Let’s talk about the money shot - your thumbnail photo. The thumbnail photo is the small photo that pops up when people search for rentals on FlipKey or HomeAway.
Your thumbnail should be the best representation of your vacation rental as it informs them of the mood and the highlights of your place. It will determine whether or not they click to start the process of seeing if your place is a good fit. You want an excellent money shot! If you don't have good photos, that's your very next thing to do on your list. If you're an investor and you haven't purchased your vacation rental yet, look for the money shot.
I was helping a client pick a vacation rental in Key Largo and that was one of the things we did. In each of them we figured out what the money shot would be. She was looking at condominiums and a lot of them had the same stock photo or photo that was provided by the condominium of the pool. The one she ended up selecting had the best view. It had a lot of other features that made it the best choice but when it comes to staging and envisioning the money shot that’s going to attract people, we found it on the deck off the master.
We thought about putting two glasses filled with a tropical fruity drink and taking a picture of that scene as the sun set. That was going to anchor that vacation rental and show the pool, show the boat, show the marina, show the water, and show the sunset. I mean, it doesn't get any better than that. That just says, "I'm on vacation."
So, when choosing a photographer, you don't necessarily want to go with somebody who does senior shots or wedding photography. You want to make sure that whoever you go with knows indoor photography really well, because it's a whole different beast. You've got to manage light outside and inside, and it's got to work well.
There's a plugin you can get for Lightroom, but what I do is take the photos and I take three. You do what's called bracketing. You take one that's exposed for the outside, so the outside palm trees, whatever it is, are in view. Then, you take a mid-range one. Then, you take a photo that is bracketed for all the detail inside. You keep it on a tripod so you get exactly the same photo all three times. Then, what I do is I send it off to somebody on Fiverr, and they send them back to me. They did six different shots for $5, so it was a really good deal plus, I didn't have to worry about photo editing.
But frankly, after I did that, the photos were okay. So, I had a professional come out and the photos he took were so much better. Plan to spend between one and two night's accommodation on the photographer. A smaller one-bedroom apartment is going to be a whole different ballgame from staging and shooting a five-bedroom house with outdoor space. So, plan on spending one to two nights - could be longer than that - accommodation on the photographer.
My recommendation is to get Tyanne Marcink out to your location. She is a vacation rental owner herself and knows so much about the industry. I have been with her where she is staging for hours and taking photographs for hours.
If you can't get Tyanne to come out to your location, my second piece of advice is to look through the listing of realtors, look at what they have on their websites in the area where your vacation rental is, and find the best photographs - the ones that manage that balance of indoor/outdoor light. Then, call the realtor and ask if they can give you the name of the photographer who did that particular home. As in everything, there are good photographers and there are ones that really don't do a great job, so you want somebody who's going to spend some time.
I have heard about listing sites sending out photographers themselves. Some of them are very good. On one of them, the homeowner timed the amount of time the photographer was actually in the house and it was eight minutes. She had one of those resort locks where you can give somebody a temporary code. The photographer was in her four-bedroom home for eight minutes, so it was snapshots. It wasn't professionally staged, well thought-out photographs.
If you don't have professional photographs, right after you click the thumbs up button on this video, go research and find an excellent photographer who will do your home a lot of good. You will reap that money back tenfold, thirtyfold! Because if you don't have a great thumbnail photograph, or the money shot, people won't click. People won't continue the booking process. They will just pass you on by for the brighter, shinier ones. So make sure you have an excellent thumbnail money shot.