A hotel’s website is usually the first point of contact with customers, so it needs to make a good first impression—fast. Your website has just a few seconds to lure customers, and the best way to do this is through compelling imagery that draws prospective guests in and conveys the experience of your property.

Arguably the most important element of a hotel website, images play a crucial role in the decision-making process when travelers are choosing a place to stay—so website images are something you definitely want to get right. Here are our tips for using hotel photos to maximize conversions.

Invest in Professional Photography

Your hotel’s website is your most important digital marketing tool. The face of your property online, your website’s goal is to convey the experience of your property and convert website visitors into paying guests. Because images are the best way to convey a sense of place and speak to our emotions, hotel website photos are not something you should skimp on.

A professional photographer understands both the artistic and technical sides of capturing a subject in its best light and conveying its personality. Choose a photographer experienced in hotel photography; they will have a lot of valuable insights on what to photograph and how. Once you have selected a photographer, communicate your property’s selling points to them to ensure you get plenty of shots that will help tell your property’s unique story.

What to Show

Before the photo shoot, it’s important to make a list of what you’d like photographed. Guestrooms are very important and will likely come at the top of the list, but your property has plenty of other features to show off as well. The photo session will be time limited, so making a list will help to ensure nothing gets missed.

Guestrooms
If your property has different room types (for example, standard rooms, deluxe suites and accessible rooms) make sure you get a series of photos to convey each type of room. Aim for at least four different photos for each room type, including different angles and a photo of the bathroom, to show important room features and ambiance.

Styling makes all the difference. Get rid of clutter like printed instructions, guides and TV remotes, fluff up the pillows, straighten wrinkles out of the linen, and consider adding special touches such as a vase of flowers.

Lighting is very important. Your photographer will know how to improve lighting with artificial sources, but the right natural light results in the best photos. Too much natural light makes photos look overexposed, while not enough natural light can make photos look lifeless. When scheduling your photo session, think about the time of day and the direction windows face.

Hotel Exterior
The first in-person impressions of your property are formed when guests arrive—as they drive or walk up to your front door. Include exterior shots of the hotel to help convey your property’s curb appeal online and let guests know what to expect.

Lobby and Common Areas
Usually, the lobby is where guests are welcomed onto a property, making it a key space in any hotel—a space that also influences early guest impressions. Your lobby, along with other common areas such as lounges, reading nooks or libraries, patios and gardens, contribute greatly to the ambiance of your hotel and should be presented on your website to help convey your property’s character online.

Think about showing people in some shots, enjoying your property. This inspires website visitors to imagine themselves in the picture. Make sure you get the permission of guests before you photograph them, or you could use friends or family members to pose as guests.

Facilities
Hotel facilities are important to prospective guests and can help sway booking decisions, so make sure you show yours off. Include images of your pool, restaurant, fitness area, meeting and event spaces to show guests the services you offer beyond a place to sleep.

Location
It’s a good idea to include images that highlight your property’s location, be it the stunning coastline at your doorstep, an iconic shot of the neighborhood, or the nearby theme park. As hotel stays become more experience driven, promoting a property’s surrounding location helps establish your hotel as part of the local fabric. Location images are important for your “Location” and “Local Attractions” pages, and including one in your main homepage slide show can also work well.

Images of nearby locations and attractions can be sourced from destination marketing organizations and travel businesses, but be sure to get their permission to use them on your website. Choose images that match the style of your other website photos.

Choose a Mix of Angles and Shot Types
While wide-angle shots are good for setting the scene, close-ups are good for bringing viewers into the scene and drawing attention to special details or amenities, so select a mix of both to convey the experience of your property.

Those special touches unique to your property make great subjects for close-up shots, such as the perfect breakfast tray waiting on the bed, a romantic table setting in your restaurant, or a horseshoe above a rustic cabin door.

Where to Show

Photos must be thoughtfully placed throughout your website to tell the story of your property in a way that flows and makes sense.

For the slideshow banner on your homepage, choose four to six of your best images that together give a good overview of your property.

Then, throughout your website, use relevant photos to illustrate the topic of the page or section of a page.

Photo galleries are an effective way to showcase guestrooms, hotel facilities, activities and location. Your website can feature a dedicated gallery page, organized by subject, or use subject-specific galleries to illustrate applicable pages, like your “Rooms” page or “Local Attractions” page.

All galleries should feature slideshow functionality, allowing customers to view photos in a larger format, and skip forward and back through them as they like. Slideshows can be embedded into a webpage, featured in a pop-up window, or even span the entire screen. Whatever form they take, ensure galleries and slideshows are responsive for optimal viewing on any screen, be it desktop or smartphone.

Bigger is Better

Big, beautiful images have a powerful effect, drawing viewers into the scene and engaging their emotions. They work well from a design perspective too, where images, more so than text, should do most of the talking. Most importantly, bigger images are shown to improve conversions.

Many hotel websites are using screen-spanning hero images and background images that immediately grab the viewer’s attention and entice them into the website to explore further.

Selecting quality, high-resolution photos is especially important for large images.

The More the Merrier

Potential guests want to see everything your property has to offer, so don’t skimp on photos. Show different angles of your rooms and common areas to more effectively convey the stay experience. But don’t go overboard and chuck up everything you have—select only quality images where each one adds useful information and shows off your property in its best light.

Ensure Quick Load Times

With lots of large images, a website can be slow to load. To avoid losing customers due to long page-load wait times, ensure your images are optimized to load quickly.

Due to an expansive color palette and easy optimization for the web, JPEG is the best file format for website photos. Ensure that images are saved at the right dimensions (refer to your website theme’s suggested image sizes), save the image for web (using Photoshop’s “Save for Web” command), and, finally, compress the image further without reducing quality using a compression app like Optimizilla or TinyPNG.

A responsive website design will ensure photos are displayed optimally across all devices.

Utilize Image ALT Tags

Image ALT text or ALT tags allow a brief description of the image to be entered that will appear in case the image is unable to load. ALT tags are also useful to visually impaired website visitors using screen-reading technology. Search engines read ALT tags too, to help determine image search results.

Often overlooked, ALT tags are actually an important way to create a better user experience for your website visitors, and help search engines rank your site.

When it comes to writing image ALT tags, be specific; describe the subject and context of the image, for example, “Spacious, modern deluxe suite with kitchenette and ocean view at My Hotel in Miami, FL.”

We humans tend to “buy with our eyes,” so property photos are a crucial element of a hotel website. Investing in quality photography for your website, and using the right photos in the right place, has real power to greatly increase conversions.