If there is one thing you should make sure you get right when building your Airbnb listing, it's the photo section. Simply put, if your pictures aren’t great, you will lose out on bookings, period.
Most Airbnb hosts just use the photo section to showcase their space. Makes sense, that's what pictures are for right? Yes, but you can take it to another level by using this section to create the perfect visualization of the experience that your guests can have when staying at your place. This is in the end what drives the viewer to make that booking. In this post you will learn exactly how to do that.
There are four aspects that play a role in creating this visual representation of your space.
Four steps to creating the perfect photo collection for your listing
- Step 1: Make sure the photos are of great quality
- Step 2: Add enough photos to visualize every aspect of the experience
- Step 3: Put the photos in order of attractiveness and importance
- Step 4: Add a descriptive and catchy caption to each photo
Step 1: How to get great quality pictures for your Airbnb listing
The first thing I recommend you do, if you haven’t done this yet, is to schedule a free photo shoot of your space by making an appointment with an Airbnb photographer. Airbnb provides this service to all hosts once, it’s not available everywhere though. To find out if it’s available in your area, log in to your Airbnb account and then you go to airbnb.com/info/photography.
This whole process can take a while, sometimes no photographers are available so you may have to wait and also after the shoot it can take up to a month before the pictures are ready.
While you wait for your Airbnb photography shoot to be uploaded to your listing, upload your own photos for the time being. Here's some tips to create great photos.
- Use a decent camera, if you don't have one borrow one from a friend or buy one that you can return later
- Take landscape style photos, not vertical ones
- Get as much light in the house as possible, preferably natural sunlight
- Take the photos on a sunny day either early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is less direct
- Use a tripod so that you can use a longer exposure time without sacrificing the clarity of the image
- Make sure the house is clean and tidy and that the beds are made
- Shoot into a corner to add dimensionality and perspective
Examples of bad quality pictures
Take a look at these search snippet examples from Airbnb listing in New York city. These photos are all featured images of these listings, i.e. the hosts picked these as their best pictures. All these listings showed up on the first ten pages of the search results, so if you avoid these mistakes you'll already be ahead of most people!
Portrait style photos display very badly on the Airbnb website, it looks unprofessional and the photos don't show a lot. Notice how you can't even see the full bed!
These apartments are both quite nice, but it's too messy in the photos. A messy space just doesn't look inviting. There is too much stuff going on in the pictures.
This one always surprises me since it seems like such an obvious thing to avoid. It looks really unprofessional and I believe it tells a lot about the host.
It's better to take the photos early in the morning or late afternoon, when the sunlight isn't as direct so you won't get the shades.
A dark place doesn't look very appealing, no one wants to be in the dark. Go spend a winter in the north of Sweden or Norway and you'll understand.
Step 2: Add enough photos to visualize every aspect of the experience
Most people who start out on Airbnb add way to few pictures. A typical new listing has about ten photos, often taking on a smartphone in portrait mode, which displays really badly on the Airbnb website. The photos typically only cover the interior of the house.
This is a sure way to a very bad start to your Airbnb experience. So if you're new, avoid this and follow the guidelines below to create a basic portfolio of photos that every Airbnb should have at the minimum.
Basic portfolio of photos for Airbnb listings
- Three to five photos of every single space inside the house, including the living room, the bedroom(s), the bathroom(s), the hallway, the kitchen and any other space your house may have
- Three to five pictures of any outside areas like balconies, patios, roof terraces or gardens
- One picture clearly showing the entrance to your house from the street
- A few photos showcasing the view from your house from all angles
- At least five photos of the neighborhood showcasing your favorite local spots, tourist highlights or activities that guests can enjoy during their stay
For a typical one bedroom house, this would add up to about 20 to 25 pictures. More is better, as long as every photo adds value, i.e. highlights a different aspect of the room, house or neighborhood.
If you get these basics right, you have an accurate representation of your house and the neighborhood and you will already be ahead of most hosts. Now lets get creative and go the extra mile.
How to take your photo section to the next level
- Showcase your high speed WiFi network by doing a speedtest and adding a screenshot of the results to your listing
- Display the layout of your house by creating a floorpan
- Look up directions from your place to the main tourist highlights in your area and add screenshots of the directions
- Add a screenshot of some of your reviews and/or your ratings
- Add a photo of you and some of your past guests
- Use composition photos to show multiple aspects of your neighborhood in one picture
- Add text and annotations to your photos to clarify or highlight certain aspects
Step 3: Put the photos in order of attractiveness and importance
Your first picture is by far the most important one, because it's the one that will show up as your listing's featured image in the search results. This means that if your first photo doesn't look appealing, very few potential guests will get to see your listing. Yes, that's right, if your first picture doesn't look appealing, all your efforts on creating the rest of your listing will be partially in vain.
So how do you figure out which of your photos is the most attractive one? You could pick the photo that shows the best aspect of your listing. Or you could ask friends to take a look at your portfolio and pick their top three. Make sure you ask at least ten people or so to get a reliable result. Just keep in mind, the main purpose of the first picture is to entice Airbnb users to click through to your listing.
Now lets move on to the rest of your photos. Most hosts will arrange their photos by category and start with the living room, then move on to the bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms and other spaces, outdoor area and finally the neighborhood. This seems like a natural and logical way to order the pics.
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However, this may not be the most effective way. Think about how users would scroll through your photos. They start with the first one, then the second one, third one and so on. The more photos they'll view, the better the chance that you get a booking. In other words, you want to keep the viewer's attention and keep him or her engaged.
The best way to do this is to show your best photos first, but also to show all the different aspects of your space early on. So instead of showing five photos of your living room first, show the best photo of every space in your house as well as the best photo of your outside area and neighborhood. This way, the viewer quickly gets an idea of what you have to offer.
The rest of your photos can be shown grouped by space or category, i.e. living room, bedroom one, bedroom two, etc. The purpose of these photos is to provide more detail to the viewer.
How to order your portfolio of photos for your Airbnb listing
- Put your most attractive photo first
- Divide the other photos in categories
- For each category, pick the most attractive photo
- Rank the category winners in order of attractiveness and put these pictures first
- Add the rest of the photos, grouped by category
Step 4: Add a descriptive and catchy caption to each photo
Captions are an effective but under-used tool amongst Airbnb hosts. Internet users have a very short attention span, and many of your listing's viewers simply won't take the time to read your entire description. But they will look at your pictures, so the captions present a perfect opportunity to add some context to what the photo visualizes and highlight the experience that can be enjoyed.
Three common mistakes to avoid when creating captions
- Not adding captions at all (all captions will display your listing's title)
- Not adding a caption to every single photo
- Adding very short and factual captions, such as "bedroom 1" or "kitchen"
Here's the main takeaway for this section: use your captions to describe the experience that your guests can have using what is displayed in the photo.
Bad: "This is the swimming pool"
Good: "Hot after your trip? Grab your swimmers before you unpack and have a swim! The water is very clean and stays at about 25 degrees celsius. You will have the pool to yourself. Feel better now!!?"
When you read the first one, you think "Oh cool, this place has a pool." When you read the latter, you think "Yes, jumping in the pool is exactly what I want to do when I arrive!"
Lets get creative...
It can be a bit challenging to write amazing captions for each picture, particularly when you have multiple photos showing roughly the same space from a different angle. That's when you can get creative. How about quoting some of the things your past guests have written in their reviews? If you've been reading this blog, you should have plenty of material :).
The bottom line
If you want to improve your Airbnb listing and you're looking for the low hanging fruit, there is a good chance that you'll find it in your photo section. Improve this aspect of your listing and you should see the results pretty soon.
Need help? Comment below with a link to your listing and I'll provide some feedback.