Take great listing photos on your smartphone
Whether you’re taking photos for the first time or you want to update your listing to showcase changes you’ve made to your space, snapping high-quality images with your smartphone is easier than you may think. We’ll take you through each step so you can do it yourself.
Here's what you’ll need to do before we begin:
- Identify the best lighting and stage your space using strategies from our photography tutorial, “Prepare your space for a photo shoot”
- Charge your smartphone
- Carve out at least 1 hour to take five to six photos of each room
1. Check your smartphone settings
Many smartphones can take great photos. Here are some helpful features and how to adjust them.
Turn on grids
Grids can help you position an image and tell if it’s straight. Here’s how to adjust grids, depending on your device:
- For iPhone: Go to Settings > Camera and from there you can toggle your phone’s grid to On.
- For Android: Launch the camera app, go to Settings, scroll down, and switch the Grid lines option to On.
For more tips on using grids, check out the rule of thirds section below.
Turn off flash
Using a flash can create a harsh look—bright, natural light is ideal. If your space has windows, you’ll want to photograph it during the brightest time of day. If the space doesn’t have windows, turning on lamps can create a cozy feeling.
To turn off the flash, open your Camera app, then find the lightning bolt icon and select Off.
Check the image resolution
For the clearest photos, images should be at least 1024 pixels x 683 pixels. Your phone’s storage settings may be optimized to only store low-resolution images, so check that you’re saving high-resolution images for your photo shoot. You can always go back and switch this once you’ve taken your photos.
2. Compose a professional looking photograph
Now that you’ve checked your phone’s settings, here are some tips for capturing quality images.
Keep lines straight
DO: Hold your phone straight and parallel to the floor. To center the main piece of furniture, you may need to raise or lower your hands. In bedrooms, you’ll want to focus on the bed; in living rooms, perhaps the sofa. A good rule of thumb is that the camera should always be high enough to see the tops of beds, tables, and countertops. This height will change a little based on what the subject is.
DON’T: Raise your phone above your head to get a better view or hold it at an angle, which is unflattering and often results in unwanted distortion.
Use the rule of thirds to highlight what’s important
The rule of thirds is a photography principle that divides an image into thirds horizontally and vertically, so that there are nine squares and four places where the lines intersect. Turning on your camera's grid feature will display these lines to help you compose photos.
DO: Place the focus of the image where the grid lines intersect (which is slightly off-center). For example, you’ll want to position your couch, bed, or table where the lines cross. By using the grid and the rule of thirds, objects in your photo will be straight with a clear focus.
DON’T: Put the central focus in the bottom or top third, or you may cut out important information.
Get focused photos
DO: Use autofocus so that you don’t have to adjust this manually.
DON’T: Take photos with one hand. Using both hands will keep your hands steady and help you take a clear image. You can also try bracing your elbows against your ribs in order to steady your hands.
Understand when to zoom
Newer smartphones often have pre-set modes for certain settings—for example, portrait, landscape, and wide. If your phone’s camera has these options, use them instead of physically moving the camera.
Zooming your lens is most successful when you're capturing thoughtfully styled parts of your space—like framing the image to focus on just a portion of the coffee table, couch, and a painting hanging above.
If your phone doesn’t offer those modes, use your default setting to photograph the room as a whole, and only zoom in to get close-up images—like a floral arrangement on the bedside table, or the couch with art hanging above it.
3. Curate a story
Guests appreciate knowing about special extras in your space, so make sure to call out noteworthy features and amenities. It’s helpful to capture them in the context of your greater space—for example, a wide-frame image of folded towels on a bench by a claw-foot bathtub, rather than a close-up of the bathtub’s handles.
Here are some examples of amenities you might include in your images and mention in your captions:
- A laptop-friendly workspace
- Family-friendly items, like a high chair or crib
- Outdoor space, like the patio, garden, or balcony
- An espresso machine, coffee pot, or tea service
- Premium toiletries, like plush bath towels, bathrobes, or slippers
Orient your camera
For the most part, you’ll want to take horizontal images. When guests visit your listing page, the five photos in the grid are horizontal, so you want to make sure you’re capturing horizontal images for anything you might want to include there.
DO: Include vertical photos in your image gallery, which is the collection of all your listing photos. Vertical images are ideal for tight spaces—like walk-in closets, small bathrooms, or bedroom balconies—and display well on mobile devices.
DON’T: Use a vertical image as one of the five photos in the grid, since it will be cropped to fit the horizontal design.
Have a variety of compositions
While guests want to be able to imagine themselves in your space—like where they’ll sleep, eat, and relax—it’s also important to include photos of interesting details. You can bring variety to your image gallery by taking wide, mid-range, and close-up photos. Have a mix of compositions for each room, along with horizontal and vertical options.
Here’s when to use each composition type:
- Wide photos serve as establishing images, helping people understand the size of a room and everything it has to offer.
- Mid-range images work well from a straight-on perspective, and not at an angle. This image helps guests get a sense of the focus of the room, such as the bed, couch, table, or desk.
- Close-up photos help illustrate the personality of the room, like books on a bedside table. They can be photographed horizontally or vertically. When you’re taking these close-ups, pay extra attention to what’s in the frame—fluff pillows, hide wires, and smooth sheets.
DO: Show how rooms connect to one another within your photos—for instance, show the living room in the background of a close-up image. Treat your image gallery like a guided tour to give guests a sense of the floor plan.
Photograph more than you’ll need
You’ve gone through all the work of preparing your space, so make sure you take photos of everything you need. Your photos should tell the complete story of your space and let potential guests know what to expect.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Feature enough photos of your space to help set guests’ expectations
- Include two to four photos of each room that guests have access to
- Photograph from different corners of each room to give a full picture
- Take close-up photos to showcase the personality of your space
- Clearly highlight any accessibility features within your listing photos
A list of recommended photos
Aim to photograph every space that guests can access. For every area, you’ll want to capture wide, mid-range, and close-up images.
Before you take any pictures, it’s important to understand how your listing photos are displayed.
- The first image that potential guests will notice is your cover photo (the primary photo on your listing that displays in search results)
- Your grid of five photos is a collage displayed at the top of your listing page
- The image gallery contains all your listing photos
To help you get started on your photo shoot, we’ve created a list of recommended photos and angles:
- Wide photo of the primary bedroom
- Alternate angle of room for more context
- Mid-range image of the secondary bedroom, like the bed and side table
- Close-up photo showcasing personality, like a book or flowers on the side table
- Wide photo of the whole living area (including light from a window if possible)
- Mid-range image of a couch in the primary living room
- Close-up photo of an area of the room with personality, like a fireplace with art above
- Wide photo of the primary bathroom
- Mid-range image of a secondary bathroom, featuring a bathtub or shower and sink
- Close-up photo of stacked towels or a window view
- Wide photo of the entire kitchen
- Mid-range image of the oven, next to neatly organized countertops
- Close-up photo of a flower arrangement in the center of the table
- A photo of a welcome basket of cleaning supplies for guests
- Wide photo of a balcony, garden, patio, or entire deck
- Mid-range image including any outdoor sitting areas (and potentially their view)
- Close-up photo of any thoughtfully styled decor, like potted plants next to outdoor furniture
- The path to your entryway
You know your space better than anyone, so make sure to photograph all your favorite aspects and anything that guests appreciate in their reviews. And before you wrap up your photo shoot, take a few minutes to scan through all the images you captured to make sure you’ve addressed everything on your list. Now you’re ready for Part 3 where you'll learn how to edit and curate your images.