Listing your property on Airbnb can be a great source of side-income, but the platform is competitive and it is easy to go into discount-mode to win bookings. However, with great photography, you can convey luxury and class that attracts the right customers.
In fact, as the world relies more and more on the internet, the content and imagery that you put out for your listing will be the very first impression travelers will get.
Your listing photos are the single most important aspect of promoting your property online. People who invest in luxury leisure do not want any sign of amateur-level service at any point of the experience.
This is why bad properties that look good can attract more bookings than good properties that look bad.
The good news is that since 85% of hosts aren’t even using professional photographers in the first place, this isn’t a very high bar to overcome.
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, you will learn more about technical and stylistic tips for Airbnb photos that can help improve how your space looks, attract more bookings, and ultimately drive more revenue.
Whether you opt for iPhone photography or DSLR, you will learn valuable lessons you can use right away. There are also tips on leveraging small adjustments to get the most five-star reviews from guests, so read on.
Photography is an art, and a science.
This means some technical tips can help improve your Airbnb photos, and there are some artistic ones as well. When combined together, they both create imagery that is enchanting and can boost the perceived value of your property.
In this section, we cover the ones that have to do with camera settings and light. These apply based on the equipment you use and even the type of property you have.
Wherever there is a caveat, it is mentioned in the tip.
Connect Your Camera to Your Laptop and View Your Shots
Set yourself up for success by getting a cable to connect your DSLR camera to your laptop.
This will allow you to view the pictures on a much larger screen as you set up your angles/compositions and initial capture-settings. What looks good in your camera preview might not turn out that great on a larger screen.
The last thing you want is to have the perfect angles, props, and composition to realize the pictures have too much noise, are over exposed, you’re in the reflections, or your focus is slightly blurry.
And that’s why even if you do not follow any other tip in this article, you must double-check your camera settings by viewing your initial shots on a laptop.
While the most efficient way to do this is with a cable connecting your camera and computer, you can also use your memory card to transfer the images before continuing with your photography.
Set ISO Accurately
Now that you understand the importance of double-checking your photos on a larger screen with each adjustment you make in your capture-settings, you may want to know more about the specific settings you should tweak.
As professional photographers, we like to use manual settings for a variety of reasons. And if you’re not interested in learning about the ISO triangle, it is okay to opt for the auto-mode.
As long as you do not plan to have your photos printed or displayed on a large projector, an advanced DSLR’s auto-mode will sufficiently balance the ISO for you to get the right image for Airbnb. Remember that most of your audience will be scrolling through the photos on their phone.
If you opt for the manual route, start with the lowest ISO settings that produce a visible image and double-check the shots on your laptop as you raise the ISO. If you notice noise (grainy dots in dark areas), bring down the ISO and work on additional light sources to improve the image.
A good rule of thumb is to start with an ISO of 100, and most DSLRs these days can go up to an ISO of 1000 without too much noise.
You can also replace this step by using your iPhone to capture the images. Once again, as long as your audience is browsing the listing on their phones, you do not need to overthink the technicality of capturing as long as a result is pleasant to the eyes.
Select the Right Time of Day
Whether you use an iPhone for your photography or opt for a DSLR, the most significant role in your image quality will be played by light.
You can photograph during the golden hour of the evening where the sun’s bright enough to light up the interior but not too harsh to create sharp, unpleasant contrast.
But if Airbnb is a side-hustle and you have a day job that keeps you from being at the property during this time, you can photograph the property during the early morning. The sun plays a similar soft lighting role during the early hours of the day.
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.
Examine the Sources of Natural Light
While it is essential to take photos when the sun’s at the best position, that has no impact on your images if there is no natural light source for your interior shots.
Take a short tour of your property and assess where the sunlight comes in from. Do you have windows that get lit the best in the evening, or are they on the side best covered during the early morning?
The sun’s position will dictate whether your golden hour lies before breakfast or in the evening. If you realize that the sunlight at dawn doesn’t flood the rooms, but you can’t be at your property during the evening because of your day job, you will need to block out your weekend for this task.
It’s worth it.
It also goes without saying that you must let as much light flood in as is possible. This means opening up any opaque window covers, drawn curtains, etc. You can also use reflectors (Amazon) and photography umbrellas to bounce the light around the room, which lights up shadows sufficiently.
Use All the Artificial Light Available
While on the subject of lighting, let us go over artificial light and its importance.
Natural light creates the most pleasant images, but you must use artificial light for clarity and visibility. Artificial light in photography is different from the term in real estate photography.
For general photography, artificial light refers to flash and photography lights. Here, we mean the house lights; the tube lights, LEDs, Lamps, etc.
It is essential to take specific photos with all of these lights on so the room is best-illuminated. This might become too harsh in terms of contrast for your DSLR. That’s why you will have to adjust the camera’s ISO settings when you switch to these photos.
Ideally, you would adjust your camera and take photos during the golden hour with natural light and minimal artificial light. But as soon as your light sources become insufficient, you will switch to artificial lighting.
For this, you’ll re-test your ISO in relation to new lighting by bringing the ISO up or down depending on photo quality. You may also need to change your color balance so your image isn’t too blue or too orange.
If you are using an iPhone, you will likely not have to bother with this step. Simply switching on all the lights should be enough and your phone will auto-adjust.
Low Light? Use Long Exposure and Tripod
This tip is relevant for DSLR users who have to take interior photos in low light.
As mentioned earlier, right after the sun goes down, you will have the opportunity to turn on all the lights and take some night-time photos. You will realize that these photos aren’t as well-lit as the scene you witness with your eyes.
This happens because while your eyes can take in a continuous stream of light, a DSLR’s shutter shuts in a fraction of that time. Instead of cranking up the ISO (and introducing noise), keep the ISO relatively low but decrease the shutter speed. This will allow the lens to remain less sensitive to light (and take good quality pics), but the shutter remains open long enough to light the photo properly.
That said, if you try to capture by hand with a slow shutter speed, the picture will be blurry.
That’s because before the shutter has closed and solidified the image, your hand has shifted the impression (It is like moving a paper under an ink-stamp while it is being pressed). So what’s the solution? Use a tripod that keeps the camera still while the shutter slowly closes and takes in all the light it needs to still capture.
While it’s not a very exciting tool, a tripod will transform your photography, especially if you use a smartphone.
Borrow or Rent a Wide-Angle Lens
In real estate photography, as well as interior design, the wide angle lens is the workhorse for the majority of shots. It establishes an area and shows its relation to other rooms, and gives a sense of size and scale.
You can rent it if you do not want to purchase one just for a few pictures. But to opt-out of capturing the property’s wide view is a bad decision. If you have an iPhone and wonder whether this applies to you in any way, you may want to use panoramic mode to capture the breadth of your property in at least one picture.
To help clarify whether wide shots are essential for your listing, let’s look at the kind of areas that are best snapped in width:
- Swimming pool or terrace with a great view.
- Back yard or garden with pleasant décor and/or flowers.
- Fence and gate if aesthetically pleasing.
- Interior rooms, such as family and bedrooms.
Combine Flash and Bounce to Soften Light
For those using a DSLR camera to take pictures for their Airbnb listings, it is vital to leverage flash to light up areas not reached by sunlight.
However, direct flash tends to create blinding brightness in some areas and harsh shadows in others. Use reflectors to bounce flash instead of directly flooding the subject.
In fact, best practices are to never aim your flash directly into the scene. One tip is to you aim your flash at the ceiling or wall behind you to bounce the light. The reflected light is softer, and the diffusion helps capture a pleasant yet well-lit image.
Now that we have covered Airbnb photography’s technical aspects let’s go over some stylistic tips.
These tips equally apply whether you’re taking photos with your phone or with a professional camera. Since these are related to composition, décor, and viewer-psychology, you should consider all tips that are valid for your property regardless of its size or your choice of equipment.
Know Your Strengths: Exterior vs. Interior
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.
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 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.
Show Off the Amenities
This is an excellent second or third photo for the slide you’ll create for your potential customers. Remember that you’re curating a user experience that convinces them to buy in as few swipes as possible. You can purchase mini-soap, small lotions, etc. In bulk from Target and similar stores.
You can also buy small empty packages to fill with a sanitizer, lotion, and skincare items you purchase in bulk. These tubs of lotion placed in small containers or crates of cheaply-acquired candy placed in pretty jars will convince many customers to click ‘book.’
It’s a cognitive bias that makes customers associate this extra mile (which is more like an extra inch) immediately associate your listing with superior hotels. This gives you all the edge you need to appear better than the next listing at a similar price-point.
But while providing these amenities can help your ratings, it is not going to help your bookings if you do not take great pictures showing the amenities.
Do not try to be subtle about this. Having a small jar by the bedside in a wide-shot will be immediately looked-over. Have a picture of the products as if you were doing product photography.
Declutter the Interior
While it is essential to take pictures that display the art and the amenities in your listing, you have to avoid clutter.
Clutter is the number one deal-breaker for many guests as they do not want to spend time in a confined space. Even though your property might have a lot of room for them to spend their time, this isn’t adequately portrayed when all they see is a lot of furniture in a single image.
Guests also do not want to contend with the owners personal items during their stay.
More is less when it comes to interior photography. That’s why you should avoid trying to show off all your furniture in one image.
The rule of thumb for interior design and interior photography is to have 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.
Balance Colors With Decor
While you can photoshop images to get the right balance, you do not want to mislead your guests by swapping colors artificially.
That’s why you should consider the physical colors in your space.
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.
Mobile Phone vs. DSLR for Airbnb Photography
At this point we have covered some style tips as well as the technical aspects to upgrade the level of appeal in your Airbnb photos. But unless you already have a DSLR camera, you might be wondering which device to use to capture these images.
In our opinion, iPhone photos are good enough for most AirBnB photography and are recommended if you are just getting involved in photography. That’s because iPhone cameras are designed to bring you the best quality photo at minimal skill level.
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
Even if you’re not able to faithfully follow every tip listed in this article, as long as you avoid the following mistakes, your property’s photo will be among the top 10% of the ones listed on the platform.
Taking Pictures With Wrong Angles
Many hosts assume their guests have the same familiarity with their property as they do. As a result, they do not take pictures from the perspective of first impressions. This leads to photos with bad angles and unflattering compositions.
Showing how each room is connected is far better than containing each area into one photo.
How to fight this drawback: Assume that the photos are meant to be placed in a magazine. By having inspiration or a mood board to compare your images with, you will have no option but to improve your game.
If you take photos with bad lighting, you will have a bad time trying to get your property booked.
It is worth mentioning that perfect lighting for the human eye is not even close to the camera’s right lighting. This is especially true for DSLR cameras. Make sure that, at the very least, everything is evenly lit in the picture.
Too Much Noise
No, we are not talking about what you hear.
When taking photos for your Airbnb, you might be tempted to crank up the brightness. Whether this is done in post-production (editing) or through ISO while capturing, a poorly lit scene will only introduce noise upon such treatment.
This can make your photos look worse, and unprofessional.
Taking Photos Without Purpose
If you’re snapping images for your Airbnb listing, each one should have a purpose.
What is it trying to convey? As mentioned earlier, you want the hero-image to give the best impression. The second image should show some amenities to immediately set you apart from other hosts.
But if you take pictures just to take pictures, you’re only relying on luck to get bookings and you aren’t really doing your listing any favors.
Many hosts will go around their property and take cutesy photos that don’t really provide any additional, actionable information to help travelers make decisions. Your lifestyle images should draw viewers into a scene, not at it.
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 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.
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.
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 underpromise and overdeliver, but bookings aren’t earned by underpromising 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.
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.