Updated: Feb 22
Quality photos are quite simply critical to your success. Whether or not a guest decides to click on listing depends
entirely on the pictures they see. For this reason, the best possible advice I can give is to go the extra mile and invest in a professional photographer because doing so will pay you back over and over again.
This said, it could be you simply don’t feel like you’re quite ready or in a position to hire a
pro-photographer just yet, and want to know how go about doing it yourself.
If this is you, then this article will guide you in taking a decent set of short-term rental
photos to start with that’ll still do the job of luring guests to your listing; using only your
The perfectly great camera in your pocket
These days everybody has a smartphone, and by adjusting a few easy-to-find settings, these devices are capable of taking fabulous photos. You just need to know how to use it
and what to focus on, so lets’ get started!
Adjust your smartphone camera settings
Set the flash to ‘off’
Having the flash turned ‘on’ can seem like a good idea, but for the most part it gives photos a stark effect and can even make pictures look grainy. What to rather aim for is bright, natural light. So take your photos at a time in the day when the natural light is at its best.
If your space is short on windows, you can use lamps to create a comfy vibe.
To turn the flash setting to ‘off’ - open your camera app, and tap on the lightning-bold icon.
When you see a strikethrough on this icon, then you know the setting is switched off.
Enhance the image resolution
Some phones’ storage settings default to saving photos in low-resolution to save on file space. Check for this and if the case, switch the setting to save high-resolution images
while you take your short-term rental photos. You can always switch it back again
Aim for a resolution of is 1024 pixels x 683 pixels. This will deliver crisp, clear photos of
your short-term rental property.
Position your pictures using grids
For the most part you’ll want to take horizontal (landscape) photos for your listing, and
include a few vertical (portrait) ones in your gallery. With either orientation, I strongly
recommend the use of grids.
Put simply, grids help you line up your images so they are not lopsided. The way to turn
these on, depends on your device:
For Android: Open camera app > settings > scroll down, find Grid Lines and turn ‘on’.
For iPhone: Head to settings > camera > find Grid and turn ‘on’.
5 Pro-tips that capture high quality images
1. The rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a principle professional photographers use, which says to divide the
scene through your camera lens into thirds - both horizontally and vertically. The grid
mentioned just before can help line up your image to apply this rule.
What you want to do is place the focus of the picture where the grid lines intersect, so it’s slightly off-center. Position the primary object you’re trying to take a photo of, at the place where the lines cross – not in the bottom or top – but in the center-third.
The result of doing this will be that the object (ie. the coffee machine, bed, bath or
wardrobe) you’re trying to highlight in the photo will be straight and in very clear focus.
2. Aim for straight
When you hold your phone, keep it parallel to the floor. Your camera should always be at a height that the picture includes the tops of the features or furniture that you’re focusing your photo on. Avoid holding your phone above your head, or at an angle. Doing either of these tend to distort the image and perspective.
3. Enhance the focus
You can use your phone camera’s built-in autofocus setting to enhance the result. Also,
make sure to hold the phone with both hands when taking your pictures and for added
stability you can press your elbows against your ribs which will keep your hands steady.
4. Using the zoom function
Phone cameras frequently have pre-set modes like portrait, square, pano and wide. You
can use these if an option for you. If you don’t have these, simply use your usual setting to photograph the scenes you want and only zoom in when a close-up is called for.
Things that merit a zoom-in could include a vase with flowers; books on a coffee table; a
setting where there is artwork; an attractively laid out coffee station, potted plant in an
outdoor space - or an arrangement of premium toiletries.
5. Lens, lighting and editing accessories
This is optional, but can help you get even better results from your phone camera. A quick search on Amazon for a ‘phone camera lens kit’ is will help you find lens accessories in a bundle that includes wide angle, macro lens and fisheye lens options.
These turn the little glass lens on your phone into a bigger lens that allows more light into your phone camera, and the result will show up in your photos.
You can also search to find lighting accessories if you feel your short-term rental could use more lighting help.
Finally, you can download easy-to-use photo editing applications like Adobe’s Lightroom
Photo Editor app direct to your phone for free. More advanced features can be unlocked
with in-app purchases, but even so you will still get tremendous use and value from the
tool with no money down.
Planning your photoshoot
First you want to ensure the spaces about to be photographed are uncluttered and
I then suggest taking your photos room by room, space by space the same way someone would experience your short-term rental if they were strolling in from the front door, a bit like a guided tour. Doing this also helps potential guests get some indication of the floor plan.
When taking your photos be sure to take a mixture of wide, mid-range and close up
images; and you will want some choices, so take more photos than you’ll likely need.
Aim, after any deletions, to be left with two to four images of every area your guests have access to; taken from different angles and perspectives. For example, you could take pictures from different corners of the same room to display that space’s full character.
How photos are displayed on a listing
Keep in mind that when you list the photos, the first picture will be your cover photo. It’s
this photo that shows up in your potential guests’ search results.
If you are listing your short-term rental on Airbnb, you will also have a five-photo collage at the top of your listing page; and the image gallery where you can showcase all your listing photos.
Suggested angles for essential spaces
- Landscape photo of the full kitchen
- Mid-range image of the stove-top and/or oven, with uncluttered countertops either side
- Close up of recipe book arrangement or coffee station
- Mid to close angle of an attractive table setting with placemats, plates, water or wine
glasses; other suitable table décor
- Wide photos of the whole living room area, also capturing natural light streaming
through any windows
- Close ups of any features like a fireplace or artwork or guest amenities such as lamps
with USB ports, sound and stereo gadgetry
- Close to mid-range image of any unusual amenities such as an indoor swing or telescope needs to feature in your photos
- Mid-range image of a couch accessorized with a throw or decorative pillows
- Wide photo of the main bathroom
- Mid-range photo of any secondary bathrooms including a shower or bathtub or vanity
- Close ups of any well-arranged towels or window view
- Wide photo of the main bedroom, multiple angles of the bedroom so they can see what is on each wall, each side of the room, how much space they will have , can they easily put luggage there, is there room for a crib etc
- Wide photo of a deck, swimming pool, patio, garden or balcony with a view
- Mid-range photo of any outdoor living areas, including barbeque station or outdoor
kitchen (for example)
- Close up of any styled décor, like a pebble pathway or potted plants.
These key spaces will be top of mind for potential guests and they will set the expectation.
Of course, you already know your short-term rental’s best and favorite features better than anyone. So take snaps of the things that you most like, also including anything guests seem to highlight in their reviews.
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There you have it: Polished and professional listing photos, using only your smartphone.
By following this quick guide you’ll get your short-term rental listing off to a really solid and professional-looking start, with minimal (if any), additional cost.
If you found this article helpful, then chances are this will be too: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Short Term Rental Hosts Make. This free report is my gift to you, so download it now and have more success, sooner.