04. Press & photography.

It’s a little odd to say, but the only (real) way someone is going to experience your house to rent it is through photos. This is very, very key. A lot of people I bump into are so proud they take their own photos, or that they haven’t paid a photographer to take their photos, but they’re really doing themselves a bit of a disservice (unless they’re a wonderfully talented photographer!). By not having photos that showcase your property properly, you are alienating your target market of women 25 - 65 who emotionally buy through imagery.

There is so much art that goes into taking beautiful photos that evoke emotion and a real estate photo isn’t going to cut it. Your property is more than likely everything someone wants, but if you can’t convey that through your imagery, there is no amount of words you can use to get them there. That being said, though, don’t be frightened of the process! Anyone can do it and I’ve seen it. Photography is really about learning what you need to learn and then practice, practice, practice.

Every great photographer and every good enough photographer I know (including myself) is self-taught. We’ll use this chapter to demystify the process of photography and get you on the right track to making beautiful, emotional, and evocative imagery.

Similar to last week, this week hinges upon hands on practice with your camera (or phone). This includes getting familiar with taking photos and learning how to look at your property as a space to be captured — aka when is best to shoot it. I encourage you to spend a lot of time this week looking at and observing your property. If you don’t have a property yet, use your workspace, pick a subject, and enjoy the practice of shooting.

Get your cameras ready and let’s begin with the overview.


04. To ponder. 

“To create one’s own world takes courage.”   

- Georgia O’Keefe


04. Lesson: taking your own photos.

Probably the most common question I get asked is what filter I use. The thing is, evocative imagery has nothing to do (really) with filters — it all starts with taking a good photo first and I am a sincere believer that you can take an excellent photo on any device, it just comes down to a few things.

Your five rules for taking a beautiful photo.

  1. Side Light - Photos are all about lighting, above anything else. Practice restraint and only take photos where the light is good — almost always this is when light is pouring in from the side. This is because side light gives depth and contrast to a scene, whereas most other light flattens your image. I suggest waiting until the right time of day to take your photo, or practice blocking off light with a curtain, closing a door, wrapping plastic, or something similar so you can control the light. I personally take note of a room’s natural light pattern, designing the room in such a way that i ensure beautiful side light. A bed positioned near a window, etc. There’s no doubt I absolutely consider photos when designing a room and I encourage you to, as well - it makes your life much easier later on. Click here to see an example of side light used correctly and not used at all.

  2. Turn Off the Lights - The quickest hack to a good photo is to turn off all artificial light. Mixing natural light and yellow light (from bulbs) nearly always results in a terrible photo. It’s best to rely on solely natural light. Click here for an example.

  3. Take Photos From a Comfortable Seated Height - The eye feels most comfortable when a room is shot from seated height rather than standing height. This is a small but easy consideration when framing a photo for emotional impact. Click here for an example.

  4. Frame Your Shot + Check Your Lines - When you decide to take an image, remember that you are composing a picture so think about your scene as a finished product and take a moment to make sure all your lines are straight. There is nothing that gives away an amateur photographer faster than wonky lines. It’s best to watch these when you’re taking the photo rather than having to fix them afterwards, but don’t fret, they can be aided in the edit. Click here to see an example.

  5. Clean Your Lens - If you want to instantly make your image three times better, get in the habit of wiping your lens, particularly if you are using a phone camera. For a large camera, buy a lens cleaner and keep it fresh and smudge free. Click here to see an example.

{ Answer Q4.1- What are the Five Rules for taking a beautiful photo, no matter the device? }

{ Go to E4.1 - Go and learn more! Whether you’re using a big camera or your phone, it’s important to investigate ways to learn more.

04. Lesson: editing.

Now that you have a good photo, of course you’ll want to edit it. If you’re using an iPhone, the two applications I recommend are RNI Films and VSCO Camera. If you already have Lightroom for your computer, I would highly recommend the mobile application. I’m not going to walk you through how to edit an image, but I encourage you to have a play and become comfortable with the capabilities of your chosen application. This way you can feel confident in your ability to not only have a beautiful image, but one that emotionally reflects the experience of your space.

Over time, you will develop a photographic aesthetic that fits you and your house story. Don’t worry too much and don’t overthink it. Right now, your assignment is to have a play and have fun. Learn how to look at the world around you. There are little, sweet, ephemeral moments full of magic everywhere.

If you use a big camera, I highly recommend learning Lightroom and developing your own presets, or purchase sets from photographers whose aesthetic you like and admire.

{Go to E4.2 - Start taking photos and editing them. From this point on, it’s all about practicing because the more you do, the quicker you are going to improve. Don’t be frightened — the more mistakes you make, the better you will one day be. It feels uncomfortable, but we have all walked this path and there’s joy in learning. Feel the fear and do it anyway. }

04. Lesson: press.

What you’re really trying to do is get published in a magazine or online blog because the credibility of publication is what creates an emotional draw to your home. A common question I get asked is, “…but how do I get published?” and, in truth, it’s really fairly easy. First, think about all the magazines you might want to be published in and your house is a good fit for.

{ Go to E4.3 - What magazine or online design blogs do you think your property would be a good fit for? }

{ Go to E4.4 - Go and buy a copy of each of these magazines and make a list of who is the photographer for each of the feature house stories. You’ll notice that there are a few main photographers for each magazine.}

For nearly all these magazines, their photographers are freelancers who sell their photographs from private jobs to the magazine for use. So if you want to get in a magazine, the quickest and easiest way is to hire one of these photographers to shoot your home for Airbnb listing, social media photos, and website all in one job. By doing it this way, you get beautiful photos of your home (that you own) and - fingers crossed - you get published. Talk about a great way to start!

04. Lesson: hiring a photographer.

This process is fairly straightforward, as well. Once you have made your list, you’ll begin to reach out to these photographers and tell them what you’re doing —- that you want images for your Airbnb listing, website, and social media, and potentially to be published. You may want to attach a copy of your house story when you reach out so they get a vibe for your home and what you’re going for. Ask for their cost, an agreement that you would own the pictures, and ask if they are working for any magazines who would potentially like to publish this story. Photographers will most likely get an agreement from a magazine before they photograph your house in case there are any extras the magazine may want (like a cover photo or additional feature). Essentially, you’re trying to get an understanding of their cost, the legal rights, and what your potential for getting published before you hire them is. In the end, it’s these details that may help you decide who you actually hire.

One last thing: make sure your photographer understands your house story and intends to take images that emotionally match your story. This is essential because they likely wont take photos to match unless you explicitly tell them that’s what you’d like.

04. Just so they’re all in one spot: your exercises.

Q4.1- What are the five rules to taking a beautiful photo, no matter the device?

E4.1 - Go and learn more! Whether you’re using a big camera or your phone, investigate ways to learn more as described in your workbook.

E4.2 - Start taking photos and editing them. From this point on, it’s all about practicing because the more you do, the quicker you are going to improve. Don’t be frightened — the more mistakes you make, the better you will one day be. It feels uncomfortable, but we have all walked this path and there’s joy in learning. Feel the fear and do it anyway. }

E4.3 - What magazine or online design blogs do you think your property would be a good fit for?

E4.4 - Go and buy a copy of each of these magazines and make a list of who is the photographer for each of the feature house stories. You’ll notice that there are a few main photographers for each magazine.

04. Ponder this.

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”

– Annie Leibovitz

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04. Your homework for this module.

  • Begin dedicating yourself to improving your photography now. Download the apps, decide on courses, and start taking photos.

  • Take photos everyday because the best way to hone your skill is to practice.

  • Practice looking for light and lines. Shoot at different times of day to understanding lighting.

  • Shoot as much as you can, it doesn’t really matter what, but your style and skills will emerge in time.

  • Read “The Man in the Arena” speech

  • Take one image that represents your house story as a whole for you. This is a key challenge for the class so be sure to take your time and then post it using the hashtags #thehostingmasterclass and #thm04. Remember to use the comments to start using words to tell me parts of your house story.


04. Q and A with Sarah Andrews.


Q. But I have an Android phone and can’t use those apps!

It’s really not about the apps, it’s first about the photo you take. Start here and use any photo filter app you like, really. It won’t do much unless the photo you start with is good. Putting lipstick on a pig and all that. x

Q. Hi Sarah, Udemy is also a fantastic online learning platform too that covers so many areas, including photography and at such reasonable pricing. Here is the link to the photography listings. Once enrolled you are granted a lifetime access license to study when it suits you. I am enrolled in a few courses, but relating to this course, presently enrolled in a basic photography course for point and shoot cameras and have found the experience to be excellent. It may help others doing this module and for future reference into other areas. Regards, Ann

Thanks, Ann! I know everyone will really appreciate that. Photography is something that can be learned with patience and practice and the ability to be okay with not being good at something right away! X

Q. I am wondering, if it's possible to have an extension for accessing the online portal?

So, we use third party software to manage memberships and our classroom, and as of now, we don’t have the ability to extend memberships. The class takes between 1 - 5 weeks to work through, so we have given an extra 10 weeks for ‘life’. I ask that you start with this knowledge in mind and plan your time in the classroom well, I dearly want you all to get everything you can out of it and then go out and conquer your worlds!

Q. I just can’t seem to get published?

It could just be that all the magazines you’re approaching could have similar house stories scheduled already so don’t take it to heart. Also, I find that when students are getting stuck and not achieving their goals, it’s almost always because their previous bodies of work aren’t up to scratch. Perhaps they have been rushed through, or perhaps you might need some outside help? Could a couple of days with a stylist make a difference? Something to consider!

Q. This was wasn’t submitted, but emailed through, asking for my advice and general observations about the AirBnb Plus program, due to some frustration around the photos that were taken for her listing.

Massive disclaimer. You will see later in the class how I use Airbnb, purely just as my booking service. All my marketing and traffic comes via my Instagram and press, and it’s just a tool that makes my managing my property idiot proof. I’ll show you how I do that, hang in. Another disclaimer, this class isn’t an Airbnb class, it’s for anyone renting or sharing any type of space, so I don’t promote one platform over the other, use whatever works for you, again hang in later down the track and Ill talk to you more about that. And the last disclaimer, happy to offer my opinions, but they are just my opinons. Im not affiliated with Airbnb so it is uncomfortable for me talking about their service, but I will do my best to discuss it fairly. So with all that being said here I go.

Lots of the booking platforms are starting to offer programs like the ‘Plus’ program. I feel what they are essentially trying to do is compete with hotels for the business traveller market and the luxury traveller market. One fall down of the home sharing economy is that homes have no real expected standard like hotels do. I feel like in a way perhaps this is an go at changing that perception.

This class aims to set you all up for life. As stylists, marketers and business owners, and part of that is not only teach you how to do it, it’s also about teaching you how to make decisions for yourself moving forward. This class ends but your successful business will be evolving forever, as the world, and as booking platforms and markets change around you. Before you commit to any scheme on any platform, I would encourage you to do your research, and decide if its a good fit for you instead of blindly saying yes because you got sent an invite and they have made you feel special. I have personally said no to the Plus program because you lose control over the photos and the text in your listing. I know a few photographers who have snapped for this program and they have a formula they MUST work to including showing TV’s in lounge room shots etc, which I personally would never normally do. It’s photos and text I personally would want control of. You must also have things like TV’s and at least 4 coat hangers, a luggage rack and bottles of water which I don’t want to have. And lastly I don’t need it. I am in the middle of nowhere. No one books my place because they are visiting the area, they find me via Instagram and I just use Airbnb to make the process easier.

But! Maybe you are in a city and the idea of being in the Plus listings does help your bookings in a competitive market. Maybe you are happy to trade that with losing control of your photos. Maybe you have a larger space where having the things you are required to have is no problem. I wish they would remove the bottled water requirement. The last thing the world needs is more bottled water and plastics but thats another conversation.

The point I’m trying to get to, is that there is no one size fits all advice with these programs. It’s going to be up to you now, forever, to make decisions about your properties. Have a look at the requirements and weigh these up again what you are doing. You could also be your own scientist and trial it for 6 months and compare your earnings. I hope that helps everyone, the Airbnb Plus program wont be the last one that comes along. The world in which we live, your audiences and our platforms will be forever changing around us, and I want you all to go forth as strong and confident decision makers and business owners doing your own research and then deciding what is best for you, not what you are told you should do.


Hey, have a question? Found a spelling error? Have a total breakthrough revelation and want to tell me about it? Use the form below to submit your questions and feedback.

Ideas or gaps in knowledge that benefit this classroom as a whole will be integrated in, so make to review our chapters again before you head off into the wide world. Your question just might be featured and wouldn’t that be fun to see?

Name *


04 Community.

As well as our school hashtag, #thehostingmasterclass — start adding the second tag #thm04 for your photography specific homework. Remember, being connected to one another, practicing, and sharing are very much a part of this journey. Don’t be shy!