How to Prepare for Airbnb Photography in Southern California
Are you wondering, “How do I increase my Airbnb bookings?” Whether your property is only booked a fraction of the time or you’ve newly invested and you’re looking to make serious money with your Airbnb, I’m here to help!
I’ve got a lot of tips on how to set your Airbnb apart, but the number one thing you can do is have good photography of your property…and not cell phone images.
You only have one first impression with a potential guest to stand-out in a saturated market. If you’re using cell phone photos, your place won’t appear as professional and read like you haven’t invested the time or care into it — which will either lead to a drop-off in bookings, or you won’t book your space for the rate it could be if you had professional images taken.
Would you love to see your short-term rental become a viable income and pay for itself…but right now it’s not? You’ve invested in your property and have big dreams, now it’s time to make your mark.
Allow me to help you make the most out of your investment!
A majority of short-term rentals are only rented 30% of the time at $300 per night; if you do the math, that’s $33,000…but if booked consistently that’s $110,000.
That means most short-term rentals are missing out on nearly $77,000 of business per year!
And that’s where I come in! Hi, I’m Chelsea Loren — a Branding Photographer based in San Diego and I work with hotels, short-term rentals/Airbnbs, and small businesses all over Southern California.
I’ve traveled extensively, have slept in many hotels and Airbnbs around the world (I used to live in Paris and Australia and before I became a full-time Branding Photographer, I worked in the travel industry). I’ve worked with 100+ brands around the world from The Venetian in Vegas to Capital One to Best Western and more.
While working for a leading travel blog, I curated top-ranking posts about the best Airbnbs to stay at in cities across the world, and accounted for over $300,000 of bookings via Airbnb.
That said, I’ve seen a lot of good accommodations (and not-so-good ones), and I know how to set a place apart and create eye-catching imagery that shines.
Strictly Airbnb, another booking platform, your own branded website, VRBO, or Instagram?
As a heads up, when you work with Airbnb and use their exclusive photographers, you are not allowed to use the photos for other marketing purposes or sites. I always like to tell my clients this as I don’t want them to invest time and money in photos and then not be able to use them how they would like.
I’ve worked with some Airbnb owners who weren’t aware of this and were glad I clued them in. That said, the photos I take you’re able to use on Airbnb, VRBO, Instagram, and whatever other platforms you choose to use.
First things first, picture your ideal renter and create a profile on them. Where do they like to shop, how do they spend their time? What’s important to them?
To figure out your target market for your short-term rental on Airbnb, you should start by analyzing your property’s location, amenities, and overall appeal. Look for commonalities in the types of guests who have stayed in the area before and try to identify their demographics, interests, and reasons for travel.
Once you have a clear understanding of your ideal guest profile, tailor your listing to appeal to them specifically. For example, if your property is located in a family-friendly neighborhood, highlight nearby attractions and amenities that cater to children.
Or, if your rental is ideal for business travelers, emphasize features like a dedicated workspace, high-speed internet, and convenient location to transportation hubs.
By targeting your marketing efforts to the right audience, you can increase your occupancy rates and earn more revenue from your Airbnb rental.
What spaces, amenities, or features make your short-term rental different from others? What makes it unique? Figure out those things early on and embrace them — this makes a memorable listing and something for a possible renter to come back to, rather than booking the lowest price place.
What social media moments and possible photo vignettes does your property offer? Is there a colorful mural, gorgeous warehouse windows, a cozy porch, string lights in the backyard, a pool you’ll want to lounge around all day?
When folks take photos during their vacation, have something iconic they’ll want to share — this is free marketing for you!
Creating a shot list for Airbnb photography is an essential step in ensuring that your property’s online presence accurately reflects its unique features and highlights its selling points.
Begin by taking a comprehensive tour of your property and identifying its standout features. Consider the types of guests you’re targeting and what they may be looking for in their accommodation.
Once you have a clear idea of your property’s strengths, make a list of the rooms and areas you want to feature, including the most visually appealing angles and lighting conditions.
It’s also helpful to note any specific details or elements that you want to showcase, such as unique architectural features or luxurious amenities. As your Airbnb photographer, I take these into consideration, and plan our session accordingly.
Make sure your rental is in tip-top shape! This means having everything wiped down and cleaned (windows, mirrors, fridge, dishwasher).
Fix any funky paint jobs, and make sure the exterior (both backyard and front yard) are how you’d like them to be photographed (read: take care of weeds, water down the patio, rake up leaves).
Declutter and clean every room, removing any unnecessary items that may detract from the overall appearance of your space. Pay special attention to details like carpets, rugs, and upholstery, ensuring that they’re clean and stain-free.
Next, remove any personal items, such as family photos or clothing, to create a more neutral and inviting space.
You may also consider adding some fresh flowers or greenery to bring a touch of life and color to your photos.
Clean your place from top to bottom. Dust is super noticeable on dark surfaces and metallic fixtures, so make sure everything is wiped down. Check for any cobwebs in hidden corners.
This goes hand-in-hand with cleaning, but ensure all trash is taken out, there are no rogue pizza boxes, and that kitchen counters are as clutter-free as possible.
Make sure all lightbulbs are working — most lights will be turned on to illuminate the room as much as possible, so please make sure they’re in working order!
As you prepare the beds, pillows, and couch, please straighten the comforters/duvets, fluff everything so they look as cloud-like as possible, and puff up your pillows.
(My dog likes to lay across our couch pillows and they become quite sad and slouchy — basically even out the stuffing so they don’t look deflated).
Top off any soaps, prep a welcome snack, add fresh or dried flowers — prepare whatever finishing touches you’d like to greet your guests with.
Do you have any special amenities for renters — a tray of goodies upon their arrival (charcuterie, goods from a local bakery, wine?), or lovely soaps and spa items?
Whatever your special touches are, make sure they’re either topped up or fresh!
You know how I mentioned target audience earlier and figuring out what makes your Airbnb stand out? Well, if you’re property is in Southern California, you likely took the location into serious consideration…and that’s something to highlight!
If your Airbnb is in San Diego and located near the Carlsbad Flower Fields, Balboa Park, or Old Town, or all the fun restaurants in North Park — that’s something you’ll want to include. Maybe your Huntington Beach Airbnb is just blocks from the pier, or you’ve got a charming vineyard Airbnb in Temecula.
While you know these things, these details can be a huge draw to potential renters.
By showcasing these attractions, you can entice guests who may be looking for a beach vacation, a mountain retreat, or a city getaway.
Additionally, highlighting family-friendly things to do in the area, such as amusement parks or kid-friendly museums, can help attract families with children. Guests may be more inclined to book your property if they see that there are plenty of activities for their children to enjoy nearby.
Including photos of the surrounding area can also help create a sense of excitement and anticipation in potential guests, making them more likely to book your property for their next vacation.
Ultimately, highlighting the attractions and activities in your area through photography can help set your Airbnb apart from the competition and attract more guests.
With high-quality photos, you can give potential guests a more accurate representation of your property, which can lead to increased bookings, better reviews, and ultimately more revenue.
While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, investing in professional photography can pay off in the long run by helping your Airbnb property stand out from the competition and attract more guests.
This is your first impression and way to connect with possible renters — if you aren’t putting your best foot forward — why should they book with you?
I’m a Branding Photographer and work with hotels, Airbnbs, and short-term rentals in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Southern California, Central California, and Northern California.