Picture Perfect: How Great Photos Will Skyrocket Your Cabin Rates by At Least 60%

If you're a cabin manager in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg, it's important to remember that old saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words." Everyone in property management knows that, no matter how well-written your listing description may be, potential guests will always notice your pictures first, and only if they like them, they'll jump into the textual details.

Having top-notch pictures will make your cabin stand out from your competition and improve all your metrics, from listing views to occupancy rate and average daily rate. Enhancing the visual appeal of your cabin is a wise decision that will not only increase your bookings but also your nightly fee.

You can read through what Airbnb and Vrbo say about photographing your rental, but in this blog, we're bringing you a comprehensive guide to great property photography — and we'll go over everything from a practical standpoint with a case study.

The three cabins below sit by each other in Pigeon Forge. They have good reviews and are also pretty similar in layout and interior design. Still, one of them has yet to reach its full potential and stands behind the other two when it comes to its nightly rate. What do you think went wrong?


Ultimately, the key difference between the three cabins lies in the strength their photos have to raise their rates. Uncle Buck's Cabin commands an average nightly rate that's twice as high as Pinewood Lodge, while Groundhog Heaven is up by 64%. Pinewood Lodge has some work to do to level their photo game, but where exactly can they improve?

Let's investigate the methods in this crash course on how high-quality photos can boost your nightly fee by a minimum of 64%. Get ready to capture the essence of your property with a lot of finesse.


To make the most out of your shooting, it's a good idea to plan a little. Here are some factors to consider:

What should you photograph?

When taking photos of your cabin, keep in mind that your guests will want to see every space they have access to in detail, so take multiple pictures of each room. For each room, have a few of the following:

  • wide-angle shots

  • mid-range shots

  • close-up shots

Combined, these pictures will form a more accurate representation of each space and help guests to make informed choices when booking.

 Case study: below, you'll find a series of pictures of Uncle Buck's Cabin that showcase different angles of the same bedroom. These images are helpful in answering guests' questions, such as whether the room has a window or TV, and how it connects to the bathroom.

interior photo ideas for Smoky Mountain cabins

 Extra planning tip: speaking of questions, it's always very useful to anticipate questions your guests might have. For instance, they may wonder how many people can sit around the fireplace or if the kitchen is well-equipped for cooking family meals. When capturing images of your cabin, consider such questions and aim to answer them with your pictures.

 Case Study: it would have been more helpful if the picture below depicting the bathroom at Pinewood Lodge showed bath and hand towels, as well as the nice soap bottle they offer. As it is, potential guests are left wondering if they offer toiletries at all.

The logic of your photos
Always think of how your cabin stands out from the competition and what are its most important spaces. When taking pictures of your place, you can go with this logic:

  1. First, snap at least four focus shots of the unique features and cozy comforts that make your place special. See more on choosing a focus below)

  2. Next up, click away at the common spaces like the living room, kitchen, and cinema room.

  3. Third, step outside and capture your deck and the view it offers.

  4. Last but not least, don't forget to photograph all the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Once all the above is covered in good pictures, go around and take pictures of the rest of the cabin. Following the order above will not check all the necessary boxes but also help you organize your album down the line.

 Case study: the pictures below of Groundhog Heaven are all about it's the WOW factor that really shines in the eye of potential guests. Notice how there are several shots of the jacuzzi and fireplace. These are features everyone loves, aren't they?

hero image or first image is important to represent your cabin

The Hero Image

Not all images carry equal weight; one of them matters more than the rest — the so-called 'hero image.' This shot will become your banner on listing websites and is usually the first image any guest will see of your cabin. Considering this, your hero image definitely has to shine brighter than the competition.

 Case study: below, you'll notice how Groundhog Heaven cleverly showcases its hot tub as its hero image. Any good property manager in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg knows that's the most popular request from guests in the Smokies. The picture also highlights an abundance of lush greenery outside, which entices viewers seeking a serene escape amidst nature to click for more details.

guests love to see cabin amenities first in the photos

The Optimal Group

On most OTA platforms, viewers are offered a sneak peek into your cabin through a group of shots that appear first in a gallery view. We refer to these as the "optimal group." Similar to the hero image, this collection should provide an interesting glimpse into your cabin and its unique allure.

When shooting for the optimal group, consider the key features of your cabin. What outstanding amenities does it offer? Which details or objects add extra charm and personality? Is the property nestled in a picturesque green area?

Once again, try to answer all these questions for the guests through your optimal group, showcasing the value that awaits them if they choose to click that book button.

 Case study: below is a screenshot of the optimal group for the top-performing Second Fiddle Cabin. This selection offers a complete sense of the property, its amenities, and its natural surroundings. Viewers can already see the spacious environments. The charming neon detail is a touch that adds personality while showing that the place is far from dull.

excellent layout of cabin rental photos
What to consider DURING your shoot?

Ready to snap away? Here are some helpful tips for the process.

Harness the power of natural light

As cabin managers in the Smoky Mountains, we say shoot your cabin in daylight and keep those curtains open. Whether you're shooting the interiors or exteriors, natural light adds a touch of magic, making your photos really stand out.

Even when the sun is shining outside, it's always a good idea to turn on all the lights in the room, from table lamps to hanging fixtures and those hidden bulbs in the bathroom or kitchen (it's okay to not worry about energy-saving just this once). This is a way to even out brightness levels in different parts of the rooms.

 Case study: in the particular shot below from the Pinewood Lodge, the cloudy weather means that artificial light is the primary source, which affects the coloring in the photo. Cloudy days are not ideal, even for shooting interiors.

poor lighting will reduce opportunity to raise your rates

 Case study: in contrast with Pinewood Lodge, Uncle Buck's Cabin makes the most of abundant natural light in the living room shot below, transforming the space into a dreamy setting.

well lit photos can command a higher rental rate

Extra lighting tip:
keep in mind that there are different types of natural light. Experienced photographers often recommend maximizing the "golden hours" of the day for your shoots, which are during the early morning and late afternoon. That's when light is diffused and gentle, creating an optimal atmosphere. The golden hour light has a unique ability to soften imperfections and cast a natural glow, giving your place that dreamy appeal and subtly evoking emotions within viewers. It's pure (golden) magic!

Staging & ambiance

The day you shoot your cabin is no ordinary day; it's showtime! Get ready to clean up, tidy up, and flower up. Use everything in your favor to set the stage for a picture-perfect interior that will charm your potential guests and form an emotional bond.

It's always a good idea to add a touch of color with plants, flowers, candles, and cozy cushions. Colorful and bold pieces create contrast and make your photos pop. They add an eye-catching element that elevates the overall appeal. You can also get creative with props, things like magazines, books, or a bowl of fruits. That helps people to imagine themselves using the space.

 Case study: the image below of Pinewood Lodge serves its purpose by showing that there is a workspace for guests. Still, it lacks allure. Adding a splash of color with a beautiful artwork or a plant would have made it much more inviting.

decor is also important with setting your cabin rental rate

 Here's an idea:
why not offer viewers a sneak peek of what lies inside your drawers and cabinets? Set the table for dinner to showcase your tableware. Keep key appliances, like the coffee machine and toaster, on the kitchen counter. However, showcase everything in an organized and clutter-free way.

 Case study:
in the picture below, Uncle Buck's Cabin perfectly reveals what's inside the drawers and showcases how well-equipped their kitchen is. Guests can have a vivid idea of how they can use the space. Can you also imagine yourself cooking up delightful moments in that kitchen?

great kitchen photos in this Smoky Mountain cabin

 Extra staging tip: things might look different on camera compared to how they appear in person. So, after taking photos, review them and make adjustments by moving objects if needed.

Framing & Composition

We all know that what we see in real life sometimes comes out differently in photographs - most of the time, worse! Here are a few tips to make the most of every click:

Think about angles

It's a good rule of thumb to have a minimum of three wise shoots that show the entire layout of the space you're photographing. And it's also helpful to get your shots as straight as you can. To accomplish that, keep your camera at eye level and parallel to the floor. Also remember to keep your camera high enough that table tops and the top part of beds are clearly visible.

If possible, always avoid shooting flat walls and the result makes spaces look smaller. It's a much better angle if you look for a corner that stands out in the room and shoot it. This will add perspective to your shots and it's actually a way to let people estimate sizes, heights, and dimensions intuitively, especially if you include a bit of flooring.

 Case study: featuring the cinema room at Groundhog Heaven, this shot focuses on a corner at the same time as it reveals enough of the flooring for viewers to notice that room is pretty large. If the photographer had aimed at the wall instead, this perception would have been lost.

good angles are important for photography and setting cabin rental rates
Focus on something outstanding

Every room boasts a centerpiece or outstanding feature, like a fireplace, artwork, or a hot tub. By focusing on these elements when photographing, you can infuse character and personality into your photo selection, ultimately making your listing stand out.

 Case study: the photo below of Pinewood Lodge looks a bit cluttered. It also doesn't really give the correct sense of dimension. It would have been better to have focused on the fireplace from a different angle.

ideas to improve the cabin photography seen here

 Case Study:
now, look at the image below of Groundhog Heaven. It correctly focuses on the fireplace from a diagonal angle, showcasing the dimensions and sitting arrangements effectively. The lighting is also spot on, creating that dreamy feel within the space.

fantastic photography with case study to raise your cabin rental rates

Landscape vs portrait?

You can bet on landscape mode for most of your shots but don't hesitate to snap some portraits if you have unique vertical features or objects. Moreover, ensure your pictures boast contrast and sharp focus to enhance legibility, especially in wide shots. Reserve the selective focus and blurred background effect for those stunning detail shots.

The burning question: can your smartphone do the trick?

Considering smartphones have great cameras, if you do a good job of staging, composing, and choosing the correct angles, settings, and lighting, your smartphone photos have great potential.

You can go the DIY route with your smartphone, but remember:

  • turn on the grid to help with framing;

  • turn off your flash to avoid a harsh look;

  • hold your phone at eye level, in landscape mode, and parallel to the floor.

However, if you inspect the photos from the top-performing cabins in this case study, you'll notice that there's a professional behind the camera using a slightly wide-angle lens involved. Also, all shots have a touch of HDR style. That's a differential you still can't do with a phone. As property managers in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg, we say if you have the means, hiring a pro with a trained eye and proper gear is the way to go.

Heads-up: choose to either go fully DIY with smartphone photos OR use only pro shots. Mixing both will make your album look confusing and only highlight the disparity in quality.

Elevate Your Rental Pics & Boost Nightly Rates

Let your photos speak for themselves and show off your great cabin! Show people what you like about your property and craft a captivating visual tale for your viewers. Keep in mind, these pictures reflect you too; if they exude professionalism, you'll also look like a pro!

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