Whether you’ve hired a professional photographer—one of our top tips!—or prefer to take your own photos, staging your property can have a positive impact on your booking results.

Staging your vacation rental for photos is like staging it for the arrival of your guests: You want your home to make a great first impression.

The description you write and photos you use sell your vacation rental for you. If a traveler isn’t drawn in, you’ll never know—you won’t hear from them.

Some photographers will do some arranging, while others will stage your home for a fee. If you do the prep work yourself, what can you do to set the stage for images that earn inquiries? Here are five DIY tips.

Keep your staging realistic

Some arranging is OK; complete room makeovers are not.

In real estate, homes are often staged with furniture, artwork and accessories liberally added or removed to get the right look for a quick, high-priced sale. For your vacation rental, however, that approach is only destined to earn scowls—if not outright angry guests.

With the exception of perishables like flowers or fruit, don’t stage your home with anything your guests won’t find when they arrive. Bedding, artwork, appliances, even the dishes and cutlery should all be the same, as should the arrangement of your furniture.

Clear the clutter

Before snapping any photos, make sure your rooms sparkle! Clean all surfaces, including your floors, so everything looks its best.

“Completely clear the space of any unnecessary ‘noise’ that might put people off, especially in the bathroom and kitchen,” advise the photographers from Rental Tonic.

Ideally, clutter should be dealt with permanently and not just pushed “out of frame”. If not, take time to

  • Move everything off kitchen and bathroom counter tops, ideally into cupboards if you have room.

  • Hide garbage cans, and move them into a cupboard or mudroom if possible.

  • Remove family photos or personal items from your property, if you haven’t done so already.

Turn the lights on

It’s very difficult to capture mood lighting in photos; instead of looking warm and cosy, your beautifully staged room will more likely end up full of dark shadows. Instead, try to take your photos during the day (early morning or late afternoon) and—even when a room is lit—consider turning on other lights in the room, like table lamps.

“Cameras are essentially light recorders, but the range of what you can see and what a camera can see (or record) is different,” explained professional photographer David Duncan Livingston on Houzz.

“The tonal range of light areas and dark areas needs to be less extreme, balanced and softer than what we can see for the photograph to be properly exposed with today’s cameras.

A well-lit space looks bright and inviting. Using the lighting in the room, instead of a camera flash, will also look more natural.

Keep everything straight

Before taking any photos, check to ensure that everything in the room is straight: no crooked frames on the wall, no bunched up curtains or diagonal bedding.

These are small details that may barely be noticed, but they will impact the overall composition of the photo whether people are paying careful attention or not.

Gray couch with decorative pillows and unique art in a cozy apartment living room
Photo by Naomi Hébert / Unsplash

Capture the seasons

Photo by Michael Shannon / Unsplash

Should you have photos of your vacation rental for every season? That probably depends on when and why people book, and how different the seasons are.

If you have hikers and bikers all summer long, with skiers defrosting in front of the fireplace through the winter, a little variety will be in your best interests.

If the change is noticeable but not necessarily dramatic, a few beautiful scenery shots may be enough to set the tone.

What’s your experience with staging and photos for your vacation rental? Tell us about it in the comments section below.