By The Hospitable Team
You’ve probably seen it before—an impressive vacation rental website with video walkthroughs of their properties. And there’s no question that property walkthroughs can be a captivating way to showcase your short-term rental and, because they give guests so much insight into their stay, help maximize your booking rates.
But perhaps you’re worried that you don’t have the skills or equipment to record and edit a quality video for your listing. And the cost of hiring a pro may be feasible for one property, but you’re talking about a serious dent in your wallet if you run multiple units.
To give you the insights you need to create quality videos for your short-term rentals yourself, we talked to Robin Christman, who got her start in short-term rental photography by shooting for the Airbnb Plus pilot program, capturing some of Airbnb’s premier properties.
In this article, Robin shares some of her expertise on everything from video lighting and composition to what common pitfalls to avoid when creating your videos.
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Why are videos such a great tool for improving your occupancy rates?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. And in the words of Robin, “a video makes you feel like you’re in the house, experiencing it.”
When your prospective guests are weighing out their rental options, they want as detailed a look into the type of experience they’ll get as possible, which is why video is such a powerful tool for improving your occupancy rates.
And if someone is choosing between two similar properties, one of which has a detailed, eye-catching walkthrough and the other doesn’t, it’s pretty clear which one the guest will book.
What different kinds of videos do hosts make for their listings?
There are two main types of videos hosts can make for their listings: Walkthroughs and 360 scans.
With the right know-how on key matters like composition and lighting, you can easily record a walkthrough on your smartphone. 360 scans, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated.
They can be a good resource, as they allow the guest “to jump from point to point and actually feel like they’re walking through the property.” But because they have to be filmed on specialized, expensive equipment (like a Matterport camera), you would have to outsource this type of video to a professional.
If you decide to outsource a 360 virtual tour, you’re looking at paying a professional around $300, according to Robin. But as you’ll see, you can film an effective video walkthrough yourself with the following tips.
What kind of equipment do you need?
The best part about creating videos for your vacation rental is that you don’t need to buy any expensive camera equipment—you can shoot an attractive, effective video walkthrough using just your smartphone.
Robin also suggests potentially using a gimbal to reduce camera shake. However, she always shoots without one when she takes videos with her iPhone, and if you have relatively steady hands, investing in a gimbal probably isn’t necessary (a quality gimbal can cost between $100 and $200).
At any rate, try filming without a gimbal before buying one. If the video looks good and steady, you’re ready to start filming!
Creating STR property walkthroughs like a pro
You don’t have to be a professional to create beautiful, effective videos for your properties. Keep these tips in mind as you create videos for your short-term rental properties.
Tips on angles and movement
Rather than holding your phone close to your chest to reduce shaking, Robin recommends holding it out in front of you. That way, you can see what you’re recording, and it will be easier to keep it steady and level.
Also avoid tilting your phone, as doing so can cause distortion. And remember, you’ll be recording your property in multiple takes (Robin states that a two-minute video can contain a few dozen different clips).
However, it’s important to plan a route through your property and have an idea of the different shots and angles you want to get. Some important shots, which are detailed in the video below, include:
- “The Establisher” to set the scene and highlight the exterior of the property
- “The Room Establisher” to give an overview of each room
- “The Room Slider” to give a panoramic view of your rooms
Tips on composition
When composing your videos, focus on showing off elements that will highlight the personality of your property. Think special decor, premium amenities, or spectacular views. It’s a good idea to study videos of other vacation rentals to get ideas and inspiration before planning out yours.
The key to successfully composing your shots is avoiding incomplete or fragmented frames: Robin highlights the importance of being conscious of the edges of your frame, stating that “everything within the frame should be intentional.”
Also, be careful not to cut off furniture or walls in awkward places when shooting your clips. It’s a good idea to record multiple versions of one shot so you can revise them and pick the best frame to include in your final edit.
Finally, you’ll want to mainly shoot at chest level, but you can also pan from low to high (and vice versa), as the instructional video above demonstrates.
Tips on lighting
The same photography tips for vacation rental hosts apply to recording videos when it comes to lighting. When shooting, take advantage of natural lighting as much as possible, so record with your blinds and curtains open. You can, however, keep your interior lights on as well.
But let’s say you have competing lighting colors—your outdoor lighting is warmer, while your indoor lighting is cooler. In this case, turn off the weaker light color to just have one source for better, cleaner exposure.
And if you’re in a darker room, or if it’s especially bright outside, avoid having any windows in shot for a long time, as this can throw off your exposure for the rest of the take.
In any case, it’s best to shoot at a time when the light outside is neither too bright nor too dark (the exterior light should be similar to the exposure inside your house). This may mean in the morning or in the evening, depending on the orientation of your home, or waiting until an overcast day to make your video.
Tips on editing and music
Robin has a straightforward tip when it comes to editing your videos: Outsource it. Robin works with a company that charges just $30-$50 for professional edits, which, considering it will likely take any amateur video editor several hours to piece together a complete edit, is well worth the money.
But if you have some experience editing and want to take on this task, you can use Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro to put your video together. But perhaps you don’t have any editing experience and still want to give it a try. If you have a Mac, iMovie is a built-in, beginner-friendly video editing tool.
Just remember that any background music you use has to be properly licensed, meaning you can’t just grab your favorite song off iTunes. To find public domain or royalty-free music, you can check out websites like Epidemic Sound or YouTube Audio Library.
Tips on length
Let’s cut to the chase: no one wants to watch a ten-minute walkthrough. Robin recommends keeping your videos to two minutes max, but if you can keep them under one, even better. This makes them more impactful and increases the chances of potential guests watching them through to the end.
Pitfalls to avoid
There are a few common pitfalls you can look out for to ensure your videos are as eye-catching as possible. We’ve already mentioned some of these mistakes above, but it’s important to keep them in mind when creating videos for your vacation rentals:
- Incomplete frames: Be sure to avoid cutting furniture or walls out of your frame in awkward places. This will keep your shots intentional and complete.
- Exposure issues: Lighting problems can result in bad exposure. Do a couple of test runs to check at what time of the day the exposure is best at your property.
- Getting lost in editing: If you don’t have any previous experience editing videos, it may just be better to outsource this step of the process and save yourself hours of work.
- Videos that drag on: If your video runs over two minutes, it’s too long. Keep your videos short to keep your audience engaged.
- Decor and staging weaknesses: A property that lacks personality isn’t attractive. Pay close attention to your decor and staging before creating your video.
- Failing to showcase the exterior of your property: Don’t forget to include any exterior spaces your property has in your video, even if that’s just a front porch.
You don’t have to be a pro to create captivating videos for your vacation rental listing
Whether you’re taking pictures for your Airbnb listing or recording a video for your direct booking site, the key is to put yourself in your target guests’ shoes. Imagine you were watching your own video when searching for a stay—would you want to book after watching it?
Even if you’re not a professional, you can create quality, engaging videos for your properties. Just be sure to do your research beforehand, watch videos for inspiration, and capture as much footage as you feel is necessary.
Remember, you can always review a shot and delete it, but you can’t go back after the final edit is done to add a shot you wish you had included.
Most of all, have fun with it! This is your chance to let your property’s personality shine through and show travelers the amazing experience they can have if they book with you.
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