Vacation rental photography is one of the most important ways to engage potential guests and sell your vacation property. Check out these expert tips and get more bookings today.
In my recent Tripping.com post about naming your vacation rental, we discussed how important it is to consider everything when building your brand. Every aspect of your website (or listing ad, for those getting started!) needs to be consistent and engaging. By doing so, you will easily begin to convert more bookings.
This includes, but is not limited to, thoughtful copy, which sells your experience, and your vacation rental photography. You have three seconds to capture the attention of your guests and photography is the easiest lever.
This isn’t groundbreaking information, but important enough for me to compile a list of most frequently asked questions regarding vacation rental photography. Rocky Maloney, known as Park City’s “Best Architectural Photographer” (a near impossible title to earn for the discerning demographics in our area) has graciously answered our questions!
For best results, I always recommend hiring a pro for your vacation rental photography. You will easily earn your money back with just a couple extra nights booked!
1. How do you capture tiny spaces (like a coffee nook or dark bathroom)?
Photographing small spaces comes down to using the right type of lens, and getting creative at times. I use a Canon 16-35mm L Series lens, which is pricy but you pay for what you get! Sometimes bathrooms are really hard to photograph because of mirrors and reflections, so you have to make sure you or your camera doesn’t end up in the photo. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid and you will have to learn how to get rid of the reflections in Photoshop.
To avoid grainy images, you will have to shoot at the proper ISO, and aperture, which are basic concepts for a professional. Shadows are sometimes unavoidable during daytime, with the light shining through all the windows, so like I mentioned previously sometimes you have to get creative!
2. Those beautiful dusk exterior pictures, are they hard to get right?
Dusk or twilight images are tough to capture if you don’t know the timing. It all comes down to the short 15-20 min period just after the sunset. If you have the timing right, and everything in the image works out perfectly, the lights from the home will pop, the colors are still saturated and you get that beautiful twilight blue sky.
These are my favorite type of photographs to capture because everything pops so much more and it’s such a dramatic look, especially when you get some interesting clouds in the sky!
3. How important is correct lighting in vacation rental photography?
The interesting thing about my technique is I use only natural light. There are a few different styles you can shoot with that produce different looks. I know a few people who shoot with strobes inside a home, but honestly, it just becomes such a hassle. I have gone through a couple different styles to get to the point I’m at now and the style that I have developed, which is like a Chef working on a recipe and tweaking things every time to make it just right.
4. Do you stage homes?
Personally I don’t. I always have to remind people that I am a photographer not a stager. I will move around certain things to make the room look right, however I like to go into a home and concentrate on the reason I’m there… which is to shoot the best photos I can without being distracted too much.
From Kris: When hiring a pro, it’s important to understand what is included in their services. Some photographers will stage, while others do not. I personally prefer to stage my vacation rentals, or those for my clients, as I (not the photographer) have spent a lot of time developing a very special experience and want that clearly represented (branding!).
5. How do you assess the architecture so that your images bring the house to life in each frame?
Angles. It’s all about angles and getting the most in a photo. Find interesting lines in the ceilings and walls that help give detail. In large open floor layout homes you want to showcase how the rooms flow into each other. Finding what really makes the room lively and find different angles focusing on that. Architects are artists too; it’s our job as photographers to showcase that.
6. Is it possible to get hi-res images from a point and shoot?
Absolutely its possible! A lot of point and shoot cameras these days are anywhere from 13-20 megapixels, which means you have a big sensor to be able to work with. They also provide features such as “HDR” and “Twilight” to give you the same effect.
You can edit those files just the same way as you can a DSLR camera, the point and shoot cameras also shoot HD video which is another benefit. They are more affordable and easier to use for the everyday person that doesn’t have time to learn photography, or the money to hire a professional.
7. Is there a best time of day to take the images?
I feel like the twilight time is the best. You don’t have bright shadows and sunshine coming through the windows. The colors are more true to what they actually look like. Like I mentioned previously, during the twilight shoots you only have a certain period of time to get the photos before all the windows go completely black and you can’t see the views.
It also depends on if the home has those unbelievable views. If so, you want to consider shooting daytime so you can see those views out the window better. I feel like every home has its special time where the light is perfect, but ultimately, twilight is the all-around best time to photograph.
8. How to hire a pro? Average costs? What should be included in the cost?
Just remember just because someone owns a camera doesn’t make him or her a photographer. Architecture photography takes a lot of skill and a long time to get down. Unfortunately, not everyone can do it. I only started shooting real estate about 3 years ago and to this day I’m still developing my style, skill, and talent.
You pay for what you get, if you want to hire someone for $50 to shoot your home the photos might not be the best. I charge anywhere from $300-$500 per home pending on the size, and what time of day, twilight shoots being more because of the timing and the fact those photos are more difficult to capture.
If you plan on hiring an in-house photographer and you are going to pay salary, respect that not a lot of people can do what we do and we deserve to be paid for the talent we have. Its more rare to have a talented photographer than you think.
From Kris: I have worked in a lot of markets, hired a lot of photographers, and also taken a lot of photographs myself. While Rocky’s prices hold true for many upscale markets, I’ve found it possible to find talented photographers for $150+, depending on the location. I would fly Rocky to all of my client projects, if budgets allowed, because I truly think his work is that differentiated (do yourself a favor and look through his real estate portfolio).
I wholeheartedly agree with him that you cannot hire the first and cheapest “pro” you find. Take time to look through their portfolio, understand what experience you are creating, and make sure they match… it’s an art in and of itself to get all the pieces to work together.
9. Do you do a lot of post editing?
Everything I shoot goes through post-editing. I put all my images into a HDR procession program, and then do basic editing like straightening lines, brightness/contrast, fix coloring, and Photoshop out and reflections of yourself, your camera or anything unsightly.
It typically about an hour / hour and a half of post work per home. The biggest thing we have to deal with is all the yellow orange colors the light bulbs produce.
Contributor to this post is Rocky Maloney, Park City Utah photographer.