, did I mention that the image you were seeing at the back was upside down?  You got used to having neck pains.  I should stop here since I could go on and on about this.

Back in the day, this Sinar 4x5 camera was my camera of choice for photographing hotels and resorts.

This shot of a spa in Mexico is a good example of a 4x5 image taken with the Sinar camera – 90mm Roddenstock lens at f22.  This was shot at nighttime, but I used heavy lighting in and out of the spa to make it feel like a daytime shot.

What we all did learn through those years was the discipline of image capture. Focus, proper composition, image stability, manual focus, sharp lens, the use of the right film – be it daylight or tungsten, proper metering for exposure,  etc.  All of these concepts still hold true with digital cameras.  Today, you need a camera that is at least 24 or more megapixels.  This will give you a high-resolution image that will be acceptable to clients.    You still need a heavy tripod to prevent vibrations.  Lens still have to be sharp and you have to know colour theory to get the proper white balance.  Don’t forget about proper exposure.  Even though I have a digital camera that is hi-res and with all the bells and whistles, I still shoot everything manually – manual focus, manual exposure, manual white balance.  This is how I get the essence of the image.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a good and heavy tripod.  I use the older style heavy metal Gitzo tripods made in France.  They have served me well over the years.  They lock tight and will not move in the wind.  If you do a lot of HDR-High Dynamic Range-photography a heavy tripod is a must.

I know that I am going fast and furious here with the terminology and promise that in my upcoming blogs, that I will be more explanatory.   Suffice it to say that the basics like a great camera, sharp lens and heavy tripod are still required to do great hotel and resort photography.

The crowds at Circus Maximus (Rome) watching the soccer match between Italy and Spain, July 2012.  Nikon D3x, Nikkor 28mm 2.8 lens and my trusty Gitzo stystematic tripod. I shot this as a panoramic.  The Italians went crazy.  Sad they lost.



Spa Acapulco

Sinar 4x5 Camera

Sinar 4x5 Camera

Sinar camera back;  Notice image is upside down

Mario Madau