Question. What's the best way to market to you?

Hello Airbnb hosts!

We are a new residential real estate photography and videography company based out of Orange County, California. We expected to be working primarily with real estate agents, but instead noticed that much of our new clientele are Airbnb hosts like yourselves. It’s a little different than we expected, because you guys seem to know exactly how or what you want in your photos (It’s a good thing!). We’ve had hosts ask us to open up all the drawers and show the cutlery, or asked us to add call-outs to their photos to indicate where to park.

We decided to come here and respectfully ask how or where we could offer our services to you, without potentially annoying you, or it being off-putting in some way? When in need of these types of services, where do you personally turn to?

We appreciate anyone that takes the time to offer some insight.

Thank You!
Grey Step Media

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If you would like to leverage this site to promote your business, please contact the owners of the forum, @tom2 or @Cyn.


When hosts are in need of photography, they would look up local photographers in their area, just like anyone in need of photography does. And just like all photographers do, list whatever type of photography you specialize in- in your case, including short term rentals.

Also, while it’s great that the hosts you’ve worked with know what they want you to photograph, it’s imperative that you, as the photographers, understand what kind of photos you need to take for strs. It isn’t at all the same as real estate photography. The rental needs to look exactly the same in photos as it does in real life. I.e. no wide angle lenses that distort the space and make it look 3 times bigger than it is (guests will leave bad reviews if it looks like the rooms are huge, when they aren’t), no “staging”. If there’s a bowl of fruit on the counter in a photo, guests will assume that hosts provide a bowl of fruit. And while hosts may want you to take a close-up photo of some purely decorative item they think is beautiful, guests aren’t interested in photos of knicknacks.


Sorry – Best way to market to me is to NOT do so. I get enough ad stuff coming over my physical and electronic thresholds that I simply refuse to use any company which does ‘target’ me. When I want something, I know what I want and I go looking for it. I don’t want anyone trying to tell me what I want. Period.


If a business is sincere about that, they don’t use their business name as their username when creating a profile here. Otherwise it just comes across as trying to drum up business from forum members.

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And…. This is an international forum……

Hi Muddy,

Thanks for your response. I think you have a very good point. With real estate agents, we have a more standardized process and workflow, that promotes big rooms, different lighting than what’s actually there, and overall, an “accentuated” look of the property. The primary purpose is to attract enough attention to get feet in the door. If the property is not what they expected, they just leave.

Alternatively, with Airbnb, people must live in the space that they created expectations for. So when it doesn’t meet expectations, they are understandably upset.

We do tend to use wide lenses for our shoots, moving forward, I think we’ll start using other focal lengths, and not be so generous with the alterations.

Thank You!

As are many other hosting forums. It always surprises me when hosts ask questions on these forums like “What’s the average rate for cleaners for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house”, as if cleaners charge the same rates in Mexico, LA and Romania. Or as if they assume everyone on an English speaking forum is American.


The main difference between RE photos and str photos is that, as you say, RE photos are designed to lure in prospective buyers. But if those buyers schedule a viewing and arrive to find that the photos led them to think it was nicer, or bigger than it actually is, they can just walk away. A guest has already paid for the accommodation when they arrive, so misrepresentation, or “enhancement” is a no-no. In fact, it is better for hosts if the guests end up feeling that the place not only lived up to the photos, but was better than the photos. It isn’t just a matter of the guest having to live in the space- many will demand refunds if the listing was inaccurate either in description or in photos, which is a big hassle for both guests and hosts.

Several photos of a room, taken from different angles, are better than trying to get an entire room in one photo using distorting lenses.

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Hi Ken,

Thank you for responding. Our team is composed of 4 people that range in age from 25 to 38, and even we feel that the standard way of marketing has been abused. So much so, that many peoples brains have adapted and just ignore or tune out when something is being promoted to them.

We’re trying to take a different a approach by not cold calling people that never requested a call, or by coming on here and asking if there is a better way to do this. I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said “…I know what I want and I go looking for it”. Perhaps what we need to do instead of using standard marketing practices (cold calls, email campaigns), is to go to local events where people are there to network and they expect to run into people like us.

Thank you for the feedback!

If I were a photographer looking to get into doing str work, my first order of business would be to peruse hosting forums, doing research into what constitutes effective Airbnb photos, by doing searches on those forums for threads where experienced hosts are advising other hosts about their photo galleries. Key words would be "Photos, “Photo gallery” and “Critique my listing”. I would do a lot of reading in this vein before trying to drum up new business.

A photographer who specializes in strs, who can also advise clients as to what and how their place should be photographed, especially in the case of new hosts who aren’t savvy about such things, would be a valuable skill as far as marketing. While the host is ultimately responsible for choosing what photos to use on their listing, a photographer who could say, “Yes, that’s a lovely vase and a nice picture on the wall, and an attractive plant, but a photo gallery full of close-ups of your decorations isn’t what guests are interested in. It would be better to take close-ups of your coffee maker and food processor, things guests can make use of, which aren’t that visible in the overall kitchen photos.”

While you are in this to earn a living, you also don’t want to cost hosts more money than necessary taking photos that won’t contribute to furthering their bookings. The same goes for too many photos. While it’s nice for hosts to have a few shots of the same area to choose what they feel is the best one, a photo gallery with 75 photos posted for a 1 bedroom studio is overkill.

A knowledgeable str photographer who gets a rep for not trying to gouge hosts by taking more photos than necessary, would get a lot of business just by word of mouth.

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Hi Muddy,

This is gold, thank you!

Grey Step Media

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The most important thing for you to do is to make your company into the Airbnb (or STR) experts. That way, you’re so much more than just ‘the photographer’.

You’re not just there to photograph your clients’’ properties, tour job is to advise them.

You need to know more about their requirements than they do.

As @muddy has said, it’s not even remotely like real estate photography. and anything in the rental at the time you shoot, should be there when guests arrive. (Fresh flowers, fruit, freshly made coffee etc,)

Accuracy is a big thing with Airbnb. It’s human nature to want to present a place as well as possible in the listing but hosts love it when guests come in for the first time and say ‘this is so much better than the photographs on the site’.

Be sure to show features that accurately show what a stay would entail. For example, if there are stairs to get to the front door, show them.

I’ve stayed in plenty of STRs where the photographs have been (probably unintentionally) deceptive. That starts the stay on the wrong foot.


We had some absolutely beautiful pro photography given to us at the beginning and none the less, most of our guests say that the reality far out stretches (positively) those photos. Our friend who did them, twice, also did drone shots and was the photographer for the developer of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX… In other words she is a High End Niche (aerial) real estate photographer

There was a time when Air sent a photographer for free which we utilized, but they clearly were under par.

Now, we are hoping to get some new photos, of course not for free, that are of hi quality.

Maybe, Grey Step, you could place a photo in this thread that you think is a good representation of your work vis-a-vis Str photography? If you have any that are not only white, black and grey decor :melting_face:that would be nice to see<><>

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Yes, that’s another thing a knowledgeable str photographer could advise hosts on- “You really need some color pops in your decor to make your photos stand out”. I see some listings where at first I think “Why are they using black and white photos?”, then realize the decor is actually all black, white, and grey.
And a suggestion to some hosts that the “Live, Laugh, Love” signs as some bizarre idea of wall art, really aren’t going to contribute to getting more bookings, would be a good idea. :wink:

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I am so over even those “color pops”
JMHO, if you have to add some color to white, black and grey, you are color blind or see only black and white in the 1st place. I wound up having to have black as a color element at Tiny Tiki, because of the iron elements and that Ebony Varathane oil based wood stain, -which can renew them so well…
It is inexplicable to me why someone would want/ choose to wait to see color until after they left their house.

It’s nice to see color is in in fashion, and even red too, which I’ve always liked. Interior design in color is about 5 years away still or more if you are “On Trend” too long!

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I’ve got nothing against black, in fact my kitchen counter grout is black, which makes the colored and patterned Mexican tiles really stand out. But I can’t understand why black, white and grey interiors, as the entire color palette, would appeal to anyone. It’s so unimaginative and dull. Seems like it would lead to depression, to be surrounded by that all the time.
Not to mention, both black and white show the dirt right away, in a way that other colors don’t.

As far as I’m concerned, design “trends”, like clothing fashion, are just a way to get people to buy more stuff and spend more money.
Back in the 40’s, homeowners painted all the natural wood- it apparently was a way to show that you weren’t poor- you could afford to buy paint, spruce up your place. Several decades later, everyone was stripping off layers of paint to get back to the natural wood underneath. Fast forward another couple decades and all the decor magazines were showing all the natural wood painted white.

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I like to use a terracotta grout on my mexican tiles. Photo shows it extremely light…


100% this.

Guests want no surprises and they want to actually see the place so they can understand their choices. Properties with close ups of knick-nacks, the sunset, a room where you can see 20% of it are felt to be totally incompetent or just trying to hide something.

Documentary photography versus advertising photography, think - reportage.

This is a simple process because it’s an understandable product for the photographer, as most photographers have probably gone through the process of renting something on airbnb, so the simple answer is to ask themselves, what would I want to see?

Spending a few hours doing some fake searches on airbnb should give you a great idea of what is appealing to you to make decisions to rent a place and what is not and provide photography based on what is working.

Another error that a good photography company could steer new hosts away from is the way that many want to cram in as many photographs as possible including those of the surrounding area and what’s available locally.

One or two of these are okay, but I’ve seen listings where many are shown and I believe that in many cases, those photographs have been sourced from Google images and the host is treading on someone’s copyright toes.

If a rental has some fabulous views then one or two photographs are okay but showing every available coffee house etc. in the area puts me off when I’m looking as a guest.