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Airbnb staging and photography

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Everything you need to know to DIY like a pro and why you shouldn't.

Everything you need to know to understand how to DIY the staging and photography of your property to create the most appealing Airbnb listing that guests can't help but book.

You may have picked up from the subtitle of this article that there is an underlying message that you shouldn't be DIYing this aspect of your Airbnb business. To save some of you the time of reading this whole article, I'll quickly explain why I think that hiring a professional is the only real option for any Airbnb business.

Why you should hire a professional

According to some recent statisticss by, the average person visits just under 14 (13.79) pages when they visit Airbnb. This is important to take note of as it means that the average guest visits only 14 pages in their booking journey. That means that your listing needs to be in the top 14 most attention grabbing cover photos on the Airbnb search page in your area.

If your listing is in a unique area with only a few competitors then maybe, you can put less effort into the staging and photography, but if you're like the rest of us then we need to compete and win the attention of our guests and the best way for anyone to do that is with high quality staging and photography.

if you're still not convinced, let's have a look at how an Airbnb business makes money. There are two major variables that determine how much money you can make are the amount you charge per night and the amount of nights booked every year. To make your Airbnb as profitable as possible, you want to maximise both of these variables to try and get as close to 100% occupancy and the highest possible nightly rate. To make my point, I'll split these two things and drill down into why exactly photography and staging is so important to maximising the profitability of your listing.

Maximising occupancy rates

To understand how this is affected by the quality of the photos on your online listing, first, let me describe to you how most people will find an Airbnb listing:

  1. They search the location of where they want to go

  2. They scroll through and click on the listings they like and select an average of 13 listings to look more closely at.

  3. Once they look through all of the pictures on the 13 they narrow it down to 3-5 they really like and start to look deeper into the listing and they read the descriptions to make their final decision.

This process that the majority of guests will follow is reliant on the pictures your listing displays. Your cover photo needs to capture their attention and the rest of your pictures need to solidify their choice to book your listing.

The more appealing your imagery is the more potential guests will get further through the booking process and obviously the more people that look closely at your listing, the more of them will book which results in a much higher occupancy rate.

Maximising your nightly rate

There are a whole lot of factors that contribute to the nightly rate you can competitively charge without affecting your occupancy rate. Things such as the location, size and quality of the home. However, the cheapest and simplest method is to include better quality staging and imagery to make your listing look better than others in the area. The bottom line is that the better your listing looks compared to others in your area, the higher the price you can charge and still get bookings.

As an example, if we compare two listings in the same building with the same floor plan on the same level with the same view. One has pictures taken on an iPhone and the other was professionally staged and then photographed. Which would you want to book as a guest?

Compare the pictures above, immediately there is a visible difference in quality between the two and based on these images, I would choose to book the listing on the right over the left every time.

It is obvious that more planning and expertise has gone into the photos displayed on the right and that there has been some professional help to put everything together. You can see that someone has tried to stage the property on the left without hiring a professional and it shows.

If you're still keen to DIY, continue reading below to find out everything you need to know about Airbnb staging & photography.



First of all, what is staging? The simple answer is that staging is setting up your property to be as appealing as possible to potential guests. Staging helps to grab peoples attention while they're scrolling through Airbnb and then to hold their attention once they click on your listing. Having an engaging cover photo that draws people to your listing is essential to making sure your listing is the first and last on peoples mind.

Here are 6 tips to help you stage your home like a Pro

Staging tip 1: Get emotional

Before you get carried away and break out the tissues, I mean that your photos need to establish an emotional connection between your guest and your listing. The best example of an emotional connection between a customer and a product is how a child gets attached to a new toy in the store. They haven't played with it yet but somehow, they know that their life is going to be ruined if they don't have it and they will scream, plead, cry and do anything in their power to get it. Toy companies have become experts at creating that emotional link between their products and their customers so that their sales almost take care of themselves.

Why are emotions so important to us? Think back to any memory in your past that stands out. There is a high chance that it was an emotionally charged experience which is why you remember it so vividly. We want people to remember your listing as often and as vividly as possible so that the next day when they go to book their holiday, they go straight to yours and book.

Here are some things you can do to help stage your property to build emotional ties with potential guests

  • Choose a theme and stick to it. The best way to form an emotional connection is to remain consistent. Pick a them like 'Calm' or 'Luxurious' or 'Beach' and make sure that everything in the home from artwork to bed sheets follows that theme.

  • Stage things to help the guest picture themselves doing something. For example, if you're taking pictures of the kitchen, set out a cook book a chopping board and some nice fresh ingredients that makes the guest think of themselves cooking a beautiful meal in your kitchen. Similarly, if you have a nice bath, set some candles, pop out the bubble bath and the champagne and take a picture of a nice warm bath with champagne and strawberries on a cross board. For every room, think of how the guest may want to use it and that is how you should be staging it.

  • Work the highlights of your home. If you have an amazing view, don't settle for one picture through the window, set up a nice food platter and some wine on the balcony and take a picture of that with the amazing view in the background.

  • Keep your personal items to a minimum. While one picture of your dog is cute, a shrine to little Tyler the 5 year old Shiatsu is a bit much. Instead of filling the home with personal nick nacks and pictures, fill it with personality. Include some art work by a local artist, leave some local magazines with information about local restaurants and attractions, add a few interesting books on the shelf and again, try to keep it all within a theme.

Staging tip 2: Greenery

Everybody loves a bit of green in their space so make sure you source some tasteful plants that don't require much maintenance and provide the space with a feel of freshness that nothing else can match. Plastic plants are preferable to dead plants but if you can keep them alive, nothing beats the real deal.

Like everything, don't go overboard, if someone wanted to stay in the jungle, they would visit South America, not your apartment in Surfers Paradise. However, there is one caveat to this. Airbnb thrives on quirky so if you are willing to go all the way on a niche such as plants and go completely bonkers and cover everything (within reason) in plants, you may find it that you begin to attract more attention and stand out from the crowd.

In addition to the plants, a vase of fresh cut flowers is an essential to your staging and should be kept fresh for each and every guest. If your theme is very colourful, stick to it with a bouquet of bright colourful flowers, but if you're going for a calm atmosphere, maybe stick to some light white colours to continue the theme.

Staging tip 3: Lighting is everything

Unless you want to be hosting mushrooms, it is a good idea to take photo's at a time of day when your home is full of light. Open the blinds, and let the natural light shine through, you can add to the effect by adding some nice white sheer curtains (If it fits your theme).

If you struggle to get a lot of light into your property, try placing some mirrors in strategic locations to help reflect more natural light around the space with the added benefit of making the room feel bigger.

It is also a good idea to take some photos of your place at night with some low light or candles to help people feel like they could have a romantic getaway. Try to avoid the super bright fluorescent lighting as it definitely takes away from the ambience of a room. Try to find some incandescent light bulbs to get a nice warm feel for the room. True incandescent light bulbs use a lot of power however, you can purchase LED versions that look the same without costing you a fortune.

Staging tip 4: Colour

Be careful with colour. A lot of people think that lots of colour looks great and sometimes it does but it is very difficult to find that balance. I once stayed in an apartment where each wall was painted a different colour or shade and it was awful. My advice for colour is that less is more. Choose up to three colours and stick to them throughout the listing. Remember, just because you like canary yellow everywhere doesn't mean that everyone else will, keep it neutral and consistent throughout and you should be safe.

Staging tip 5: Outside is important

Most properties have some outside areas whether it is part of a communal space or if it is a balcony, back yard or courtyard, be sure to pay attention to it. If it is your space and not part of a body corporate area, endeavour to get it landscaped and keep it that way before you take your pictures.

Consider how a potential guest might want to use the space, if it is a nice cozy courtyard, get some outdoor couches and a coffee table and set up for how you would spend a night out there. Remember, we want people to get a feel for how they could use the space, don't leave all the hard work to them, give them some hints on how they could have a great time in the space.

Staging tip 6: Bedrooms and bathrooms

Surprisingly (or not) people do care about the sleeping arrangements so be sure to set out the bedrooms as nicely as possible. Before you take the pictures, ensure the bed sheets are clean and well presented with nice pillows and throw blankets. Again, keep to your theme and think about what you would want in that perfect bedroom and try to work that into your space.

For bathrooms, keep it clean and clutter free. make sure the bench tops have only got a few essentials and that they are kept in nice looking bottles or baskets. Use white towels in your staging (And in general) because it gives a feel of freshness to the photos.

I could go on all day about the million things that you can do to help make things look extra special but there is absolutely no substitute for advice tailored specifically to your space. What works for one person may not work for another. If you would like a free consultation with one of our home staging experts, where they come to your home and walk through as a guest would to find the little things that you can do to make a big difference to the appeal to your customers.

Bonus tip: If you have already listed your home on Airbnb, leave a comment with a link to your listing page and I'll check it out and give you some feedback on what I think you could do to improve.


In the early days of Airbnb while the founders were part of the renowned Y Combinator Start-up Accelerator, the company wasn't achieving the growth that it wanted to and after spending hours looking through their website in different cities, they noticed that the quality of the pictures was generally low. The next thing they did was hire some camera equipment and went around NYC to take high quality pictures of the listings of existing hosts. After a while, they proved that the better quality images attracted more guests and resulted in more bookings and better revenues for hosts and Airbnb.

Take a leaf from the company founders and don't overlook the pictures on your listing. here are some tips to make your photos stand out like a Pro:

Photography tip 1: More, more & even more

When you're taking pictures be sure to take as many as you can to make sure that you have a good selection to choose the absolute best images from.

In the same way, you should take pictures from a number of different angles in the room to ensure you capture everything. You want your guest to be able to visualise each room in their head and they can't do that effectively if they don't have enough pictures of each room. Try and get one from each corner of each room.

It is also important to highlight the best aspects of your listing but be mindful not to hide or overlook the bad parts. It seems counter intuitive to do this, but Airbnb has a section where guests rate your listing on their expectations vs the reality. Make sure that you're showing the full story of your place, not just the good parts.

Photography tip 2: Lighting

Make sure you're taking your pictures in lots of natural light. It not only makes the space look better but allows you to capture everything in a way that the guest will be most interested in.

If your listing is a very dark place or the natural light in one or more of the rooms is poor, you can consider using flash or some professional lighting rigs to make it look brighter. However, you need to be careful that you aren't making something look better than it actually is.

Photography tip 3: Keep it level and horizontal

Again, if you're using a smart phone, make sure you keep it horizontal and level. Even if you're bending down to take the picture, keep the phone level. Try to avoid taking vertical pictures as the optimal set up forr Airbnb is horizontal images.

Photography tip 4: Quality and ratio

The minimum size that Airbnb recommends for pictures is 1024x683px (3:2 Ratio) however, if you want your images to stand out, you should aim higher to something more like 1200x800px for a higher quality image. When you're finished editing you photo's, you should save them at a 72DPI for the best quality outcome.

Photography tip 5: Framing

I'm not talking about printing your pictures and framing them, I'm talking about the idea of where the focus of your picture sits in the frame. I remember reading an article once that said to keep the focus of your image in the top left of your frame and I agree that it helps your photo's look great in most cases. The only problem is that Airbnb optimises your pictures to match how the user is viewing them and a lot of the time, the sides and corners can be cropped out automatically.

To make sure your pictures always look great, I recommend to make the focus of your picture the centre of your photo so that even if the edges or corners get cropped, you still get to show off what you wanted to. If you're not sure what the focus of your image should be, consider why people would be interested in the room, then that is most likely to be your answer. For example, the bed may be the focus point of the bedroom, but the plate of food and champagne you set out on the balcony may be the focus and the view is the background. It is always dependent on the situation.

Photography tip 6: Editing

Editing is great, over editing is not. Taking pictures is very different for Airbnb compared to a regular real estate sales listing. The goal of the real estate listing is to get as many people through the doors as possible so the agent can get their contact details and try to get them to buy the property so it makes sense to cover up a few of the things that are less desirable. However, for Airbnb, the goal is to attract bookings and then ensure that those guests are blown away with your listing so you get great reviews.

Keep that in mind when you're editing your pictures so that you don't promote something you can't live up to. keep the pictures real, honest and amazing.

Once you have staged your home and taken your pictures, it's time to create your Airbnb listing which is why I created a step by step guide on how to create your Airbnb listing that you can read here.

I hope that this article has been helpful to you and that you got some good information out of it. Remember to leave a comment when you're done with a link to your listing on Airbnb so I can see how well you did and give you some feedback on how to improve.

P.S. If you're looking to take your Airbnb earnings to the next level and implement the same strategies the big hotels have been using for years to dominate the market...

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