Prepare your space for a smartphone photo shoot
You don't have to be a professional to take high-quality photos with your smartphone
Photographing a room in natural light helps convey a welcoming feel
Removing clutter can make your space appear more inviting
Displaying details like your favorite books and unique artwork can reflect your personality
Photos are the best way for guests to understand—and imagine themselves in—a space before they book. But you don’t have to be a professional photographer to get great pictures. Whether you’re taking listing photos for the first time or refreshing your images, this three-part tutorial will walk you through how to prep your space, capture photos on your smartphone, and select and edit images.
To help you get ready for a photo shoot, we’ll share tips on how to organize your space like you would for a guest’s arrival. We’ll also explain how to maximize the light in each room, and we’ll give you some ideas for how to showcase your personality throughout. Let’s get started.
1. Understand lighting
What’s the secret to attractive photography for your listing? Lighting. Before you can get great photos, you’ll need to pay attention to how the light changes inside and outside of your space throughout the day.
Here are a few ideas to make the most of your lighting:
- Consider the time of day. If you’re photographing indoor spaces, find the time when you get the most indirect, bright, natural light, which helps your space look welcoming. If you’re able to, photograph each room during that time of day.
- Capture outdoor spaces at dusk and dawn. Magic hour—the time just after sunrise and before sunset—is when lighting is softer and less direct, and it’ll give your space a warm glow. While some exteriors thrive in this light and make a beautiful cover photo, the low lighting may not be a good fit for all spaces. Consider adding those golden-hour photos to your image gallery, which is the collection of your listing photos.
- Have a backup. Consider adding lamps for a more atmospheric feel. This is also an alternative for spaces with fewer windows, or when it’s not possible to capture natural light.
2. Stage your space
Organization is key
Simplify and tidy the space before photographing so it feels less cluttered and more curated for your guests. Here are some items to consider neatly arranging before you begin:
- Hide the cords behind electronics and appliances
- Open all curtains or blinds
- Fluff the pillows
- Straighten bedding
- Don’t forget the details, like putting down the toilet seat
- Tidy all tables and countertops
- Remove items from the bed, like towels, robes, and clothes
For more helpful tips on preparing for your photo shoot, review the checklist at the end of the article.
Clean like a guest is about to check in
Guests appreciate reassurance that they’re booking a clean and sanitized space, so make sure to take photos right after you’ve cleaned when your space is looking its best. You can also photograph a welcome basket of cleaning supplies for guests so they have a sense of what’s available to them.
3. Showcase your space’s story
Part of welcoming guests is sharing your personality. Guests love to stay in spaces with character, so include features like a fireplace, unique artwork, or any outdoor areas in your photos. Highlighting your favorite cookbooks or locally made candles in photos is a nice touch too.
Here are some ideas to add welcoming touches to your space:
- Add plants and display flowers to make a room feel more inviting
- Drape a blanket across the sofa or bed to provide a homey touch and pop of color
- Stack some of your favorite books to give guests a sense of your personality—and something to read
Get ready to take photos with this checklist
We’ve compiled a list of things to check before a photo shoot:
Prep your space
- Open all the curtains and blinds
- For rooms with windows, turn off the lights when photographing
- For rooms without windows, feel free to turn on lights to make the space feel cozy
- Hide cords in each room
- Sweep or vacuum the floors
- Empty trash cans
- Remove any valuables you don’t want photographed
- Remove cars from the driveway
- Hide unwanted objects (gardening hose, toys, tools, etc.)
- Neatly arrange any decorations or plants near the front door
- Tend to any gardening needs, like dead plants, brown spots on the grass, or bushes that need pruning
- If you have accessible amenities like a ramp, please put them in place
- Clear unnecessary objects from tabletops
- Fluff pillows, and arrange blankets on the couch
- If there’s a fireplace that can be safely ignited (and monitored), you can turn it on for photos
- Turn off the TV, and hide any wires
- Make your bed with clean sheets that are tucked in
- Check that the comforter is smoothed out and even at the foot of bed
- Fluff pillows (include two pillows per guest)
- Clear clutter from the bedside table, dresser, and desk
- Remove any telephones and remotes from the nightstand
- If you have accessible amenities, such as a remote for an electric profiling bed, please put it in place
- Clean the bathroom
- Open the shower curtain
- Close the toilet lid
- Fold towels or hang them neatly (remember to put away any wet towels)
- Double-check the mirror is free of spots
- Arrange toiletries neatly
- Replace the toilet paper with a new roll
- If you have accessible amenities like a shower chair, please put them in place
- Put away dishes and food items
- Clean countertops and surfaces
- Display a few kitchen amenities on the countertop—like an espresso machine, tea kettle, and toaster oven—but be sure to hide any visible cords
- Place all cooking ingredients inside cabinets or on shelves
- Try to arrange visible objects symmetrically (hanging pans, counter chairs, etc.)
- Check that any additional decorations are arranged neatly (such as a bowl of fruit or flowers)
By preparing before you begin your photo shoot, you’ll be able to take more flattering photos that help guests envision themselves in your space. Now you’re ready for Part 2, where you’ll learn how to capture your space with your smartphone.
Explore the photography tutorial:
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