Real Estate
6 minute read - Mar 01, 2024

Photography that launched an empire: How Airbnb transformed their business with professional photography

How professional photography helped make Airbnb the #1 community-based room sharing marketplace in the world.
Darren Blench
Enterprise Partnerships

Even the best business ideas fail if companies can’t effectively communicate and market to their customers.

This was certainly true for Airbnb 13 years ago. Renting a spare room in someone’s house is popular today. But, when Airbnb started, the company had a hard time convincing people to book their listings instead of in hotels.

After operating for over a year and offering lower prices than hotels, Airbnb was still struggling with low occupancy. Staying in a stranger’s house was a novel idea at the time, and travelers were skeptical of the quality and safety of Airbnb’s listings.

In 2009, the platform expanded from San Francisco to New York City. But, revenue was still so low that the company almost went bankrupt. As the young start-up was desperately trying to increase bookings, a change in marketing strategy changed everything.

The Shift

The company's breakthrough came when they hired pro photographers. They ditched user generated content for professional images. It was a game-changer for Airbnb.

 “We noticed a pattern. There's some similarity between all these listings. The similarity is that the photos sucked. The photos were not great photos. People were using their camera phones or using their images from classified sites. It actually wasn't a surprise that people weren't booking rooms because you couldn't even really see what it is that you were paying for.” - Joe Gebbia Co-founder of Airbnb [1]

To test this theory, Airbnb piloted a new professional photography program, going door-to-door and taking professional photos for listings in New York City. The results were immediate and the company's monthly revenue doubled [2].

Realizing they were on to something, the company made it their policy to use professional photography for all new listings. For Airbnb, photography was the key. It turned a great idea on paper into a product that sells.


Take a look at these examples from real Airbnb listings to see how professional photography makes a drastic difference in the quality of property photos [4].

The importance of photography remains relevant today, if not more so. Consumers now see more images online and they expect appealing images for all online content.

A 2016 academic paper from Carnegie Mellon University concluded that professional photos raise bookings and revenue.

Researchers found that high-quality, professional photography increased yearly revenue by an average of $2,455 per unit for Airbnb properties.

You can read the full research paper here.

The Solution for Your Business

Airbnb had to build their own photography solution from scratch. But companies today can use Snappr, an all-in-one photography solution, to effortlessly generate high-quality photos at scale. For Airbnb, professional photography was a game-changer. Imagine what it could do for your business!

Snappr is the number one photography solution on the market. With the largest network of professional photographers in the world, Snappr can source high-quality photos anywhere, on-demand, and with as little as 2 hours advance notice.

Snappr also has the best-in-category tools and API, making it the most effective way for companies to manage shoots at scale. Best of all, every Snappr shoot is professionally edited by our in-house team, resulting in high-quality images, consistent with your brand.

Ready to make a real impact on your bottom line? Take your photography to the next level and contact us  to learn more.

Check out some of these examples of Snappr’s real estate photography that are sure to get results.


Q: What techniques did Airbnb's professional photographers use to capture the essence of each property and make them more appealing?

A: Airbnb employed professional photographers who used various techniques such as strategic composition, optimal lighting setups, and meticulous editing to showcase each property's unique features and create visually appealing images that resonated with potential guests.

Q: Were there any notable differences in the composition, lighting, or editing styles between user-generated photos and the professional ones commissioned by Airbnb, and how did these differences contribute to the success of the listings?

A: The professional photographs commissioned by Airbnb exhibited noticeable disparities from user-generated content in terms of composition, lighting, and overall quality. These differences played a crucial role in enhancing the attractiveness of the listings, providing potential guests with clearer, more enticing visuals that instilled confidence in the accommodations.

Q: How did Airbnb ensure consistency and quality across the variety of properties they photographed?

A: Airbnb implemented rigorous standards and guidelines for their professional photography program. This involved establishing protocols for photographers to follow, maintaining a cohesive aesthetic, and providing ongoing support and feedback to maintain high standards across diverse locations, property types, and homeowner preferences.

With Snappr Workflows, you can create brand guidelines to ensure each photoshoot, no matter where it's taken, is held to your brand standards. Contact our Enterprise team to learn more.

About the author

Darren Blench
Enterprise Partnerships

Darren Blench leads partnerships for enterprise Real Estate clients at Snappr. He has helped dozens of major players in the industry with their content strategy. He is available for a no-obligation consultation about your Real Estate photography needs.

Email me

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