Category Archives for Common Mistakes

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.

Expectations vs. Reality: About Realistic Listing Photos

Here’s a weird thing that has happened a few times in the last few months…. in correspondence, and in a couple of online chat groups, we’ve run across the following sentiment:

I don’t know if I want my pictures to be great. Too much pressure. If the pictures are awesome, the guests may be disappointed when they see the real thing. And then they’re more likely to give me a bad review.”

Really? Is this a thing? I’m serious.

Intentionally posting average pictures to avoid creating high expectations?

The first time someone said something like that, we thought they were joking.

Now that it’s come up 3 times, here’s our perspective:

1.  Technically, there are a couple ways that pro photographers could distort a room so much that the real place pales in comparison.

  • HDR on steroids. 
    There is an editing technique called HDR (High Dynamic Range) which can combine multiple exposures into one.

It CAN be taken too far. Some photographers use HDR like a 5 year old decorating a Christmas tree... more tinsel, everywhere! The photos can end up with a kind of shiny candy-coated look. Almost surreal. THAT would be hard for a place to live up to.

An example of HDR Overload

  • Ultra-wide angle lens. 
    This is the kind of shot that tries to make a 250 square foot bedroom look like a grand ballroom. Yeah, we agree... that’s kinda cheating.

Some people think of photo editing altogether as “cheating”.

A way of creating the look you want, that you couldn’t get from the actual photo.

While we recognize that it IS possible to “cheat” with editing, our perspective is different.

Here's the secret:

The human eye is much more advanced than any camera lens. 

The goal should always be to adjust the photo to more accurately represent what the human eye would naturally see.

Think of this common scenario.

You’re staring out at a breathtaking view (sunset over ocean, distant mountaintops, etc.), You say “I’ve gotta get a photo of this!” So you do.

Then, you look at the photo and think “Damn, this photo is nowhere NEAR as beautiful as this view is in REAL life!!”

Well, the truth is, no editing can bridge that gap (at the moment).

But GOOD editing can shrink that gap a lot.

2.  Yes, your guests WILL feel let down if you fail to deliver on what the photos promised. THIS is what leads to bad reviews.

It all comes down to this: Guests don't like surprises.

The quickest way to get bad reviews is to over-promise and under-deliver. 

Check out our Top 5 Vacation Rental Photo Mistakes...  *Spoiler alert*

  • Is your place as clean as it should be?
  • Your guests will expect your place to have the same facilities, furniture, appliances, amenities, decorations as pictured... Is everything there?
  •  Have you included enough pictures

If you've answered NO... You know what to do!

But if you've answered YES to the questions above, the ONLY aspect that may not match your guests' expectations is the size of your space...

So there you have it.

​In our experience, hosts struggle with over-produced and over-edited photos that, well, overwhelm - that distort the space towards 'fantasy real-estate.'

​OR they struggle taking their own photos that make the most of their place - resulting in underwhelming photos and a '...meh' from the viewer.

The Goldilocks Zone is somewhere in-between (isn't it always?). Not too perfect to be real ​but not so 'realistic' they're Nordic crime drama.

See Also: The 80/20 rule of DIY Airbnb Photography

We can assure you that of all the hosts whose​ rentals Kati has photographed, or ​who she has taught, NONE ​have EVER told us that the photos caused their guests’ expectations to be too high.

And none have ever gotten bad reviews because of misrepresentation.

But none of those owners will ever know how many bookings they missed out on during the months or years when they had average (or worse) photos representing their business...

  • Stay clear of the mistakes we outlined in this post. 
  • Don't misrepresent your place on purpose.
  • Invest in yourself and learn how to take attractive yet true-to-life photos.

Your pictures will NOT look too fancy or unrealistic.

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.