These Before And After Pics Will Make You Kvell


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So, Jan Stevens owns Lazy Bowen Hideaway, a vacation rental perched above the water in Vancouver, British Columbia.

She proudly took the following photo herself:


She then got Vancouver-based Debra Stringfellow to take professional photos and received (among other photos in the set) this:

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Jan told Debra she wanted the photos to depict what the eye sees when they walk into the property. And that the “money shot” needed to be that “wow” moment. I think we can all relate to photos not doing our property justice.

And to do this, Debra did not use any lighting other than natural but rather took multiple exposures and then pieced them together using Photoshop…something Jan definitely couldn’t have done on her own.

Jan has gotten such good results that she’s shifting her professional interior designer firm now in vacation rental interior design and staging for photos. How about that?

If this before/after combination isn’t enough to inspire you to get photos done, I don’t know what is!

Here’s another set that’s just brilliant…

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  1. Amazing images. You would never get that level of clarity to see that magnificent view without a pro doing it for you.

    1. Exactly SarahE. I have used Debra to reshoot my other properties that I now manage for other owners. The rate of inquiries increased using pro “WOW money photo.” I have other befores and afters that are incredible contrasting examples………all shot by Debra, the pro.

      1. I find it hard finding a photographer who can actually shoot houses, vacation houses. They may be good at weddings and portraits but the skills don’t translate. You find that out when you get the proofs and the pictures look like still life. The architectural photographers are so expensive – in the thousands.

          1. Marcus on linkedin , he will travel but you will need to pay travel cost.
            I am considering using him next year.

        1. @Love to travel 2014, you are right. Architectural photographers are high-dollar photogs because they are used to doing commercial shoots that have longer term value to the client. For example, the exterior of their business that can be used for a few years in print, web, TV ads, etc. So they price their work based on value to the client and usage. Vacation rental photos usually have a 1-2 year shelf life, so I would recommend a photographer who specializes in real estate shoots. Many can be quite reasonably priced but make sure you explain to them it’s important they capture the “feel” of the property…not just the look. RE photogs are used to working quickly (because RE shoots typically don’t pay big bucks LOL) so carefully review their portfolio to make sure it’s not just “pictures of rooms.” My #1 tip is to bring your tripod down to belt level rather than standing eye level. Two reasons: the viewer of the photograph will feel like they are in the room rather than peering into it and two, the vertical lines (doorways, windows, art on the wall) will be closer to vertical and there’s less straightening required in post production.

          1. Great idea Amy! I never thought of that but makes perfect sense. I contacted one architectural photographer and already they want to know how the images will be used etc so their thought process is in the same direction as you suggested.

  2. Images are critical and professional photos are standard with our listings. Please shop carefully for a “professional”. An expensive camera does not make a pro!

    1. Case in point… expensive camera was lousy. My skills are limited and Debra made it all happen with her very expensive camera and layering the different exposures to capture the view and interior at the same time. I did not have the photoshop skills. But, I have to say, that my ability to stage the interior was required to have the shots composed well.Together as a team……the end results are very successful.

    2. So true. I am surprised how many people say they are pros but don’t have the “eye” to nail vacation rental photography. It is not just taking a wide angle photo of a room. This photographer did a nice job but she didn’t straighten the vertical lines and there are hot spots (overexposure like on the fireplace mantle) and drop-offs where the flash wasn’t powerful enough to keep the light balanced throughout the entire image. A remotely-triggered second flash would have really helped. Still, whenever you’re shooting a property with an expanse of windows and exterior light…plus a somewhat dark interior…it’s never easy. I’m sure these photos will be a huge help for guests to get a much better idea of Jan’s waterfront beauty!

  3. Wow! Nice work Jan. I love how the outside pops! The views are stunning and in the before pictures you really don’t get that perspective.

    1. Thank you…….you are right. How I ever rented with the before shots I have no idea. Debra achieved exactly what I was after……..the view and the comfortable and attractive interior viewed all at the same time.

    1. I have a lead on that too. Have my drone photos done this spring once the new decks and landscaping are completed.

    1. Kait, the green couch is from the 70’s and I agree, it is rather quirky. Our guests love the 70’s vibe mixed with the updated current decor. I am sure, others that don’t like green couches move on and rent elsewhere.

      When I first took over the property in 2004 my budget was limited and I needed to work with the furnishings left behind and update on a budget……..bringing the 70’s look into the new century. I used an updated color scheme to connect the old with the new and to reflect the exterior into the interior. For me, I like “found” furnishings or in this case, garage sale finds left by my aunt to add interest to an interior. Connecting the old with the new using color and other design elements adds a flavor and character that one doesn’t get when buying a new 3 piece set from the local furniture store.

  4. Imagine what the “lost” cost of not doing this was… how many people didn’t inquire, how many leads weren’t captured because professional photos weren’t taken from the beginning and people were like …meh… now look at those pics and I’m sure travelers will say WOW!!

    Sometimes the pros cost a little more but the perceived value increases and so do the profits! Its cheaper to have the pros do it..

    Great stuff!

    1. Hi Jay, yes, imagine the lost costs? When guests entered and said, “this place is so much better than your photos” that was a give away for sure. With the new photos we noticed that our high season booked up faster and much earlier in the year. It created much more demand for the property and you know what that means…….yep, we confidently raised our rates.

      1. Exactomundo Jan! if your customers (guests) perceive the value of what they’re getting to be high, you’ll make more bookings and you can usually charge more too and still…more guests will say yes. I don’t mean to kick the dead horse here, but this has probably cost tens of thousands in rentals, especially if you’ve been doing this for awhile.

        Websites are also to be included in this because you can have a website that you’ve done yourself or used something cheap to create and when you redesign it to accentuate the photos and capture the true feeling of the area as we did with Amy’s website the results change dramatically because now the perceived value of your rental is higher….its just worth more in the mind of the buyer., we dont just buy what we need… we buy what we want!

  5. What a difference! This is a great example how photos + staging make or break a website. loves to see our awesome clients like Jan take their photos seriously.

    1. Hey Sarah. Love our Blue Mist Cabins site with Web Chalet. We are getting a nice number of guests who come organically to our site. Yay! Thanks for a great product 🙂

  6. I currently have a Guest in residence from Chicago. I called him when I hadn’t heard if he was at the ‘Cottage’ and as we had spoken perviously, he must have recognized my number, because he answered the phone with “Utterly charming!” Yay! When I got there, he had some words of wisdom to give, and I am taking them to heart. hE SAID I NEEDED…BETTER PHOTOS! That they would make a huge difference, not only in appealing better to inquirers, but turning them into reservations, and that I could ask more, because he had never seen such a well stocked place, and all the, what he called, ‘extras’! I had recently swithced to top quality things like linens, bath items, etc., and he was thrilled to find such amenities here! He’s going to contact his former Host in Boston (where he only had a plain room for $100/night, no amenities, but in Beacon Hill, the center of Boston) and tell her to send any Guests wanting to stay at the Cape to stay here. (Is this networking?) She and I have already spoken by phone, but I think she is waiting to hear from my Guest before perhaps forging a referral bond.

    1. Susan, I was fortunate to only pay $150 for my pro photos. An unbelievably inexpensive rate but Debra insisted it was the going rate on Bowen Island. The return I have received for that money was well spent for sure. when your guest says, “it is better than your photos” it is time to find a pro photographer and don’t forget to edit and stage properly. Photographers do not necessarily stage with finesse.

      1. Jan, that is an amazingly low rate for a pro photographer when you consider the travel, shoot time, editing time and talent of the photographer. I charge twice that amount for a 1-2 bedroom cabin here in the Smokies and the rate goes up about $50/ bedroom beyond that. I spend extra time staging (setting up coffee mugs–not empty ones–and a plate of sugar cookies on a table, for example), straightening bed skirts/shams/comforters, adjusting blinds, plumping pillows, removing white plastic trash cans and extraneous counter clutter, sweeping leaves off an entryway deck, etc. I know pros who can shoot a small cabin or condo inside and out in 90 minutes easy but they shoot and go–no fussing, no staging. Whenever you hire a pro, make sure you find out the level of service they provide so you know exactly what you’re getting for the money.

        1. It was a very low rate which she no longer charges. You have a valid point, make sure you know what service the photographer is providing. That is great to know that you do provide staging services. If I were in the Smokies I would certainly consider you as my PRO.

          1. Thank you, Jan. That’s very kind of you to say. I’m a relatively new photographer having done this only 3 years professionally now. I manage 9 cabins so unfortunately I can’t shoot as much as I would like, but I love doing it. There’s nothing more rewarding than getting that email from the owner that they are thrilled away with the results. Actually, the best feedback is when I hear from that owner on down the road and they say their rentals are better than ever after having done the photo shoot. Now that makes my day!

        2. Amy makes a really good point. Not all photographers include for staging the property in their prices but it would be a real missed opportunity to hire a professional photographer and not have your rental looking its best for the shoot.

          Staging can be as simple as having fresh flowers, a bowl of fruit or a bottle of wine available. These can be included in close up/more intimate shots and help create a ‘feel’ for your property rather than just showing the size of your rooms and the facilities you have available.


          1. Funny you mention staging, Adrian. I’ll be packing my car in a moment for an exterior daytime and twilight shoot at a lodge I photographed over a year ago. The client wants additional exterior shorts to show the beautiful fall color (smart marketing to have an arsenal of photos from various seasons!), so even though there’s not much to stage for an outdoor shoot, I’m packing my broom, some cookies, drink mix (to make the beverages look like a flavored tea when it’s really just water mixed with those powdered drink “sticks”), apples, crackers and whatever else I can come up with to give me table dressing choices. I’m going to be shooting views of the mountains from the deck, but there’s a nice table that I can dress up and photograph with these “mood-setters”. Also bringing a throw and a book to drape over one of the Adirondack chairs. I may not use everything, but it’s best to have items to work with when the client isn’t there for the shoot!

      2. Thank you Jan,
        I have found a Photographer, for around the same price here, and will see if she’s up to the job, which is quite different from ‘doing’ weddings lanscapes etc. What if you had it done but didn’t like them? Would your Photographer have offered a re-session? Were there any retakes?
        As for staging, I’m so fortunate to have an Interior designer who’s very familiar with ‘stage setting’, and she and I are now collaborating to create the best scenario for my two little (and I DO mean little!) ‘Cottages’, although I must have done something right if they all seem to think it’s ‘charming’, huh? lol
        P.S. I LOVE the way she played the Sunlight off of the floors and furnishings!

        1. Thank you, Susan. Debra was very accommodating. She spent about 3 hours on the property shooting inside and out. She provided me with web and print size photos. There were no retakes.

          Although, a year later I noticed that the inquiries for the Lazy B Petite Suite were not up to snuff….they were lagging way behind the Hideaway. I took another critical look at the shots and decided they were too busy. For the second shoot I nearly emptied the book shelves, removed a chair, changed up the art work, and completely removed small appliances from the counters.

          The Petite Suite was photographed the first time when I was not on the island. At this point is when I realized that staging was missing. The staging was minimal. A year later I asked Debra back to re-shoot it——I paid her for the re-shoot because I believed her price was too low to start with……her re-shoot was $50. Fixed ….. done….. much better.

    1. Thank you. They have certainly change my vacation rental demands. Why didn’t I have it done sooner? Right?

  7. 100% agree, some of my clients shifted from RE/Rental companies to VR by owner sites and booking entire summer by using better photos. When clients sell – then i did a good job. Some owners of beachfront homes with poor photos [poorly lit indoors/overexposed outdoors] don’t even understand how many leads they are missing. here’s some examples of my past work:

  8. Matt, I’m sure you know this already… from a look at the ‘after’ photos you posted, the technique the pro photographer used is most likely called HDR. It’s an amazing shooting technique I’m currently using ‘right now’ for the make over of my own property’s site, in Sardinia, Italy. While there isn’t currently any such photo on the site as of today, I’ve been working on a mind-blowing new concept of web-design and I will fit in HDR photos in a few days.

    I wanted to talk about HDR at the Vacation Rental World Summit last June, but couldn’t fit it into the agenda, for it was already jam packed with content. But I saved it for VRWS2015, though I guess many fellow owners will know more about it by then, thanks to your always informative super tips!

    Hopefully, you’ll be onboard VRWS next year! I’d love that 😉

    1. Hi Antonio, I absolutely loved the Vacation Rental World Summit last year and I am so happy to know that there will be another in 2015. Adding Matt to your sessions is a PERFECT idea. He has so much to teach in the marketing world.

      I am not positive if it is the HDR method but there was no flash but rather many multiple photos with different exposures to create the final in Photoshop. Is that HDR?

      1. Yep, Jan, that’s HDR :). I just did one this evening of the lit courtyard of our property. No flash, multiple shots, right exposure…then all the processing that the pros do. Can’t wait to post the final results on our site!

        BTW, Thank you so much for your kind words on VRWS! A massive undertaking that was worth every minute. Which is why I’m going to bring VRWS2015 to all those that benefitted from it, as the feedback I got was truly encouraging and incredibly rewarding.

    1. I have to think a professional with the direction from someone who has previously taken their own photos is a killer combo, Peter! Let us know how it turns out!

      1. Matt, I always encourage my clients that if they can be there during the shoot that they are most welcome. I appreciate their input (and challenges they’ve faced in photographing their VR themselves), not to mention an extra set of hands to help! I really enjoy the collaboration, plus that way I know the client is getting exactly what they want. Only about 10-20% of my shoots have the clients present, but I always love it when they can be there.

  9. It took me several years to find an affordable, professional photographer in the Bigfork, Montana area. I finally did so by using I received 2 bids and hired one for under $200 and got 50 shots. I have to say that I ended up using a combo of mine and his. Most of all the lighting quality made the biggest different in the bedroom shots. Here are a few examples of our themed rooms in the “Hollywood Cowboy” and “Native Pride” suites at

  10. Wow, who WOULDN’T agree?! Night and day difference, and
    without doubt a make-it-or-break-it impact on vacation rental listings. Our
    Homeowner team is constantly encouraging our homeowners to put their best foot
    forward and invest in excellent pictures. We’re so lucky to have in-house
    photographer, Becky Fischer, to provide our homeowners with top-notch,
    architectural photography – at very reasonable rates.
    Favorite part of her job? Meeting homeowners and working together with
    them to produce the best results.

  11. Gorgeous pics! I love how even the natural lighting shows off the wooden interior, in addition to the furnishings. And not to mention, it also successfully features the scenery. This definitely makes a huge difference in promoting the property…the value is unmistakable.

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