For Los Angeles-based interior, travel and celebrity photographer Joe Schmelzer, the most important elements of photos are the setting, surroundings and ambiance. Joe strives to maintain a consistent lookin his photographs—achieving this through the use of natural light and his own unique vision. He also considers himself an environmental photographer as well as a traditionalist, aiming to keep his final shots as close to film quality as possible. Unlike many photographers of today, Joe considers a computer to be just, “a tool to the goal and not the main attribute.” Because of this, he uses minimal post processing techniques and instead focuses heavily on lighting, staging and physical changes to environments.
Concerned so considerably with environments, it’s no surprise that Joe often focuses on photographing architectural spaces. He declares himself, “extremely meticulous—which lends itself well to the nuances needed to shoot interior spaces.”
Recently, Joe used his “extremely meticulous” tendencies to create elegant photographs of the newly re-opened Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. While still under reconstruction, Joe was contacted about shooting the new hotel spa. Joe nailed the shoot, thrilling the hotel with the results. They soon came back, hiring Joe to photograph the new Presidential Bungalows of their sister property, The Beverly Hills Hotel. Then, after the Hotel Bel-Air was completed, they brought Joe back once again to photograph their entire property.
This assignment—shooting hotels directly for the client—was somewhat of a departure from the norm for Joe. He explains,
I often shoot hotels editorially for clients like Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller UK, and Sunday Times Travel, but shooting directly for the hotels is a different ball game. Lots of people and opinions are involved.
One difficulty Joe faced while shooting was that the hotel was open for guests, making the assignment quite tricky. Joe and his team were not able to interfere with any registered guests, making for very early call times for pool, exterior and common spaces and very late nights at the bar and restaurants.
All a challenge, but all can be overcome with a cooperative client and crew.
An occupied hotel wasn’t Joe’s only challenge. He also had some more amusing issues to deal with, such as hot-tub railings,
Many rooms had private patios with hot-tubs. Hot-tub railings are necessary for safety/insurance purposes, but certainly don’t look great in a photo with a beautiful patio and a nice view. All you see is the shiny medical hospital style railings. Well, assistants have to do many things and luckily we had some great ones with us. On many occasions, we sent an assistant into the filled, 4 foot tubs equipped with pliers and wrench to remove the railings—saving us hours of retouching later. Luckily, housekeeping at the hotels has washers and dryers to clean clothes and the rooms have exceptional robes to keep warm.
The client was ecstatic with the resulting photos and plan on using them for marketing purposes as well as some editorial pieces on the hotel. Joe Schmelzer provided images for the works, “website, booking engines, iPads, sales presentations, and pretty much whenever an image is needed of any area of the property, they now have a comprehensive library.” All in all, a very successful—albeit sometimes wet—assignment.