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Lights, camera, income! Maximise the profit from your Airbnb with this ultimate list of do’s and don’ts from top property photoshoot experts

Airbnb rentals are now the norm for anyone with extra space in their home. But some owners are missing out on top profits. To maximise your rental potential, it’s essential to present prospects with winning images. From hi-tech drones to simple lighting tips, this is the ultimate list of dos and don’ts for an Airbnb photoshoot that will bring in the big bucks...

DO stand out

In an oversaturated market, it’s ever more important to make sure your Airbnb stands out from the crowd, and professional-looking photos can add the ‘wow’ factor you need, say the experts. Luke Norman is a director at Airsimple, which helps people rent out their properties on sites like Airbnb. He says: “Photography, in our eyes, is one of the most important things. We need to make sure our landlords’ properties stand out from every other listing, to make sure we're maximising their income.”

Airbnb’s own advice agrees that standing out is a must: “Highlight unique amenities”, its photography help page recommends. “Guests love to stay in spaces with character, so call attention to details like a fireplace, artwork, or treehouse.”

Andrew Bold at Airbnb property manager City Relay agrees: “Your place has a soul, a history and elements of your personality - try to show it through your pictures.”

DON’T wait until the last minute

Airbnb searches tend to peak in summer, but whatever your own property’s peak season is, make sure the photography is ready in time for your biggest rush of listing visitors. Top UK photographer Andrew Hasson’s photos are featured in places like the Sunday Times Homes section.

Hasson says: “Taking pictures for websites like Airbnb shouldn't be a last-minute thing with no thought put into it. You are opening up your home to strangers. You want them to enjoy their stay, and you want to encourage this new income stream but, most importantly, you want people to respect your property. Sensible people will hire a professional property photographer to take the shots, or at least ask their friend who is a keen amateur photographer.”

DO know your audience

Different Airbnb properties will appeal to different types of travellers. Know yours and you can tailor your listing to them.

Airsimple’s Luke Norman advises: “Are you looking at attracting people from the corporate market? People staying for leisure? Students? Families? Knowing your target market will help you to adjust the interiors to suit them and decide how to photograph the rooms, and this will result in a much higher click-through-rate on your Airbnb listing. Basically, if your target audience can imagine themselves sleeping there, then you've completed the hardest part of the task.”

DON’T tolerate mess

Removing clutter is vital if you want to set the right tone, says the Airbnb photography help page. “Set the scene: Clean up and remove clutter to make your space look spacious and inviting,” it recommends, adding: “Before taking photos of your space, take some time to arrange everything as if you were preparing to welcome your first guest. Your photos should both showcase your space and help set your guests’ expectations before they book.”

Hasson believes clearing and cleaning can make all the difference to your Airbnb photos. “Clean up,” he says. “Seriously, take a good look around and clear up. A messy house is not an inviting house. The internet is filled with websites featuring terrible photos of people's properties. If it's a picture of your living room, get rid of old newspapers, that cup of coffee you had an hour ago and the leftovers of the pizza your children had last night. Clear away game-console controllers. Don't leave a pair of slippers in the middle of the floor, or a jumper draped over a chair.”

DO think quality

Many Airbnb hosts wonder if an iPhone is good enough for their listing photos. Norman suggests a good camera can do a better job: “Use a good quality camera – You may be able to get away with smartphone cameras due to how advanced they have become, but dingy photos are sure to make your potential guests scroll right past your Airbnb listing. Investing in a good quality camera makes all the difference, for example DSLR cameras have bigger sensors that work better in low light, which results in a higher-resolution, clearer and more vibrant photo that makes people want to click on your listing.”

Matt Maullin is Director at Orb 3D, which specialises in 3D property tours and drone videography. He says the money spent getting help from a professional can be repaid in higher value bookings. “The market is changing very quickly, online viewers are demanding comprehensive information about properties and expect it at the click of a button,” notes Maullin. “Airbnb owners cannot expect to impress potential guests if they just snap a few standard photos on their iPhone, they need to think outside the box and perhaps even outsource the photography to a professional, in order to separate themselves from the crowd in an oversaturated market.”

DON’T go cheap ‘n’ cheerful

If you want to avoid bad house guests, you need to remove any poor quality photos from your listing, as the latter will only attract the former, says Hasson. “Badly composed pictures taken on a cheap camera or phone with poor resolution give off one crystal-clear message; my standards are poor, and I'm not that bothered about making sure your stay is a happy one.”

Marc Pritchard at property company Taylor Wimpey España agrees that first impressions matter: “Eye-catching photography is everything when it comes to snagging a potential customer's interest on Airbnb,” he says. “It's true that a picture speaks a thousand words. First impressions are everything when it comes to viewing properties online. Imagery needs to provide people with 'the feeling' straight away – to feel that this is a property that is perfect for them as soon as they see it.”

DO think quantity

In the past, taking large quantities of photographs was costly. Whilst this is no longer the case, it can still feel like an extravagance to take a very large number of photos of the same thing. Not so, says Hasson: “Take plenty of pictures,” he suggests, “and take them from all angles. Don't settle on one viewpoint and stick to it.

“Don't hold back with this - remember, those pictures are just ones and zeros on a memory card that you already own. It costs nothing to take a few more. Lots of pictures gives you the option of editing a set down to get the very best of the best.”

DON’T highlight the toilet

One common mistake with Airbnb photos is that they often include a toilet and, according to Hasson this is an error, along with including masses of toiletries. “In the bathroom, minimalism is the thing,” Hasson states.

“It's instantly off-putting to see a bathroom where every available space is filled with a half-empty tube of toothpaste, six toothbrushes, hand cream, nail-varnish remover, contact-lens solution, hair-straighteners, bottles of aspirin and a random toilet roll. Remember that you don't have to show the actual toilet - everybody knows what a toilet looks like and everyone knows there will be one in the house. But they don't make a nice picture.”

DO showcase the bedroom

In every Airbnb listing, the most important photograph will be the main bedroom, says Norman. “Be sure to capture the best-looking bedroom in the house,” he says. “The majority of the time, people will want to see what the bedroom space looks like, because the sleeping facility will be the main reason for booking.”

Hasson’s advice for bedrooms is to make them look super-inviting to potential customers. “In the bedrooms, make the beds and make them neatly,” he says. “Make it look cosy and inviting, maybe turn one corner down. Plump up the pillows.”

DON’T forget the mirror!

A surprisingly common error with Airbnb photography is the inclusion of the photographer themselves, often wearing a less-than-ideal clothing for the purpose, says Hasson. “Don't take a picture that features you reflected in the mirror wearing hardly anything, or your old pyjamas,” he implores. “Incredibly, people actually do this.”

DO get the lights right

Lighting is one area the experts agree is vital, and this point is included by the Airbnb photography help page, too. “Take photos during the day,” it says. Also, “open the blinds and turn on the lights to brighten your space.” Hasson agrees: “Make sure the curtains and blinds in every room are fully open and hanging neatly and straight,” he says. “Turn on the lights. This can give a nice mix of daylight and warm, inviting tungsten light. Try to avoid direct flash. This can be a harsh, unattractive light.”

Bold has further advice for lighting: “Natural light is one of the most important elements when guests imagine themselves living in the space as it makes it look nicer, more fresh and bigger. Therefore, make sure your place is bright: open all curtains and try to shoot on sunny days if possible.”

DON’T include kitchen clutter

The kitchen is a potential minefield for Airbnb photos, says Hasson, who advises watching out for the following:

  • Dirty pots and pans.
  • Screwed up old tea towels hanging off a cupboard door
  • Random tin of tomatoes in the middle of the counter
  • Limescale on the lip of the kettle
  • Old dish-cloth draped over the taps
  • Seven empty beer and wine bottles shoved in the corner, next to the cat food and butter-dish

Meanwhile, hosts who make the effort to stage the kitchen correctly can give an inviting feel, says Bold. “Although the rooms should be tidied up, to stage them is always a good idea. For instance, you could opt for a delicious breakfast sitting on your kitchen counter or an open bottle of wine accompanied by glasses on the table. Your property should look homey and inviting so that the future guests are able to imagine themselves living in this space.”

DO go outside

When someone is staying at your house for more than one night, the surroundings will be a major factor in their decision. Airbnb suggests: “Add a variety of photos: To help guests understand what it’s like to stay in your space, take photos of the inside, outside, and neighbourhood of your listing.”

Hasson agrees: “Add some photos of your neighbourhood if you think it appropriate. Is there a lovely park around the corner? Put that in. Do you like the street where you live? Include a picture of that too.”

Maullin recommends thinking about the attractions visitors might want to take in during their stay, and taking photographs of those, too: “You need to make sure you are showing them more than just a few internal property photographs,” he says. “You want to showcase to guests what local attractions and activities are on offer nearby and present the properties location clearly. The majority of Airbnb guests choose the location they want to stay in before they find an Airbnb. Create a link between your property and its location, then present that link.”

DON’T include bins

If you’re going outside to take photos, one common mistake is to include a row of ugly bins – it’s something property owners seem to lose sight of as they see them every day. The worst offenders opt to showcase the outside on ‘bin day’, meaning the road is uncharacteristically lined with rubbish bins! Also avoid including unsightly vehicles, says Hasson. “Make sure you don't take the picture on the day everyone puts their bins out, or when there's a skip-lorry parked outside,” he says.

DO go BIG

Resolution is something professional photographers deal with all the time, and it matters if you’re trying to showcase your property with professional-looking photos. “Make sure the resolution is as high as you can get it on your camera,” says Hasson. The Airbnb photography help page offers some specifics in this area. “Resolution matters,” it says. “Take photos that are at least 1024 x 683px. When in doubt, a bigger photo is better.”

DON’T go TALL

The shape of your photographs matters, too, according to the Airbnb photo advice page. “Take your photos in landscape format,” it says. “Photos in search results are all displayed in landscape, so vertical photos won’t showcase your space as well.”

Hasson agrees: “Take the photos in landscape format. It's impossible to stress how important this is, so I will emphasise the point by shouting - DON'T shoot the photos in a vertical, or portrait, format.”

DO edit

Got photography skills? Then there’s lots you can do to improve your Airbnb photos before they go live, say the experts. “Enhance your photos,” says Norman. “Sometimes, even if you have the angles and interiors of your rooms perfected, the lighting might not be on your side. When this is the case, we use photo editing software to enhance the images to make sure they have that WOW factor – you can do this yourself simply by adjusting the brightness and clarity settings.”

Hasson notes that you can often use camera settings to get the tone right from the outset: “If you have any sort of manual control over the way your camera takes pictures, try and take angles that show windows, and then over-expose them,” he says. “Over-exposed windows give the impression of lots of lovely light pouring into a room, making it look bright and cheery and inviting.”

DON’T hit a brick wall

In Airbnb photography, Hasson advises against photographing directly toards a wall. “Try and avoid shooting straight-on to a wall,” he says. “That is, try and shoot everything at an angle, so that the walls show some perspective. This will definitely make your place look a little bigger and more interesting.”

Bold suggests getting into corners to get the best perspective: “A room always looks better if it looks spacious. To help give people an idea of how large your space is and what it all entails, get into the corners of the room to catch it in its entirety.”

DO go hi-tech

Increasingly, the best Airbnbs have hi-tech incorporated into their listing, says Maullin, who advises clients to include a link in their listing to an immersive 360° virtual panoramic tour. “In my experience,” he notes, “only using still photographs to market a property online is becoming a dated strategy and has far less impact compared to the other options available to homeowners.

“If homeowners really want to showcase the potential their property has they need to show online viewers more than just the internals of the property. They need to use visual dynamic marketing tools such as drone videography, 3D property tours, virtual Reality, video compilations and more. Not just a few photographs.”