How Much Are Good Vacation Rental Photos Worth?

Author: Matt Landau
May 10, 2012

It’s no secret that having great photos will help increase bookings at your vacation rental.

And so I decided to do an experiment pitting average vacation rental photos up against professional ones.

Anyone who fails to get their property prepped for professional quality photos is either a) too lazy (I guarantee there is a professional photographer in your town looking for work), b) too cheap (I guarantee you could trade him/her several nights at your rental in exchange for some high resolution images), or c) in denial (thinking that their Blackberry photos will do just fine).

As many of you know, I like to take a scientific approach to vacation rental marketing. This time, I did a little experiment to prove, once and for all, why everyone needs good pictures:

Experiment Part 1: The Control

We just acquired a new penthouse apartment so I posted the new listing on my website using traditional digital camera photos (taken by yours truly). You can see 5 of them below. They are fine, but pretty amateur looking if I do say so myself.


I then went out and spent almost $100 on Google Adwords over the course of 1 week. If you’re not familiar with Adwords, they allow small business owners to purchase traffic on a “per-click” basis in the form of annoying little ads all over the Google network. This is to say, every time someone clicked the advertisement linking to my new penthouse, I paid Google about $1.50. As a result, I purchased 68 clicks: 68 people searching Google clicked on my advertisement and landed on the penthouse listing page.  The statistics I gleaned from Google Analytics about these clicks were as follows:

Reference Source: Google Adwords Penthouse Test Campaign

Clicks: 68

Average Time On Page: 1:35

Bounce Rate: 57.89%

Conversions: 2

During this week, I generated 2 bookings for the penthouse. These two bookings totaled 6 nights. Since the penthouse costs $255/night, this was a total income $1530.


Experiment Part 2: The Variable

I hired a young kid in our neighborhood to take photos of the unit for $200. This guy is about 28 years old, just finished some photography classes, and had been doing portraits mostly (so this was one of his first real gigs). After about a week of editing, he came out with some great pictures, 5 of which you can see below (to match the stinky angles taken by me above).


The difference in the way the apartment is portrayed, as you can see, is night and day. I think the new pictures are great. So does my business partner. But would my little experimental Adwords campaign back up the theory that better pictures equals more bookings?

I went out and spent the same $100 using the exact same ad copy, keywords and landing page. This time, I ended up with 69 clicks (big whoop). The statistics for this round were as follows:

Reference Source: Google Adwords Penthouse Test Campaign

Clicks: 69

Average Time On Page: 2:24

Bounce Rate: 42.00%

Conversions: 7

During this week I generated 7 bookings, which totaled 33 nights booked. (Note: one of the reservations was for a period of 7 nights so that might throw off the average. But even without those 7 nights, I booked a hell of a lot more with the nice pictures.) You’ll also notice that the average time on page significantly improved (it nearly doubled, meaning the new photos engaged users much more) to Part 1 of my little experiment. Since the apartment was still $255/night, I brought in $8,415 of total income.

To all the inevitable skeptics, I can promise that these weeks were one after another (Saturday to Saturday), using the exact same landing page (you can see it here) and the exact same ad copy. I also didn’t do any additional promotion (meaning the only eyes seeing this page were paid clicks). There is a slight chance that users who initially clicked (during Part 1 of the experiment) came back to book (during Part 2 of the experiment) and there is a slight chance the results are inaccurate because it’s such a small sample size. However,  if you’re going to make this argument, you probably need better pictures for your rental and you’re probably in serious denial about that.

Conclusion: After this little lab exercise, I don’t think anyone can argue that excellent professional quality photographs are imperative to a vacation rental marketer’s portfolio. Not just because it makes your property more valuable in the long run, but because it makes you more money right now! if you don’t have them already, go invest in some great photos pronto!!!


About the author 

Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.

  1. While I do believe photos are super important, your experiment is way to small of a sample size to prove anything. After getting 9 years of bookings, I just have seen there are some weeks people look and some weeks they book. And very few people book the first time they find a site. Your increase could have been due to many factors from what was going on in the world that week, to your main competition booking up in the meantime. But on the other hand, your original photos are pretty awful, so maybe that was the case 🙂 It does amaze me how many people use truly awful photos.

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