Using Airbnb’s for Photoshoot Locations

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We're professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry and empower other photographers to build their biz.



One of the GREATEST resources we have for photoshoot locations is…..drum roll please! Airbnb’s!! Okay, okay the title of the blog MAY have given it away, but they work amazing for shoot spaces, especially working with personal brands. With the rise in popularity of Airbnbs and so many homeowners designing them to be ‘Insta’ worthy, it creates a great blank slate that you can walk into with your client and capture a lot of variety. We shoot in Airbnb’s often for our brands, so let’s talk about why we love them, how we book ’em’ and what are some key details we look out for.

Why We LOVE Airbnb’s

Airbnb’s are designed to be visually appealing to attract people to their location. Nowadays, a lot of the people who are putting Airbnb’s up on the market are making them Instagram worthy with the design, colors and all the aspects of the home… AKA PHOTOGRAPHERS HEAVEN and your soon to be most popular insta pic! These designer Aibnb’s work really well, especially for a personal brand because you can walk into a space that is designed well, free of clutter and doesn’t have that “lived in” feel with everyday life things scattered all around. Sink full of dirty dishes?? FORGET ABOUT EM!  It’s a high design, and NON CLUTTERED space you can walk into and pretty much start shooting right away. 

With how much variety there is out there with the different types of Airbnb’s, it’s really easy to find something that matches a clients aesthetic and goals. Sometimes you might have to walk in and make a few changes to the decor here and there, but for the most part the place is ready to rock and roll! 

When it comes to Airbnb’s, it’s not just personal brands that go well. We have shot multiple product brands like Soft Scrub and Snuggle in them. For the most part, any brand that needs to be shown in a home or a lived in type of space will greatly benefit from an Airbnb to create a more natural look. 

How We Book Airbnb’s 

First things first…start by searching for Airbnb’s that meet your clients aesthetic and create some options! For us Airbnb.com and VRBO.com have been and continue to be awesome resources, but we also have had luck on Home Studio List and Peer Space. (Depending on what region you live in.) Once you’ve found some great spaces for your client, the BIGGEST thing is to be upfront and honest for why you are wanting to book the space. Our personal policy is that we ALWAYS ask for permission wherever we are shooting. Whether that is an outdoor space that’s owned by a management company or it’s in an Airbnb, we are always going to be upfront and tell them what we are doing. 

Honesty is the best policy and we want to have integrity with everything that we do. We don’t want any surprises to come up because, to be 100% real, it would be pretty embarrassing to be with a client and get stopped and told you can’t take pictures in that location. Or even worse since you are shooting for brands, imagine shooting for a big commercial brand in a home space and the commercial brand put up a billboard of the image inside of someone’s home without explicit permission from the homeowner. DUN DUN DUN! The homeowner could ask to have that billboard taken down, and how bad does that make you look as the photographer? Not a situation we’d ever want to face or you to fall into, so definitely always be upfront when reserving spaces.

On Airbnb, we always check the house rules first. Make sure there is not a note saying “no photography/video” that the host explicitly states in the listing. If there is, we just move onto another Airbnb option, but if not, we’ll send a direct message to the host. The message to the host usually asks about the availability of the space and what we are trying to do. We make sure to let the host know how large or small the production is going to be, the hours we are looking for and AGAIN be upfront about what the pictures are being used for. If you haven’t gotten the hint….giving the details upfront is so important! Sometimes we even include information about the client along with the client’s website. Hosts and homeowners like to know about the brand that is coming into their home….and I mean, can you really blame them? We give them as much information as possible upfront to help settle any nerves, fear or questions the host / homeowner may have about the shoot. From there we end the message saying that we fully expect to pay to use the space. Yes, we talk DOLLA DOLLA BILLS, YA’LL!  We ask the host if they have a photoshoot rate or is it just the daily rate? 

Once we get all those details squared away with the homeowner, we go ahead and book the space and then pass those costs onto our client. Although our brand photography contracts do include location releases, we don’t typically get a location release signed with an Airbnb. We have and keep the chain of communication within Airbnb of us talking back and forth. There we have the approval, we booked it, paid for it and we have all of the important details in one place. This serves as our release, so we don’t really worry about talking another step for a formal signed release for Airbnb properties. Making life just a little easier 🙂

Things That We Look For In An Airbnb

First on the agenda is that we want to make sure the Airbnb is on brand for the client! This is key for a great shoot. If the client’s brand is bright and airy, we’re not going to want to shoot in a dark moody space. And vice versa…pretty common sense, right!? You’re not going to take brand pictures of Shrek inside the Simpson house. No, instead you’ll find a swamp and take pictures from that NICE BOULDER that Donkey likes. Don’t like Shrek? Sorry, but we’re parents of two, so that’s about as hip as our pop culture references get!

Another thing we are going to look for is plenty of natural light. When we are shooting indoors, we prefer to utilize natural light. Because of this, we’re going to be looking for large windows, big pocket doors and/or sliding doors. Anything that can really bring in plenty of light from the outside. If it’s an older ranch style home that maybe doesn’t have a ton of windows and is surrounded by construction…..well, that may not be the best fit. It will probably be pretty dark in there! It’s important to determine if that’s what will work and be a good reflection of your clients brand. We’re also looking for spaces that aren’t going to be too unique in that they stand out more than our clients brand is going to. We want to make sure that the client’s brand is going to be the STAR of the show and not the location. Ultimately it’s up to us, as the photographers, to represent the brand well in the picture and having a space that is too unique or distracting can take away from that.

That’s it! Those are our tips for Airbnb logistics. Have you found that Airbnb’s work great for you and your photoshoots? Let us know your experiences or what’s held you up in the past. We’d love to know and love to help!

Comments +

  1. Kyle Goldie says:

    Smart. Air B&Bs are a fantastic avenue for great locations at a fraction of the rate of a traditional commercial space. Couldn’t agree more about simple communication, too! Great write up.

    • Erica + Jon says:

      Thanks, Kyle! Appreciate the feedback and affirmation! Airbnb’s require a whole lot less work than molding a blank slate like a traditional commercial studio into a living space as well, so we love them!

  2. Lyn says:

    So you shoot them without scouting them in person prior to bringing a client there? That would make me nervous. I’m guessing you never ran into a location that was not as advertised?

    • Erica + Jon says:

      Hey Lyn! We do thorough research on the property in advance and send over information to our clients to let them chose the space that works best for them! We were definitely met with some disappointing space in the beginning, but now we know what to look for! We search out spaces that have great natural light, lots of windows, and even do a little Google Maps check of the area and outside to make sure it presents just as well in person as it does on the listing 🙂

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