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How to Take Better Photos of Your Holiday Cottage

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Laptop with camera

They say that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and nowhere is this truer than when selling holidays. Studies show that you have just 20 seconds for your photos to make an impression before viewers lose interest and move on to a competing holiday let.

Holiday cottage photography is one of the most versatile tools to increase bookings – but only if it’s done well. Do your photos showcase the property features at their absolute best? Do they entice people to stay there? If not, it’s time to take some new photos.

In this guide we’ve put some tips together to help you create professional photos of your holiday let.

Holiday cottage photos have two objectives

With over 2 million listings on Vrbo and 7 million on Airbnb competing with your ad – travellers are spoilt for choice.

Firstly, high-quality professional photographs and stylish interior design will help your property stand out from similar holiday lets, grab the attention of customers and draw them in.

Secondly, your photos must make an emotional connection with guests and convince them that your holiday home is where they will enjoy the best possible holiday experience.

Think about what your guests want

Before your photoshoot think of the holiday experience your typical guest is looking for at your holiday cottage so your photos can appeal to their emotions.

  • What is your ideal guest looking for in a holiday let?
  • Which stand-out features does your holiday let have?
  • What are the focal views in each room and outside?
  • Are there any local views/scenes/attractions that would be good to include in your marketing?

Should you hire a professional photographer?

Anyone can take photos, right? Wrong. Although digital technology and smartphones have made photography much easier, not everyone can take a good picture, and not everyone has the right professional equipment to do so either.

Most owners have a habit of taking photos at eye level, showing lots of ceiling, so they point the camera down, resulting in ‘wonky-looking’ shots.

As a business priority, you should invest in hiring a professional photographer to take your holiday cottage photos. This is because the quality of photos taken with professional photography, lighting equipment and a skilled eye will always be higher than those you take yourself. This means that your holiday let can be promoted in the best possible way.

Some professionals even have access to drones that can capture your holiday cottage and its surroundings from the air – often the results can be truly stunning.

Think of the cost of hiring a photographer in terms of extra bookings too. If having professional images allows you to secure just two or three extra bookings, then the long-term benefit will more than offset the original cost of hiring a photographer. Plus, any extra demand they create means you could also increase your rates.

Hosts with professional photos receive 20% more bookings and earn more than other hosts in their area.

How to choose a holiday cottage photographer

A simple Google search will probably leave you spoilt for choice in terms of photographers for hire, with a mixture of freelancers and agencies to choose from.

It might be a good idea to look specifically for a photographer who specialises in holiday let or property photography. If you list on Airbnb, they offer a service to hire a photographer via their Pro Photo Programme.

You could ask for recommendations on social forums such as a Facebook Group for holiday let owners – but be sure to do your research before you hire.

  • Examine the photographer’s existing portfolio of past work. Make sure that all the finer details have been addressed. Untidy curtains, a crumpled bed, wonky pictures and unfluffed pillows in photos are unacceptable.
  • Do they have verified testimonials?
  • Do they already work with holiday letting agencies and tourist businesses in your area?
  • Expect to pay upwards of £500 per day including editing.
  • Discuss your requirements with potential photographers. For example, some won’t include staging and styling as part of the price they charge, so check they’re providing exactly what you expect.
  • Make sure you establish who has the ownership rights to any photos taken. You need full control over ownership and where photos are published.
  • To compliment your photos, some professionals can also create a floorplan, 360 interactive tours, aerial drone photography and videos of your holiday cottage.

Here are some professional holiday cottage photographers to research further:

Tips for taking holiday cottage photos

Essential technical tips

If you plan to photograph your holiday cottage yourself, then it’s worth knowing what type of kit to invest in:

  • A decent DSLR camera. Check that it has a wide angle, high definition, and a good flash.
  • Some lighting equipment. ​This could be as simple a set-up as three strobe lights on stands and a couple of reflector panels.
  • A tripod: This inexpensive accessory will ensure all your photos are taken with a ‘steady hand’. Use a ‘bubble level’ to help you align the camera whilst it’s secured to the tripod.
  • A computer program such as Photoshop for editing the final pictures — or you may want to contact a freelancer to carry out the post-production edits for you.
  • Use the ‘Thirds rule’:
    -Envision a white rectangle and sketch a perfectly executed ‘tic-tac-toe’ grid onto it, forming two vertical and two horizontal lines.
    -Align your camera, placing the ‘subject’ or focal point along these lines. For instance, in a living room, position a lamp or sculpture on the sideboard along the vertical line, ensuring the horizontal lines maintain the composition’s symmetry.
    -Keep the camera level, and if possible, utilise a tripod.
  • Use a step ladder to capture shots from a more elevated perspective, or experiment with sitting, squatting, or lying down to achieve unique angles and added depth.
  • Try shooting some pictures into a corner as this can add perspective.
  • Some cameras offer the option to adjust the shutter speed but try not to drop below 1/30th of a second without a tripod. Instead, speeds of 1/60th or 1/125th and higher should produce steady shots without motion blur.
  • Always hold the camera square to the horizontal. Don’t be tempted to point the camera up or down to take a shot. Pointing the camera up, for example, distorts the vertical lines in the end photo which can make it look unnatural.
  • Consider symmetry when you’re thinking about your next photo. Done right, it can help your image look more professional. Likewise, look for ‘natural framing’ for your shots (for example, including a pretty window frame in the image), and sometimes even reflections can add a certain aesthetic beauty to your picture.
  • Avoid using the ‘zoom’ feature when you’re taking your shots. Instead, remember that it’s better to crop your photo during the editing process, as it then retains image quality.
  • When you’re thinking about photo orientation for your marketing, remember that most holiday listing sites showcase images in horizontal (landscape) orientation. But, if you’re planning to use some of your photos on social platforms like Pinterest, these do provide more vertical space, so it makes sense to use vertical orientation in these instances.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit your photos to get them just right. Even simple tweaks like adjusting the brightness a little bit can make a big difference. Try to keep your editing style consistent though so that one photo doesn’t look wildly different in its brightness, contrast, etc. to another.

The best time to photograph your holiday let

Your first preference should be to take photos on a sunny day. After all, no one wants to imagine a holiday where it’s cloudy. Sunshine also helps naturally brighten up interior pictures.

The best time to take photos is at lunchtime when the sun is at its very peak, it’s bright outside, and natural light can flow. Early morning or late afternoon photos are best avoided, as you may find there’s too much shade or excessive glare from the midday sun.

You should capture some shots of the property at dawn and dusk too, especially if you have a great view. With the sun being at its lowest, and with interior and exterior lighting switched on, it can make for a naturally softer, warmer lighting effect — which makes the property look more inviting.

If you’re marketing a year-round let, it’s a good idea to capture all the seasons and not just summer. Spring when gardens are in full bloom, an autumnal frosty scene or a snowy landscape and festive decor. Post these images on your listings and website at the appropriate times of the year to attract year-round bookings.

How to prepare your holiday let for a photoshoot

Most professional photographers would agree that interior design and staging are essential for getting the best results from your photoshoot. You should create scenes so guests can visualise themselves staying at your holiday cottage.

  • Remove all clutter and personal items. This includes tidying up and hiding untidy cables and wiring.
  • Don’t include people in your pictures, holidaymakers like to imagine themselves on holiday, not you. If you’re taking photos, watch out for accidental selfies in mirrors or reflective windows.
  • Straighten everything (bed linen, pictures, etc), smooth out creases in bedding, and plump up cushions and pillows.
  • Add splashes of colour to neutral rooms: throws, cushions and fresh flowers.
  • A clean property is essential, so first clean up the kitchen area, hide all cleaning equipment and bins.
  • Set the table for a meal, add a bowl of fruit to a worktop, some homemade bakes, wine and cheeseboard with the log burner flickering in the background.
  • Make your living area look relaxing and inviting. If space is tight, rearrange the furniture to create an impression of there being more room.
  • Light your log burner to entice those winter bookings. Guests want to picture themselves curling up and getting all warm and toasty after a day exploring the area.
  • Tidy up all bedrooms, make these rooms look warm and comfortable, and maybe add a touch of luxury, fluffy towels, bath robes and throws.
  • Clean up the bathrooms and remove all accessories except towels and any essential amenities. Try to avoid taking photos of the toilet too, but if this is not possible, remember to put the lid down and ensure there’s no bin or toilet brush included in the shot.
  • If there are great views from any of the rooms, take a photo of these to give guests an idea of what they’ll see during their stay.
  • Turn on the lights for photos, especially in bedrooms as this creates a more inviting atmosphere. You could even use a high-wattage photoflood bulb hidden in a dark corner to help bounce light off the wall or ceiling.
  • Tidy up your garden and outdoor areas, sweep up leaves, deadhead flowers, remove weeds, refresh hanging baskets and mow the lawn.
  • Your outdoor spaces offer a unique experience and should be treated as if they were additional rooms in your property. Consider whether extra touches like hanging baskets, lamps or some hanging fairy lights would help make an even more attractive outdoor entertaining area.
  • Try to take photos of the garden when everything is in full bloom, and perhaps another when the garden is frosty and wintry-looking.
  • You could stage an enticing al fresco dining scene, afternoon tea or a few tapas dishes and glasses of wine ready for a stunning sunset.
  • If you have a special feature outside, such as a hot tub or a swimming pool, use staging to help bookers visualise themselves there. For example, a couple of cocktails next to the hot tub with some fluffy towels, or some sun loungers by the pool with a book and a pair of flip flops.
  • If your holiday cottage is dog-friendly, get a few pictures a dog with your doggie welcome pack. These will attract fellow dog owners who will instantly recognise that you welcome dogs.
  • Once you’ve got your set of initial shots, look at each image for any imperfections. For example, does the composition work or does some furniture need to be moved? Are rooms looking clean and spotless? Would some pictures look better if they had been taken from a different angle?
  • If you feel that you don’t quite have a full set of perfect photos, spend some time re-taking them. The last thing you want is to use photos on listing sites or your website that you suspect aren’t going to do your holiday let justice.

The key is to be creative but honest with your photos. Don’t mislead your guests with photoshopped images as this could lead to complaints. Also, don’t go overboard with accessories that are unlikely to be in the property for your guests’ stay.

Creating the perfect photo collection for your holiday let listing

When you’re laying out your photos on holiday let listing sites or your website, here are some tips when deciding which photos to show.

  • Your first (or ‘hero’) photo is the most important photo of all. This is the photo your potential guests are likely to see first in their searches and what will (hopefully) inspire them to click through to your listing. You’ve got just a few seconds to grab their attention, so your main photo should be the best shot of your property or view, and the image most likely to entice any potential bookers to want to stay in your property.
  • Every property will have something special about it. Perhaps it’s a superb fireplace or an inviting area that your guests might enjoy such as a particularly cosy chair with a wonderful view.
  • Show photos of the most attractive and popular areas of your holiday cottage first but keep a logical order of how the guests will flow through the house and then outside to the exterior. Include a wide photo of the room and then zoom in on a detail that you want to stand out such as a log burner.
  • Show photos of the local area too. This could be a beach or countryside scene, or a local attraction so that guests can get a good idea of what’s within reach whilst they’re staying with you. No matter how lovely your holiday let is, it’s likely not the sole reason someone is travelling to that area. It might actually be the golf courses, impressive sights, or excellent fine dining experiences that are conveniently located within reach of your property.
  • Think outside the box in terms of the images you upload. As well as all those precious photos that portray your holiday let, could you upload other things too — like a recent 5-star glowing review from a past guest?
  • Don’t forget to add a descriptive, clear caption to photos. For example, writing ‘the kitchen’ on a photo which is clearly the kitchen isn’t very helpful. You could even quote the odd line from a past guest review to help your images work harder “the bean to cup coffee machine was a real luxury in the morning”.
  • Make sure that each image you’re including is adding some value. When you’re deciding on which photos to include, ask yourself, “will this image help me generate bookings?” If you think the answer is ‘no’, then leave it out.
  • Remember, people need to visualise themselves in your holiday rental. They choose holiday homes over hotels because they are unique and feel more like a ‘home from home’. Photos should therefore display the character of your home and its surroundings — as it truly is.

To summarise

It can be tempting to try and handle the photography of your holiday let yourself to save money. Unless you happen to be a bonafide professional photographer you may just end up taking poor quality photos that fail to inspire and do more to put people off from booking to stay with you.

Investing in professional photography for your holiday let is therefore one of the best ways to increase your bookings and income.

If you have experience with photographing holiday homes please add your tips in the comments…


  • Jo |

    Nice article! Feedback from guests who book online through SuperControl booking pages is that what they want is photos, photos and more photos, here’s a blog summarising: http://bit.ly/1sYe8rs

    • Philip |

      Hi Jo, couldn’t agree more. Thanks for your input.

  • alan |

    Great article. Great advice.
    Here’s a top tip.
    If you are photographing a pool, wait until the sun is overhead, stir the water with your hand or foot. Let the ripples spread and then take the shot.
    You will get that fantastic “electrified shimmer” look that you see in brochures.
    See https://plus.google.com/100281377456020299580/posts/3dTw8AtyEKm for an example

    • Philip |

      Thanks for your tip Alan. Love your photos of the week that you share on Google plus – very inspiring.

  • Tracey |

    Very helpful article but just be a little careful when choosing a professional photographer. A general photographer who spends most of their time photographing babies and weddings isn’t necessarily going to be able to cope with tight spaces and multiple light sources. There are a few really good specialist interior photographers around so search carefully.

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