When looking for the perfect location for a photoshoot, the idea of an upscale hotel lobby might cross your mind. The modern, flashy furniture or luxury antique décor could be the perfect backdrop to your shot list. But is it possible to do a photoshoot in a hotel lobby?

Many hotels don't allow photographers to do photoshoots in their public spaces without permission. Explain your photoshoot purpose to the hotel manager and make sure you won't break any of their rules. Hotels with conference rooms usually have a provision for setting up a photoshoot in other public areas.

Holding a photoshoot in a hotel lobby can pose security and privacy concerns for the hotel staff and its guests. If you're determined to do a photoshoot in a swanky hotel public space, make sure you contact the hotel management to discuss guidelines.

How to Ask Permission for a Photoshoot in a Hotel Lobby

The issue of consent and what the law considers private property or a public space is a gray area. For the most part, private property open to the public allows photographs and videos unless there's a clear posted sign prohibiting it (Source: Lifehacker). While you can assume you can take photos in these places, you must stop when the owner asks you.

Wherever you go to do a photoshoot, the topic of consent is always there. Hotels are considered private property. Just like you wouldn't take photos in someone's house without permission, you shouldn't do a photoshoot inside a hotel without asking first unless it is explicitly included in a stay package (mostly for corporate guests).

Do Your Research

Research your chosen hotel beforehand to see if they have photoshoot policies online. Some hotels outline what is and is not permitted. For example, the Royal Cliff Hotel Group in Thailand outlines the following filming and photoshoot policy for their hotel. They also outline how photographers can submit a request to do a photoshoot on the hotel's property.

  • No commercial photography or video is permitted without written consent from hotel management.
  • Guests may shoot non-commercial photos and videos for personal use.
  • Guests cannot use professional equipment or lighting and must respect others' privacy while on the ground.
  • Unauthorized professional photographers will be asked to leave the property.

The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville has a similar online form to request to do a photoshoot. While they don't have rules posted on the page, they make the form clear and easy to understand, including whether they charge a fee.

You can save yourself and the hotel manager a lot of time by researching their policies ahead of time. When you head to the hotel to ask for photoshoot consent, you'll appear knowledgeable, and they will appreciate the time you took to research.

Speak to the Hotel Manager

First things first, don't go up to the front desk and ask a random staff member for permission. Most times, the front desk staff won't have any idea how to handle such requests. Ask to speak to the hotel manager. Be polite and respectful when you talk to them. If you're afraid they might say no, use this psychological trick outlined by PBS: pre-suasion – I love this!

Pre-suasion involves saying something before asking for something. Establish trust and a positive aspect of your ask before posing the question. Consider how shooting in the hotel lobby can be useful for their business (a.k.a., free advertising). Give the manager something that will grab their attention from the start.

Offer to shoot a few photos they can use for their website, social media, or other purposes. If you're friendly, understanding, and compliant, you may even get more permissions than you ask for!

Outline Your Plans and Outcome Goals

Be clear about what you plan to do with your photoshoot. Are you setting up extra lighting, bringing in a tripod, or something else? Give the hotel manager a general picture of what you are going to do in their lobby. This way, there won't be any surprises or last-minute shutdowns.

Outline what you hope to achieve with shooting in the lobby. Are you looking to get a vintage aesthetic, or do you want to provide the perfect setting for a contemporary fashion shoot? Outline your goals for the project and think of ways that it could be beneficial to the hotel. Explain that you or anyone won't t use the photos for the advertisement of another business.

Discuss Challenges and Guidelines

Some hotels may have rules or contract to sign before you can take professional photos. Some hotels charge a fee to allow photographers to do photoshoots. They may limit the type of equipment you can use or prohibit certain areas in the lobby from being used.

One of the most significant challenges when it comes to photoshoots in a hotel lobby is passersby's consent. Hotel guests and visitors don't have to give consent to be in photos taken on private property. The hotel manager will outline this. You will likely have to promise to do your best not to capture anyone's faces in photos – of course, except for your models.

What Are the Privacy Permissions for My Hotel Lobby Photos?

Depending on the hotel's policies, you most likely won't be able to use your photos for commercial purposes. If you capture a face in your image's background, there are additional rules to protect privacy.

Most often, shooting in a hotel follows the same rules as shooting in a public place regarding using someone's likeness in a photo. If you don't have permission from the person in the picture, you can't use it for commercial purposes (Source: Lifehacker).

You also can't use photos that could give away someone's private information, such as showing someone at the doctor's office or an addiction meeting. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), if someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, you could violate the invasion of privacy for using that photo.

Besides, since the hotel is private property, anyone in the photos can withdraw consent at any time before publishing the photo (Once again, RCFP). The person doesn't need to be in the center of the image; they can be a background figure.

If you must sign a contract or agree to the hotel's rules, they will likely outline their privacy guidelines in the document. Each state has its own interpretations of invasion of privacy regarding photography and filming. Visit the RCFP (one last time) website to read up on them.

Conclusion

If you're hoping to get the perfect shot with a photoshoot in a hotel lobby, make sure you research your permissions first. Many hotels outline photo and video policies on their website. They include a form to fill out a request to use space for a photoshoot. Keep in mind that they can charge a fee to use their space, even if you're only shooting in the lobby.

If you don't fill out a request form online, go to the hotel in-person and ask for the hotel manager. Ask for consent politely and respectfully. Be sure to follow any rules they give you. Consider offering to take a few photos for them as a thank-you.

When shooting in a place like a hotel lobby, it's essential to stay up-to-date on the national and state laws regarding privacy. A hotel lobby is on private property. However, people don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in what is considered a public space on private property. They can, on the other hand, withdraw consent if they wish.

Once you create a professional relationship with hotel management and ensure you're following all guidelines and laws, you're set to hold a fantastic hotel lobby photoshoot! Otherwise, if you book a corporate conference at one of the bigger hotels, enjoy your conference photoshoot!