Should You Hire a Professional Photographer for Your Vacation Rental?
The community has varying opinions on this question. Short term rental platforms such Airbnb offers The Photographer Service in select cities, but also notes that you don’t need tons of time to shoot professional-looking images to help your home stand out. Some are fervent defenders of professional photography, while the experience of other hosts suggest that you can do just as good of a job yourself with your phone’s camera, and represent your property more accurately.
As a host you naturally want to make sure you represent your property in an appealing way, without making things look unrealistic. Let’s dig deeper into your options to help you decide how you would like to do your photos.
Hiring a professional has its advantages
Professional photography equipment helps
While the equipment used will not decorate your home (you will!) the gear does certainly help in perfecting photography. The wide angle lenses are able to capture more of the content of your rooms and take photos of the entire space, even in small rooms and tight spaces. Professional photographers will also likely have access to other equipment that might be useful: an External flash, a tilt-shift lens, light filters, etc. There isn’t much expensive gear involved in real estate photography, so typically decent equipment is enough to deliver professional results.
Photographers may add efficiency to the process
Professional photographers do take many more photos, which help them hone their skills and be more efficient with identifying the best angles, capturing good lighting. This study by Carnegie Mellon University shows that Airbnb professional photographers did show results that resulted in better property demand, but the effect was less significant for amateur prohotographers as well as non-Airbnb professional photographers. This suggests that unless you get a verified photographer who specializes in vacation rental photography, you might have to do some guiding yourself to ensure your images are attractive to your potential clients.
Photo editing tools can make your Airbnb look perfect
The editing software such as Adobe Photoshop are crucial tools used by freelance photographers to improve digital images, correct errors, and remove blemishes. Almost all professional real estate photographers use them, and they are essential tools to improve the photos to the perfect Airbnb images they envision.
Pro photos require some organizing & patience
Scheduling a photographer might take some time, especially if you live away from the property you manage. Luckily short term rental hosts are pro coordinators, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for most of you! Once you find a photographer you like and schedule a time, the shooting shouldn’t take too long.
Note that you will need to wait for the manual edits before you can upload the final versions of your images. The photographers may take up to a few days to finalize the edits depending on the property and their schedule. Many hosts end up taking their own pictures and uploading them even before they schedule a professional shoot to avoid the wait. This way they do not give up on potential revenue they may generate with an early start!
And you might not like the results
With photos taken by someone else who is new to your property, there is a risk that your property may be misrepresented. You tend to have less control over the images and you only see the final results after spending significant time and resources on a shooting. Professional photographers tend to use wide lenses that make your place look bigger, grander than it is in real life.
Your airbnb photos should look good, but they should not make your place look like something that it is not. You should not have to make a trade-off between realistic but dark, bad looking images or glamorous shots that make your property look very different than what it is in real life. Many Airbnb hosts end up not using the images they received from photographers, or spend significant amounts of time re-editing them, because they didn’t think it represented their space accurately.
Taking images yourself isn’t as hard as you think
Snapping high-quality images with your smartphone is easier than you may think. You can refer to this guide from Airbnb on how to set up your camera before your shoot. During the shoot, there are a few things you need to remember if you decide to take the photos yourself:
- Clean up the space beforehand
- Take photos in daylight and avoid direct sunlight
- Use landscape mode (hold your camera horizontally)
- Make sure your camera is focused, etc.
If you are a newbie, check out our complete guide to taking property photos! Nothing too hard there, you just need to spend some time at the beginning experimenting with your camera to see what works best for you. You can always look at other hosts’ images for inspiration.
Consider doing a combination of the two
You can apply the 80/20 rule to your property photos: if you learn 20% of what professional photographers can do, you can achieve 80% of the quality they add to your images. And there are other services to compensate for the remaining 20%! Many web or mobile services are at your disposal to fine-tune and enhance the shots you take with your phone: enhance lighting, fix angles and improve other fundamentals to make your images look both appealing AND realistic. Here are some options:
- Oda Studio: An automated web service that uses computer vision to detect objects and spaces in your images and apply smart enhancements accordingly. Using artificial intelligence, this quick service automates the effects photographers achieve using professional tools such as Adobe Photoshop.
- Your phone’s editor: Your smart phone likely offers some of the essential features such as shadow and exposure adjustments, settings to crop and straighten, etc. Take advantage of what you have in your hand already!
- VSCO: This mobile based photo editor is available both on Android and IOS. It offers numerous tools to correct colors, sharpness, and exposure, and >130 filters.
- Snapseed: Very user friendly option for quickly editing your images and achieving a coherent look across your works. It is available for Android and iOS users on their phones absolutely for free.