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Got a Rental in OBX? These Beach House Photo Tips Will Boost Your Nightly Rates by Up to 50%

You surely heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” As Outer Banks property managers, we’ve come to appreciate this timeless piece of advice as one of the best tips for beach house photography.

No matter how good we are with words, attracting guests with photos is a top priority. After all, they’ll only read our descriptions if they like our photos first.

We know that good images speak for themselves and we also know they can boost all rental metrics, from listing views and booking ratio to average daily rates.

This blog will explore beachfront rental photo ideas and vacation home photo essentials — all illustrated with a compelling case study.

Ready for some show and tell?

Case study on coastal property photography

Let’s compare the three beach houses below. They all sit near each other in Outer Banks, North Carolina, and are oceanfront properties with four bedrooms. All have good reviews. The difference is that only one of them has excellent visuals.


By comparing these three vacation rentals in OBX, we can see how good photography can increase nightly rates. For the same date, Sea Pointe Paradise commanded over 30% more than Dolphin’s Walk and over 40% more than Gracie Bell’s SeaShell.

Both Dolphin’s Walk and Gracie Bell’s SeaShell have some big improvements to make in their photo game.

In this case study, we’ll break down what Sea Pointe Paradise is doing right and what the other two aren’t and, at the same time, give you a crash course on how good photos can increase your average nightly rate by up to 50%.

What should I capture when taking pics of my OBX beach house? 

When shooting your property, it’s always a good idea to have more pictures. A good practice is to capture every room your guests can use and take at least three shots of them: wide-angle, mid-range, and close-up. Purposefully showing multiple angles is a standard practice for us at Village Realty.

Use your pictures to show the layout of the rooms and to answer questions your guests might have. For instance, they might wonder how many people they can sit in the living room or if there’s a nice view from where they’ll be having breakfast.

Sea Pointe Paradise does a great job of showing multiple angles of the living room. This helps to answer questions such as, how many people can we sit there? Is there a TV? What’s the view like?

On the other hand, this picture of the bathroom at the Dolphin’s Walk could have been a lot more helpful by giving a sense of its actual layout. As it stands, guests are left wondering: is there a shower or bathtub?


Is there a logic I should follow with my pics?

When shooting your property, think of its most important spaces and features and always consider its “wow” factor — these are aspects you’ll want to highlight with your photos.

There’s a logic to go about it, and you can even follow a sequence:


  1. First, take at least four focus shots of the features that make the place unique.
  2. Second, capture the interior common spaces, such as the living room, and kitchen.
  3. Third, head outside and snap your deck and the view.
  4. Finally, make sure to capture all bedrooms and bathrooms.

Once the above is covered, go ahead and take more pictures of the property.

When photographing your space, think about that “wow” factor. That’s usually what grasps the viewer’s attention. Sea Pointe Paradise has several pictures featuring their sun deck and the unobstructed views of the vegetation and the sea.

You can also provide your guests with a glimpse of the floor plan of your beach house. These photos of Sea Pointe Paradise show how the living room connects to the kitchen and bathroom, as well as how it opens up to a deck with a staircase leading directly to the beach.

What’s the ‘Hero Image’ and why is it important?

You should always aim for all your photos to be excellent. Still, there’s one that matters the most — we call it the hero image. This image usually works as a banner for your listing, appearing first and more prominently than the others. It’s easy to see its value when you think the hero image is the first glimpse guests will have of your property.

Do you know of another saying that’s pretty useful here? “Love at first sight!” An emotional pull is really the goal with this pic. It should evoke the allure of the entire property and produce emotions in your potential guests.

Sea Pointe Paradise’s hero image is pretty idyllic. It features a frontal view of the charming beach house with the glistening waters of the Atlantic Ocean right behind it. This will instantly inspire anyone looking for a beachfront experience in OBX.

Extra tip: It’s totally okay to brag a little with this one – there’s no need to be humble!

At Village Realty we often like to use drone shots as hero images. It’s a great way to highlight some features and the proximity to the beach, for instance.

Taken on a lovely sunny day, this drone shot of Sea Pointe Paradise shows that the house is flanked by not just the beautiful beach, but also by a community pool and a tennis court. Not humble at all — a total attention-getter!

What kind of light is the best for photographing beach houses?


As a rule of thumb, photograph your property during the day and open the shutters and curtains. Natural light will invariably make your pics look better, and this rule goes for interiors as well. Natural light adds a more naturalistic feel to the result, one that goes very well with the allure of a beach house in OBX.

Also, we don’t like to be wasteful, but at least while you’re shooting your vacation rental, switch all lights on, from table lamps to hanging lights and even those concealed lights in the kitchen and bathrooms. Doing so will reduce the difference in brightness between the exterior and interior.

You should always photograph your rental during the day, but be careful to even out exterior and interior lighting to achieve a balance. In this shot of Gracie Bell’s SeaShell, the exterior is super exposed and we can’t even see what’s beyond the window. The interior is dark and showing no color, looking sad as a result.

By contrast, this bedroom shot of Sea Pointe Paradise is balanced, bright, and colorful, and we can see all the details both inside and outside the widow.

When it comes to beach house photography, using High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques can really make a difference. It’s a great way to create an image that keeps details in both the highlights and shadows, resulting in a better photograph that blends stunning vistas and well-lit interiors and amenities — a lot more like the naked eye would see them.

Keep in mind that there are different types of natural light. Some photographers like to make the most of the golden hours of the day for a more dreamy vibe. Yet, since we’re property managers in OBX, we prefer to shoot when the sun is bright and shiny outside, to convey that beach holiday feeling to the fullest.

Extra tip: in North Carolina, it’s not just the time of the day that matters, but also the time of the year in which you shoot your home. 

For instance, winter and fall are not ideal times to shoot because the sea water is more muddy. Instead, late spring, summer, and early fall will boast more clear blues and picturesque shores.

Dolphin’s Walk has the same beach view as Sea Pointe Paradise. However, they shot their property at a different time of the year, and their pictures show muddy waters and dried vegetation. They don’t evoke the same beach holiday feel, despite the beautiful blue skies.


Are there any tips for setting the ambiance?



It’s not every day that you get to photograph your beautiful property, so take the chance to do some sprucing up. Staging the ambiance to create a picture-perfect result (literally) is another way to evoke emotions in potential guests.


Adding plants, flowers, candles, and cushions will make the decor of your rental more attractive. You can also use props like a magazine, a book, or maybe a bow of fruits. This will fuel the imagination of whoever is browsing through pictures of your home and make them imagine themselves in it.

Staging your property for your shooting day is a great idea to make it look more attractive in photos. You should make sure everything is spotless and uncluttered. Put double effort into ensuring that’s how your guests will find the place when they walk in.

At Village Realty, we have dedicated staff to help with staging the property before our professional in-house photographers arrive. They make sure beds are made, and the home looks exactly as it would before a guest arrives on vacation – this is key!

Although the angle and alignment could have been improved, this photo of Dolphin’s Walk is helpful because it shows the dining area and how it connects to the kitchen and living. But it’s a pretty dull picture. A touch of color with a nice plant or bow of fruits would have made it more enticing.

What are the tips for framing, angles & composition?

Here are some technical recommendations to elevate your picture game.

  • Aim to have at least two wide shots that show the whole layout of the space you’re photographing.
  • Everything looks better when it’s nice and aligned, so picture an imaginary grid to get your framing as straight as possible. A good way to go about it is to have your camera at eye level, parallel to the floor.
  • Place your cameras high enough to show table tops and the top part of beds.
  • Try aiming at a nice corner of the room to add a sense of perspective and help viewers estimate sizes. Avoid aiming at flat walls. Doing so will always make the space look smaller. 
  • Likewise, try to include a bit of the floor to show dimensions and heights. If you have a nice rug with a touch of color, even better.

The shot of Gracie Bell’s SeaShell has poor lighting and the room appears crammed. If they had included some of the flooring and selected a corner as the focal point, we would have had a much better understanding of dimensions.

By contrast, in this picture, where the focus is on a corner and there is enough flooring visible, we can appreciate the spaciousness and brightness of this room at Sea Point Paradise.

What should I focus on when photographing my OBX vacation rental?

Take most of your pictures in landscape mode and save portraits for unique details. In most beach houses, each room has a centerpiece or most impressive feature, like a stunning view or a hot tub, elements that light up the room and add personality and character to the space. It’s a great idea to use these as focal points for your shots, as these features will make your property stand out from the competition.

This Image of Sea Point Paradise centers on the beautiful view and still shows the sitting arrangements. It gives a sense of dimension by choosing a diagonal angle and including the floor.

Extra tip: make sure your pictures have contrast and a sharp focus to increase legibility and show crisp details, especially with wide shots. Leave selective focus and blurred backgrounds for detail shots only.

You can also go wrong with your pictures even if you feature a nice amenity from a good angle. In theory, this picture of the hot tub at the deck of Gracie Bell’s SeaShell is great, but neither the hot tub nor the beach has enough focus.


Can I photograph my beach rental using my smartphone?

We know smartphones come equipped with excellent cameras these days, but we still recommend hiring a professional photographer. 

Here’s why: you can see how the photos of Sea Pointe Paradise really stand from the ones of Dolphin’s Walk and Gracie Bell’s SeaShell. More than the quality of the equipment, it’s the trained eye of a professional that truly makes them shine. All shots have a touch of HDR style, and of course, a professional lens also contributes significantly.

However, if you believe you have the skills for some DIY beach house photography, remember some fundamental rules for better results

  • Turn on the grid to assist with framing.
  • Turn off your flash to avoid harsh lighting.
  • Hold your phone at eye level, in landscape mode, and parallel to the floor.

Here’s an additional tip: either choose to fully embrace the do-it-yourself approach with smartphone photos or only rely on professional shots. Mixing both will only lead to a confusing album and stress the difference in image quality.

Improve Your Rental Photos and Increase Nightly Rates


Photographing your space is like shouting to the world everything that’s good about it. Still, it’s a lot harder to achieve good results than it seems. Following the beach house photography tips above will definitely get you a lot closer to the stunning pics your property deserves.

If you think you better trust the pros, let us help you. At Village Realty, our in-house professional photographer handles every aspect and detail of a perfect beach house photo session.

As professional vacation rental experts in the Outer Banks, we can fully maximize your rental success, from photos and decor to customer management and revenue optimization. Learn more and get a free revenue estimate on our website.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on managing your rental property.