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They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This age-old adage rings especially true in the world of Airbnb hosting. With so many listings competing for bookings, hosts have mere seconds to catch a potential guest's eye and convince them to click for more. This is where stellar photography comes in.
Imagine you're browsing Airbnb listings in your destination city. Dozens of tiny thumbnail images fly by as you scroll. Suddenly, one makes you pause and take a closer look. The lighting is bright and natural, the decor is stylish yet welcoming, and the overall vibe is one of comfort and hospitality. This listing just made a great first impression"and earned a prime spot on your shortlist.
Professional real estate photographer Darren Hicks understands the power of first impressions. He insists that photography is the most important factor in turning site visitors into bookings. "You can have the nicest property in the world, but if your photos are poor quality, overly edited, or don't accurately represent the space, guests will click away without a second thought," he explains.
Vacation rental owner Sabrina Meyers learned this lesson firsthand. She was struggling to get bookings for her Joshua Tree cabin, a charming desert retreat with loads of potential. "I tried taking the photos myself using my phone camera. Let's just say they didn't exactly highlight the best features," she recalls with a laugh. On a whim, she hired a photographer to capture the character and beauty of her cabin. Bookings tripled almost overnight.
Of course, professional photography isn't in every host's budget. That's where virtual staging comes in. AI-powered tools like Colossis allow hosts to transform their listing photos by digitally removing clutter, editing lighting, and even adding furnishings and decor.
Michael, an Airbnb host in Nashville, staged his listings with Colossis after realizing his DIY pictures weren't resonating. "I'm not a photographer. My pics were okay, but nothing special. As soon as I virtually staged my spaces, my bookings went way up. Guests are clearly responding to the enhanced photos."
Clutter be gone! Decluttering an Airbnb listing is one of the most impactful steps hosts can take to boost bookings. While virtual staging adds immense value, even the most advanced AI can't hide a mess. Listings overflowing with tchotchkes, piles of stuff, and general disorder simply don't make a great first impression.
Decluttering expert Marie Kondo recommends tidying any space by category, not location. This means sorting through all books first, then papers, linens, etc. Liberating your listing from excess items allows the beautiful bones and charming features to shine.
Interior designer Alexandra Tobin suggests culling any objects that don't bring you joy or serve a purpose. Be ruthless. For example, toss out or donate extra furniture, odds and ends that just take up space, and anything that looks worn out.
Store out-of-season items like winter coats or holiday decor. Pack away non-essentials that you simply can't part with, like extra pillows and blankets. You want to pare down to the basics that every guest will need.
Joanna Stevens of Frills and Drills Organizing points out that spare bedrooms often become dumping grounds. Make sure those spaces highlight their intended purpose rather than seeming like storage. The goal is a serene, welcoming vibe.
Crisp, clutter-free surfaces allow listings to feel more spacious and airy. When shelving and tables are freed from visual noise, clean lines and textures take center stage. Clutter-free photos also help guests mentally picture themselves enjoying the space during their stay.
Kevin Combs, an Airbnb Superhost in Portland, OR, says decluttering was a game changer: "I was skeptical at first, but as I removed more and more stuff, the character of my century-old craftsman really emerged."
Indeed, decluttering forces us to see our listings through a guest's eyes. They don't need to know we collect ceramic frogs or have six extra bed pillows. Thoughtfully curated and stage-ready makes the best impression.
Airbnb photographer Leesa Chavez admits decluttering is her least favorite part of preparing listings for shoots. But as soon as the space is pared down? Magic. "The listing just comes alive. All the beautiful accents pop since they aren't competing with clutter anymore."
A stellar first impression starts before guests even step inside your Airbnb listing. Curb appeal is hugely important, yet often overlooked by hosts focused on interior styling and staging. Enhancing your exterior space and facade attracts potential bookings and immediately sets the tone when guests pull up to your property.
Landscaping and greenery play a major role in curb appeal. Gardener Tomiko Bailey explains, "Lush, vibrant plantings signal that your space is well-cared for. Flowers, shrubs, and trees soften hard lines and textures while bringing color and life." She suggests filling any blank spots in your yard and gardens to create an oasis vibe. Trimming overgrown trees and bushes also prevents a wild, unkempt look.
Outdoor enhancements like walkways, fountains, patios, and deck seating invite guests to enjoy your exterior as an extension of their rental. Amanda Lang with Patio Paradise notes, "Creating an outdoor living space encourages guests to take in the scenery and fresh air during their stay rather than only experiencing the indoors."
Power wash exterior surfaces including siding, fencing, and sidewalks to instantly amplify curb appeal. Eliminate any flaking paint or notable flaws through touch-ups and repairs. Painting a front door in a bold, eye-catching hue adds a powerful punch of color and vibrancy.
Of course, a picturesque property exterior pales in comparison if it"s captured through subpar photography. Professional real estate photographer Sabrina Cox explains, "Great wide landscape shots highlight curb appeal details guests might not notice in poorly framed, inconsistent pics."
She continues, "I'm always moving to play with angles, lighting, and focal elements rather than just pointing and shooting. This brings out textures and dimensions." Slow shutter speeds and editing tools like saturation adjustments help Cox make plantings "pop with color."
Airbnb host Daniel James initially struggled capturing his Seattle bungalow"s storybook exterior. The listed photos focused on interior rooms with exterior shots seeming like an afterthought. Once James invested in pro photography, the improved curb appeal snaps led to a major uptick in bookings.
"Guests raved about how charming the exterior details looked, saying it reminded them of cottages in storybooks," James recalls. "I honestly hadn't realized what great bones the place had until seeing them showcased properly."
While hiring a pro photographer is ideal, it's easy for DIY hosts to improve exterior shots. Photograph at non-high noon times when sunlight is diffuse and soft. Turn on all exterior lighting fixtures and lanterns to combat shadows or dusk dimness. Shoot from multiple angles and vantage points to showcase the full scope of your curb appeal.
Though palatial properties have their appeal, more intimate Airbnb listings can feel cozier while still comfortably hosting guests. Maximizing small spaces showcases their potential. Interior designer Susan Rhodes explains, "You don"t need a sprawling home to create an amazing rental. Thoughtful styling makes even 350 square feet feel open and inviting."
Rhodes suggests considering your listing"s layout and flow. Are there wasted nooks or inefficient areas? She says, "I once carved out closet space in a tiny cottage by raising the bed on risers, gaining 6 sq ft underneath. Little changes add up in tight quarters." Decluttering also keeps things feeling spacious. Have guests pack non-essentials creatively under beds or in baskets.
When furnishing tight spaces, multifunctional pieces pull double duty. Host Samantha Koehler traded her clunky coffee table for a lift-top ottoman. "Now it"s both a footrest and extra seating when I remove the tray. The lighter footprint instantly made my living room feel airier."
Light colors help small rooms feel larger by reflecting light. To prevent a washed-out effect, interior designer Neil Patel suggests accents in deeper tones: "Pops of color and contrast create cohesion without overwhelming."
When showcasing tight quarters online, professional photographer Cara Daniels shoots from corners or positions that exaggerate dimensions. "I"ll place the camera low to the ground to make ceilings appear taller, for example. Perspective is key."
Daniels turns challenges into design perks, saying, "Smaller rooms feel quaint and cozy when decorated accordingly. Vaulted ceilings add drama. An alcove becomes a reading nook. I help draw out a space"s unique personality through lighting and angles."
Ultimately, maximizing a petite listing highlights its charm. Airbnb host Mia Dalton styled her snug cabin using textiles, furniture arrangements, and decor to delineate zones. "Each area has a purpose, from the comfy living room to the chef"s kitchen.
There's nothing less appealing than trying to showcase a dark, shadowy room in your Airbnb listing photos. Dim spaces read as gloomy and cramped, causing guests to click away. Luckily, smart styling and staging techniques can transform even the dreariest area into a bright, welcoming oasis.
Interior designer Lauren Rhodes suggests adding ample lighting throughout any dark room. "Extra lamps, sconces and overhead fixtures banish shadows. Place them strategically to cast light into every corner." She recommends splurging on dimmable bulbs to adjust brightness levels. Enhance dreary kitchens and living rooms by installing recessed or track lighting.
Maximize natural light streaming in through existing windows. Interior stylist Sabrina Holt advises, "Wash windows thoroughly inside and out, and remove heavy drapes or blinds obstructing sunlight." Consider replacing thick, weighty window coverings with breezy sheers or linen panels that filter light gently.
Mirror placement plays a key role in amplification. "I angle mirrors across from any light sources to essentially double the brightness," explains Rhodes. Hang them near dark corners or shadowy sections to splash reflected light.
When it comes to paint colors, go light and bright. Airy tints, crisp whites and pale neutrals enhance luminosity. Contrast with a feature wall in bold azure or coral to add drama without diminishing light levels. Gloss or semi-gloss sheens also brighten over their flat counterparts by reflecting more light.
Professional photographer Cara James tackles dim rooms by flooding them with portable lighting gear and carefully positioning each fixture. "It's all about angle and intensity. I may use a soft overhead light paired with something more directional to cast dimension." She underexposes natural light sources to keep the mood bright but believable.
For DIY shooters, James suggests daylight or warm white bulbs in clamp lights. "They're inexpensive but make a huge difference in fighting murkiness." She also shoots at non-high noon times when sunlight filtering in avoids harsh contrasts.