Having photographed hundreds of short-term rental properties for companies like Airbnb has shown me a few mistakes that people make when getting their property ready to showcase on the internet.
This quick guide will show you what to do and what to avoid when listing your property.
Sell the experience, not the property
By far the biggest mistake that people do is hiring a real estate photographer that has never done a vacation home.
Real estate photos are trying to show you the spaces of the property, so the emphasis is made on things like the kitchen, backyard, large spaces. This is all great if you are trying to sell the house, but you are not, you are trying to rent it for a week.
Short-term rental or vacation home properties are all about the experience of staying at a vacation house. If you scroll through Airbnb Plus you can see that the photos are bright and well lit and the main photograph shows just a detail of the property, like a couch or a stunning view, that conveys the experience of staying there.
In these photos, they are not trying to showcase how big the living room is or that the kitchen has all stainless-steel appliances.
Stage the home for photos
This is by far the most important of all. Have the house ready to photograph!
Get those beds made so that you can bounce a quarter of them, pick up clutter, have the landscape done, get some fresh flowers!
It is amazing just how poorly staged some homes are. Would you stay at a hotel that looks bad? I don’t think so.
Since we already established that we are trying to sell the experience, not the property, the next step is to highlight details in the house.
Details can be simple things like books on a bookshelf, a wall decoration, or as simple as a pillow. You want your potential guests to identify themselves with the property.
A property I photographed on the beach once looked like Jimmy Buffet concert, not my cup of tea, but it sure was someone else’s, people loved it, it looks like a beach house out of a movie.
Avoid artificial light
Our brain is constantly correcting what we see with our eyes, so images that we see will not necessarily look that way on the camera. In fact, I’m pretty sure they won’t.
Light bulbs tend to have very warm, yellow, light. While great for some things, they are not that good for photos. They will make your windows and sunlight look blue.
The best way to avoid this is to photograph with natural light. Sunlight gives the best colors and will cast very natural shadows that will give your photo that magazine-style look.
But it’s too dark, I need the lights on!
There are techniques that you can use to reduce or even eliminate the problem with yellow colors from light bulbs or having the windows turn blue.
Correcting color balance could correct this problem, but if you have several light sources with different color temperatures, color balance alone will not fix it.
The easiest way is to try to overpower the lightbulbs with strobes, easy solution except for the fact you start to get very harsh and unnatural shadows.
My favorite technique is to use several photos and combine them in photoshop. This method usually involves two shots (more if there are windows).
Set your camera to aperture priority, ISO no more than 400, auto white balance, on a sturdy tripod and use a remote. Remember, you can’t move the camera!
The first photo is taken with just ambient light, no lights are on, just the light that comes in through the windows.
The second shot is the same as the first, but now with all the lights on.
Now open in lightroom and apply your lens correction to both images, add any color adjustments you want, and adjust brightness, shadows, etc. so that both images are as well lit as possible.
Colors are not that important on the second image, just the overall brightness.
Now open both images in Photoshop as layers, place the image with the lights on top of the ambient shot layer, auto-align, and now set the top layer (the one with the lights on) to luminosity and watch the magic happen.
Avoid unnecessary shots
More is not always better, and there are photos that are best not shown. This brings us back to the whole selling the experience, not the home.
Unnecessary aerial drone pics, nobody cares how the roof looks.
- Stuffing you listing with photos of major attractions, people know where they are going, you don’t need to remind them.
- Ugly or unimpressive amenities. Just because there is a clubhouse with a pool doesn’t mean you have to it.
- The outside of the property. Again, you are not trying to sell the house, you want to rent it, so unless it an impressive home with an impressive view (like a lake cabin, pool, or a golf course view) not much need for outside photos.
- Avoid un-impressive pics. That half bathroom downstairs, the cramped one, no one cares about it, don’t show it.
- Things no one cares about. When was the last time you picked a hotel based on the parking lot it has? Probably never. Driveways, garages, strange rooms (think ugly basement) are out.
If you need more inspiration, just look at any large hotel chain and take a look at their photos, and then think about how you can recreate that experience for your property, after all, you are managing a small hotel after all.
“What can I say? I love taking photos of houses.”
Based in Orlando Florida, Jose is a real estate photographer specializing in vacation homes, working for realtors and property managers to make their properties look great.