Vacation rental in the Florida Panhandle? Stand Out & Boost Your Rates With Great Photos

Real estate and property managers in the Florida Panhandle know very well that "a picture is worth a thousand words" — literally.

You can have very well-written descriptions on your website for your vacation rental properties, but if your photos are not doing the job, no one will read them.

Photos are the first thing people look at when analyzing short-term rental listings — and their judgment usually only takes a split second.

Good photos will not only make you stand out from the competition, and retain the viewer's attention; they'll also influence all your metrics, from search results to booking ratio.

At Pristine Properties, we fully realize the importance of great photos for vacation rentals. In the paragraphs below, we've created a guide on how to take great photos of your vacation rental — and everything is based on our proven methods.

Let's jump right in!

What to photograph when shooting your short-term rental?

When shooting your vacation rental, it's a great idea to think about its "wow" factor and consider its most important spaces. We usually follow the photographic logic below:

  1. First, we get at least four focused shots of unique features and amenities that make the rental special.

  2. Then, we capture the common spaces, such as the living room and kitchen.

  3. Thirdly, we head outside to photograph the balcony, deck, pool area, etc. — and don't forget to make the best of the view!

  4. Finally, make sure to photograph all bedrooms and bathrooms.

Once we cover the above, we go around the place taking photos of details and extra nice aspects of the rental.

What is the hero image?

This is the image that matters the most. You can use it as your banner on your website or on the platform you choose to list your rental. Use it to grab people's attention. It helps to think of the hero image as the first glimpse anyone will have of your property, so there's no need to be humble with this one. Often, hero images feature great amenities and traits, like pools, proximity to the beach, or a really nice view.

Extra tip: your hero image can generate an emotional pull by showcasing unique features, as well as by creating a desirable atmosphere. It's almost like telling a visual story that resonates with the viewer's aspirations and emotions.

The hero image of Five on the Beach showcases its wonderful private pool and its proximity to the beach — a total attention-grabber. Who wouldn't want to stay in such a place?

How many pictures should I take?

It's good to have at least three pictures for every room your guests will have access to:

  • At least one wide-angle shot per room.

  • At least one mid-range shot per room.

  • At least one close-up shot per room.

Having at least the combination described above will give viewers a better understanding of the room as a whole, including details and how it connects to other rooms.

Extra tip: when it comes to short-term rental photography, more is more, so it's always best to have a few extra clicks for each room.

This picture of the bedroom at Flirty Flamingo shows not just what the room looks like but also its integration with other rooms in the rental.

How to make use of natural light in vacation rental photography?

In real estate and vacation rental photography, it's always best to take photos during the day and with all windows and curtains open; natural light invariably makes your photos look better and more natural — and that goes for both interior and exterior shots. It creates soft and even illumination across the environment and enhances colors, reducing harsh shadows.

Still, even with abundant natural light coming into your vacation rental, it's a great idea to switch on all lights in the room, including table lamps, hanging lighting, and concealed lights. This is a way to reduce differences in brightness between the interior and exterior, leading to better outcomes.

Always try to photograph your rental in bright daylight, but still, turn on the lights in the home to reduce differences in brightness between the interior and exterior. Pictured: Sweet Home Apalachee.

Extra tip: many professional photographers shooting real estate and short-term rentals try to make the most of the golden hours of the day, either early morning or late afternoon. This is the optimal time to take photos when the light is diffused and soft. Golden hour light will imbue impressions and add a dreamy touch to the results, evoking emotions as mentioned above.

How to stage the ambiance in vacation rental photography?

When taking photos of your vacation rental, you should aim to capture a "picture-perfect" interior. Besides cleaning up and tidying, we like to create an ambiance to establish a connection with viewers.

Here's how we do it:

Staging & Coloring

Whenever possible, we like to compose the ambiance with elements like potted plants, flowers, candles, and lovely cushions, for instance. These touches will always make an interior look more interesting.

Furthermore, if some of these pieces have bold colors, they help to establish a nice contrast in the photos.

You can also use items like magazines and books, and even a bowl of fruits, to make the place look more inhabitable and less like a catalog. These items usually tell a story and make your potential guests imagine themselves using the space.

Show viewers what you have in the drawers

Staging is your perfect opportunity to show viewers what you have inside the drawers. The best vacation rental photography usually shows the dinner table set, for instance, displaying tableware in full.

In the same manner, good photos rarely show kitchen countertops empty; instead, good photographs stage the scene and take the chance to showcase appliances like a coffee machine and a toaster. Just make sure that whatever is on view is actually available when your guests step in.

Also, be mindful of cluttering; it's okay to show your items and objects and even use props during your photo session, but do it in an organized way and avoid objects that are too distracting.

Staging is great for short-term rental photography as it enhances the visual appeal, allowing potential guests to envision themselves in the home. Pictured: Discovery.

Extra tip: good staging might require you to roll up your sleeves and move stuff around. Objects don't always look the same on camera as they do to the naked eye, so you might want to check your photos and make adjustments by changing things a bit.

What should I know about framing, composition, and angles?

Professional photographs are characterized by attention to detail in the technical aspects of the shooting process, ensuring proper techniques are applied for optimal results. Here are some things to have in mind:

Pick the right angles and keep your pictures straight

As mentioned above, it's important to have at least two or three good wide shots that showcase the entire layout of every room.

Avoid shooting flat walls, as they can make everything look smaller.

Look for an attractive corner and shoot towards it to add a sense of perspective.

Always try to include a bit of the floor to show dimensions and heights, especially if you have a nice rug to feature.

To keep your photos straight, imagine a grid and align your lines as much as possible. Position your camera at eye level and parallel to the floor. Ensure that the camera is high enough to show table tops and the top part of beds.

Find a point of interest

Capture elements that add character to each room, such as a nice couch, kitchen island, hot tub, fire pit for outdoor areas, or an impressive piece of artwork in the living room. Remarkable features and amenities make your listing stand out.

Portrait vs. Landscape & Crisp vs. Blurry

Take most shots in landscape mode, but it's okay to take some portraits if you have a unique feature or object standing vertically.

Ensure your pictures have contrast and a sharp focus. Reserve selective focus and a blurred background effect for detail shots.

Extra tip: avoid misleading photos, as guests may be upset if they find differences between what they saw online and the actual rental.

What if I choose a DIY path and use my smartphone?

If possible, we would say always go with a professional photographer who has the right gear. The short-term rental photography game is as much about having the correct, top-notch equipment as it is about having the trained eye, not to mention the touch of HDR style that's hard to reproduce with phone cameras.

We can't stress this enough: if you have the means, hiring a pro with a trained eye and proper gear is the way to go.

However, we understand it's not always feasible to hire a professional photographer. If that's the case for you, it's okay to use your smartphone. With cameras getting better and better, these small things are indeed capable of taking great pictures of your short-term rental.

If you're opting for the DIY path using your smartphone, make sure to follow the rules above to guarantee the best results possible. If you do a good job of staging, composing, and choosing the correct settings and lighting, your smartphone photos will have great potential. Remember to turn off your flash to avoid a harsh look, and hold your phone at eye level, in landscape mode, parallel to the floor. (On smartphones, you can even turn on the grid option to help with framing.)

Extra tip: whatever you choose to do, you should either go fully DIY or only use pro shots. Mixing both will highlight the disparity in quality between them and make your album look confusing to potential guests.

Professional photographers use their trained eyes to capture the best of your rental property and present it in the best light possible—both metaphorically and literally. If you have the means, we highly recommend getting one instead of going the DIY route. Pictured: La Mer.

Professional vacation rental photos will increase nightly rates and help you stand out from the competition

Photographing your rental is fun and an opportunity to celebrate your space. Consider the standout features of your rental and make the most of them in your shoot. Capture your space in a way that tells a story to viewers, and always remember: If your pictures look professional, you too will look professional.

At Pristine Properties, we always try to have all of our short-term rentals professionally photographed. Moreover, we provide your vacation rental with the utmost care, a marketing strategy, a loyal guest database, and 24/7 customer support.

To know more about our professional management services, go to our website— you can even get a free rental revenue estimate.

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