How To Deal With Hotels That Ban Photography?

I’m a big fan of Los Angeles, so when I’m not “traveling,” it’s sort of my home base. When I eventually stop living in hotels full time, it’s probably where I’ll decide to settle down.

When I’m in LA I usually stay at the Andaz West Hollywood. I love the hotel, the area, the breakfast, and the staff. It’s a great “home base,” I suppose.

However, I do try to mix things up as much as I can, and I’ve always quite admired The Sunset Tower Hotel, located right across the street from the Andaz. I think it really captures the beauty of “old world” Hollywood… and I’m not talking about the “triple threats” — actors (extras in toothpaste commercials… if they’re lucky)/(Instagram) models/(YouTube) singers.

Sunset-Tower-2

It’s run down, but in a charming way. Which I think describes a lot of LA. I love going to The Tower Bar at The Sunset Tower Hotel for drinks, as it has a gorgeous terrace with views of the LA skyline.

Tower-Bar

I knew the bar has a no photography policy, as it’s frequented by a lot of celebrities (which I couldn’t care less about, I just like it for the overall ambiance).

However, last night I decided to stay at The Sunset Tower Hotel, which I booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. The rate wasn’t bad, and given that it included guaranteed late check-out, a room upgrade, free breakfast, and a $100 food & beverage credit, it seemed like a great deal, especially since I was looking forward to reviewing the hotel.

Sunset-Tower-2

However, at check-in I had to sign a page agreeing to some hotel rules, like not bringing any outside alcohol to my room (which I found odd) and not taking any photography on the premises.

I’ve certainly been at hotels which don’t allow photography in certain areas, like the Park Hyatt Shanghai, which doesn’t allow pool pictures (a rule I can in theory understand). But this is the first hotel I’ve stayed at which supposedly has a blanket “no photography” policy.

I’m a bit conflicted here:

  • My assumption is that the intent is that people don’t take pictures of celebrities and perhaps in public spaces with people present; I’m not sure what objections the hotel would have to rooms being photographed
  • There are tons of pictures from the hotel online, including from Instagram, TripAdvisor, etc.
  • Presumably the policy isn’t enforceable, though at the same time I’m aware of the rule and would prefer not to break it

So what’s a full time blogger/trip reporter to do? Write a review without any pictures? Reach out to the general manager and see if it’s okay to take pictures as long as people aren’t in them? Just post a review with pictures, given how many people have posted pictures from the hotel online? Or just not write a review?

Have you ever stayed at a hotel which has an across the board no photography policy?

Comments

  1. It would be hilarious if you just do sketches like they do in the courtrooms where no cameras are allowed. I would totally let the hotel have it. Draw Brad and Angelina having drinks by the pool. In fact you should do a contest and have people who have stayed there submit some of the sketches.

  2. Seems like you risk a skewed experience if you tell them you’re a blogger reviewing the property…once they know that, you’re likely going to get better service. But that does seem to be the most ethical option if you do in fact sign the form.

  3. Ben, it would have been interesting to hear the hotel’s take on this if you had asked them while you were there.

  4. I had no idea they had that policy. That’s…odd. And probably very challenging to enforce (obviously, yeah, if you’re going to post photos on a blog, that’s easy, but what? I can’t text a photo to my uncle?).
    You’ve managed to dig out every quirk at LA hotels. I’m tempted to ask you to come stay at a few Beverly Hills hotels so I can learn what secrets are hiding here!

  5. It seems pretty easy to me. Don’t go back. If you don’t like a policy at a hotel, how is it different from not liking the food?

  6. Assuming that you actually have pictures, contact management to see if an exception is agreeable. If not, don’t do a review and avoid the place in the future.

  7. I’m not signing that! I paid to stay in a room on vacay! #refund I don’t give a crap about celebs, but I care about taking a selfie and pics of whatever I want. (Barring pestering celeb kids which I find appalling)

  8. When the W Hong Kong first opened they were pretty adamant about photos being taken of the hotel. Obviously once you were in the room there really wasn’t anything they could do. However when I tried to take photos of the living room (lobby) or WET (pool) I was approached and told photography wasn’t allowed. This happened when I was on my own and when the W Insider at the time was kind enough to show me the different room types. When I was taking the photos I did them early or super late to ensure no guests were in the photos. I was totally miffed but over time they pretty much stopped trying to enforce this “policy.”

  9. Easy — don’t stay there. If a hotel has rules which prevent you from doing your job, why bother with the place?

  10. Photography is a fundamental inalienable human right guaranteed in the Constitution. Sign away on the form with full confidence that no promise not to photograph can bind you morally. Then click that shutter and take your fill of snapshots. Don’t let the communists get you down.

  11. Beyond celebs, the no photo rule most likely has to do with giving the hotel a means to legally block the release of any Porn shot in the hotel.

  12. @Owen – “Photography is a fundamental inalienable human right guaranteed in the Constitution.”

    That’s interesting, since photography hadn’t been invented when the Constitution was adopted.

  13. Are you telling me you cannot bring your own bottle of wine to drink in your hotel room? Sorry but I would not spend my time in a place like this.

  14. so, just what would they do if you took out your camera and started taking pictures, attack you and take the camera away ?

    sounds like a perfect way for some hack lawyer to sue for big bux

  15. Porn really Dude thats your contribution to the discussion? As for not going back Hello this is what Ben does for a living. I would have approached the GM and asked for permission and if he said no then rip him/her here.You have enough of a following to make an impact positive or negative on a venue. I do not care about celebrities either as they are a royal pain. The ban isn’t enforceable and as illustrated here folks will cheat so another way to approach this is to ask people to be respectful of others privacy.Oh,the alcohol thing is ridiculous tantamount to saying we want to rip you off.Now that Ben has warned us I imagine there is some hand wringing going on at HQ. Great report Ben

  16. @Bill
    If Lucky were the new points guy, he would have given mike a ridiculous title, say “Executive Vice President for Pacific Northwest/Alaska Region Travel” and then allow him to write a trip report for his first ever trip in business class. “Can you believe they gave us an amenity kit! The seat also turns into a bed!!!”

    The different between TPG and OMAAT is that the TPG writers are seemingly just pulled off the street and have little knowledge of the points and miles game. OMAAT writers know their s*** on these topics (even if they sometimes get their Canadian geography wrong 😉 ). Their posts are generally insightful and unique and are not just fluff.

  17. Chateau Marmont which is literally across the road from The Tower has a similar policy with signs up throughout the public areas. This was more about protecting the privacy of celebs that frequent the place more so than anything else. I can understand that.. in the time we lunched there were 4 A listers in our immediate surrounds. They just wanted to slurp their G&T’s the same as everyone else without having to be ‘on-guard’. Interestingly, the Sunset Plaza which is show un Luckys photo and is right in the midst of the Chateau, Tower and Andaz has no such policy. Must be due to all the porn shot there.. or because it’s a Best Western.

  18. @mike murphy: I would assume that they would have you removed from the premises, and that any stay at their hotel would end very abruptly.

  19. I think taking photos of a private room would be fine while taking photos of public areas may be trickier and need a permission.

    Funny story — after a company holiday party at a Four Seasons hotel, I was snapping lobby photos with my camera while we all were waiting for our cars. I guess because I had a DSLR, I got interrogated by FS personnel who thought I was a professional photographer which would’ve required a permission from FS.

    P.S. The staff at Andaz W.H. is absolutely fabulous and their food is pretty delicious but it’s time for a redesign (seems kind of sparse with grey bare walls). At least, they are supposedly looking into adding better soundproofing to the windows as street noise is a factor even on a top floor.

    P.P.S. In case anyone’s wondering why their rooftop bar closes rather early, they told me it’s because of the residential neighbors who are opposed to loud late-night partying.

  20. As someone who has filmed several commercials in LA, allow me to point out that to shoot any kind of videography in the greater LA area, you need permits. In privately run businesses, you may not need a permit for photography (which could include the filming of video), but you may need permission from the establishment’s management.

    These rules are set up to protect the privacy of its guest, to make sure that their premises are not used for filming of movies, advertisements, etc without their knowledge.

    I don’t think the hotel means to discourage reviews of its hotel, so a simple conversation with the manager explaining your intentions would have likely sufficed to take plenty of pictures.

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