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Top 5 Vacation Rental Photo Mistakes

Ever browse through vacation rental listing photos and go "what the hell are you people you thinking?!"

Six photos of a 3 bedroom 2 bath at $160/night, all just a little too dark, not a single straight line. We're bouncing between indoors and outdoors, with odd framing, where you can't tell what the actual subject of the photo is. A classic vacation rental photo situation.

If you're reading this as a host, you should chuckle right through and think to yourself "That's not me! I know better and understand that value of excellent photos in my rental listing - yay!" (I'm paraphrasing..).

Instead, if you're sitting in an awkward silence and starting to feel defensive, read on, my friend.

Ahem..we need to talk about your pictures.

As avid travelers and frequent vacation rental guests, my husband and I run into this all the time when browsing through listings: great potential, great attitude, a few great reviews, awful photos. Or at least photos that could be so much better with very little effort.

We get it, photography is most likely not your full-time job. Unless you're a manager of dozens of vacation rentals, this is likely a side hustle to make some extra money and cover every-day expenses.

But why would you willingly bleed money with below average photos that make guests browse right past your rental? When hosts take their photos (i.e. their marketing) seriously, and let their pride for their rental show throughout the listing, it's a beautiful thing. Beautiful photos tell the story of your rental and imply trust and professionalism; "look how much effort we've put into our photos - you'll be in good hands here."

To make sure you've got the basics covered, we've gathered a shockingly commons list of the Top 5 Photo Mistakes vacation rental owners make in their listings.

Top 5 Vacation Rental Photo Mistakes

​​​​1. Dark or Blurry Photos

This is a major deal-breaker. Dark and/or blurry photos just scream "I don't try very hard". Ew. No dark and dingy bedroom, living room, or kitchen has ever looked inviting. There's no excuse.

The Fix

Make sure your "subject" is nice and bright; a bright bedroom, kitchen, whatever it is. Always use high resolution images, people shouldn't be able to count pixels! If your images in dark rooms turn out blurry, you're moving the camera when shooting (more on that later..) - redo!

2. Photo Missingitis - Type A - All Inside

"Where is this place?" "Are there neighbors?" "Is this an attached or a detached granny flat?" An endless stream of interior pictures gives the guest no context. You want your guest to arrive with no questions, especially no nasty surprises about the surroundings.

3. Photo Missingitis - Type B - All Outside

Lots of photos of outsides, foliage, pathways, beach, more foliage, 1 or 2 interior photos. An internal dialogue starts - "Where are everyone sleeping?" "What are they hiding?" Hosts should most certainly include pictures of all major spaces inside their rental. Leaving things out is creepy and implies minimum effort. Not what I'm looking for in a vacation...

4. People and Stuff That Don't Belong

No matter how fun the family gathering 4 years ago, don't put up family album photos in your listing. No matter how hot your cousins, if they don't come with the rental, don't have them in the photos. And for heaven's sake, clean up! No one wants to "couch surf" in a college dorm room...

People in your photos distract the eye because humans are naturally first drawn to other human faces. Everything else in your photo will become secondary. They also break the illusion of a relaxing vacation, if that's what you're offering.

The Fix

Clean up, organize, schedule your photo shoot when your rental is empty. If it's "shared", at least usher your family off the couch. People are ok in photos of public places where you might expect them. Personally, I'm ok with a pet portrait if we're sharing the rental.

5. Simply Not Enough Pictures

The above 3 images are from an actual listing, though it's hard to believe.  Great potential, minimum effort. As a guest, I have so many questions, and even more concerns. I do not trust that this person knows what they're doing as a host. Which might be completely unfair and untrue, but I'll never get to find out because I won't inquire about this place.

According to a Flipkey study, listings with 20 or more photos got 83% more inquiries than those with 5 or less.

The Fix

Have 20 photos minimum! Again, play to your strengths and emphasize your best features. Plus, if you've included inside and outside pictures, relevant amenities, the environment, and neighborhood, you should have no problem getting at least 20 photos.

So how did you do?

Hopefully you aced all 5 points and are rolling in cash! Or, at least you're an above average host and got this mostly right. Now you can focus on the quality of the photos and get a little artistic.

If not - don't despair! There are lots of simple things you can do to step up your photo game and do way better than just keep your head above water. Remember: great photos -> more inquiries -> more bookings -> more money! Makes all those turnovers between messy guests and early check-ins worth it, right?

In future posts, we'll go over all the ways you can create irresistible photos and make viewers fall in love with your rental and turn dreamers into travelers.

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