Staging tips for the photo session

We have a professional photographer coming in next week to take professional pictures of our property. He said it should take 20’, more or less, and that the property should be staged when he arrives.

I was thinking to prepare as following:

  • Terrace: garden furniture with pillows on, local food on the outdoor table to stage a relaxing snack/lunch
  • Balcony / kitchen table: typical local breakfast with orange juice to give a homey feel
  • Bedroom: 4 pillows on the bed, some local guidebooks on the bedstand
  • Kitchen: fresh flowers on the countertop
  • Kitchen/living roomBowl of fruit on the table
  • Entertainment: TV set showing a fixed image (undecided if an image picturing a popular tourist attraction or our property logo, will use a USB key to add the picture I like)
  • Living: an open laptop (indicating we have wifi internet)

The photo session will be during daylight so no candlelit atmosphere.
Is there any else I should pay attention to? Should I include people sun tanning on the terrace in the outdoor shots (i.e. asking a good looking friend to pose as a model for a day)?

Should I have the photographer take a shot also of me to use as a profile picture?


Are you going to be providing the juice, breakfast items, the snacks, and flowers for each guest? I understand why people stage with items that actually aren’t part of the booking, but a guest might think (easily) that this is what the property will look like when they arrive. I believe that there is a balance between managing expectations and selling our listings.

I also suspect that the forum will disagree with me.


I’d be cautious about putting anything in the pictures that you don’t provide. I have a picture of a laptop in my guest room to show the size of the desk and convenient plug. But I say in the caption “laptop not provided.” So if you provide breakfast, fruit, snacks, lunch, flowers then by all means, picture them. If you don’t, then eventually someone is going to be disappointed. . There are some here, @jaquo is one, who believe in having people say the “pictures don’t do it justice.” Underpromise and overdeliver.


I actually share your same concerns. No, I won’t provide these items as I am just entering the business and “inheriting” a property with high costs and low rates, so at this point I cannot provide those items (which are expensive here, this is not the US).

I am shuffling through AirBnB listings and I see tables with plates and silverware and EMPTY glasses. Maybe that’s the way I should do it.

I was typing the same thing as you posted and didn’t see your post. At least one of us agrees with you. There was another forum member in Tokyo who had staged pictures with some sort of food and several members cautioned against doing that.


You can actually create a lovely place-setting on the tables without showing any food. In some ways, it allows the potential “guests” to move in mentally. They will imagine THEIR favorite food items on the table with thEIR favorite beverage in the empty glass. Marketing is not as simple as some “Dummy” books would insinuate.

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When the Airbnb photographer came to our listing she advised us in advance to set all of the tables with place settings.

Definitely. I’ve spent many years in the worlds of adverting, promotion, branding etc. and the weird scenario we have with Airbnb is that it throws all the traditional advertising values and theories right out of the window.

Our natural instinct is to show our listing to their best possible advantage but we do know that many guests will look at the price, the photographs and not read the verbiage. If the rental is misrepresented in any way in the photographs the guest is going to be disappointed.

Do not show anything on the photographs that won’t be available to all guests. Will the dining table be set with china and glassware when they arrive? If not, then don’t show it. Will fresh flowers be available for every single guest? Again, if they won’t, don’t show them.

My neighbour, who uses Homeaway, VRBO et al, shows people leaving our dock on paddleboards - paddleboarding is not permitted from our complex for insurance reasons. So there’s no way I’m going to show that. I talk to his guests often - and mostly they are disappointed because the place has been misrepresented. Remember that guests give us stars for the accuracy of our listing. Don’t set yourself up for guest disappointment.

I also wouldn’t show people in the photographs. A good looking friend enjoying a glass of wine on the patio will not impress Mrs-Middle-America-50-year-old-teetotaler-who’s-overweight. People want to imagine themselves there.

It’s a hard lesson to learn because our natural instinct is to show our places to their best advantage (accentuate the positives - play down the negatives) But on Airbnb, honesty counts more.


If there isn’t a good looking woman on the patio when I check in I’m giving one star.


Thanks a lot to you all for your help! I’ll try to make the best of it


I’ll forgive the woman not being there, but the lack of wine…

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Remember people don’t read the captions of photos, perhaps write it directly on the photo using a photo editing program…

I’m with Jaquo on this one; the reality of your place needs to match the listing photos as much as possible. That being said, you should be making strategic use of decorative items so that both the photos and your guest’s reality look their best.

I think a few flowers are fine, but non-perishable decorative items are best (fake or low maintenance plants, throw pillows, blankets, decorative bowls, knick knacks, etc.). The TV should be off, no laptop, no food, no people. If you want to show off your glassware then arrange it neatly in the cupboard and take a photo of that.

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The photo session was called off due to bad weather! Ouch! We have another guest arriving tomorrow, so it will be another ten days, at least!

This is a good solution but I have a slight problem with it which is why I haven’t done it. Those scam listings that we all know about have text on their photographs saying something like ‘before booking email us at xxx and or xxx’.

One day, Airbnb will have software (or employ interns) to flag - and possibly remove - listings that show text on photographs. Maybe it’s not terribly likely in the near future but I don’t want to risk it.

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Here’s an example of the sort of thing I mean:

I don’t want captions covering my photos either. They are CYA so if someone complains to Airbnb that my listing was misrepresented because no laptop is provided, I have my caption to point to. I actually have provided a laptop when it was requested in advance. But I’m not advertising it.

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All I can say is that I have had more than 200 bookings in Stockholm, Sweden. Look it up, ’ Stockholm’s best kept secret’’. I could be booked 365 days a year should i wish because of the reviews. My site is amateurish, the main picture is blurred because airbnb expands it, the language is very simple as most of my guests are not native English speakers, yet it works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I also could have had the professional photographers provided by airbnb , but decided against it because when they take the pictures, they become THEIR property, not yours.

Yes have a profile picture taken. Mine was taken by a neighbor, and yes I look like a little old lady, which I am, but as I said, i have more requests for booking than i can handle. The most important things are good communication before your guests arrive, be there when they do, if you are renting out a just room in your place, give them information and then privacy. And help them with departure plans.

I am literally just going to my new Airbnb to do some photos. This is great advice thanks

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Our landscaping has changed for the better since the photo shoot due to bunnies eating plants … don’t ask. And it’s improved now. I hope it will be in the “pleasantly surprised” column for our guests. In the spring I will get more photos. I have opted to show no people in the photos.

I think having a re-doable set up, as photos show, is best, with everything out, except possibly the place settings. I have some fake flowers, but I’ve read here some people really frown on them, they aren’t the dusty aunty type… I am thinking about getting some quality plastic “succulents”— you’d be surprised what the animals can reach to gobble up it gets expensive!