Tips for Better Cabin Rental Photographs

You want your cabin or other vacation rental to compete in the market place don’t you? You’ve heard the expressions “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “You only have one chance to make a good first impression”? Well these old sayings become old sayings for good reason, and they are certainly true when presenting your vacation cabin or chalet rental to the public. There are several factors to remember when producing photos of your vacation cabin rental:

  • Use professional photographer if at all possible, or
  • Start with a good digital camera with wide angle lens and tripod shooting indoors
  • Use adequate incandescent light indoors
  • Plan for your outdoor lighting
  • Take the time to use your best styling sense
  • Touch up the image before sending it to service provider (color, contrast, sharpness)
  • Never deceive the viewer by adding/deleting things artificially in the photo
  • Consider proper sizing and file size before uploading to vacation rental website

Use a professional photographer – A true professional will know everything to consider, including preparation for the web. Lighting considerations will be second nature to the pro. If this isn’t convenient or economic…the question isn’t whether you can afford to get a pro, rather, whether you can afford not to. I’ve been in the property management business for 8 years and the number of rentals you get is often dependent to a large extent on how your vacation rental looks. Location and price are determinants as well, but your cabin or other rental should appear clean, bright and comfortable.

For do-it-yourselfers, photograph your cabin or chalet with a newer digital camera, fill flash and tripod. Don’t use an instamatic, throwaway, or phone camera. A newer camera will have enough pixel resolution to sustain final image quality. The fill flash will lighten extreme shadows, and a tripod will help ensure to eliminate blur. The lens used should be a wider angle lens (something in the 28-35mm range) to allow you to stand at one end or corner of an interior room and include more of the panorama in the photo. Mount your camera on a tripod and gently squeeze the shutter release to prevent vibration. Maintain the patience required to take at least 3 shots of each view.  The first exposure is the one the camera “tells” you to take based on automated settings. The idea is to bracket the shots by slightly overexposing one shot and slightly underexposing another for a total of 3 images. The idea is to compensate for auto readings that are off a little due to excess light coming from a window or a deep shadow in a corner of a room. Again, a professional will do all this (and more), and you will see and appreciate the differences.

Use good lighting to photograph your rental – Indoors, good lighting means “balanced” incandescent rather than fluorescent. “Balanced” means use several sources throughout the room to offset deep shadows. Borrow lamps from other rooms if you have to—you are simply using better lighting –not deceiving a potential guest. Fill flash is recommended to fill shadows as well. Adjust blinds to somewhat limit bright sun blasting through only one window, creating too much contrast.
Good light outdoors means avoiding high noon sunlight that creates dramatic contrast (bad). The best times of the day are midmorning and late afternoon. The sun at these times is moderated and produces more normal contrast. A bright overcast is also acceptable. Shoot with the sun at your back shining onto the cabin or chalet. Shooting into the sun with the rental in front of you causes lens glare and the side of the rental towards you will be in deep shadow—eliminating attractive details.

Offer your cabin rental in the best sense of style. Be careful to use nice furnishings and décor. I know owners who avoided putting art work on the walls and offer a rental devoid of flowers or other pleasing touches because they were afraid the guests might steal them.
Images should be adjusted in image processing software. Why? Rarely are images really ready to go straight from the camera. They are usually exposed at 300 dpi, which is a very high resolution and quality, and are very large overall size (larger than your monitor!). The web and your monitor best accommodates 72-96 dpi and an image the size of postcard or smaller. If you are advertising on a property rental site, they will most likely restrict the size of the images you submit. One major reason is the image’s load time. People want instant gratification on the web. If your image is overly large (not only in dimensions but also file size), it might take too long to download and your potential guest might give up and go to another property.
In addition, images might need final focusing, color balance, slight brightness or contrast adjustment, removal of date/time stamp, or myriad other tweaks to correct defects that occur in almost any image.
In summary, you are going to pay in some way for the photographic images you use to promote your rental property. It will either be in careful thought and preparation beforehand or in lost rentals after the fact. Again, a professional will automatically consider all these important issues and increase your cabin or chalet rentals.