Taking professional-quality photos is one of the most important investments when listing a vacation rental property online. With gorgeous visuals, you can attract more visitors, drive bookings, and command higher rental rates. Poor or amateurish photos, on the other hand, can completely undermine interest no matter how nice the property is.

When guests search listings and evaluate options, photos often provide the crucial first impression that sways their decision. If you want your potential guests to envision themselves relaxing and enjoying your property, provide them with quality images. These images build confidence in the accuracy of the listing and your professionalism as the owner. 

This in-depth guide will explore proven techniques for shooting, editing, and presenting professional vacation rental photos that highlight properties in the best possible light.

Jump to:

Why Professional Photos Are Essential
How to Plan Your Photoshoot
Recommended Gear for Shooting Vacation Rental Photos
10 Tips for Shooting Professional Vacation Rental Photos
Post-Processing Tips for Vacation Rental Photos
How to Feature Photos in Your Vacation Rental Listing
Maximizing Your Investment in Professional Photography

Why Professional Photos Are Essential

High-end photography is no longer a “nice-to-have” for vacation rental listingsit’s now mandatory if you want your property to stand out. Here are some key reasons why quality images matter:

  • Photos drive bookings. Over 50% of potential guests say photos are the most important factor when choosing a rental. Appealing photos can boost click-through rates up to 200% compared to listings without them.
  • Images set expectations. Photos give guests confidence that the listing accurately reflects the property’s size, layout, furnishings, and surrounding area before they book.
  • First impressions matter. With so much competition, photos create the critical first impression that leads guests to immediately inquire or move on.
  • Better images earn a higher income. Listings with professional photos can command rental rates up to 15% higher compared to similar properties with poor photos.
  • Reusable assets. Investing in photos provides flexible marketing assets to reuse on your website, social media account, brochures, and more.

For maximum return on investment, approach photography for your vacation rental like any other high-end marketing material or branding effort. The imagery should always match the quality of the property itself.

How to Plan Your Photoshoot

A successful photo shoot starts with careful planning and preparation. Consider the following tips:

  • Schedule at optimal times. The best natural lighting is often early morning or late afternoon. Avoid midday when the sun is directly overhead.
  • Arrange spaces thoughtfully. Declutter, clean, and style rooms with attractive décor. Angle furniture to make spaces feel welcoming.
  • Hire a professional. Consider recruiting a real estate photographer if you lack high-end equipment and experience.
  • Have a shot list. Map out the types of interior and exterior photos you want beforehand. Include target subjects, spaces, amenities, and angles.
  • Check the weather forecast. Reschedule if rain or other bad weather conditions are expected, which could impact lighting.
  • Allow ample time. Let the shoot run long so you can capture abundant images without rushing.
  • Have backup power. Charge batteries and bring spares for camera, flash, drone, etc. Bring extra memory cards, too.
  • Obtain permits. Check specific regulations if you’re using drones or other professional lighting gear.

Thoughtful preparation, like staging spaces and optimal scheduling, will allow you to work efficiently and focus on producing great shots during the photoshoot.

While skill is the most important factor, having the right photography gear goes a long way in capturing professional quality vacation rental images. Consider the following equipment:

  • DSLR camera – A digital SLR model allows interchangeable lenses and manual controls for the best quality images.
  • Wide angle lens – A 16-35mm lens works well for cramped interior spaces and sweeping exterior landscapes.
  • Tripod – It stabilizes the camera for sharp, blur-free images, especially in low light.
  • External flash – Off-camera flash reduces shadows and can be diffused or bounced for softer lighting.
  • Drone – An aerial perspective shows off the surrounding scenery and unique architecture (if allowed).
  • Remote trigger – It is used for sharper handheld shots and its ability to pose in group photos.
  • Reflectors & lighting – These bounce and diffuse natural light. For the highly experienced ones, consider using strobes.

Invest in the best camera and lenses you can afford. You can also rent or borrow additional equipment, like strobes and drones, if you lack specialized gear.

10 Tips for Shooting Professional Vacation Rental Photos

Follow these photography best practices when shooting interior and exterior images of your vacation rental property:

  1. Lead with the exterior. Open with a striking wide landscape shot that establishes the location and setting.
  2. Use wide shots. Capture the full space with corners and ceiling visible to convey accurate scale.
  3. Include multiple angles. Vary angles and positions for each room instead of straight-on views.
  4. Mind the lighting. Use even, diffused lighting. Supplement with off-camera flash and reflectors.
  5. Style spaces. Stage rooms with thoughtful decor and props that fit the vibe and amenities.
  6. Highlight views. Maximize windows, patios, and balconies framing attractive scenery.
  7. Focus on details. Capture unique architectural details, features, finishes, and furnishings with close-ups.
  8. Shoot exteriors. Showcase outdoor living spaces, pools, landscaping, signage, and proximity to attractions.
  9. Get aerial shots. Elevated drone photography displays the big picture view if regulations allow.
  10. Capture lifestyle. Include people relaxing, playing, cooking, working, and enjoying the property.

Also, highlight unexpected views and appealing styling details. Take lots of images so you have an abundance to choose from later.

Post-Processing Tips for Vacation Rental Photos

After the photo shoot, the next best thing to do is to review, cull, and edit your best images through post-processing.

  • Import photos to your computer and back them to the cloud or external drives.
  • Select only the top 15 images to maximize editing efforts.
  • Use a photo editing software for adjustments.
  • Adjust color, exposure, contrast, shadows, highlights, and sharpness.
  • Crop images for better composition and straighten angled lines.
  • Remove clutter, dust, stains, or distracting elements.
  • Touch up blemishes, holes, stains, or damaged areas in scenes.
  • Add subtle vignettes and lens correction effects for a more polished look.
  • Maintain a consistent editing style and branding color scheme.
  • Export final JPEG files optimized for web viewing.

Take time to curate and edit your top photos carefully. Presenting 10-15 stellar images is more effective than 50 average ones for your listing.

How to Feature Photos in Your Vacation Rental Listing

Once selection and editing are complete, it’s time to publish your polished photos online in the listing.

  • Lead with your absolute best photo first to hook interest.
  • Maintain visual consistency in style, quality, and branding across images.
  • Arrange photos to take viewers on a logical tour through the property.
  • Balance exterior, interior, spaces, details, and lifestyle images.
  • Use photo captions to label rooms, highlight appealing features, or boost SEO keywords.
  • Allow click-through viewing of additional images in a lightbox gallery.
  • Embed a slideshow video compiling all photos as another visual tour option.
  • Link to an external gallery on your site for more photo assets if desired.
  • Refresh your listing photos annually with updated images.

Compelling photos help tell the story of your distinctive property and its lifestyle experience. Feature photos prominently across platforms to maximize exposure.

Maximizing Your Investment in Professional Photography

View professional photography for your vacation rental as an investment that pays ongoing dividends. Follow these tips:

  • Reuse everywhere – Display top photos on your website, social media, print ads, brochures, emails, etc. Reinforce branding.
  • Update seasonally – Reshoot exteriors to capture the property in spring, summer, fall, and winter settings.
  • Highlight renovations – Show off any new upgrades or remodels with refreshed photography.
  • Build a portfolio – Stockpile quality photos highlighting different styles, amenities, and activities over time.
  • Keep location files – Archive location files to reshoot from the same angles in the future easily.
  • Photo rights – If hiring a pro, ensure your agreement includes the rights to reproduce images as needed.

By repurposing your best photos widely, you further leverage their value and ability to attract more ideal renters.


What types of photos should every vacation rental listing include?

At a minimum, you should have exterior photos showing the home from various angles, wide shots of each main room, and detailed images highlighting amenities and features.

Should I hire a professional photographer or shoot images myself?

A professional real estate photographer is recommended for best results, but you can achieve great photos with some practice. Consider your budget, skills, and any specialized gear needed.

What time of day is best for shooting vacation rental photos?

The optimal time is often early or late afternoon when sunlight is diffused and warm. Midday light can be harsh and create unwanted shadows.

How many photos should I include in my vacation rental listing?

Aim for 10-15 high-quality photos to showcase the property. Lead with your top 3-5 best images. Have additional photos available to view in an online gallery.

How often should I update the photos for my vacation rental listing?

Plan to reshoot photos every 6-12 months to keep your listing fresh and appealing to guests’ browsing options.

What are the most important rooms to photograph in a vacation rental?

Key rooms to photograph include the living room, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, bathrooms, recreation areas, and any outdoor living spaces.

Should I include photos of people enjoying the vacation rental?

Yes, “lifestyle” photos with people relaxing, playing games, cooking, etc, help potential guests envision their stay.

How can I make indoor spaces look bright and appealing in photos?

Use floor-to-ceiling windows, mirrors, and white/neutral decor to bounce natural light. Supplement with extra lighting as needed.

Can I use smartphone photos instead of a DSLR camera?

You can utilize smartphone photos as supplements, but invest or rent in a quality DSLR camera to capture higher resolution, print-worthy shots.

What accessories help improve vacation rental photographs?

Useful gear includes a wide-angle lens, a tripod, an external flash, reflectors, and a remote shutter release. Consider a drone for aerials as well.

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