So you've taken the leap and decided to offer your home as a cosy place to stay for weary travellers, tourists and holidaymakers. You can list your house on Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, or one of a handful of other holiday rental sites, but you want to make sure that listing looks as inviting as possible to attract customers. That means taking professional, good-looking photos.
"Just say no to cell phones," said Peggy Farren, a professional photographer. Your phone can take incredible shots, sure, but it's still no replacement for a professional camera, which you can rent for relatively cheap. Farren also happens to be an Airbnb Superhost, so she knows a few things about making your home look pretty for potential guests.
Highlight Your Home's Uniqueness
A Before and After of Farren's room
"What I have found in my Airbnb career, is that the more unique the decorating, the easier it is to rent the room," Farren said. "I have three rooms and the largest room with a private entrance wasn't renting as well until I added some quirkiness to it. It was very nice before, but kind of normal."
Guests like to stay in something a little different (isn't novelty half the fun of travel?) so try to highlight anything that might set your house apart from the others. "I think one reason people like Airbnb is for the charm of the homes they stay in," she added.
Consider the parts of your property that no other place offers, suggests LearnAirbnb.com. It might be a luxurious Jacuzzi, a giant backyard or a recently updated kitchen. Just don't try to pack in too many amenities in a single photo, they warn. Keep it simple so viewers know where to look. One photographer told Digital Trends:
"Each item seen within the camera's small frame must be an intentional part of the message you want to communicate." ...If a jar of pens doesn't add anything to the picture of your coffee table, there's no need for it. It's important to not feel pressured to add things to the scene with the hopes of making it unique, personified, or as if the room has tons of gadgets renters can play with.
You can always add those extras in your description, so focus on a few unique offerings and keep the rest simple.
Cater to Your Target Audience
You should also know what kind of guests are likely to rent your house, too — that way, you can cater your photos to them. For example, if you're trying to attract business travellers (or you just know there are many in your area), you probably want to photograph a comfortable workspace. Couples or families might want a big kitchen to cook meals at home, for instance. LearnAirbnb includes some interesting suggestions on what kind of tone you should set for your photos, depending on your target audience:
Couples: Feeling Luxurious: complimentary champagne and flutes on table, big pillows on nice bed
Families: Sense of Security: gates/locked doors, show neighbourhood children playing in front of unit
Business People: Feeling Rewarded: premium amenities, premium view
Groups: Sense of Excitement: nightlife shots, highlight large congregation areas
Knowing your target audience isn't to say you won't get requests from other guests, but it at least helps give your rental a cohesive theme, which makes it look more like legit lodging than a bunch of random photos of your house you slapped together.
Clean Up and Learn Some Interior Design Basics
It should go without saying, but you want to pick up any toys and put away your dirty dishes before you break out the camera.
"Hide cords and plugs for the pictures if you can," Farren said. "Make sure the drapes are hanging straight. Hide everything, and I mean everything, from your bathroom and kitchen countertops. Clean and decluttered sells."
Beyond making sure your place doesn't look like a pigsty, you want to incorporate some basic design elements to make your photos look attractive, too. Any easy way to do this? Colour.
"Add a pop of colour to each room," Farren suggested. "Flowers or pillows can be easily added."
There's a lot more to interior design than colour, though, and while you probably don't have time to learn it all, there are a few easy tips that anyone can follow:
Follow the rule of odd numbers: Like the rule of thirds in photography, the idea behind designing with odd numbers is that it creates a foundation of harmony and visual interest. As designer Cecilia Walker explains: "The basic idea of the rule is that details and objects that are arranged or grouped in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered pairings."
Find your room's focal point: A room's focal point is its most emphasised feature, the area your eyes are naturally drawn to when you walk into the room. Everything around the focal point compliments it.
Don't forget about negative space: In design, the negative space is the area that's not taken up by any subject. Most commonly, this is the white area on your walls. It's tempting to fill every space with a subject, but sometimes, the negative space speaks for itself. Pay attention to the "unused" areas in your rental, too.
Pick the Right Camera Angle
"Put your camera on a tripod about five or six feet tall [1.5 to 1.8m]," Farren said. "If you don't have a tripod, find a way to keep your camera as steady as possible, such as resting it on a tall stool. A steady camera will give you a sharper picture."
You also want to pick the right lens, and that's not always a wide angle lens just to fit in the entire room. That can make the photo look distorted and unrealistic. Plus, if you make the room look bigger than it is, you might be asking for a negative review when guests are unpleasantly surprised. Instead, Farren suggests shooting into a corner or from a doorway to get a realistic perspective of the room. "Shoot from a doorway if you can to get as much of the room in the photograph as possible. Move around to find the best angle for each room."
Make Sure the Room Is Brightly Lit
Your room should be well lit, of course. The best Airbnb photos are clean, bright and airy, and that typically means shooting during the day.
"Turn on all the lights in the room," Farren suggested. "It's usually best to shoot without flash. However, if possible, use your flash pointed up at a white ceiling. If you point it up, the ceiling will spread and diffuse the light, making it look very natural. If you point a small flash forward, it may not look as good. Experiment with your lighting to get the most natural and bright room possible."
If the natural lighting is limited, Farren says you should learn to use exposure compensation. One way to do this is with a long exposure. Set your camera on a stable tripod, lower your shutter speed, then click away. A lower shutter speed keeps your camera's shutter open longer, which allows more light to come in. Keeping the shutter open too long will completely blow out the shot, though. Shutter speed can be tricky, so experiment with your camera's settings to get the best possible shot.