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.
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:
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:
And even though I’m obviously biased, I think the course she created is amazing, for many reasons:
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 photo tips form the course below. Anyone with just a smartphone (and no photo skills!) can begin applying those right away.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.