13 Tips For Amazing Airbnb Photos (From The Pros)

How many times have you seen an amazing Airbnb listing with terrible photos? It’s frustrating, right? To see such potential squandered by low-quality images. You know that if the person…

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How many times have you seen an amazing Airbnb listing with terrible photos? It’s frustrating, right? To see such potential squandered by low-quality images.

You know that if the person just put in a little more effort, their photos could top the charts of Airbnb and become the envy of your town.

But what most people don’t realize is that your photography plays a very large role within the ecosystem of marketing your Airbnb, and taking great Airbnb photos isn’t as hard as it seems.

In short, to take amazing Airbnb photos you need to have sufficient light, declutter the space, and tell a visual story with compositions. It is ideal for placing your interior shot as the first image if you aren’t in a prime location. Do the opposite if you are. And most importantly, show off the amenities.

In this article, we will share tips for Airbnb photos from our years of experience in photographing short term rentals.

First, lets start where things go wrong.

Below is our video on the 3 most common mistakes 70% of hosts are making with their photography.

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to take those jaw-dropping Airbnb photos that will make your listing stand out from the rest.

So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Note: These tips are an excerpt of The Hero Image Framework For Short Term Rentals, which is our personal process for producing high converting photos with just your smartphone.

1. Connect Your Camera to Your Laptop and View Your Shots

One of the most important tips for taking amazing Airbnb photos is to connect your camera to your laptop or large monitor so you can view your shots in greater detail.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve thought a photo looked great on the camera’s small LCD screen, only to realize later that it was blurry or had some other issue.

Viewing your shots on a larger screen will help you catch these problems so you can retake the photo before it’s too late.

Using a program like Adobe Lightroom, you can get real time feedback on how your photo looks as you’re taking it by connecting your camera to your laptop via USB, and even make basic edits to your photos right on your laptop without having to transfer them to a separate computer.

2. Set ISO As Low As Possible

ISO is a measure of your camera’s light sensitivity. The lower the number, the less sensitive it is and the less grainy your photos will be.

In almost all cases, you’ll want to keep your ISO as low as possible to avoid grainy photos. The only time you might want to raise your ISO is if you’re trying to take a photo in low light and need to make your camera more sensitive so it can capture enough light.

If you’re using a smartphone, you can usually find the ISO setting in the camera app’s “Pro” mode. If you’re using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you’ll usually find the ISO setting somewhere on the camera body.

A general rule of thumb is to start with an ISO of 100 or 200 and only raise it if you absolutely need to.

Most cameras these days can get pretty clear images even at ISOs up to 1000, but if you want the best quality photos possible, always start with the lowest ISO setting and only raise it if needed.

3. Shoot During Golden Hour (Morning and Evening)

One of the best tips for taking amazing photos in general is to shoot during the so-called “golden hour.”

This is the period of time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the light is warm and golden. The sun is low in the sky, which means it casts long shadows and creates a beautiful contrast between light and dark areas.

Airbnb properties always look their best when photographed during golden hour, so if at all possible, try to schedule your photo shoot for either early in the morning or late in the evening.

Golden hour is the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset, or when the sun is approximately 6 degrees on the horizon.

4. Take Advantage of Natural Light Sources

In addition to shooting during golden hour, another great tip for taking amazing Airbnb photos is to take advantage of any and all natural light sources.

Do you have windows that get lit the best in the evening, or are they on the side best covered during the early morning?

Windows are a great source of natural light, so if possible, try to open up all the curtains or blinds and let as much light in as possible.

You can also use mirrors or reflectors (Amazon) to reflect light into dark corners or bounce light back into areas that are too shadowed.

Pay attention to how natural light is coming into the room throughout the day and use it to your advantage to create beautiful, well-lit photos.

5. Turn On All Your Lights

In addition to natural light, you’ll also want to make sure all your artificial lighting is turned on for your photo shoot so that your property is as well-lit as possible.

This means turning on all the lights in every room, even if it’s bright outside. The goal is to make sure there are no dark corners or shadowy areas in any of your photos.

This is a good time to make sure that all of your light bulbs are of the same color temperature so that they create a cohesive look in your photos, otherwise you run the risk of your photos looking “off” due to the strange color balance.

You can usually find light bulbs of different color temperatures (measured in Kelvin) at your local hardware store. For a warm, yellowish light, look for light bulbs with a color temperature below 3000K. For a cool, bluish light that mimics natural daylight, look for light bulbs with a color temperature of 4000K or higher.

6. Use A Tripod For Razer Sharp Images and Long Exposures

If you want to take your Airbnb photos to the next level, invest in a tripod (Amazon).

Blurry or fuzzy images are caused by camera shake, which is when the camera moves slightly while the shutter is open, resulting in a blurry photo.

Most photographers use high powered artificial light sources like flashes and strobes with a very fast shutter speed, so camera shake isn’t usually an issue. But if you aren’t able to use a flash or strobe, your camera will need to keep the shutter open for longer in order to get enough light onto the sensor.

Whether you’re using a DSLR camera or your smartphone, a tripod will help you take razor sharp images, especially if you’re using a long focal length lens or shooting in low light.

7. Take Wide Shots For A Good Overview

While it’s important to get close-ups of all the details that make your property unique, it’s also essential to take wide shots that give potential guests an overview of each room.

These wide shots will give guests a good sense of the layout of your property and how each room flows into the next. They’ll also be able to see how much space there is in each room and get a feel for the overall atmosphere of your Airbnb.

If you’re using a DSLR camera, make sure to use a wide angle lens between 16mm and 24mm.

Many smartphones these days have a “wide” mode that uses the wide angle lens to take wider shots. If your smartphone doesn’t have this feature, you can always try taking a panorama.

8. Take Detailed Shots For Visual Storytelling

If wide shots are for establishing an overview of the space, then detailed shots are for telling the story of your property.

When shooting details, it’s important to keep in mind how each element contributes to the overall feel of your space. Do certain items make your guests feel at home? Cozy? Relaxed?

Some great things to focus on when taking detail shots are:

  • Fireplaces
  • Beds and bedding
  • Decor items with personal meaning
  • Unique architectural details
  • Focal points in each room (e.g., a painting or piece of furniture)
  • Dramatic or interesting lighting

9. Lead With Your Airbnb’s Strengths

Let’s be honest: not all properties are a 10/10 in all areas.

When it comes to photography for Airbnb, your first impression is the last. This brings us to the concept of the hero-image. The hero-image is the one that you’d like the customer to see first, because it very well may be the one they see last.

It’s what attracts people to click onto your listing and usually shows off what is unique about your property.

Whether this is an exterior photo or an interior photo is up to you.

Ask yourself whether your property’s strength is its exterior or interior. If it’s the exterior, make sure your hero-image is an enticing photo of the outside of your property. If it’s the interior, choose a photo that really captures the feeling of your space.

If you’re located in a prime position, it’s great to have the view from the window or an image showing a little bit of the location be the first one your potential customers see.

In contrast, if you aren’t in an aesthetically pleasing neighborhood, you can always opt for the alternative: improve your interior styling and get photos from your best looking room to be the leader-image for your listing.

10. Take Hero Shots of Your Amenities

Amenities are a big selling point for guests when they’re looking for an Airbnb, so be sure to take advantage of that by taking hero shots of all your amenities.

This means making sure each amenity is styled perfectly and taking a photo that really shows it off and focuses on the details.

Some things you’ll want to keep in mind when shooting amenities are:

  • Ensure the area is clean and clutter-free
  • Style the area so it looks inviting
  • Set up your lighting to create a mood or highlight certain details

11. Declutter Your Interior Before Shooting

Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash

The number one rule of interior photography is: declutter, declutter, declutter!

Oh, and lighting.

Clutter makes a room feel small, cramped, and messy. And while you might not think that potential guests will be able to see the clutter in your photos, trust us: they can.

And it’s the number one deal-breaker for many guests as they do not want to spend time in a confined space.

No one wants to see photos of a cluttered space, so before you start taking pictures make sure you spend some time decluttering each room. This means putting away any personal items, cleaning up any surfaces, and making sure the space looks as spacious as possible.

The rule of thumb for interior design and interior photography is to have up to two furniture pieces in every wide shot.

Do not be insecure about negative space.

As long as you have the right composition, less furniture and more space convey a sense of abundance and spaciousness that helps the book button get clicked.

For more interior design tips that dives deeper into the theory and practice, check out our free 7 Do’s and Don’ts of Designing Your Airbnb guide!

12. Use Décor To Balance Colors

If you’re not working with a professional photographer who knows how to use color correction software, then it’s important to be aware of the colors in each room and how they will show up in photos.

This is why it’s important to use décor to balance colors.

What this means is that if you have a room with a lot of dark colors, you’ll want to use lighter colored décor to balance it out.

And vice versa for rooms with light colors.

You can use throws, blankets, pillows, and other décor to add color to a room.

By referring to the color wheel, create a contrast that is pleasant to the naked eye. Once you style your interiors to bring a feeling of joy upon viewing in-person, all that’s left is to take the most accurate representation of that for Airbnb.

13. Use Editing Software

Photo by Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash

If you want your photos to really stand out, then it’s worth investing in learning about editing software because it can help you make your photos look amazing by:

  • Adjusting the Exposure to even out the lighting
  • Changing the White Balance
  • Enhancing the Contrast and Saturation
  • Adding a Vignette
  • Cropping the Image

These are just a few of the ways you can edit your photos to make them look amazing.

There are a lot of great options out there, but our personal favorite is Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Lightroom is more user friendly and gives you the ability to make small tweaks that can make a big difference in the overall look of your photos.

Photoshop is great for more advanced edits, like removing objects from photos or changing the color of certain elements.

Both programs can be quite overwhelming at first, but there are a ton of tutorials out there that can help you get started.

And once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to edit your photos like a pro!

Mobile Phone vs. DSLR for Airbnb Photography

Now that we’ve gone over some tips for taking amazing Airbnb photos, it’s time to talk about what type of camera you should use.

The short answer is: it depends.

If you’re a professional photographer or if you’re serious about taking high-quality photos, then you’ll want to use a DSLR camera.

DSLR cameras are great because they allow you to change lenses, which gives you a lot of flexibility when shooting.

They also allow you to shoot in RAW, which means you have a lot of control over post-processing.

However, DSLR cameras can be expensive and they can be a pain to carry around.

If you’re not a professional photographer and you just want to take some decent photos for your Airbnb listing, then you can get away with using your mobile phone.

Most newer phones have really good cameras and they’re much easier to carry around than a DSLR camera.

Plus, there are a ton of apps and editing software that you can use to edit your photos.

You can upgrade your composition and capture even better photos by reading books like Smart Phone Smart Photography (Amazon) and Photography for Real Estate Interiors (Amazon).

However, if you want to get committed to DSLR photography, you’ll need to get some solid foundational education before your pictures stop looking amateur-tier. For this, we recommend Karl Taylor’s free Introduction to Photography.

But there is only so much you can improve your listing on photo quality alone.

In the immediate to short-term, you’ll get sufficient benefit from the right phone camera provided you handle the composition and lighting correctly, which is even more important.

Top Airbnb Photography Mistakes

Now that we’ve gone over some tips for taking amazing photos, let’s talk about some mistakes that people make when taking photos for their Airbnb listings.

Even if you’re not able to faithfully follow every tip listed in this article, as long as you avoid the following mistakes, your Airbnb photos will be among the top 10% of the ones listed on the platform.

Taking Pictures With Wrong Angles

One of the most common mistakes people make when taking photos for their Airbnb listing is taking pictures with the wrong angles.

What this means is that they take pictures from too low or too high of an angle.

This can make rooms look smaller or larger than they actually are.

It can also make furniture and décor look out of proportion.

Bad Lighting

Another common mistake people make is taking pictures with bad lighting.

This can mean anything from taking pictures during the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky to not using any artificial light sources.

Both of these things can result in photos that are overexposed, underexposed, or have weird shadows.

Too Much Noise

Remember when we talked about ISO earlier?

Well, one of the things that can happen if you have your ISO set too high is that your photos will start to look grainy.

This is because when you have a high ISO, your camera is trying to compensate for a low light situation by amplifying the signal from the sensor.

The result is usually blurry or grainy photos.

In order to combat this, you should try to keep your ISO as low as possible and lower the shutter speed instead. But for this to be successful, the camera needs to be perfectly still, so be sure you have a tripod.

Taking Photos Without Purpose

When people take photos for their Airbnb listing, they often just start taking pictures without any real purpose or plan.

They’ll take a bunch of wide shots, a bunch of close-ups, and a bunch of random shots in between.

And then post ALL of them…

While it’s important to have a mix of different types of photos, you should only post the best ones.

People don’t want to see 20 different photos of the same room.

They want to see a few well-composed, well-lit, and purposeful photos that give them a good idea of what your listing looks like.

This is why it’s best to stick with a good shot list that tells a visual story.

Photo-worthy Products to Increase Your Airbnb Bookings

Improving your photography is just one aspect of upgrading your guests’ experience. While booking is an essential step in the process, it happens when the customer steps on to the property that matters the most in the grand scheme.

What they love (or hate) about their stay will ultimately be found on the platform. Below are some of the products you can purchase to elevate your guests’ experience and encourage positive reviews.

They also make great lifestyle photos that show your guests that you are going the extra mile.

Solimo Mouthwash in Brajttt Mini Vials

Solimo is Amazon’s brand for oral hygiene products. Just like with most Amazon Brands, Solimo produces value-for-money based products at the lowest price. To have a bulk 38-ounce mouthwash placed on your property wouldn’t exactly give a high-end vibe to your guests.

That is why we recommend purchasing Brajttt mini vials. You can place one or two vials in the washroom before your guests arrive, depending on the number of guests mentioned in the booking.

The vials come with labels, and it is ideal to have the words “mouthwash” listed there because it wouldn’t be evident what the liquid is from looking at the small glass vial.

The stopper is made of cork, which means the vials will no longer be usable after the guest has opened them. The soaked cork will not fit into the glass. That’s probably for the best as you do not want to deal with hygiene issues from recycling these packages at home.

Brajttt Mini Yogurt Jars for Assorted Candies

These jars are perfect for placing individually wrapped treats in.

However, buying treats for guests without knowing the frequency of bookings can be tricky. To make sure you don’t end up sitting on a stash of expiring perishables, we recommend you purchase hard candies like Atomic Fireballs, Werther’s Original, and Jolly Rancher in bulk.

It is best to have at least one jar of treats available for your customers regardless of the level of luxury you mean to provide.

But if your property happens to be on the higher price-point, you should have three jars per booking. While two of the jars can be filled with hard candies you’ve purchased in bulk, one must have individually wrapped chocolate bars or Lindors.

Please avoid purchasing chocolate bars in bulk.

You can save money by ordering smaller variety-packs that will help you deliver a range of options for your guests without purchasing multiple packs. Hershey’s Nuggets and Mars Brand Variety Pack would be ideal for this. The Nuggets are best for luxury listings, while the Mars brand is good enough for any Airbnb listing, including the high-end ones.

Fresh Choice Travel Soap and Bath With Bath & Body Works Shampoo and Conditioner

While it might be tempting to view your AirBnB listing like you see your home, it is best looked at as a hotel room.

How would you feel walking into a hotel room to see a pre-used bar of soap and a large bottle of shampoo? That’s not a great look.

Even if customers have come to expect it from some AirBnBs, you can get positive attention (and those sweet 5 star reviews) by spending a few dollars on acquiring some travel soap, shampoo, and conditioner in bulk.

OraLabs Mini Lip Balm and Jergens Travel Lotion

If you make $1000 or more in monthly profit, we recommend you go the extra mile and include self-care products beyond the travel soap, shampoo, and conditioner.

Purchase mini lip balm and small pre-packaged lotions to create the perfect self-care combo that goes beyond what four-star hotels provide. Imagine the kind of reviews your listing will have when guests discover the extra items on their night stand.

Photographing Your Amenities

Let’s circle back to photography and consider it a vital lesson in sales.

It has long been preached to under promise and overdeliver, but bookings aren’t earned by under promising in the online world. That is why you must overpromise and overdeliver. You can do this by showing one category of amenities while letting the other be the ‘surprise.’

  • The first category will be called self-care products, which would cover a mouthwash mini vial, a travel soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and mini lip-balm.
  • The second category will be called sweet-treats, which are the yogurt jars filled with hard candies and chocolates.

You want the guest to see only one of these amenities.

Either of these in a single photo is more than enough to make you stand apart. When they visit, they discover even more than they expect, and that’s what gets you the five-star review.

We recommended to opt for self-care products like the ones in the listing. Leave the sweet treats to be a sweet surprise.

Final Thoughts

Airbnb photography is a game of showing the most space with the best light.

As long as your property is not cluttered with furniture, you will get great photos by simply lighting the scenes accurately.

And as long as your best image is your first one, and the second image shows cute self-care packs, you will pull on the right emotional strings to get instant inquiries if not bookings.

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Welcome To Skyline STR!

We are Airbnb photographers who specialize in short term rental marketing.

Before that, we started off as Airbnb hosts and had to figure out how to stand out in a very (VERY) saturated market.

We learned a LOT, and made a lot of mistakes along the way too, but eventually figured out what works and what doesn't...

Skyline STR is the place where we share everything we've learned about Airbnb hosting and make it our mission to help hosts create better, more prosperous listings.

We're glad you're here, and we hope you enjoy your stay!

- Benjamin & Sheila

Affiliate Disclosure:

SkylineSTR.com is a participant in several affiliate programs, including the Amazon Associates program, and may be compensated for referring business to these companies at no additional cost to you. This post may contain affiliate links and/or links to our own products. We never recommend anything we don’t love or wouldn’t use ourselves.


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