A market exists with millions of people in desperate need of photography. Professional photography will earn them tons of money, so they are willing to invest in your services. These clients are incredibly easy to find, by the hundreds and even thousands.
They need a professional photographer. They need you.
Many people spend their vacations at hotels and resorts, but more and more families are traveling to stay at what is called a vacation rental. A vacation rental could be a house, condo, apartment, boat, or even a tree house at the base of a volcano in Hawaii.
Vacation rentals are offered through the owner directly or through a management company, but every single property needs photos. Travelers rely heavily on the photos of a property when choosing where to lay their head each night while they are away from home. And most of the vacation rental property photos you see online are horrid. They are dark, uninteresting, and unappealing. It is imperative that the vacation rental property photos convey that the owner is not a sketchy scammer, but a real person who does business honestly and can be trusted.
If the traveler does not trust the photos, they will not trust the owner, and, consequently, the traveler will not choose that vacation rental property to spend their money and time on. The photos that many vacation rental owners use for marketing are just plain shoddy.
Do the owners want inferior photos? No. They want killer photos.
They want photographs that invite and compel a traveler to become a guest. Owners want property images that make a guest happy to pay their hard earned cash for a few nights (or more) at a place they have only seen photos of on the Internet.
How many properties need help? Millions.
The number of properties just begging to be photographed is astounding. If you would like to learn more about vacation rental photography, I have written The Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental Photography (affiliate) just for you.
Avoid Tilted Photos
Cocking your head to look at a photo that is tilted can get annoying pretty fast. If the potential guest gets frustrated with a crick in their neck from looking at crooked images, they will move on.
The entire room could be on a tilt, or maybe doorways, counters, and cabinets seem to be at a slant, possibly from lens distortion, or the photographer just did not have the camera level when the shot was created. Either way, straight walls equate to security and trust.
Trust and security are a big deal in the vacation rental industry. If the marketing images display haphazardly angled walls or an excessive tilt, the images are not representing the trust and security the owner desires to portray. The poor images result in a downgrade of the level of trust the traveler has in a property and its owner.
Leave the 45-degree tilt to the food shots and keep the walls at a secure 90- degrees.
Eliminate Blank Walls
Advertising a property with blank walls should only be a temporary situation. It is not uncommon for an owner to post images void of décor for a vacation rental that is in the process of being set up for guests. This bedroom is missing wall décor besides coverings for the mattress box springs. When it is time for the “real” images to be made, though, and the owner has hired you to do it, the temporary blank walls should be nonexistent.
What an owner may not realize is that blank walls send the message to a guest that the owner is investing very minimally into the property.
The potential guest will then wonder how inexpensively the property is set up:
- Are the beds going to be comfortable or is it furnished with just cheap mattresses?
- Does the fully equipped kitchen actually have the necessary tools to cook a few meals or just have a collection of various odds and ends of cookware that were picked up randomly from the local resale shop?
- Will the economical window blinds (read: $2.99 flimsy ones) block the late setting summer sun so the kids don’t stay up until midnight? (Yes, I have stayed at one of those.)
To combat the blank wall syndrome, ask the owner a simple question before the photo session:
“Are you open to suggestions to maximize your property’s potential?”
The answer will nearly always be a resounding yes.
Get Rid of Dark Shadows, Blur, and Grainy Pictures
If the property photos appear dark and unclear, a potential guest may subconsciously translate that into the owner being vague and untrustworthy.
The room is so dark you can barely see the tub and the sink. The property owner or manager who presents photos that are dark, blurry, or extremely grainy is unknowingly damaging himself. With vacation rental property scams highly present in the media, guests are very leery in the first place about handing their hard earned cash over to a stranger they have never met before.
Therefore, it is imperative that the property photos convey that the owner is not a sketchy scammer, but a real person who does business honestly and can be trusted.
Simple Staging Tips
Staging in vacation rental properties is a cross between theatrical staging and home staging. It is creating a scene within a property, a scene that is ready for a guest to move into. It is a key component to an owner’s marketing images. Staging is an important aspect that will help elicit emotion from the traveler.
You must always ask your client if he wants the property to be staged. The answer is nearly always a “yes.” If it is a, “No, don’t touch anything!” then you need to ask the owner, “Why not?”
Most likely, the owner only wants the property to appear exactly as shown in the photographs. This is a very practical reason. However, there are a few small tweaks that you, the owner, or the stager, can do to minimally stage a property to elicit emotion from a traveler while keeping close to the “no staging” mantra of the owner.
Bare minimum staging should be automatic for you as a professional. If the owner preps this part of the shoot, then you will only need to make a walk through of the property to tweak things here and there. Bare minimum staging consists of the following tasks for pretty much each area of the property:
- Fluff pillows and bath towels
- Straighten artwork and lampshades
- Check for window streaks or dust smears
- Straighten chairs, bedding and bed skirts
- Turn off the TV screens and arrange or remove remote controls
- Hide magazines and power cords
- Neatly fold blankets and then hide or strategically place
- Roll the toilet paper up and put the toilet seat down!
- Close the shower curtain and check for streaks and water drops on mirrors
- Light a fire in the fireplace
- Turn on all lights
Moderate staging takes a little more time and creativity and can be more fun. This category of staging builds onto the bare minimum staging by adding a few of the property’s amenities into the photos to help create scenes, making it ready for a guest to imagine himself at the property. In addition, this is the type of staging that involves creating the detail shots that draw guests into a home. Set the scene and then zoom in and get closer to the details of a scene to really highlight particular aspects of the property’s experience for the guests.
A mug and a book are always a good standard staged shot. Here are a few more ideas:
- Draw a hot bubble bath and light some romantic candles.
- Place a neatly folded blanket with a fluffy pillow, a paperback novel, and a coffee mug in a cozy reading area.
- Arrange beach toys in the sand, ready for a group of children to grab and play with.
- Mix a local drink and add a tiny umbrella to it for some flair. Set the drink outside with a beautiful view in the background.
- Set an open laptop on the coffee table with a coffee mug and a small vase of bright local flowers.
- Stack up area guidebooks on the entry table and place a map and sunglasses next to them.
- Fill a water carafe and set on a bedside table with a small flower arrangement, a book or two, and reading glasses.
Take Most Photos from a Low Viewpoint
The best height to create most of your interior images is from the view of an average 1st grader. This means that you, as an average adult, will be doing a lot of shooting from your knees.
Shooting from this low viewpoint is for several reasons:
- Gives a straight view into the room versus looking down into a room
- Helps to keep the walls and doorways straight while still keeping the floor and the ceiling within the frame
- Creates an image with more interest, as it is not the usual way an adult would see a room.
One of the difficulties we face as photographers is that we are working with threedimensional subjects in a two-dimensional product. If you can create an illusion of three dimensions within your two-dimension image, your images will begin to invite viewers into them.
The question, of course, is how in the world to create that illusion? The simple answer is with depth.
The depth in a photo is there already. You only need to make it more apparent to the viewer. This is done by composing your shot to have a foreground, a middle ground, and a background.
Move Furniture and Accessories
It is not against the law to move furniture or accessories around a bit to compose a better image. Reasons why you may move things slightly include:
- Creating a more open feel to a room
- Setting a scene to walk into
- Moving a table because a corner sticks into the frame a little bit
- Featuring amenities that photograph better in a different location
Tips for People in Images
Generally, people are not included in marketing images for vacation rental properties. The view is that travelers want to be able to imagine themselves in the photo, without the distraction of other people in that space. Think about it…would you want to see someone snuggled up in the bed you are thinking of sleeping in? Remember, this is a photograph of the exact bed a guest would sleep in, not a random bed in a hotel with lots of different beds.
It’s a bit of a turn off to see the faces of people using the same pillows, the same blankets, and the same couch as you are planning to use. Usually. But not all of the time.
With all this talk about creating a scene in your images, a scene ready for a guest to step into, why not have a person in the image already?
This can be a good idea if done properly. If the person or people in the photo fall into the following guidelines, then go for it:
- The people are in action
- The people are in the distance
- The people are experiencing the scene
- The people are unrecognizable
In this photo below, the couple is not recognizable, she is reading a book, and he is watching the waves, ready to go surfing.
In addition, the compositional elements enhance the story. The photographer used the rule of thirds, angled leading lines of the structure towards the couple, and created dimension with a foreground of the hats on the wall.
Three good techniques of incorporating people into the property images are using the silhouettes of people, putting them out of focus, and showing only parts of people.
The main goal of using people in a marketing image for a vacation rental property is to help the traveler to imagine that she could be inside that image, engaging in the experience herself.
How to Price Vacation Rental Photography
Do not sell yourself short since you are only selling digital files, but do not go crazy with the knowledge that your photos are used to advertise a property worldwide.
Know what your time is worth, and then calculate your time and the value of the images.
Your rate will vary depending on your location and if there are travel costs involved. For me, my clients pay my travel costs in addition to my rate, unless I am already in the area.
Also keep in mind that many vacation rental owners are leery of paying a lot for images to advertise their property. Many owners are still learning the value of professional photos for their advertising, so part of your job will be educating them that you are completely worth your rate.
Part of showing them the value of your work is being clear on how it will dramatically benefit them.
There are not many businesses that see a 39% increase in one year because of new marketing images. Yet, that is exactly what happened with one of my clients. That 39% translated to roughly $20,000 of additional income for him. The property booked more nights than the previous year, and the owner ended up raising his prices as well.
With the new professional photos, the guests saw a perfect representation of the vacation rental property and trusted the owner more. On the owner’s side, he booked many more guests and was able to get a higher rate per night. Is this return rate normal? It is definitely above average, but do not go promising your clients that they will get the same increase in their own property. However, they will see an increase for sure.
There is no scientific data to measure exactly how valuable professional photos are for marketing a vacation rental property. Yet when you take a quick glance at vacation rental industry experts, blogs, newsletters, forums, and listing sites, it is quite clear that professional photos are the number one most important part of a successful vacation rental property.
To attract more clients in need of vacation rental photos get listed on VRPhotogs.com.
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The Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental Photography (affiliate) is available now for $79. Get more than 200 pages of ideas, tips, and photo examples so that you can begin capturing new revenue from property owners. Your purchase includes the free ebook 5 Quickies for Vacation Rental Photographers.