Category Archives for Business Strategy

The 12 Attributes that Make or Break Airbnb Photos

Ever wondered what objectively makes vacation rental photos attractive to guests?

Well, a recent study from Carnegie-Mellon University isolated twelve factors that separate high-quality Airbnb photos from low-quality ones.

Do high-quality photos drive demand? Sure looks like it.

The team of talented data scientists combed through 13000 listings in 7 cities... and over half a million photos.

They estimate listings could record over 60 extra nights booked each year as a result of displaying such optimized photos. We'll let you do the maths.

One thing before we name those key parameters:
Kati is VERY familiar with them. And she's a great teacher.
She'll show you how to take photos and optimize them using ALL 12 of these attributes in our video course. You can do it. Really. Good things will happen.

You can preview some of the chapters for free any time, with no enrollment required.

As Promised...

The 12 Attributes For Bankable Airbnb Photos:

The attributes are broken down into 3 components: Composition, Color and Figure-Ground Relationship. 

​("Wait, isn't that the title of a chapter in the course?" Why yes! Yes it is! Well spotted, friend.)

1. Diagonal Dominance
This comes down to the ability of the photographer to guide a viewer's eye in a way the space being shot appears more spacious. Leading lines, in other words.

2. Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a composition technique used to give structure to photos, making them more appealing. The photographer imagines (or not) a grid and frames elements in the grid strategically.

3 & 4.  Visual Balance - Intensity & Color
​"Humans subconsciously consider visual balance to be aesthetically pleasing and it raises visual interest" (Arnheim 1974, Bornstein et al. 1981)

bad visual balance intensity color attribute

Image without Visual Balance

good visual balance intensity color attribute

Image with Visual Balance

Straightforward, right?


5. Hue   (RGB)
The paper tells us that warm hues elicit higher levels of excitement. Colder hues elicit higher levels of relaxation. We think the key is to make your photos look just like the real deal.  

Have you ever looked at photos of your place and thought "Why can't the colors just look the same as I see them??" They can!
Same thing goes for...

6. Saturation
​Saturation refers to the richness of each color. Things can get pretty boring if you get this wrong. Or look totally blown out of proportion.

7 & 8. Brightness and Contrast
​We've all been there. Dark rooms. Blown-out windows. Ugh. And bathrooms. Aren't they the worst?
Understand exposure, learn to adjust brightness and contrast...  Get high and uniform illumination in your photos.

9. Image Clarity

quote image clarity dull hazy airbnb photos

Why did you put a vintage filter on those shots? Looks odd.
You didn't? My bad.

Make sure to check out our Top 5 Vacation Rental Photo Mistakes for more listing photo tips.

​Figure-Ground Relationship

10, 11 & 12. Area Difference, Color Difference and Texture Difference.

Relationships are always complicated. Bare with us.

The figure-ground relationship reflects the ability to show a clear separation between the elements within a room and the ground.

Things that share similar attributes belong together in the viewer's mind. If you want a specific area of a room to stand out, the size, color, or texture (or all 3) of that area should clash with the surrounding elements (and the ground).

Have a look at the pictures below, you'll know what we mean.

Bad figure-ground relationship separation photos

Unclear figure-ground separation - "Where do the walls end and furniture begin...?"

good figure-ground relationship separation photos

Clear separation - "​That's the bed, that's the wall."

Right... There you have it! These are the 12 photo attributes that will help you get more bookings for your Airbnb. In case you'd like to dig deeper, you can find the full paper here

Was that a bit intense? We don't blame you.

But you don't need to understand every detail of every photography principle to leapfrog ahead of your competition.

Do you know about the Pareto principle? Simply put, all you need to do is learn the 20% that will make you as good as 80% of your peers.

Guess what?

A while ago I convinced Kati to create a video course that would teach her 80/20 version of vacation rental photography.

It needed to be something that could:

Be done by a novice.
With only a smartphone.
In just a few hours.

She pulled it off.

​Not sure where to get started with your own photos? ​
We've gathered some simple, condensed photo tips form the course ​below. Anyone with just a smartphone (and no photo skills!) can begin applying those right away.

Why you need to reorder your listing photos (and how to do it)

Getting the photo sequencing right in your vacation rental listing is vital.

We've compiled some DOs & DON'Ts for when you decide to take this advice and reorder your listing photos!

But before we get on with that, we wanted to share something that has happened to us. Think about this:

You're going through a poorly sequenced bunch of photos. 

While your mind is trying to create a narrative or a map of the property, you're thinking "I just saw a garden and then a kitchen and then the bathroom in the back".

You just don't know what you're looking at. You have lost the thread of "where is this place? ​How does the space work?"

The out-of-sequence listing photos messed with your thought process, and you can't figure out why you were on this listing at all. 

​Ready to reorder your photos? Here are some best practices.

order chaos signpost reorder photos

The things of order matters, right? I mean, the order of things matters, right?
If the shower scene in Psycho came first, how scary would it be?

Unless you’re watching a Tarantino film, or Memento, you normally expect movies to proceed in chronological order.

Well, your​ listing photos should generally proceed in a logical order, too.

Some people will try to tell you that there is one logic for vacation rental photos to rule them all.  We think there are at least 3 acceptable models, dependent upon your place, and to some degree, your preference.

​Remember... Nobody knows your place like you do... Use it to your advantage! (and by the way, that's one of the reasons why you Shouldn't Hire a Real Estate Photographer for your Vacation Rental Listing).

​1. The Tour

Sequence the photos almost like you’re running a filmstrip.
Start outside.
Proceed inside. Take a left.

Continue on a “walk-through” of the home, introducing the best photo for each area first, finishing with a few outdoor and neighborhood scenes at the end.

2. Hit them with your best shot

Who knows how many of your photos they’ll look through, so stack your best ones up front.

In this case, ‘best’ means your primary or most important rooms first (living room, kitchen) and secondary stuff at the end (hallways, bathrooms, etc.).

If you have detail shots of decor or amenities, keep them in their correct rooms. Having a picture of the patio barbecue between the master bedroom and a bathroom isn't a good idea.

3. Hybrid

Start with your best feature, but THEN proceed in logical fashion on a tour.

Maybe you have an awesome living room bay window.
Start with that shot and then proceed to the room adjacent to it, and so on.
Ideally, each photo gives a hint of what comes next.

​The most important DON'Ts of photo sequencing.

no from me photo sequencing mistakes

​1. Switching from indoor to outdoor photos repeatedly

​We've seen so many listings that show photos all randomly mixed together... Driveway > Living Room > Garden > Bathroom > Neighborhood Snaps > Kitchen...

2. Jumping between spaces out of order

​Photo of the kitchen, then of the living room, back to the kitchen with a different angle, bathroom, back to a different angle of the living room... You get the idea. 

​3. Misleading sequencing

​There are listings out there that lead with a picture of the kitchen, followed by a photo of an en suite bathroom, then show open doors to the balcony and then.... a view of the beach...​when in fact, the beach is a fifteen minute drive away and isn't visible from that balcony at all. Not nice.

You want your photo sequence to flow and give the viewer a good sense of how things relate to each other.
Random photos, especially isolated ones with no context, can induce confusion.

What’s the likelihood that confusion or frustration will lead to a booking? 

Not. Good.

- Brian, Co-Creator, Overlooked 2 Overbooked

​Not sure where to get started with your own ​listing? ​
We've gathered some ​basic but all too common listing photo mistakes below. ​These errors have been shown to alienate viewers so double-check you're not falling for any of them:

The 80/20 Rule of DIY Airbnb Photography

The little known “80/20” principle for Airbnb photos.

Kati and I are huge fans of the 80/20 rule.

An economist named Pareto discovered this interesting mathematical relationship.

It’s the idea that approximately 80% of effects are due to 20% of causes.

  • 20% of software code has about 80% of the errors.
  • 20% of the population owns about 80% of the land.
  • 20% of patients use 80% of healthcare resources.

And so on. The point is not to quibble over whether it’s exactly 80/20, or 85/15, or 70/30.

In the vacation rental world, it may be even more lopsided than that.

The 80/20 rule can be used to your advantage in SO many ways.

It can make you more efficient. It can make you more money.

It can eliminate hassles.

An example: if there are 100 elements that go into being a great photographer, you only need to learn the most important 20 of them, in order to get 80% of the benefit of learning all 100.

That, in a nutshell, is the theory of our photo course. 

To the best of our ability, Kati and I have taken everything that you MIGHT benefit from knowing about photography, and distilled it down to the 20% that you NEED to know.

And luckily, that 20% can be taught in just a few hours.

At that point, we are supremely confident that your photos will stack up favorably against AT LEAST 80% of your competitors (and the top 20% of the rentals are earning almost 80% of the money).

This has massive implications for your business.

Bad photos are the first major potential bottleneck for your business.

If they don’t like your photos, they will never book, stay, or return.

I did a little research.

Turns out, the top 20% of vacation rental hosts ARE making approximately 80% of the revenue in the industry.

Also, a study showed that only about 20% of vacation rental listing photos qualify as “Good”.

We never even consider staying at places with bad photos.

For two reasons:

  1. I can’t tell if we will like it. There are rooms missing. Dark or blurry photos that fail to convey what the place is really like, etc.
  2. MUCH more important: If the host didn’t spend the time and effort necessary to get the photos right, where else are they taking shortcuts?

When I convinced Kati to create a video course​, I emphasized it should teach her 80/20 version of vacation rental photography.

It needed to be something that could: 

  1. Be done by a novice
  2. With only a smartphone
  3. In just a few hours

And even though I’m obviously biased, I think the course she created is amazing, for many reasons:

  • There’s no fluff. And no jargon.
  • It’s in nice 5-10 minute “bite-sized” lessons that are easy to follow.
  • Customer results have proven that she’s hitting all the right notes. Amateurs are creating professional-level photos.
  • The ROI is incredible!! It’s likely your first guest will more than cover the cost of the course and your upgraded photos will pull in $1000’s more guest revenue year after year.

You can preview some of the chapters for free any time, with no enrollment required.

- Brian, Co-Creator, Overlooked 2 Overbooked

​Not sure where to get started with your own photos? ​
We've gathered some simple, condensed tips from our photo course ​below. Anyone with just a smartphone (and no photo skills!) can begin applying those right away.

Don’t Hire a Real Estate Photographer for Your Vacation Rental Listing

What percentage of vacation rental listing photos have been taken by a professional photographer? 50%? 30%? 20%?

Precise statistics are hard to come by, but one survey with a LARGE sample size that says it’s only 15% !! 

That seems low. If 85% of owners were all learning excellent vacation rental photography skills, I'd understand. Would that it were true. 

Everyone who has ever searched for a vacation rental knows that photos are the most important factor in choosing a place.

Price, description, reviews, etc. all make a difference too. But could any of those factors convince you to stay somewhere if the photos are blurry, or dark, or messy?

It’s not just that you’re not getting to see the place in it’s best light (literally). It’s about trust. If the owner/manager hasn’t put effort into this crucial element, what are the chances that they will be ultra-responsive to your other needs? Not so great.

If you’ve spent any time on this website, you’ll know that Kati and I are big proponents of “DIY” vacation rental photos. We certainly recognize that hiring the right pro can work out well too. But the key word is “right”.

If you had to hire a photographer to take pictures for your vacation rental listing, what would be your process? Do you already know someone who you think could do a good job? Would you ask friends/family for referrals? If so, would you have any criteria? Would you use Google? If so, what words would you use? “vacation rental photography”?

Amazingly, there wouldn’t be an abundance of direct hits in any particular area. My guess is that most people would assume that as long as they hire a “pro”, the result will be good. But as with most things, once you look deeply at a discipline, you begin to see subdivisions that turn out to be very meaningful.

Perhaps you'd choose a “real estate photographer” over a “portrait” or “wedding photographer”. On the face of it,  that sounds like a good move. 

Here are 2 major reasons why that may not be a good idea:

1. Goal of the photos

I spent many hours one week, reading a discussion centered around real estate photography.There were many comments from dozens of photographers AND dozens of real estate agents.

Wide angle lenses was a particularly controversial topic. It seemed to highlight a much broader philosophical issue. Many photographers don’t like using ultra-wide lenses because they think they distort rooms (we agree, by the way). The agents would typically counter that the photographer’s job is NOT to be accurate, it’s to be ENTICING. In other words, the agent would say “your job is to take a photo that makes a potential buyer want to come see the house. It’s MY job to deal with any complaints that the potential buyer has when they see that the living room isn't as large as the photos make it look.”

Now, contrast that with vacation rental photography. A tight fit between the look of the photos and the experience of staying in the home is critical. First of all, almost no one buys a house without seeing it in person.

But almost EVERYONE pays hard-earned cash BEFORE seeing their vacation rental in person. So there’s no turning back once you see that the photos weren’t accurate. You’re stuck there for the duration. At that point, what’s your only recourse as a dissatisfied guest? Bingo. Write a bad review.

The quickest way to get bad reviews is to over-promise and under-deliver. And a few bad reviews can tank a vacation rental in a hurry. So, finding a photographer that can make your place look appealing, while being very careful not to oversell it, is absolutely vital.

2. Purpose of the photos

The purpose of real estate photos is to open up a world of possibilities to the potential owner. “See this nice big beautiful room? That could be your home office. Or a playroom for the kids. Or a man-cave. Whatever you want”.

Vacation rental photography is very different. As competition escalates, it’sever more important to define a niche for your rental. Who is your ideal guest? Why is your place perfect for THEM, but not necessarily everyone? It’s much more directive. It should tell a story, in which your guest is the star. “See that hammock with the book in it? That could be YOU, for as long as you like. See those kayaks down by the lake’s edge? Those are for you too. Gliding across that pristine water is going to be something to remember”. 

Pretty different. If the photographer doesn’t take on that role as writer/director, your vacation rental listing will be short-changed.

So, what’s a poor vacation rental owner/manager to do if there aren’t any local photographers that specialize in vacation rentals?

There are at least 2 viable options -

a) Interview potential photographers about their experience

Do they have a sense for the special considerations they would need to keep in mind if you hire them? Are they open to reading some “homework” AKA a few well-chosen posts from this blog?

b) Learn to do it yourself

This one pays a bunch of extra dividends (which we detail here). Eventually, there will be more than enough free resources available on this site for you to piece together a game plan that will put you in good stead.

Or, you may want to take our video course on optimizing vacation rental photos. After all, who knows more about the assets of your vacation rental home than you?

Thoughts? We’d love to hear’em.