Twenty five years ago, before the days of the internet, holiday cottages were booked from a brochure with just a single photo the size of a postage stamp. The only gauge of quality that potential holiday-makers had to go on was a subjective star-rating system and a short description of the property. However, times have changed! The internet has fundamentally revolutionised the way we research our holidays. Today, when potential guests are looking to book their next holiday, it is your photos, not words, that attract their attention. In an increasingly competitive market, photos are the main marketing tool to help convince holiday makers to book your holiday home.
We see a diverse range of photos on our adverts and there is no doubt that the listings that show a good selection of high quality pictures reap the rewards in terms of increased enquiry levels and bookings. Not only do photos play a huge role in ‘selling’ your holiday home, but they are also a great tool to reassure potential guests of the quality of your property as well as allowing them to see exactly what they are getting for their money. However, it is harder than it first looks to take photos that really make your property stand out from the crowd. This article aims to give you some top holiday rental photography tips to help you create the perfect listing.
Should I hire a professional photographer?
For many holiday home owners, having professional photos that show your property off in the best possible light outweighs the cost of hiring a photographer. Given the number of different possible platforms to display your photos, as well as the potential increase in bookings, this investment is likely to pay for itself time and time again.
If you do decide to hire a professional photographer make sure you choose someone who is experienced in taking pictures of holiday houses rather than a general photographer. Whilst this might cost a little bit more, it is worth paying someone who knows all the tricks in the trade to take the best possible pictures. As well as having all the necessary skills, lighting equipment and gadgetry to make the photos look bright and clean, holiday rental photographers should ensure that your property is professionally ‘dressed’ and make best use of any original features. A professional photographer might also be able to take a video of your property or use a drone to capture some truly unique and eye-catching shots!
If you don’t have the budget, or you would simply prefer to take your own photos, here are a few top tips on how to take the best pictures of your holiday rental.
General photography tips
Whilst the quality of your photos is important, a great selection of photos can give prospective guests enough information to help them make their decision and not just in terms of the accommodation but the whole holiday experience. At the very least, holiday makers need to see photographs of the outside of the property and the living areas. If you choose to not show the outside, or only show a couple of internal shots, then potential guests are likely to question why. Even if you have a small one bed property, you should still be able to come up with a good selection of photos to sell your holiday home and all the reasons why it’s an ideal holiday destination. At Independent Cottages we allow up to 40 photographs on each advert which provides plenty of opportunity to show off the inside and outside of your holiday cottage, as well as the local area. Generally, the more photos you include on your adverts, the more opportunities you have to ensure your listing stands out above the rest.
If you are using a camera take some time to learn how it works, especially indoors where the lighting might be poor. If you are using your phone to take the pictures, get the best phone that your budget allows. A lot of phones now have excellent cameras as well as the capacity to take good quality videos.
Good lighting is crucial. It doesn’t matter how great your holiday cottage looks if no one can see it! Whilst you want to make the most of the natural light you need to be careful not to let the direct sun ruin your photos. Dawn and dusk, when the gentle lighting produces natural warm colours, are the best time to take both internal and external pictures of your property. Stone buildings can be difficult to photograph as the honey-yellow of the stone sometimes gets lost. However, the soft glow of the sun at the start or end of the day can warm up the dreariest looking stone. For internal shots, the strong midday sun tends to flood the room with a harsh and unforgiving light.
Your photos should always show the property as guests would expect to find it. Don’t start photoshopping images as this will mislead your guests and lead to disappointed holiday-makers. However, whilst you need to be honest with your photos, you should also avoid ‘under staging’ them. For example, two empty wine glasses lined up next to an unopened bottle of wine doesn’t look as good as two glasses half full of wine, next to a bottle in an ice-filled wine cooler. Review your photos regularly to make sure they are up-to-date. If the photographs are good, you might not need to renew them, but you need to ensure that they always reflect the property accurately.
Interior shots can be quite difficult as it is hard to get the lighting just right. Open the blinds and curtains to take advantage of the natural light, but make sure bright sunlight isn’t streaming into the room creating shadows and light and dark corners. If possible, avoid using the flash and if you are using a digital camera you might want to adjust the exposure and white balance. Auto exposure is likely to make the images look too dark as the light from windows will create false light readings and auto white balance is likely to make the images look blue, cold and dull. Set your camera’s white balance to cloud / shade and the camera will compensate by giving your images a much warmer appearance. Play about with the exposure compensation (normally a button marked +/-). For long exposures a tripod may be useful.
Before your start your photo shoot, you will need to ‘stage’ your holiday home to make it look as inviting as possible. Make sure it has been thoroughly cleaned and remove any clutter or anything that doesn’t look good such as bins, cleaning products or safety signs. Don’t include people in your pictures and we recommend that you don’t include dogs if you do not accept them. You want guests to imagine themselves in the cottage, not other people. This includes yourself so be careful you don’t catch yourself in a refection in a mirror or window!
In the kitchen it is a good idea to set the table for a meal, or include a bowl of fruit or some flowers on the kitchen table. If you are going to use flowers in more than one room be careful not to use the same flowers in every photo. If you provide a welcome hamper, take a picture of this to show the caring extra touches and warm welcome that awaits. Everyone likes a homemade cake waiting for them on the kitchen table! However, as a word of caution, we recommend you only photograph extra special touches that are always provided to avoid disappointment. Make the lounge look relaxing and inviting. If you have a fire, capture it roaring with walking boots in front of it (if your cottage is ideal for walkers), champagne glasses (if you target romantic breaks) or a dog snoozing whilst the flames flicker (if your cottage is pet-friendly).
In the bedrooms make sure all the bed linen is well ironed, you have got rid of any creases or crinkles and the beds look warm and comfortable. Fluffy towels, plumped up cushions and any complimentary toiletries will add a touch of luxury. In the bathroom make sure the taps are gleaming and the toilet seat is down!
In order to ensure you have a good selection of pictures make sure you photograph as many rooms as possible. If your property is small with only a couple of rooms, focus on what makes those rooms special and capture its features. Try some wide-angle shots (but not too wide!) and take pictures from different angles. You will want to get as much of the room in as possible but you can also take some close ups of any special features. If there are great views from any of the rooms include pictures of these through open windows.
We also often see owners including artistic shots of decorative items or cottage name plaques. If you have received a star rating or an industry award, you could include a photograph of the ‘badge’ amongst your photos. It is a great way of highlighting quality and really showing off the merit you have worked so hard to achieve. However, whilst these creative pictures work well mixed in with the more ‘traditional’ shots make sure you don’t go too overboard with the arty pictures!
Whilst you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t ignore the importance of what your holiday home looks like from the outside. Not only will pictures of the outside help guests find your property when they are checking in, but you need to paint a complete picture of the whole holiday offering. Adverts also look more appealing with some outside shots of the garden or patio as well as the local scenery, nice views and local attractions such as beaches and scenic walking trails.
Patios, gardens, swimming pools, play areas and hot tubs are all great things to photograph. Make sure your garden is looking it’s best. Mow the lawn, remove weeds and dead heads, and add a few props such as a pot of coffee and a plate of pastries with a book under a sun umbrella on a nice day. Think about all the reasons why you chose your property and its location in the first place and capture them in photos to inspire others. If you have fantastic coastal walks, magnificent stately homes, or nice places to enjoy a picnic, share them with potential guests on your advert. You can also include sunsets, views from the house or garden and pictures of people enjoying outdoor activities that are available locally.
Whilst you will want to capture your holiday home looking its most appealing on a hot sunny day, it is worth noting that direct sunshine can be hard to photograph as the bright light can bleach colours. If you want your guests to imagine themselves enjoying a lazy afternoon in the sun in your lovely garden try using a sun umbrella, alongside a garden table laid out with cutlery, glasses, napkins and even a bottle of white wine ready for a lunch time BBQ. If you are using a digital camera rather than your phone set the white balance to shade and reduce the exposure to try and provide a warmth to shots bleached by the suns’ brightness.
Photos for all seasons
Understandably you are likely to want to capture your best shots in the summer when the weather is good and your property is looking at its best. However, don’t forget to add some enticing shots for all seasons. Autumn and spring breaks are very popular, particularly with walkers and outdoor enthusiasts, so show off the golden colours, spring blooms and magic of the snow dusted landscape. Nothing sells a winter break better than a picture of a roaring fire and cosy sofas to curl up on. Also take pictures of your property with the Christmas decorations up to use for marketing Christmas and new year breaks.
It is a good idea to include a picture of your floor plan. They provide a great way of visually explaining the layout of the accommodation and are particularly important for properties catering for those with limited mobility. Fairly easy to produce, there are plenty of cheap packages available online to help you create a floor plan such as Floorplanner, or you can easily do one by hand which can look equally as effective.
Guest book photos
Everyone loves to read guest book comments so include photographs of your guest book. It is a great way of making your advert more engaging as well as reassuring potential guests that your holiday home is as lovely as you say it is! At Independent Cottages we have a Guest Book Gallery where you can include pictures of guest book comments. We recommend you update guest book photos regularly and include the date in the comments field. You can also add photos of ‘thank you’ cards and messages you have received.
Unless you have gained permission, in order to protect the guest’s privacy, it is important that you remove or cover identifiable information, such as names and addresses, when including photos of guest book comments. This can easily be done by placing a piece of paper over the address before taking the photo. Alternatively, you can crop it or retouch/blur/smudge/spray paint it afterwards in your favourite graphics editing software package.
If you are taking action shots of nearby activities and attractions which include identifiable people you need to make sure you have obtained the person’s consent before you can use them. If you don’t want to obscure faces you can take the photos at a distance or ensure people have their backs to you. Also, due to copyright issues, make sure you only include photos you personally own.
A picture is worth a thousand words
The saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ couldn’t ring truer when it comes to marketing your holiday home. Photos play a huge part in selling holiday rentals and in an increasingly competitive market it is essential to ensure you are not missing out on bookings just because your photos are letting you down.
Even if you don’t rate yourself as a budding photographer, it is never too late to learn a few tricks of the trade. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment. It is often a case of trial and error, but with a little patience and plenty of practice there is no reason why you can’t produce some great photos to ensure your holiday home stands out from the crowd.