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How much is a property photo worth? Part 2

Adrian Gill

How much is a property photo worth? Part 2

Monica and Rachel’s apartment in trendy Greenwich Village should have rented for around $2,500 per month in the 1990s. However, it’s unlikely that Monica and Rachel would be able to afford that much rent, as Rachel worked in Central Perk, a coffee shop, and Monica was a sous chef. Not wanting to spoil the story by making Monica and Rachel live in a shoebox apartment, the Friends producers claimed that NY Rent Control kept the rent at $200 per month, which is pretty unlikely but made for great TV. Rent controls are an unwelcome market distortion for landlords, not least because they work to keep rent down. But, in the post-Rightmove world, there are other market distortions that can be made to work in landlords’ favour; one of which is the rent uplift available from using higher quality property photos.

In my last article for, I explained that using high quality photographs of a property increases its selling price. The evidence suggests that better images increase viewings by 61% and the selling price of an average house is increased by between £2,500 and £5,000. They sell three weeks faster on average too.

The quality of internal images also makes a difference in rental returns. The study — *How much is an image worth? Airbnb property demand analytics leveraging a scalable image classification algorithm — *found that professional photos increases occupancy of an Airbnb property by over 17% compared with properties listed without professional photographs. That’s a massive difference. The study uses statistical techniques to identify what makes a good photo and then quantifies the extra value from each aspect. The nub of this rather complicated study is that the main elements that make a difference are composition — or ‘standing in the right place and pointing the camera in the right direction’ — colour quality and colour contrast. Let’s consider each in turn.

The three main principles of composition separate good photos from bad. The first is visual balance — the sense that both sides of the image are equally weighted from its visual centre — which should be aesthetically pleasing. Secondly, there should be a degree of harmony (or contrast) between the main object and the background. Lastly, the angle of the photograph makes the space look bigger if shot on a diagonal. It’s difficult to achieve all of these elements at once; and using a talented and skilled professional photographer is recommended. And don’t begrudge them their fees, the Airbnb study showed that achieving a good composition in a property photo accounts for an increase of almost 10% in rent through higher occupancy rates.

Example of an internal photograph before and after composition correction by photo editing software.

Colour is one of the most important elements of any photograph because it affects the level of emotional arousal. Enhancing colours makes a boring photo more exciting and tense photos more relaxing — both of which increases emotional arousal. And the Airbnb study showed that higher emotional arousal leads to higher occupancy rates. The three golden rules with colour are: warm hues (reds and yellows) create more excitement than cooler hues (blues and purples); richer colours and higher colour saturation are associated with happiness and purity, so avoid that washed-out look in your photos; and finally, images with low or uneven illumination induce feelings of harshness and should be avoided. The good thing about colour is that even if you didn’t use a professional photographer, many colour enhancements can be done later. And it’s worth it because the study showed that getting colours right can add another 7% to occupancy rates.

Example of an internal photograph before and after colour enhancement by photo editing software.

If you want to improve your property photos, there are plenty of tools available to enhance the composition and improve the colours. At the DIY end of the scale, Photoshop is the market leader or, Luminar from uses AI to get you started. If you don’t fancy doing the work or are pushed for time, send your images to Doctor Photo, and they will facelift them in 24 hours. And finally, if speed matters, just upload your photos to — our AI instantly enhances the images to make them seem like they were shot on the best days of summer…for free!

Check out a demo video from

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Zhang, Shunyuan and Lee, Dokyun and Singh, Param Vir and Srinivasan, Kannan, How Much Is an Image Worth? Airbnb Property Demand Estimation Leveraging Large Scale Image Analytics (May 25, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

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