Airbnb Photography Tips with Only a Cell Phone

Airbnb Photography Tips with Only a Cell Phone

First impressions count. The photographs on your Airbnb listing can make or break bookings. But not every host can afford to hire a professional photographer to photograph their Airbnb vacation rental, especially when they are just starting out. What every host does possess however is a smartphone and every smartphone is equipped with a camera. Read on to find out our top tips for Airbnb photography with only a mobile phone.

Why Photographs Matter on Airbnb

The importance of photographs for your Airbnb listing cannot be overstated. Photographs are what first capture the eye of potential guests who arrive at your listing. Users also find them easier to believe than the words in your description, acting as a kind of visual proof. According to Airbnb,

  • Photographs are one of the top reasons guests choose to book, resulting in 24% more bookings.
  • Many hosts are able to raise their nightly rates after upgrading their photos, leading to a 26% higher nightly rate.

(Check out our Tips for Growing your Airbnb Revenue, Occupancy, and Nightly Rate.)

Smartphone Photography Tips for Airbnb

Taking a picture with your cell phone can be as easy as tapping the camera app or holding down a volume button. Taking good photos of your Airbnb with only your mobile phone however is a little more complicated than that. Discover our top tips for Airbnb photography using only a cell phone.

1. Set Aside Adequate Time

Make sure you set aside enough time to photograph. This could mean 1-2 full days of photographing or a few hours over several days, depending on the size and number of rooms and amenities your Airbnb offers.

Don’t think you can finish up in an hour or two. Taking high-quality, professional-looking photographs takes time. Be prepared to spend enough time or you’d be running out for your next appointment soon after you finish staging one room with no photos in hand.

Don’t think you can multitask while photographing either. If it were that easy there wouldn’t be so many professional photographers around. Make sure shooting your Airbnb property is the only thing you are focused on at the time.

2. Clean like you’re expecting the Queen

Clean your Airbnb like you were welcoming the pickiest guest. Get your best cleaners and scrub till everything shines bright and nice. Make sure everything is dried, folded, and/or stored in its rightful place. You don’t want a potential Airbnb guest zooming into your photos to find dirt, stains, etc. Nothing puts off guests like a dirty or untidy space.

3. Identify the best lighting

Lighting is a crucial aspect of photography. If you don’t get the lighting right no amount of great hardware can help.

  • Natural light gives your space a nice, welcoming feel. Find the time of the day when the sunlight gives each room its best look in a photograph.
  • Don’t be afraid to add artificial light to supplement the natural light when required. Particularly when you are trying to light shadows.
  • The light just before sunset and just after sunrise is great for photographing your outdoor spaces, particularly if you have spectacular views to showcase.

Identify the best lighting

4. Stage like a pro

You need to showcase the maximum potential of your indoor spaces to your potential guests. Once your Airbnb is fully cleaned, it’s time to tidy up and decorate.

  • Get rid of any clutter.
  • Make sure the beds are arranged neatly and the pillows are fluffed.
  • Showcase the linens and towels available to guests, neatly folded and arranged in a drawer or closet.
  • Don’t have appliance cords trailing across the floor.
  • Use carefully chosen ornaments, artwork, a vase of fresh flowers, books, plants, etc to decorate each space.

5. Tell a story

Taking good photographs of your Airbnb vacation rental is more than just a random series of well-lit, well-focused photographs. Your collection of photographs need to tell a story about your Airbnb, convey its offering, be that luxuriousness, quaintness, hi-tech, bohemian, etc.

The amenities you choose and the way you decorate have a huge impact. Showcase the warmth of a fireplace along with a curated collection of books and a warm blanket draped on an armchair. A luxury espresso machine or tea service can symbolize the luxuriousness of the space. Or a colorful room with a crib expresses family-friendliness.

6. Practice makes perfect

The idea of generating professional-level photographs using just a smartphone when you don’t have too much experience can seem daunting. Practicing beforehand will help you get familiar with the controls and settings, give you a steadier hand and reduce the stress of ensuring high-quality photos. Even if you feel like a novice, remember to treat it like a learning exercise and have fun. Go through high-quality photographs of Airbnbs and study them in detail. Check out smartphone photography tutorials and try them out beforehand.

7. Click like an ace

When you’re ready it’s time to plunge in and start clicking. Remember to

  • Fully charge your phone beforehand.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode so you don’t get distracted by notifications.
  • Turn off Flash. Flash can give a harsh look to photographs.
  • Use both hands when taking photographs. This provides stability to your phone and reduces the chances of blurry images.
  • Use the grid feature and tap into the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a photography principle that divides an image into thirds horizontally and vertically so there are nine squares. You place the point of focus in any of the four places where the lines intersect.
  • Make sure your image resolution is set to high and that there is enough memory or cloud space to store.
  • Take a variety of images, from wide photographs to close-ups, from different angles.
  • Use the HDR setting.
  • Vertical images are great to show off small spaces like a walk-in closet or a balcony but use them only in the image gallery. Use only horizontal photographs in the grid on your Airbnb listing page. Any vertical images will get cropped.
  • Take many many more photographs than you need.

Click like an ace

8. Backup your photos

Once you’re done taking photographs or your camera roll is full, backup all the photos to a hard drive and/or cloud service. Make sure you have two backups. Photographing your Airbnb vacation rental requires a significant investment in your time and effort. Don’t waste it.

9. Edit for higher quality

Default editing software on phones are usually not great so download an app like Snapseed or VSCO which allows you to edit photographs easily. The Lightroom app is great for batch processing your photos.

Crop, increase or decrease brightness, rotate, saturate the colors, adjust highlights and shadows and even change perspectives. You can even use a subtle filter for added oomph.

10. Spring for accessories

If you can afford it, a few accessories to your smartphone can help improve your photographs of your Airbnb by bounds without costing too much.

  • Consider investing in a lens for your smartphone, to increase the range of photographs that you are able to take.
  • A tripod not only ensures your smartphone camera is stable at all times but frees your hands to do more. This allows you to use the timer option when setting up tricky shots or using additional lighting.
  • Invest in a paid camera app like Camera+, Prime, or Manual that gives you a wider choice of settings and higher quality photography results so you can make your Airbnb photos pop.

11. Keep photographing

Once you’ve uploaded your chosen photographs to your Airbnb listing, don’t think you’re done. You need to keep upgrading your collection of photos ever so often to ensure your property doesn’t come off as boring or stuffy. Don’t wait until you stage another photo shoot though. If you see a scene you think is worth capturing, take a moment and do just that. This not only helps you improve your photography skills but gives you a bank of photos at hand to use.

airbnb photography

Airbnb iPhone Photography Tips

iPhone cameras are generally considered to be one of the best in the smartphone market. However, there are always things you can do to enhance the images you generate with your iPhone.

  1. Clean your iPhone camera lens.
  2. Using the volume button instead helps you take sharper photographs. You can even use the volume button on your iPhone earphones.
  3. Get perfect focus by using manual override. Just tap on the screen where you want the focus point to be. You’ll see the outlines of a yellow square outlining the focus point.
  4. A portable battery charger will ensure you can keep photographing without having to stop to charge your phone or be limited by the length of your charger.
  5. Use an external memory device like a SanDisk iXpand Base so you can backup those photos without having to pay for an iCloud subscription.
  6. Invest in a good case to protect your iPhone. The longer you keep shooting, the higher the chances you will drop your iPhone.
  7. Use Portrait mode when you want to blur the background. You can adjust the strength of the blur after you have shot the photo. Click ‘Edit’ and drag the Depth slider at the bottom. The lower the ‘f number’, the greater the blur.
  8. You can adjust the exposure by sliding the sun icon that pops up on the right of the focus square.
  9. Take a course on iPhone Photography School. Learn amazing tips and tricks on how to take better photos with your iPhone.

Airbnb iPhone Photography Tips

Airbnb Android Photography Tips

Not all smartphone cameras are created equal but there are enough Android models to get you professional-looking photographs of your Airbnb. Here are some tips to level up your Airbnb photography when shooting with an Android mobile phone.

  1. Try to get your hands on an Android phone with a great camera. You don’t have to buy a new phone but you can borrow one from a friend or a relative if they have one. Some of the best Android mobile phones for photography are Google Pixel, Galaxy Note, Galaxy S series, OnePlus Pro, and Redmi Note.
  2. Clean your Android camera lens.
  3. Don’t depend on autofocus. Choose your focus point by touching the place you want the smartphone camera to focus on. You can choose to go full manual for greater control by switching to manual mode in the Settings menu.
  4. Use a camera app like Afterlight and Open Camera for additional settings and effects.
  5. For outside and moody shots in particular, use Bokeh mode (the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens, at the widest aperture) to soften the background and mimic SLR effects. Change the quantum of bokeh by changing the aperture.
  6. You can manually override the automatic exposure settings by using metering. Tap on the screen (exposure) for where you want to meter from, changing the dynamic range of the image.
  7. Change ISO settings depending on the amount of light available. A higher ISO setting is better in low light settings but will increase the graininess of the photographs and vice versa.
  8. Adjust the aperture to determine the amount of light entering the shutter as well as the amount of the photo in focus.
  9. Shoot in Raw mode. A Raw file saves more data about your image than a jpeg, allowing you to edit further, resulting in better-looking images.
  10. Use an additional storage chip or device to backup your photos.
  11. Take a course on Android smartphone photography like those found on Udemy.
  12. Invest in a hardy case. The longer you use the mobile phone, the higher the chances of you dropping it.

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