How to Turn a Good Photo of Your Vacation Rental into a Great One

    Photos are arguably the single most important part of your vacation rental listings. Many renters scan over the photos before they stop to read any of the information you’ve worked so hard to put together. If your photos are just okay, they might move on to the next listing.

    So what makes a photograph great? A great photo should:

    • a good property photo features something in all four quadrants of the frameHave clarity, high resolution, and brilliant hues
    • Feature something of interest in at least 3 quadrants of the shot
    • Appear recent and up-to-date (no time stamps from 1997)
    • Stage an inviting scene that feels  "alive"
    • Use available light to brighten the room without washing it out
    • Keep the eye engaged with purposeful framing
    • Be clutter-free
    • Showcase the feel of the home and clearly depict the size of the space

    Example #1

    Here are two photos of the same room. The first is a perfectly acceptable photo. It shows the size and quality of the room well enough, but it lacks any real pizzazz that might draw in a traveler. The second photo is the exact same room after an hour's worth of "staging" efforts...and look at the difference!

    staging vacation rental photos
    What Changed?

    • staging a photo of a vacation rental cabin Lit a fire in the fireplace to make the room feel cozy and "alive."
    • Opened all of the blinds in the room and on the door to let in natural light.
    • Angled the rug near the door to add depth.
    • Moved the furniture slightly so that the entire pool table was in the frame. The table brings in some much needed color.
    • Used a better angle. The second photo was taken from a chair, so that the shot was looking down at the room, instead of straight at it. (Be sure to angle just below your ceiling fan, if you have one —  they have a way of sneaking into the frame!)
    • Removed the knickknacks from around the fireplace. (The bear next to the hearth looked like a mouse hole!)
    • Fanned out magazines on the coffee table. Pay special attention to the items on the surfaces of tables and countertops. These tend to make a room look messy or cluttered.

    Example #2

    Next, examine these two photos of the exact same bedroom. The first photo is what the owner used for her listing. The second photo is how her master bedroom could appear with a few minor tweaks.

    staging a vacation rental bedroom photo
    What Changed?

    • framing a vacation rental photo to showcase the king bedChanged the orientation to horizontal rather than vertical. Horizontal shots tend to better showcase the size and contents of a room. Plus, most vacation rental websites are geared to horizontal photos, so your pictures will display the best on these sites if you follow this format.
    • Used natural light . The sunlight streaming through the window gives the room a warm glow and allows the bright colors to shine.
    • Captured the entire bed in the frame. Bedroom photos often do not clearly convey the size of the bed or beds in the room. (For example, in the first photo, can you tell this is a king-sized bed?) Don't undersell your home by making your beds look smaller than they are.
    • Altered the angle to show more of the space. In the first photo, you could not see the convenient desk in the bedroom or the large windows flanked by colorful curtains. Plus, this angle prevents the reflection of the camera’s flash from showing in the artwork above the bed.
    • Used all four quadrants of the frame and featured something of visual interest.

    Example #3

    Next up: the living room. Once again, this first photo is fine but may not jump out at a renter who is combing through listing after listing. The colors and lighting seem a bit drab. Check out what a new coat of paint can do to make your photos stand out.

    staging a living room of a vacation rental photo

    What Changed?

    • staging a living room vacation rental photoAdded wall color. Consider painting the walls of your vacation home a bright color to make the room "pop" in photographs.
    • Shot during a different time of day. The time of day that you take a photo will directly affect the hues of the colors in your room. The first photo was taken at night with a flash, and as a result, it has cooler colors than the second photo that was taken early in the morning.
    • Taken from a step back, to get more in the frame. Sometimes all you need to do is take a single step back to better capture the size of the room and its relation to the other rooms in your home.
    If you’re planning a trip to your vacation home soon, be sure to review the photos you currently have on your listing. You may be satisfied with them, but consider all the ways they might be improved with some minor tweaks to lighting, staging, or angle.

    © Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2011