How to Take Better Photos of Your Airbnb or Short-Term Rental

Good property photography goes a long way to improve your Airbnb listing and your direct booking website. Follow these photography tips for professional looking photos.

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Learn more in our Vacation Rental Marketing Guide

Whether you plan to list on Airbnb, VRBO, or your own website, you’ll want attractive, professional photos that are both both compelling and accurate. In this post, we’re going over some vacation rental photography tips, as well as some things to consider if you decide to hire a professional vacation rental photographer.

Tips for Taking Better Listing Photography

If you’re taking your listing photos yourself, there are a few things you can do to get the best results possible. Check out this video produced by Airbnb, featuring some Airbnb photo tips from pro photographers.

Tidy up before your photoshoot. Your property should look sparkly clean and organized in your photos. Declutter, wipe down surfaces, sweep, vacuum, make your beds with clean sheets, open the shower curtain, clean the bathroom mirror, fold your towels—anything you can do to make your property the best version of itself.

Do some staging and decorating. Are your walls completely bare? Consider buying some wall art or house plants. Is your interior all one color? Consider buying some colorful pillows, or putting out a bowl of fruit, or anything that can give some life to your property. Feel completely unqualified to decorate or stage a photograph? Find some properties you like on Pinterest, Instagram or Houzz, and try to get inspiration or mimic a style you like. Or you might consider hiring an interior designer. You can find them on sites like Thumbtack and Houzz.

Use natural light. Shoot during the day, and open any curtains or blinds. Natural sunlight is your friend and can dramatically improve the quality of your photos.

A stark example of the difference good photography with natural lighting can make.

Take plenty of photos. Properties with 5 or fewer photos get substantially fewer bookings. You should have at least 15 – 20 photos of your property. This includes having a good mix of interior and exterior (both of the property and the neighborhood/ surroundings). Again, you don’t want your guests to be surprised. If you have a stunning interior but the exterior looks like an abandoned house, you might consider what you can do to spruce up the outside.

But at the very least, you must include a nice, but accurate photo of the exterior. We recommend 2 photos per living area, and 1 photo per room and bathroom, plus a few close-up detail shots to show the personality of your property. Also, make sure to highlight amenities your guests will enjoy, like a pool or hot tub, game room, or anything else that makes your property unique.

Put your photos in an order that makes sense. It’s important that your photos flow in a logical way. In your listing, your website, and anywhere you use your photos, order them in a way that flows naturally. Group the photos of the same room together. Scrolling through your photos should feel like a tour of your property, not like an incoherent jumble of unrelated photos.

Pay attention to the angle you shoot from. A good rule of thumb is to take photos from approximately waist level and to keep the walls straight.

Use a quality camera. Cameras in newer smartphone models are actually pretty good these days. If you have access to a DSLR camera like a Canon or Nikon, that’s even better. Using a tripod can help you avoid dark and blurry photos.

Edit your photos. If you know your way around Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, that is a great way to edit your photos. If not, you can try using a mobile app like VSCO or Adobe Lightroom to add filters to your photos. Lean towards filters that make your photos look more natural rather than heavily edited, and strive for consistency across all your photos.

Your photos ultimately reflects on you as a host. If your photos are bad, some guests may think you don’t know what you’re doing or that you don’t care that much about your property. We recommend hiring a professional, or taking DIY photography seriously to create the best possible photography for your property.

The Importance of Good Photography

Put simply, if your photos aren’t great, you will lose out on bookings. Start by taking a look at your photos and asking yourself if you think they’re good. Ask your friends for their honest opinions. Would they book your place just based on the photos?

Your photos should look professional. If you aren’t sure what makes a photo look professional, do a quick search for ‘Airbnb Plus’ listings (like the photo below), and see how your photos compare to the professional photos in those listings. If you already have an Airbnb Plus listing (or photos just as good), you can probably skip ahead.

This means your photos also need to be accurate. You want your guests to arrive with no questions, no surprises (other than nice ones), and without feeling like their expectations were too high. Otherwise you’re likely to get negative reviews and lose out on repeat guests.

Your photos are also an indicator to your guests that you care about your property and your guests experience. If your photos are dark, blurry, or messy, it doesn’t inspire confidence that you take pride in your property. Whether you plan to list on Airbnb, VRBO, or your own website, you’ll want attractive photos of your property that are equal parts accurate and compelling.

Hiring a Professional Photographer

If your budget allows, hiring a professional photographer is absolutely worth the investment.

You won’t find much if you do a Google search for ‘Vacation Rental Photographers,’ but you should be able to find plenty of ‘Real Estate Photographers’ in your area. The goal can often be different for these types of photos though. In real estate, potential buyers will absolutely be visiting the home in person before buying. In a vacation rental situation, potential guests will absolutely not be visiting in person before staying. So again, it’s important that your photos accurately represent your property.

You can hire a photographer on a marketplace site like Thumbtack (search for ‘Real Estate Photographers’). This might be stating the obvious, but do not hire a photographer without seeing (and liking) their portfolio first. You should only hire a photographer once you have seen that the work they produce is consistent with the style and type of photos you want for your own property.

Airbnb offers a professional photography service.

If you are listed on Airbnb, you can even use Airbnb’s professional photography service. They’ll send a professional photographer, and automatically deduct the cost of your photoshoot from future bookings.

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