5 Tips For Great Vacation Rental Photos

Vacation rental photos are different compared to photography of homes listed for sale.  However, a good real estate photographer can easily learn to navigate the vacation rental market. 

In finding the right place to stay, homebuyers and vacationers have different ideals, mindsets, and approaches to the task at hand. Plus, there’s not just one type of person who enjoys traveling. Getting away for a vacation means conquering a bucket-list goal for some people, and simply breaking away from the daily grind for others.

Despite the differences of vacation rentals and long-term homes, they each have one awesome thing in common: Photography makes a world of a difference in the number of successful and high-quality bookings and sales. To demystify some of the techniques behind vacation rental photography, we explored the professional photography styles of booking websites like AirBnB, VRBO and RedAwning.

Read on to learn more about the elements of all great vacation rental real estate photography.

Break the Real Estate Photography Rules (And Get Away With It)

Like the spontaneous nature of travel, vacation rental photographs are free to break a few rules of typical real estate photography.

For these special home listings, people are looking for a break in the everyday. On top of plans for seasonal travel, lots of people are busy daydreaming about the vacations they would take if money were no object. In that way, unique vacation rental photos can help your wildest dreams feel within reach.

Half the charm of vacation rental listings is in the quirky characteristics of the property, and all of the novelty experiences that will be at hand throughout the vacation. The other half is having a safe and secure place to live temporarily, whether it’s for a long weekend or an extended stay. Vacation rental photography is as much about breaking and bending the rules as it is about inspiring new lifestyles and philosophies.

Keep the top 5 defining characteristics of good vacation rental photography top in mind for your next shoot:

Include People of All Abilities

No one should be hesitant to take a vacation due to a fear of missing out on some of the best experiences, like having a unique place to stay. Accessibility can be the defining factor in why you choose to book a hotel that follows accessibility code over a unique stay at a private vacation home.  

To be more inclusive of people with disabilities, get to know the features of an accessible home and how to best show them through photographs. Take care to avoid any ‘visual blockers’ like too much furniture, and show each room from multiple angles. Accessibility in a vacation rental might look like any of the following:

  • Wider Spaces: For people with wheelchairs, space is important for navigating a vacation home comfortably. There should be room to move around the house and turn around without bumping into anything inside of the house, through doorways and on the sidewalks and streets surrounding the property. Photos can show adequate spacing between furniture and room layouts, as well as wide-open hallways, doorways and walkways.
  • Appliances and Utilities: Lowered sinks and appliances aren’t standard in all homes, but they can make a massive difference in vacation expectations for someone with a disability. Bathrooms and showers might have specially adjusted plumbing, or a shower stall without a tub and with supportive bars or benches.
  • Other Accessible Features: This could include anything that makes normal use of the house easier for people who are not typically able-bodied. Light switches, ramps, beds, elevators could be the deciding factor in someone’s dream vacation.

Large open bathroom with soaking tub, separate shower and picture window. - HomeJab

Fill Rooms With Natural Light

Reassure potential guests that there is no pressure to be ‘on’ while they’re vacationing. Use natural light to welcome vacationers into the home as they are. In most cases, this means skipping the use of artificial light and external flash entirely — unless there are no natural light sources. Draw the shades and blinds of every room open, and shoot at a time when sunlight sets a particular mood in the home. 

A vacation rental photographed on an overcast day might fill every room with a pure white glow, while photographs of a home at golden hour in a room with a view says something entirely different. In either case, the natural lighting should complement the best features of the architecture, style, and overall design of the home.

In typical real estate photography, relying on natural lighting can limit the view of a home’s interior design, and other important structural features of the house. For vacation rental photography, the stakes for a comfortable stay are much lower. Natural lighting creates an organic invitation to an effortlessly stylish getaway.

Living room of vacation rental with marble floor and large window. - HomeJab

Promote Relaxation

It’s no secret that most people want to relax and unwind on vacation. You can communicate the relaxing qualities of a home through photos of a space that’s visually balanced. For real estate photographers used to stitching together multiple photos, take note! 

The lens you shoot with shouldn’t be too wide — A full frame 16mm lens is the widest recommended for vacation rental photoshoots. Otherwise, you risk making some unnatural-looking lines in the photo composition that aren’t ideal for vacation listings.

You should shoot and edit vacation rental photos with the goal of making space look as naturally serene and inviting as possible. Try shooting at a lower angle than the standard chest-level MLS photos — AirBnB recommends about 4 feet high — to capture the feeling of cozying up in a warm cabin, luxurious bathtub, or enjoying breakfast in a happy little breakfast nook. 

Billiard room with antique lighting and wood floor. - HomeJab

Highlight the Amenities

When people look for the perfect vacation rental properties, they are usually weighing the pros and cons of the included amenities. In a big-city, that can be anything from a nearby playground, day spa, or a nighttime cityscape view. In a more rural setting, vacation amenities might include a well-curated garden, gym or recreational area. There’s no one-size-fits-all list of amenities for a vacation rental. That’s part of the excitement in the vacation home search.

Another important distinction of vacation rentals from real estate photography is the use of vertical photos. While verticals should be used sparingly, you can use them to effectively show off the unique interior design features of the vacation rentals. In a vacation rental setting, it’s easy to appreciate the novelty details, like themed figurines, plants and other signs of a well-traveled life. Small features like this give an exciting glimpse of how staying there might feel. 

Large pool surrounded with trees and seating areas. - HomeJab

Carry a Shot List 

In traditional real estate photography, you might aim to get a simple set of photos that covers every inch of the property. It’s not always necessary to carry a shot list.

For great vacation rental photos, quality over quantity is what matters. That’s why we recommend carrying a list of the most important amenities in the home before you arrive, and capturing a few styled angles of each room. 

Below is an example of a shot list you might use to prioritize your next vacation rental shoot.

Main Rooms
Take 2 to 3 photos of each key room or amenity:

  • Bedrooms
  • Kitchen and Dining
  • Common Areas
  • Outdoor or Recreational Spaces

Additional Rooms and Details

Take 1 to 2 photos of each key room, detail or amenity:

  • Bathrooms
  • Balconies, patios, and gardens
  • Hot tubs
  • Gym
  • Rooftop
  • Exterior view

Accessibility Features:

Take 1 to 2 photos of each, when available:

  • Wide-open entryways are visible in all Main Rooms
  • Ramps, stairways, elevators, safety bars
  • Handicap parking
  • Shower stalls, plumbing, appliances, light switches

With this list in mind, you can showcase the potential of a space in the way it functions, and the way it might make you feel on vacation. 

Large home at dusk. - HomeJab

Vacation Rental Photos Made Easy

The key to great vacation rental photography is showing how one rental is the ideal place to relax, get away from the everyday, and still feel perfectly at home. Ultimately, your vacation rental photos should be inviting, exciting, and maybe even a little bit unusual — in a good way. 

There’s not just one type of vacation rental that works for everyone, so keep the unique features, style, accommodations and amenities front of mind when shooting. Helping vacationers find their next home away from home can be that simple.

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