Luxury Hotel Photographer Surprises an Airbnb Superhost with a Secret Photoshoot

AirbnBEACH – Secret Spotlight Episode #1

There are a lot of opinions about what makes a great photo, but what is indisputable is that quality images work. Did you know, Airbnb estimates that hosts with high quality images earn 40% more than others?

That statistic gave me an idea that seemed like fun. As a luxury photographer my job for more than 20 years has been to ideally and accurately communicate experiences through media. It is always intrinsically for me to see the looks of delight and satisfaction when I share images. Creating media is the one of the ways I communicate the things I discover and absorb about the places I capture– the people, places, and experiences that give meaning and make memories. The idea for Secret Spotlight came about when I was looking for a personal project that allowed me explore and create whatever I wanted from places and subjects to gear and techniques.

The initial challenge I set for myself was simple, find a well rated host on Airbnb who put love into their property and took great care of their guests, but needed some help with their images. I would book the place for a weekend and secretly reshoot their entire Airbnb listing – then surprise them with the images.

You might enjoy other episodes of Secret Spotlight. You can find them here.

A Luxury Hotel Photographer Surprises an airbnb Superhost with a Secret Photoshoot

On this journey, the Airbnb site delivered me to Merri, the owner of a small condo on Carolina Beach, NC. Her ratings and reviews were great. People had lots of good things to say about her condo and her hospitality, but it was clear at a glance that Merri’s hosting prowess far exceeded her photography skills and the iPhone shots she used for the listing did not compare to the wonderful comments about the space that she received from her guests. What a great experience it would be to help this Superhost and make her images match the delight that her guests expressed about staying in her condo. I’m going to make this happen! I booked her place and my plan was in motion.

Listen to the Explore Create Podcast about this episode:

Original Photos

About the Photoshoot

The goal of a shoot like this is not to make a space look better than it is in reality.  There is no stronger motivation for a bad guest review than to have someone arrive and feel that they were deceived by images. Our goal is to communicate the real layout and sense of this space. Nothing was added that was not already there and nothing fundamental was removed or altered. I did remove necessary amenities like extra towels and coffee station packets however, I did not rearrange the furniture and even skipped the usual post-production photoshop removal of switches, vents, and outlet covers. My only objective was to use considerate camera placement, framing and, of course, lighting to show-off what you really get when you arrive.

One big consideration when framing the shots was studying the Airbnb website to see how the images are used. By default almost every instance displaying an image was presenting it horizontally. This means that if you upload a vertical image, the site automatically crops it to a horizontal view and you lose the top and bottom of the cropped image. I wanted to make sure that each view of an image on the site Airbnb site communicates as much as possible to the viewer so all of the images are framed horizontally.

The Results

All in all the shoot was a great success. Merri loved the images and replaced them on the site almost immediately after I emailed them to her. For me, it’s rewarding to make images that have an impact for the user and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.

Original Photos

(slide divider horizontally to compare)

New Photos

Final Photos

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