The truth about vacation rental photography with Tyann Marcink
Quick intro to Tyann if you don’t know her already;
Tyann Marcink is an absolute rockstar.
She is a wildly successful entrepreneur, vacation rental owner, professional photographer, artist, blogger, author, and to top it all off she’s a mother of 3!
Yea… basically, she’s the kind of person that makes us all feel like we could be doing more with our lives…
Tyann’s photography expertise expands beyond just vacation rentals, but her - not one but two - books on vacation rental photography definitely make her one of the most sought out authorities in our industry.
Tyann has also been featured in numerous vacation rental blogs and podcasts, as well as on a radio talk show, discussing her expertise in vacation rental photography. She has also guest posted on several other VR industry blogs, spoken at several industry conferences, including the HomeAway Summits and the Vacation Rental World Summits, and she also consults with HomeAway as an owner advocate, focusing on the Mobile Hospitality application.
Fortunately for us, she was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to briefly share the truth about vacation rental photography, and how you can get the quality photos that will actually increase your bookings.
Dumbfounded, he sat back in his chair and stared at the numbers. This couldn’t be right.
The accountant will definitely question this big of an increase over last year’s numbers. No longer were they struggling to cover the costs of owning their vacation property, they were now making a profit on it.
Eric double checked his numbers one more time and then called his wife. Tonight they were going to celebrate. Their vacation rental property income had increased by 39% this past year, and that was no small amount.
His smile spread across his face until he beamed. Eric’s goal of having a supplemental income for retirement was a reality.
Eric knew exactly what made the difference from last year to this year. He was happy he had listened to the sage advice of the vacation rental owners who had been around a lot longer than he.
The defining change that resulted in the dramatic increase was the professional photos he had gotten done for his property.
When Eric thought about those first images of their vacation rental property that his wife had uploaded to their HomeAway listing, he cringed. Previously he had thought his iPhone 5 photos were absolutely good enough to give travelers a good idea of what his property is like.
Don't be naive...
Eric understood that his “good enough” mentality had not only lost him guests but also lost him money. So he had begun treating his vacation rental property like a proper business and making the proper investments, beginning with hiring a professional photographer.
His ROI on the pro photos spoke for itself.
Quickly pulling up his booking calendar, Eric took a look at future reservations. He was already filling up quickly for the next year.
His next step: increase his prices.
Eric’s low quality iPhone shots communicated low quality to travelers, but the new professional photos communicated a high quality and will help Eric command a higher nightly rate.
Image is everything (pun actually intended!)
Professional photographs will do a lot more than simply increase your bottom line.
The most valuable part of the professional images is that they increase the traveler's perception of you and your vacation rental property, ultimately building and creating trust.
Trust is one of the keys to a successful online business, and the photographs that you use will either build trust or create doubt in you as an owner.
Impressive, professional photos will communicate that you care about your property AND your guests’ experience at your property. The traveler trusts you and feels safe in paying you, a complete stranger over the Internet, for a stay at your lovely place.
The first-class guest experience is then reflected in your reviews, which are further proof to travelers of your amazing vacation rental property.
On the other hand, dark images will make you look sketchy. Tilted walls will make you look unreliable. Messy rooms will make you look unpleasant.
Are you a sketchy scammer, an unreliable flake, or an unpleasant twit who is one French fry short of a Happy Meal?
Your property listing photos are a reflection of you as an owner, not just a representation of your property.
Is “good enough” still a good idea?
Finding the perfect photographer to get the job done right
Professional photography is an investment that will deliver real & measurable results to your booking numbers, and should be treated as something more than just an afterthought. Ideally, you want to seek out a photographer who specializes in vacation rental properties.
Yes, a wedding photographer, a family photographer, and a food photographer will all be able to create a properly exposed image. However, you want a photographer who understands that you need images of your vacation rental property that are more than photos.
You need marketing images, and your photographer is your marketing partner.
When looking for your perfect photographer, there are several things you will want to do:
- Browse through his online portfolio
- Contact her for an estimate
- Be clear on what you need
If you can't find a professional photographer in your area, then expand your search and be willing to invest in travel costs to bring the right photographer to your property.
The right skill will be the difference between killer images and mediocre ones.
You may not want to block a day, or even a few days, out for a photographer to work, but it would be a wise choice. Once you make the decision to invest in a pro photographer, consider going a step further to really maximize the photographer’s skill.
You could keep your investment smaller by doing only a basic shoot of your property. However, what if you also had the property further staged to emulate your guests’ experiences while on vacation?
Draw your guests to your property by tapping into their emotions with photographs that display a scene ready for a guest to experience.
Let's crunch the numbers
The price of a professional photographer may seem outrageous if you are used to seeing advertisements from hobby photographers for $50 for all images shot in an hour.
So let us first take a look at how a traveler might view your $250/nt property. To a traveler used to paying $100/nt for a hotel room, your price may seem a little outrageous. This traveler doesn’t understand the value in a vacation rental property and is comparing apples to oranges.
The traveler may think further on the price breakdown and realize that since your vacation rental property sleeps 10 people at the $250/nt, that it breaks down to $25/nt per person. If the same group had to get 5 hotel rooms, they would be looking at $50/nt per person.
The light bulb goes on in the traveler’s head, and he sees the value in the vacation rental property.
Now look at a photographer’s value. If the photo shoot for your property is $500, you would only need 2 additional nights booked to cover the cost. Eric in our story above saw an increase of nearly 50 nights. His investment of $500 brought him more than $10,000 in additional income.
The true value of good, professional vacation rental photography
Your story may not be as dramatic as Eric’s story, but it is possible. How about a high cost scenario…
You find the perfect professional photographer, and the quote for your 4-bedroom property is $750. This is the basic photo shoot of the interior, the exterior, and the outdoor areas on the property.
You decide to have the photographer stay two nights at the property for a full shoot that includes the sunset view from the great room, evening photos of the swimming pool at blue hour, and coffee on the deck at sunrise. This is an additional $350 to the photographer, writing off $500 for the two-night stay, and covering the $150 cleaning fee to your housekeeper.
To round out the entire marketing campaign, you send the photographer out and about to get shots of area activities your guests’ experiences, adding $400.
Lastly, you couldn’t find a local photographer, so you chose to fly in an outstanding photographer. Travel expenses for the photographer and an assistant add $1200.
Total out-of-pocket investment is $2700 to the photographer and $150 to your housekeeper. At $250/nt, you only need 12 additional nights booked to cover your costs. That’s it.
Last year you only booked 125 nights, and the new photos have you at 195 nights this year. Your $2,850 investment turned into $17,500 additional income.
If you already feel as if you are at full occupancy and you think you couldn't possibly book any more nights, then you can raise your rates. If you raise your rates by $25/nt with the professional photos - a quick 10% increase across the board - and your full occupancy is 250 nights, you have more than doubled your investment with the pro photos.
If you think you can get it done on your own
If you really truly feel that you can create the killer images yourself, but you want more information, there is help.
Or maybe you only need to have photos better than what you have now while you are searching for the perfect professional photographer, there is help for you also.
You will want to take a look at the vacation rental photography resources on my website tyannmarcink.com. I have quite a bit of information, as well as free downloads, covering everything from camera equipment to staging and creating your shots.
Is my story about Eric true?
Yes, it is.
His name has been changed for privacy, but the story is based on an actual client of mine, his real four-bedroom property, and his very real occupancy and average nightly rates.
Be brilliant. Abandon boring images and get professional photos of your vacation rental property as soon as possible.
P.S. I have my passport and will travel.