Bad Owner Headshot Photos Lose Bookings

This post is going to be short because I want people to take away one really simple yet important thing: it takes only a fraction of a second for a potential guest to judge us and decide whether we are a trustworthy, friendly, and real host. To conquer this first impression, we each absolutely need to have a professional portrait photo.

If you are running your vacation rental like a business (and not a lemonade stand) you should complete Stage 2 of Listing Site Independence and that includes getting a professional headshot of you (or the individuals on your team who interact with guests).

Not cropped images from a Bar Mitzvah ten years ago. A professionally staged business headshot. The scene can be casual, but it must be professional. How much will it cost? The cost of doing business. That's the cost.

You can search Google for a local photographer or ask friends for a recommendation. Schedule the photos for a morning or afternoon in your rental property. Not near your rental property? Have the photos taken in a nearby cafe or park.

We figured that the best way to communicate this message was to challenge a few Inner Circle members to do it themselves. We have shared their new portraits along with their advice about the photo experience below:

Hopefully you can see that these owners were once in the same position as you and are now better off, simply by committing to a best practice and pulling the trigger.

1. Donna Martinez of Sea Ranch Abalone Bay​

Donna's Advice: I communicated with the photographer and explained how the photo would be used. I also explained what message I wanted my photo to convey (as a host). We took this photo in between events (the photographer, Amanda Saviñón, was busy helping at the DNC then off for vacation) so our window of time was just one day...one of the muggiest days in DC. So I'd also recommend you bring a change of clothes, for variety, and in case you perspire, a hand towel. I find that staying focused on the photographer and getting that great shot helps to over come the fear or possible embarrassment of a photo shoot in public venues.

​2. Debi and Rob Hertert of Hosting Your Home

Debi and Rob's Advice: We chose a photographer who is an Airbnb host and a member of our Airbnb group. She is a family photographer and has a joyous upbeat attitude. Emily Andrews is one of those people that makes you feel good just being around her. If you have problems getting a good, natural picture of yourself like we do, then we recommend choosing someone like Emily who takes lots of photos of children. She teased, cajoled, and joked with us, snapping the shutter the whole time.

3. Amy Grant of Great Vacation Retreats

Amy's Advice: I have been putting off getting new photos for a while. It seemed so painful. I hate looking at myself, etc...but was inspired to just go for it when Matt posted this challenge. The hardest part was just setting up the appointment. I used a photographer that I knew took lifestyle photos after looking on a few different websites. It was probably not the nicest day to take outdoor photos but because I knew I needed them done we just went for it. It was quite windy so the 'hairstyle' that I planned didn't work and I also had to squint a lot because the sun was in my face for better lighting. Overall, it was definitely worth it. I might try taking them again in six months and maybe do some indoor photos as well.

4. Virág Vántora & János Kártik of Katona Apartments in Budapest

​Virag and Janos' Advice: If you run a family business, don't be afraid to show your family members. It gives an added value as your future guests don't see you as a businessman/businesswoman but rather as a private person with similar life as they have. A huge portion of our guests are families and during their check-in when we meet them personally, they often comment on our kids. It happens sometimes that they even bring some tiny presents for them.

5. Matt of VRMB

Matt's Advice: You can never have enough of these portrait photos and if you find a good photographer (mine is the great Tarina Rodriguez) be sure to schedule future appointments. These photos are great for blog posts, freshening up your social media feeds, email signatures...etc. Also, when you go out with the photographer, be sure to have him or her take some impromptu photos (in addition to the 'staged' ones) that communicate who you are or what you're passionate about. Here are some of my 'outtakes' with my neighborhood's future community leaders...

Conclusion

Don't view portrait photos of yourself as optional costs. View them as necessary investments in your business, like the very roofs over your vacation rentals. Will portrait shots generate more bookings overnight? Probably not. But we have a hard time imagining a sustainable vacation rental business without them.

Have you gotten professional portrait shots and noticed the difference?

Feel free to share your views on the power of a good headshot in the comments area below...


September 6, 2016

About the author 

Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of VRMB. He spends most of his time inside of VRMB's Paid Community, the leading collaboration platform helping vacation rental owners and managers build more profitable & sustainable businesses.

  1. Thanks Matt for including my headshot! And now that I have it I’m using it for just about everything. I agree with Amy that setting up an appointment on short notice can be a challenge. I appreciated Amanda’s flexibility on such short notice. I will definitely be adding more photos to my headshot portfolio which will allow for a greater variety to fit the message.

    1. Great to hear, Donna! And I forgot to mention, it was LOVELY meeting you last month in DC. That coffee shop was hip: maybe set location for headshot shoot #2. Just no espresso 🙂

  2. Great post! I am inspired to set up another photo session for more personal impromtu shots, maybe cooking at a vacation rental since we love to cook.

    1. Awesome, Amy! Cooking would be awesome. In fact, you could do you (or Linda or another team member) in all kinds of Hawaiian scenarios. Make it fun and cool. I bet you could get a great bulk photo rate.

  3. I haven’t thought of having impromtu photos in addition to the staged ones. What a great idea to use them in blog posts and on social media. We will go for them next time when we meet the photographer.

  4. This is one of those topics that rarely gets discussed but it is really important. I don’t know of any owners who rush out to get professional photos of themselves yet we worry about all other aspects of our websites and property listings. Great advice from everyone in the post! Definitely bring two or three of your favorite shirts. Solid colors photograph best and you’ll stand out better. And like Matt mentioned, ask your photographer before the shoot if it would be OK to take some extra shots, not just a headshot. Get as much mileage out of your photo shoot as possible.

    1. Stage 2 of LSI for sure. As Amy (a pro photographer) says: get professional headshots before worrying about websites and listings!

  5. I love the family vibe of Virag and Janos! Not only does it show a personal side to them, but it also instantly conveys their understanding of what it is to be a family on vacation. I actually think this photo could well result in more bookings if it’s part of a holistic family marketing approach!

    1. Totally! That photo to me looks like something that would go on the cover of an album or some sort of biography: How Virag and Janos Conquered Budapest With Their Kids

  6. When Matt presented his photo challenge, my family and I were out of town for a summer vacation. My husband and I quickly researched and contracted a professional photographer in the area. We wanted to find a photographer who had experience in photographing families and who would travel to a local beach.

    We don’t consider ourselves photogenic and were hesitant about adding a headshot to our website. But after considering it, we felt as though making an investment in a professional headshot could only help our business by personalizing the experience for our prospective guests.

    In the end, we think our efforts to find a high quality photographer definitely helped, and are very happy that we accepted the challenge!

  7. When Matt presented his photo challenge, my family and I were out of town for a summer vacation. My husband and I quickly researched and contracted a professional photographer in the area. We wanted to find a photographer who had experience in photographing families and who would travel to a local beach.

    We don’t consider ourselves photogenic and were hesitant about adding a headshot to our website. But after considering it, we felt as though making an investment in a professional headshot could only help our business by personalizing the experience for our prospective guests.

    In the end, we think our efforts to find a high quality photographer definitely helped, and are very happy that we accepted the challenge!

  8. When Matt presented his photo challenge, my family and I were out of town for a summer vacation. My husband and I quickly researched and contracted a professional photographer in the area. We wanted to find a photographer who had experience photographing a beach scene.

    We don’t consider ourselves photogenic and were hesitant about adding a headshot to our website. But after considering it, we felt as though making an investment in a professional headshot could only help our business by personalizing the experience for our prospective guests.

    In the end, we think our efforts to find a high quality photographer definitely helped, and are very happy that we accepted the challenge. Thanks Matt!

    1. I should share with everyone that while I loved this photo, I thought it might encourage some folks to wait for a wedding to mooch off the wedding photographer (instead of hire their own!). That said, this one is dynamite!

  9. Thanks for including us, Matt, I’m not sure that we are getting more business because of the new photo; it’s still new yet. But I feel SO much better about having a photo of me out there I actually like, that my self-confidence has increased! That’s definitely a win!

  10. Love your personal pictures with the exception of one – hands in pockets! Was drummed into me as a child, my father would hit the roof – so I inherited it from him! The rest I love.

  11. At a time of growing piracy and fraud with identities substitution, I feel not confortable to provide too many pictures and informations that can be used; Next month when returning to Brussels, my wife has to go to the police since one of our listings on Wimdu jas been pirated and a naive guest has been sending 3000 euros to a UK bank thinking she was renting our property. So better to be cautious.

  12. It’s a really nice advice I hadn’t thought before. We usually push effort into the photos of the house but this is also important. I will add my pic in my website

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