Expert Tips For Vacation Rental Photography

This blog was written for Tripping.com by Volo.

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.

Rocky Maloney Park City Photography

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.

RM4

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.

Park City Utah Vacation Rental Photography

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.

Architecture Photography

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.

Rocky Maloney

Authentic Travel | Estancia Ranquilco | Patagonia

This post on authentic travel and experiencing Estancia Ranquilco, a 100,000 acre ranch in Patagonia, for one month was written by Cori Hildebrandt. Her previous post: Gathering Pearls of Joy

For those of you just tuning in, the purpose of my solo travels through South America was to find myself again. To live again. I gave up my corporate work and a long-term relationship to seek authenticity and connection again, something more and more of us lack everyday.

Changing locations every few days can be exhausting on a long backpacking trip so I decided to volunteer for a month on a 100,000 acre ranch in Patagonia. It was a break and made the ranch experience affordable!

Journeying from Buenos Aires involved a 20-hour overnight bus ride that landed in Zapala, then 3 rough dirt road hours in a truck to Buta Mallin, followed by another 3 hours on horseback. My company was another volunteer from London and our escort, the owner of the ranch.

patagonia

What is more authentic than soot stained hands, stroking their calluses, and sneezing from your dusty leather boots? The feeling of swinging an ax, that is half your size, with confidence using a technique taught to you by a sweet 18-year-old girl. Gulping the few precious cans of lukewarm brewskies with your best buddy while you head out back to chop more wood?

All in hopes of enjoying a hot shower after a very long day of ass-kicking manual labor… Before there were electric and gas water heaters, they were powered by wood. You worked for your warm shower

What is more authentic than having a horse bite you in the tush while you hold up its hoof, so a stocky, singing gaucho can trim it with a machete? Sergio was a man who floated when he walked, he was solid and capable, but only graced the earth. I think because he was more a part of the earth than most men.

All he needed to survive was his horse, his dogs, and his facón, gaucho knife.

What is more authentic than learning to make alfajores on a wooden butcher block counter harvested from the land, watching the Trocoman River flow below through the panoramic kitchen window?

Gathering the necessary items from the root cellar pantry. No refrigeration, no electric or gas appliances. Rolling out the lemon scented dough, baking the cookies in a cast-iron wood-burning stove, and filling them with dulce de leche that was imported 3 hours, thanks to either a horse or mule.

I wish I had a picture because they were stunning. And they were served to Ted Turner and his guests who were visiting Estancia Ranquilco.

Estancia Ranquilco

Estancia Ranquilco

What is more authentic than racing the setting sun to the top of a mountain on horseback, all in hopes of being able to see the trail down the other side of the mountain to the puesto, Buta Mallin?

We did not make it, but luckily the horses knew the way. We traveled through complete darkness; the mountaintop blocked the moon. Imagine such a wide-open sky, in the middle of Patagonia, not being able to see your hand in front of your face. Your horse stumbling along on the rocky path.

All to find your destination where you slept in a one-room dirt floor puesto with several other people on the floor with no heat and not enough blankets.

Luckily the yerba mate was flowing before heading out in the morning.

What is more authentic than taking off your dusty boots and dressing up, feeling pretty to head to a birthday party celebration, unwinding on the veranda overlooking the Trocoman River, the red wine flowing, dancing with gauchos, goat roasting on a spit over the fire?

Getting busy in a sleeping bag, under a tree, next to a horse corral, on top of goat hides, gazing up at a sky filled with more stars than you ever knew existed.

What is more authentic than learning to skip rocks from a NYC guy on the Trocoman River?

Being successful at skipping rocks! Making a rock skip several times across the water seemed so rewarding and impossible prior. To celebrate, we hopped in the burning sauna, sweated it out, and then plunged into the frigid river. Exhilaration. Every cell of me screaming. Alive. Living.

Estancia Ranquilco was a magical, has-been sort of place. You were sheltered from the sounds of electricity and gas-powered engines. Most days were filled with doing what you needed to do to survive. It was lovely, beautiful, annoying, always surprising, lots of hard work, and often my heart aches to return.

Like many things, you do not understand what you had until it is past.

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Just like when I travel, modern travelers seek an authentic vacation experience, where they can explore, and tap into a sense of local community. There was an authenticity about my Ranquilco experience that resonated with my soul.

What authentic experiences are you offering your guests?

Pat 1

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Planning For Vacation Rental Success

This blog was written for Tripping.com by Volo.

Many first-time vacation rental owners come to me about six months into their venture, stressed that they aren’t on track for their only two goals: 100% occupancy and $50k+ in booking revenue.

While developing goals during your venture is good, I can’t stress how important it is to create a strategic map before you purchase your new home. If you can’t afford risk, you can’t afford having unrealistic performance expectations and you certainly can’t afford to make things up as you go along.

So what is a strategic plan? It’s a set of goals and framework that guides your decisions with an end vision in mind. You will constantly make decisions; like dealing with short-term guest complaints to long-term property additions. The plan prevents you from drifting, or worse, copying everything your competitors are doing.

Where Is Your Vacation Rental Business?

Vacation rental success starts with knowing exactly where you are with a detailed understanding of your home, the market, and industry. Start by researching a series of questions:

Your Vacation Home

  • How does it compare to other similar vacation rentals?
  • Do I have an intimate understanding of all aspects of the home, BEFORE closing?
  • Does it need to be renovated? If so, how much will this cost?
  • What are my setup costs (furnishing, linens, listing site fees and so on)?
  • Who are my customers? Can I divide them into key segments?

Your Vacation Rental Market

  • Do I have a lot of competitors, or only a few?
  • Is overall demand increasing or decreasing?
  • What are the barriers to entry?
  • What drives the market? Price, quality or both?

The Vacation Rental Industry

  • Key trends: Are vacation rentals being squeezed out?
  • How are guest needs and habits changing?
  • What is the general economic outlook?

These few questions aren’t comprehensive but are often overwhelming to newbies as research isn’t everyone’s favorite thing (hence my job as a consultant). But please do put in a valiant effort to understand your current situation as the effectiveness of future decisions depend on the accuracy of these answers.

Once your information is gathered, it’s time to interpret it with a good old fashioned SWOT analysis (taking you back to college, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Understanding your strengths and weaknesses essentially helps you answer “where am I?” based primarily on facts, rather than opinions, which is ineffective.

Where Do You Want To Go?

The purpose of a strategic plan is to make you more goal-oriented, so you will need to define your goals next. Many owners stop at the desire to achieve “excellence” or 100% occupancy.

Be more specific when answering “Where do I want to go?”, so you can begin to work backwards with a clear path. Put it in words. Literally, just start writing down your thoughts as they come and organize it later. Hotels, or any business for that matter, often have their goals framed up in vision and mission statements.

They can be a powerful driving force; the vision describes where you want to be and the mission how you will operate while you get there, inclusive of your homes unique and authentic culture/experience. You don’t even have to create formal statements, just create memorable phrases that are realistic, challenging and then actually use them.

How Will You Get There?

Any goal, vision or mission is pointless unless you can make it happen (where most newbies become overwhelmed).

Your strategy will generally define the route you will take. For example, one goal might be to achieve a 40% repeat customer base within your first three year’s operating. Your strategy would then involve actionable steps to get there; understanding guest expectations for your experience, how you will exceed said expectations to drive retention, and how you will measure their satisfaction, for example.

Whatever goals and corresponding strategies you come up with, it’s important to realize you will probably not get there within three months. This plan, preferably created BEFORE you buy the home so you start with eyes wide open, breaks it down into small manageable pieces that can be tweaked as the market and your business develops.

No amount of knowledge (even if you come from the hotel industry) or hard work can compensate for a lack of direction. Effort and excellence are not the same thing. After you’ve dialed your plan, make sure you check back in to measure your progress!

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant