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Vacation Rental Photography Tips

Photos of your property might very well be the most definitive difference maker in the vacation rental marketing game.


After all, what one factor could either highlight or (in failed cases) downplay your property’s attributes quite so emphatically?


As a bit of a primer, here are 7 picture perfect tips that apply to owners or managers of all skill levels (and properties of all shapes and sizes). Conquer these fundamentals and you’ll have the upper hand on similar properties in your region.


1) You Can Never Have Enough Good Photos: I often hear from subscribers who think that one set of professional photos is all they need. But in truth, a good vacation rental marketer can NEVER have enough good photos. Always keep your eyes and ears open for a photographer.


According to an interview I did with Lucia Green, a listings specialist from FlipKey, “listings with fewer than 5 photos get 29% less inquiries, compared to those who have over 20 photos (these listings get 54% more inquiries)!”


2) Don’t Show Toilets: This is a personal opinion of mine and it rarely lets me down. Showing photos of toilets (unless your toilet is stunning) isn’t necessary for a complete vacation rental portfolio. If you absolutely positively must take a photo of your toilet, close the lid and make sure it’s clean.


3) Stage Your Property: It’s very important to remember that your photos are your best foot forward, your freshly-pressed skirt or cleanly shaven face at the job interview. For that reason, any and every detail should be accounted for and perhaps the most important is the staging. Make sure your home looks inviting.


According to Debbie Martin, an owner of several vacation rentals in Scotland whom I convinced to do some proper staging, “it has made a BIG difference in level of inquiries and bookings. Thank you so much for provoking this action! I thought our existing pictures were pretty good, but the new ones are wonderful by comparison.”


4) Consider Video: If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a video might be worth a million. With the way technology is going, video has become a new preferred medium of vacation rental specialists, not necessarily as a substitute for spectacular photos, but as a compliment. A video can capture personality and trust perhaps better than any other format.


And so when I commissioned this video to attach to all my email correspondence, the results were fascinating: so many guests saying, “We loved how well it portrayed your personality and the neighborhood’s nuances.”


5) Nail The Sequencing: It can be very easy to have professional photos done and then just slap them up on your website. But smart owners and managers should know that the sequencing of a set of photos is one of the most overlooked factors in generating inquiries.


According to an interview I did with Leah McGarry, a listings specialist at HomeAway, “When it comes to photo sequences, owners should try to physically walk travelers through their home. If you start off with a thumbnail of the exterior of your home, then group all your living spaces next  – kitchen, dining area, living areas, etc.  Then show a picture of EACH bedroom, and finally, feature the outdoor amenities.  When listings jump from interior to exterior, bedroom to kitchen, it can be jarring and hard for the traveler to visualize.”


6) Change With The Seasons: Chances are, your rental attracts two (and maybe three) types of travelers depending on the season. But so rarely do I see vacation rental photos that accurately change with the upcoming weather.


For instance, a vacation rental in Vail, Colorado would generate MANY more inquiries leading up to the winter season by showing the Jacuzzi and fireplace settings. Oppositely, that same rental would be more profitable, when leading up to the summer, by showing hiking routes, picnic baskets, or anything else appealing to warm weather friends.


Don’t be afraid to change out your photos once or twice a year: the results, as they relate to actual inquiries, can be dramatic.


7) Don’t Include People: People in photos should be reserved for car rental agency pamphlets, not for vacation rentals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vacation rental photograph with people in it that I found to be compelling (more often than not, it just looks creepy and random). According to an interview I did with Laurel Greatrix, PR Manager for TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, “I don’t have any statistics to back this up, but generally travelers don’t want to see people in private spaces.  We’ve seen photos on the site of people in hot tubs and even bedrooms, and it just doesn’t add any value to your photos.  In fact – it can make travelers feel uncomfortable.   It’s fine if you want to include children or feature a certain activity, but we generally suggest limiting people in your pictures.”