How to Take the Best Photos to Advertise Your Rental Listing

Above all else, photos are your guest’s first impression of your property – above the description, the amenities, and all other details.

So you can imagine what extremely important role photos can play in advertising your rental listing. However, photos can also be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, amazing photos can skyrocket your listing to the head of the pack and drive better occupancy and more rental income. On the other hand, below average photos can leave a damaging first impression with potential renters.

Let's start with a quiz, shall we?

Question 1: Are your photos dark and/or blurry?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 2: Are you providing your guests with context by showing pictures of both the exterior and interior of your property?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 3: Are there random items like chargers, laptops, remotes, people, etc. cluttering your pictures?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 4: Do you have 5 or fewer photos?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 5: Are you giving renters an accurate idea of how far the college campus is from your property and what activities are in the surrounding area by providing additional relevant photos?

  1. Yes
  2. No

So, how did you do?

If you avoided some of the typical pitfalls, then your listing is in great shape and you are on your way to marking a strong first impression. Congratulations! But, even if you passed the quiz, there may be additional ideas to further enhance your listings photos This guide will get you there.

If you did not avoid some or all of these pitfalls, don’t despair! provides a number of tips below and easy ways that you can improve your first impression with great photos and, in turn, increase your business because remember: stellar photos = increased inquiries = more bookings = more rental income.

Tip #1: Make Sure Your Photos are Bright and Clear

Like we said in our Ultimate Guide to Renting Your College Town Property, lighting can make or break a photo.

If you are taking photos of a space that has no access to natural light (e.g. no windows) then artificial lighting can be used to brighten up the space. Just be careful to ensure there are no ill-placed shadows.

It’s also important that you’re posting high-resolution photos.

If your images are showing up blurry, that means you could be moving your hand when taking the photos. That is completely understandable and can also be hard to avoid, and therefore, a tripod could be a great investment.

Tip #2: Use a Wide-Angle Lens to Shoot All Pictures in Landscape

Landscape, meaning that the pictures are wider than they are tall, is the best orientation for real estate and vacation rental photos.

A wide-angle lens is essential in capturing the entirety of the room and providing the full essence of your listing as it provides the most accurate sense of depth and detail. is also set up to favor pictures that are wider than they are tall. So when you upload a portrait photo, borders are naturally added around the photo to make it fit the space which can slightly decrease what is visible with vertical photos.

We also recommend that you don’t use a fish-eye lens because it will distort the room, making it look larger than it is and possibly deceiving your customers in the process.

Tip #3: Don't Over-Decorate But Do Prepare the Room for the Shot

We know it is often tempting to over-decorate your space when there’s so much great home decor out there. But in reality, this can sometimes take away from the space, distract your potential renters, and make your property look too cluttered in pictures.

People are more drawn to neutral rooms with small accents of contrasting color here and there. Therefore, while we do recommend that you prepare your rooms for your photoshoots, we do not recommend going over the top with your decorations.

Below are a few additional tips for preparing each of your different rooms to deliver optimal pictures:

To Prepare the Kitchen:

  • Remove everything from the exterior of the fridge: magnets, photos, and whatever you might store on top.
  • Wipe the counters and keep them clutter-free.
  • Hide excess stuff around the sink – for example, dish soap, sponges, paper towels, hand towels, etc.
  • Set up the kitchen bar or dining room table with a nice set of dishes and placemats
  • Add a bowl of fruit or flowers as a great, colorful addition to the kitchen counter or kitchen/dining room table

To Prepare the Bathroom(s):

  • Remove old mismatched towels and hang up a new, coordinating set.
  • Put both the toilet seat and lid down.
  • Hide toiletries that you keep on the counter and in the shower/bath.
  • Clean the mirrors and any other shiny surfaces.
  • If it makes sense, add a potted plant or flowers on the counter.

To Prepare the Bedrooms:

  • Make the bed! And add decorative pillows as you see fit.
  • Clean the mirrors and other glass furniture.
  • Clear the bedside tables. Adding a decorative lamp, clock, and/or a potted plant also looks nice.
  • Include any additional elements that might be an asset to the room – such as TV’s, large closets, reading chair, etc.

To Prepare the Living Room:

  • Remove any excess clutter, pets or people from all photos.
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Ensure good placement of furniture and remove any unnecessary clutter from the coffee table or end tables.

Tip #4: Add Some Contrast

We mentioned earlier that neutral rooms perform the best but we must stress again that while neutral is nice, it can also drive people to scroll right past your rental listing. The eye needs something to grab onto and that’s why it’s important to provide a point of contrast, especially in your lead photo.

You can add a pop of color with a bright piece of art, a bouquet of flowers, bright blue skies in an exterior photo, or maybe a fun patterned tablecloth. You can bump up the saturation a little when editing the photos too, making it almost impossible for someone to scroll past your rental listing.

Tip #5: Post 20 or More Photos

A recent Flipkey study showed that listings with 20 or more photos get 83% more inquiries than those with 5 or less. Why? Because with fewer pictures, people think you could be hiding something. They want full context and all of their questions answered, with no surprises when they arrive.

By having at least 20 photos, you can give your guests a full sense of the entire property inside and out.

If you feel like your home doesn’t have 20 different quality pictures worth of space, we’ve got some ideas for you:

  • Create an imaginary floor plan by providing different angles of the rooms.
  • Give detailed shots of the decor and amenities.
  • Take photos of the neighborhood and the local college campus to give visitors ideas of any nearby attractions.

Tip #6: Create a Virtual Tour with Your Rental Listing Photos

So last but certainly not least, one trap that hosts with great pictures fall into is creating a confusing sequence of photos. They’ll start with a bedroom shot then move directly to a photo of a backyard with a pool, then take you back inside to a random bathroom, then to the kitchen, then back outside to show you what the front of the house looks like…you get the idea.  It is both confusing and distracting to potential renters.

You can imagine that for someone viewing this strange order it gets exhausting trying to figure out the layout of the house. Remember, even though you’ve walked through your property thousands of times, your potential renters are seeing it for the first time.

In order to advertise your rental listing effectively, you want to create a virtual tour.

We are not saying you should include every little closet or hallway too, but it’s important to at least 1) keep the rooms in sequential order, 2) keep wide-angle and close-up shots of the respective rooms together, and 3) not jump from indoor to outdoor and back again.

Here’s one final word of encouragement: You don’t need a professional real estate photographer, a fancy camera, or even 10,000 hours of photography training to get great photos.

Your smartphone camera will work just fine, especially in combination with a wide-angle lens attachment.

If you want more tips on the best ways to advertise your rental listing including creating a compelling description, what amenities to offer your guests, and how to create the best initial impression, head over to our Ultimate Guide to Renting Your College Town Property.