Shooting Naturally Lit Hotel Interiors With Dion Robeson

Shooting Naturally Lit Hotel Interiors With Dion Robeson

Project of the Week

It’s been a while since some great images of a hospitality space have graced your screens on Project of the Week. Today, we have a gorgeous project by Perth’s own Dion Robeson.

Over the course of three days, Dion photographed The Westin Brisbane designed by Woods Bagot, and styled by Anna Flanders. This series is an excellent reminder that just because you are shooting a hotel doesn’t mean you have to bust out the flashes and light each scene it to high heaven. Sometimes, a quieter, more natural look suits the space just perfectly.

I asked Dion what it was like shooting The Westin, and what challenges he ran in to on a shoot of this magnitude. He relayed, “The main challenge working at The Westin was working around the operating hours of the hotel. As I was shooting for Woods Bagot, the hotel was already open so we needed to shoot areas at certain times based on their opening hours rather than when those areas would obtain the best natural light. [In these situations] you just need to work with the hotel staff closely, try to get it as best you can and push boundaries where you can. In a lot of the main areas, we had zero control over the lighting, which also causes issues. This just meant we needed to be creative and use screens to block out unwanted light.”

Instead of the conventional commercial feeling that most photographs portray of these sorts of spaces, I love the tender quality of the dining area images.

Dion and I share a favorite photo from this shoot, and it’s the one below. He said “This was probably one of the most simple setups of the whole project, but there is just something quiet and calming about this one.”

While most hospitality shoots feel flashy and render-esque, Dion’s photos of The Westin have a reserved and natural feel about them. No strobes were busted out during this shoot, it’s au naturel, manipulated with black cloth and screens. See, you don’t have to schlep around cases and cases of Profoto heads and stands!

The abundance of leading lines and strong geometric shapes present in this scene create a very pleasing and graphic image. There is also a perfect amount of contrast in the dynamic range from the brightest highlights on the columns and pool chairs to the darkest shadows.

I was curious to know a bit more about Dion’s process for keeping his photographs consistent across such a variety of rooms and spaces in this hotel. Each one has a different feel — for example, the spa rooms are light and airy while the restaurant and dining area feel a bit more contrasty and dark — yet the images all mesh together well as a complete project.

In regards to keeping things consistent as a whole, Dion said: “This is sometimes difficult and really comes down to spending time on the edit process. I do have my standard adjustments which are my starting point, however, I like to edit in batches, so I edit the same project over a few days or week-long period. Over this time, I just re-visit it and make tweaks, seeing it with fresh eyes and eventually finding a spot where all the images from the project tie together and have a similar feel.”

Hotel rooms are notoriously tight spaces that offer little mercy when it comes to space for compositions. I think Dion really nailed this one here though, showing all of the important areas and features of this standard room while giving great directionality and quality of light from the window that is backlighting the scene. I also really dig the simple styling of the scene, complete with suitcase and coat for a bit of life and story telling.

One thing in particular I love about Dion’s work, and this shoot in particular, is how he doesn’t feel the need to squeeze all of the details out of his shadows. he lets them fall dark and lets the blacks be black. This leads to a very rich and contrasty image. When I asked Dion about his judgment in manipulating the tones during post processing, he said:

“My main objective is to show the space as I see it, what makes me smile, what I am drawn to, where my eyes are drawn to and what feeling the space gives me. If I can find a frame which portrays this, I will shoot it in a way to get the most out of it. This sometimes means allowing the darks to stay dark, the highlights to stay highlights etc. I never want to “create” an image; I don’t want to throw light where there isn’t light if you know what I mean. If I can get this right in camera/on-site then my edit is really just balancing out the image until I think it works.

Gorgeous vignettes like the ones above and below flesh out the hotel rooms and their finer details. Again, the rich contrast gives depth and mood to these scenes, while the beautiful directional light raking across the room creates a dynamic quality in each photograph. They are just lovely!

A hearty thanks to Dion Robeson for sharing this project and his insights with us. Take a peek at Dion’s other work via his website dionrobeson.com, or on Instagram @dionrobeson

As always, if you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.

About Lexi Taciak
Howdy! I'm Lexi, a photographer, graphic designer, and writer.