Oyster Hotel Reviews – Hotel Photo Fakeout

- - Working

I like this new hotel review site, Oyster Hotel Reviews, because they understand how powerful the editorial voice can be when making a buying decision and they understand a photograph will convey the most information in the shortest amount of time. They’ve hired a bunch of writer photographers to go check out hotel properties and show you what they really look like.

My favorite feature is the photo fakeout on their blog (here). Where they shoot their own version of the hotels pool, workout room and hotel room to show you the careful cropping and outright photoshopping the hotels have done to fool you.

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There Are 34 Comments On This Article.

  1. Very funny. Although I was a bit bothered when photoshop was given credit to improving photos when it was really the photogrpaphers skill that produced the superior image. The Miami Photo Fakeout: The Townhouse gets by with a little help from its photo-editor friends (http://blog.oyster.com/miami-photo-fakeout-the-townhouse-gets-by-with-a-little-help-from-its-photo-editor-friends-2330/) is a great example. A wide lens, low angle and long night exposure with no people will produce a much more appealing photo than the one shot by the author, which is shot on an overcast day with random people, plus bad composition.

  2. To me it’s an example of how easy it is to be at the right place at the wrong time or to show a bad composition of a workout room.

    Some photoshop may have been used to improve these photos, but the reality is that it’s an example of good lighting and planning. The photographer did a good job of making the hotel appealing.

    It’s not a comparison of a Photoshopped image vs an undoctored one. What they prove is that a well-executed photo is better than a snapshot.

    • @Mark Harmel, I totally echo your thoughts. What I find is funny is that what was once skill in catching a perfect scene to sell a place or idea is now being referred to as ‘faked out’ … something to think on for this morning for me.

  3. Every photograph is a lie… to someone.

    An unskilled photographer takes a photo and shows it around to his/her friends, its a lie because it almost certainly does not convey the message they intended.

    A skilled photographer takes a photo and shows it around to his/her friends and it becomes a lie the first time one of those friends visits the scene and sees it differently.

    This site wants to show people how much worse a place is than its photo. That intent guarantees a lack of accuracy to the place. How is that lie better? Because now the site is getting ad revenue.

  4. Wow, does good lighting make details in hot tubs appear, how about plants, maybe good lighting makes railings disappear? Must be the new line of lights that Adobe and Profoto has been working on.

    C’mon this is outright fakery and deception.

    I am all for making things look appealing and finding the right angle etc…but really can’t you see in Rob’s example how this is not even close? Making the lighting right, getting overweight people out of the photo and hiring models, using wide angle lenses, filters etc…fine, but creating something that’s not there is just wrong.

    • Dan Westergren

      @Rick Lohre, The writer photographed the wrong pool. You can see this one in the overall of the hotel and in their video. I think Oyster hotel reviews are the deceptive ones here.

  5. They seem to have an agenda against well executed pictures used for advertising.

    Do they seriously think that a picture of a single pretty woman at a pool implies that there won’t be anyone else at the pool?

    I can understand about shots where buildings are photoshopped out, but complaining because a lightpole was removed? Or taking a shot during the day, when the ad picture was taken at night? Or taking a snapshot from a different angle at a different distance?

    Most of their snapshots just illustrate how good the advertising pictures are. I wouldn’t stay at a hotel that used their snapshots to promote the hotel.

  6. another fine example why professionals are needed and not everyone holding a camera can take a decent picture. i took a quick look around and most of the original shots wouldnt need any photoshopping.. just a knowledgable photographer with a little equipment will get those as a shot-in-once. images like those were done on slides in the dark days of film without any postproduction. and still are, because most photography like that doesnt pay the photoshopping.
    those reviewers cant even match a vantage point close enough to allow for a comparison. they should stick to writing and not take photographs.

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking that the photographs used to advertise the hotels are successful, professional looking images that show the subject in the best possible way, just as they should. This isn’t documentary photography and even then, a documentary photographer would at least go to the trouble to make a well composed shot. The site is a bit slanderous and I believe treading into dangerous territory.

  8. I think the thing that I question in my mind is, does the general public really want to see reality? Really — not fooling here, but photography is going the way of good enough and if that’s the case … I dunno … just thinking out loud.

    • Conrad Hilton

      @Sharon P. Fibelkorn,

      I regularly book hotel rooms in Manhattan thru http://www.quikbook.com, and when you consider a hotel, they usually show you three small JPGs: a guest room, the lobby, and maybe the dining room. There is nothing worse, after a long day of travel, than to arrive at the hotel and check into a tiny room that’s nothing like the JPG pictured on their site.

      Maybe I’m a cheap-ass; maybe not. Maybe I ought to shell out for the W and not be surprised. But the point is: when a hotel shows something like that, they do seem to be bound to some degree of truthiness. Are they not? We’re not talking about national advertising here, where you’re just showing a mood — we’re talking informational photography here.

      I know that, on more than one occasion, when I’ve shot resort or hotel jobs, I might have crossed the line and gotten too creative, but thankfully, the client usually reels me in. They simply remind me that they don’t want to deal with Letters after the fact, or complaints at check in, if it’s not WYSIWYG.

  9. You have got to be kidding me.
    So the standard now is that amateurs with point-n-shoots, who purposely go for the worst possible angle, at the worst possible time of day, (like after the lunch crowd has decimated the buffet, or when it’s raining) represent “honest” photography? WTF?

    I guess every photographer who shoots headshots is a dishonest hack, because they used an umbrella and put the subject in front of a pleasing backdrop.

    Eugene Smith, Joe McNally, Julius Shulman — all fakers. And dishonest, too.

    Sheesh. I guess I’ll dust off my point-n-shoot, and make sure to tilt the camera more often.

    Oyster Hotel Reviews are the jerks, here. I see nothing wrong with the marketing photos, and everything wrong with the amateur versions.

  10. Nothing like a little controversy to attract people to your new on-line business. Oyster.com only started in June 2009, founded by two former Microsoft employees. I think they need to earn a reputation, rather than cajole their way into one. The site is more like AdBusters than Condé Nast.

    The average non-photographer now often thinks that when they see a photo that they cannot figure out how to do on their own, then it must be Photoshopped. Maybe these Oyster people and those who follow them should sue the camera companies for not making cameras that allow them to repeat what a professional is capable of accomplishing.

  11. I do resorts for a living – some of those “fakeouts” may even be mine.

    I am paid good money to use my knowledge and skills to my client’s best advantage. That is my sole and only responsibility. I do not fake a scenic view that isn’t real by cloning out a building that obstructs the view. But neither do I shoot it with an iPhone on a rainy day and call it realism.

    Do fashion shooters iron out the wrinkles in the merchandise and pin it to fit, from the rear? – you betcha. Does a food photographer brush a little bit of fat on the steak to make it look juicier?- right again. Photography is rarely about realism. Ansel Adams used every darkroom trick in the book to enhance the image in his prints, but does anyone get pissed off when they visit Yosemite and it doesn’t look as good as Adam’s prints? Doubt it.

    I make no apologies for knowing where the sun will set and when, for casting terrific people to work with, for respecting the architect’s vision, for having a sense of design that tells me when to add or subtract something from the frame and for knowing how to use my gear.

    It’s one thing when a hotel uses shots that are total BS, or Stock shots from another location, but professional work, using all of the tools at our disposal is what we’re paid to do. I make no apologies.

    • @Andy Ptak,
      Of course it can always be tastefully done but user generated content is a backlash to overproduced, overhyped and misleading content. Photographers should take note of this because the trend will be to produce imagery that is simple and clean and doesn’t look like you tired too hard. Photos like that are even more difficult to make.

      • @A Photo Editor, It’s always hard to know when enough is enough, no matter what the undertaking is. Each to our own, I guess.

        But I do think you’re confusing “user generated content” with an expose business model website. These guys are in it for the bucks, not the honesty. If they really wanted to go after the lack of truth in travel advertising they’d go after TripAdvisor, where an increasing number of positive reviews about certain hotels are from the staff of the hotels themselves. Now that’s devious and dishonest.

        Other than that, I just think you’ve got it in for Photoshop users these days, considering what you said about Messrs Freeman and Wolfe in your Outside piece.

        The way that I look at it is, The Beatles could have stopped when they did Please Please Me, and the world would have been happy. But then they went into the studio with a master technician/Producer and used all of the electronic wizardry they could muster and came up with the heavily manipulated White Album. Personally, liked both approaches.

        Same for using Photoshop versus not, either way is fine, they’re just different that’s all. You should lighten up, Rob. Cheers.

        • @Andy Ptak,
          Lighten up? All I said was I liked their editorial approach. It’s what magazines used to do. They’ve done a hack job with the photography but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve.

          I don’t have it out for anyone I’m just expressing my opinion. I prefer live music over studio albums as well.

  12. The more I think about this, the more incensed I get!
    C’mon, Rob! If I took a crappy cell-phone photo of you at 5:30 in the morning, when you were unshaven and all hung over, would I be justified in claiming that your “official” headshot, which appears on the front page of this blog, was “Doctored”, and “Fake”?

    Good Grief! The workout room example you showcased is ridiculous – the Oyster people shot the exact opposite angle, away from the window, and then say, “Gee, that’s not what it looks like, THIS is what it looks like.” Well, DUH. They also claim that the yellow room is where the cardio equipment is. Except that there’s no cardio equipment in their shot, only weights.

    Same thing for the beach shot they feature. “Pro photo” shows a nicely framed shot of a beach, with the hotel in the distance, on a nice (typical) day. “Oyster photo” shows an ultra-wide angle, on a cloudy day, and then has the nerve to say that theirs is the “real” beach — “with clouds”.

    • @Scott Hargis,

      “C’mon, Rob! If I took a crappy cell-phone photo of you at 5:30 in the morning, when you were unshaven and all hung over, would I be justified in claiming that your “official” headshot”

      Um, I think that IS the official headshot he’s using on this site. Sorry Rob, couldn’t resist. ;^)

        • @A Photo Editor,

          I don’t know Dan, so I don’t have any problem with him. Just saying, when presented as a thumbnail headshot his portrait of you looks a lot like the treatment Scott Hargis was suggesting.

          I don’t think artsy portraits work well when sized as a passport photo.

    • @Scott Hargis,
      I have no problem making fun of that cheesy sunset and smiling model crap some of these hotels use but I understand if you think oyster takes it too far in the other direction with their amateur photos of the same scene.

  13. The 360% view seen here via the resorts website http://www.superclubs.com/sc_media_view.asp?Resort=Breezes%20Montego%20Bay&dr=MOBAY&title=Jacuzzi%20Sunset&class=ptviewer.class&file=mobaysunsetjac.jpg&desc=
    shows a jacuzzi that looks just like the one from the supposedly “faked” image. No railings, no wooden decking around the pool. It shows a round pool, not the one with straight edges.
    So, whats the likely conclusion? The jacuzzi has been updated and replaced, safety railings have been erected, and the hotel hasnt had its photos retaken.
    The “faked” photo is just a well shot, but outdated image.
    And as for the exercise room. According to the Oyster review, such a room does exist in the resort, its just currently functioning as the yoga studio.

  14. The image that keeps running through my head is that of the “double agent” photographer — the guy who comes in to do the brochure shots and while he’s there fires off a few snaps showing what the dump really looks like and posts those shots to this Web site. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

    I guess this illustrates how good photography and post processing can make things look better than reality. And it underscores how bad photography can make things look worse than reality. I think we knew that. But I suppose there are people who believe everything they see so I guess this site provides a useful service.

  15. I think I have to agree with the majority of responses here. This site just shows the advantages of hiring a professional architectural photographer. When I worked at a camera store, I couldn’t tell you how many point and shoot cameras I sold to real estate agents that wanted photos of their houses for the web. How many more people would have inquired about those houses if they had seen a professional photographer’s pictures instead of a picture shot at high noon with a coolstylus?

  16. people seem a little blinded by thier day jobs here. No one is attacking the job the photographers did. In fact, the point is they did a good job.

    Don’t you want more information about a place you are going to stay then a very well done photo that only shows the best? Sure Oyster’s photos are on the other extreme of the spectrum than the hotel’s photos but from the consumer standpoint, which is better? I’ll tell you- having both is better (well, maybe something in the middle is better). I have stayed in more places that look nothing like the photo and I don’t think “wow, those photos were well executed by a skilled photographer”, I think “this is the room I have to sleep in tonight? this is thier dingy hot tub in the basement?”.

    I appreciate defending ones livelihood, but lets not decieve ourselves about the use of advertising photography just because we are the ones that make it. A little self-awareness and then maybe sites like this will encourage companies to ask for the middle ground – well made professional pictures (good for us as photogs) that better represent the place (good for us as consumers).