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How To Take Better Photos For Your Hospitality Business with Tyann Marcink

Welcome to the show notes of the Boostly Podcast. This is a recap of my interview with Tyann Marcink where we talked about how to take better photos for your hospitality business.

She does such amazing work is a Touch Stay ambassador. She is a legend when it comes to all things photography, and she is a host as well as you've got so many projects ongoing. Today, we're going to talk about photography. We're going to show you and explain to you some of the key concepts that you need to be doing when taking pictures of your property. We also go through key questions that you should be asking a potential photographer who you're going to outsource the tasks, so please make sure that you watch and please make sure you go check out her website. We'll finish with the quickfire questions, and there are some really good answers. So please make sure you go tune in to the end go and consume it.

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About Tyann Marcinck

tyann marcink

I started in the vacation rental or holiday rental industry way back in 2007. I was seven months pregnant with my third kid, and we signed the contract to build our first vacation rental house and set that up while I had my two-month-old on my hip about that time might also realize that photos were the key. I was asking people to send me thousands of dollars in the mail by chat to a property they've always looked at pictures on a website six to nine to 12 months in advance because we have larger homes and large families coming you gotta book in advance.

So you know, it's a scammers dream come true when you think about that process, so I quickly realized to get above the competition, I needed better photos. I had already started my own business as far as children's room decor hand-painted and assembled ships out all over the world. And I started teaching myself better product photos. So I just transferred that knowledge to my vacation rental and my first vacation rental photography was nowhere near where I am now because it's been 12 years, but back then I'm like, Yes, this is awesome. And thankfully, my guests felt the same way too because they wrote those checks to $3,000 at a time loved it.

So that's where I started. My places are in Branson, Missouri. I live over by St. Louis, Missouri. Fast forward 12 years, and we are wrapping up this next month. Our latest build which is a ten-bedroom house in Branson, Missouri, they'll sleep 32 people with a slide off the deck down to the patio. And then I two years ago, renovated a 1900s bank building into a vacation, and all that's four bedrooms and the little property next door that in the 1800s was the central hotel. So I gutted it, and it's a one-bedroom house there on the Katy Trail, which is the longest rail-trails projects in the United States. And it goes through Missouri. That's pretty cool.

So back in 2013, I had decided, hey, I want to be the go-to person for vacation rental, how holiday rental photography in the world. I want to be the go-to person. So I became more active on forums online, and HomeAway had a forum at that time, and I reached out to them and said, Hey, your next HomeAway summit, would you like somebody to speak about vacation rental photography? And they said, Yeah, come on down. So that was my first event that I spoke at, and then I proceeded to be speaking at pretty much any major event. Between 2013 and now and of course not every single one every year, but most of the HomeAway summits spoke at Burma in 2016. For the first time I've now spoken there several times, I've done a vacation on a women's summit. And then last year, I got into the bed and breakfast associations here in the United States. And I've been speaking at those events as well.

If you go to my website, the first thing you're greeted with is abandon boring. Yeah. And my joke has always been I hate cleaning my house so much that I'd rather start a business then clean my house. I have two LLCs you know, and then several DBAs doing business as under each one of those. And then thankfully, I you know, finally got to the point I'm like, Okay, I'm paying someone else to clean my house.

Everybody's got to have their thing. I'm not the only person in my family does vacation rentals. So if you were to look at vacation rentals, you will in Branson, you're going to find my parents, my brother, my other brother and my cousin and what do you know, we're all direct competitors. So we send guests to people, but we're still competitors. So in looking at our newest build, it's actually on the same side street that my parents built a house in my brother built a house.

So if you need 30 bedrooms in Branson, we got to cover we're good right there one street. So, my brother and my dad, they decided to spend their money on arcade games. And they've got several arcade games, it looks cool and everything, but I looked at it as you know what that money in my budget, I don't want to put it to something that's going to require maintenance. You know, time and only maybe one or two people can play at a time when you got a huge three-generation family reunion together. So I thought what would be super, super cool. Well, there's a vacation rental and Big Bear, California that I've seen the back of their photos and back of their house, they have two slides off their deck, and I'm like, one day, I'm going to have a house like that. So when this when, we started this ten-bedroom, like that's what I want. I want big spiral sheets slide. It's like 12 feet depth down to the patio, and then you can get up off the floor and get in the hot tub.

What's the biggest mistake that you see short-stay accommodation owners make when taking photos of their properties?

The biggest mistake is composition and the angle that people are taking them. The big thing is your photos are conveying the subconscious type of messages to your guests. And one of the big things is how straight your walls are you ever thought about walls are security. When your walls are straight and firm, people can feel more secure if you're taking a photo and it's angled like This I mean, I'm not talking about starting at the top and looking down, I'm talking about cockeyed sideways. If it's sideways, then they're getting a crick in their neck as they're trying to figure out what it looks like and they don't feel secure. They can't trust you so much.

Because if you're not taking care and making sure your photos straight and then how much care are you going to take about them need to think about what those messages are? You're saying with your photos. So the first one is making sure your photos are straight. So up and down to not cockeyed and then, later on, we'll get to whether you're looking down from up or up to down or straight on that way. Don't tilt your photos.

But the other big thing too is light. A lot of people will go in and be like okay, we're done. I got the beds made. Everything's ready to go. I want photos. Oh, yeah. Kind of that dark outside. Oh, well, no big deal. Let's take photos anyway. You know, some people can pull that off. But generally No, no, no worst time to take photos. Absolutely. The best time to take photos is at lunchtime when you're hungry when it's noon. When this sun is at the very peak, it's at the height. It's bright outside, and It's great, and you open up windows and let natural light is so important. You don't want those windows closed and the artificial lighting it just sorry, it looks good the natural light.

Have you got anywhere online that you've spoken about this a little bit more that you could maybe reference people to go afterwards?

If you go to my website,, you go to e-books, there's a free e-book, and then there's a step one e-book, and then there's an E-book geared towards someone with a professional camera. And then there's also my press page, which has all kinds of articles that I've written over the last seven years published on different blogs and websites and things like that. And then if you want to get into it, I've got a video course as well but follows me on a photo shoot.

When you're laying out your photos on the listing websites, how do you go about choosing your first six photos?

My first photo is always the hero photo. That is the photo that if you don't nail it, they're not even going to click and see the rest you forget about it. So that one could be exterior. It could be an interior; it could be a pool, I had my community pool swimming pool as my first photo for the longest time for one of my houses is whatever it is, that will get people to click and want to learn more. So whatever shows that little tiny window into your property and speaks to your target guests, so for instance, if you're a romantic cabin, you know, in the woods type thing, don't be showing Kids Toys is your first photo Not gonna happen, you're not gonna guess that you want. So definitely, you know, use that first photo for your hero photo.

After that. I like to do a walk through the house. And the reason I do that is because as a traveller, I don't like to click on something and then hop around like, okay, here's the living room. Oh, here's a bedroom. Okay, now we're outside, and now we're in the kitchen, and yeah, they might be your favourite, the best five photos of the house, but it confuses me as a traveller, am I where am I at spatially within this house? I like the logic and the order. So what I'll have my clients do is I'll line them up according to walk into the house, and I'll do a large room photo. So a nice wide photo, and then I'll do a detail photo. So you're helping to zoom in on a detail that you want to stand out. And then the wide photos, I make sure you can see the next room from that photo. So you feel like you know exactly where you're going in the house. And you know, and you can feel the spatial layout because if you end up with a dead-end, you're like, Where, where, where am I in this house again, so take them through the house and then outside to the exterior. If you got an amazing exterior, you might start with the exterior one or two at the most, bring them directly into the house.

If you have the budget to hire a photographer, what are the key questions you should be asking a photographer before hiring them?

One, can I see your portfolio and you want to look at the portfolio very well and look at it, I mean, have they done a holiday rental or vacation rental? Because there is a difference between the real estate of pictures and newborn pictures and holiday rentals, pictures or wedding pictures? You know, there are a lot of people can make a perfectly exposed image but what you want is someone who can sell an experience Sell time at your property, you want somebody to be able to create an image that can sell the fact that somebody wants to hand you money because they can imagine themselves in your space months or even a year before they even arrive.

Now a real real estate photographer, their goal is to get somebody in the door and then hand the money over your goal is different. You have got to be able to have photos that get people to hand you the money before they get there. Very important. So look at that portfolio. You want to look at it and ask them you know, have you how much experience Have you had, can I see an entire property shoot, okay, because they're going to show you their best their favourite photos. It could be one or two from a property, but you want to look at the entire property and make sure that they get the flow of each one.

You want to make sure you have plenty of wide shots but not too wide. You don't want to oversell the space of the property. That's not good either. But look at that and then look further at the photos. How detailed are they did they make sure the bed was straight That the curtains weren't awkward that the pillows were fluff that the artwork is not, you know, cockeyed a little bit, you want to make sure that all the details are in place. Because if they've just completely ignored the details, that's not good either. Because what we walk into a room and our eyes will look over a lot of stuff you don't see much in a room at all.

But if you take a moment, even take your phone and take a photo of a space and then look at it closer, you'll notice how many small details pop out like, Oh, I got a lot of clutter in my kitchen counter. Why do I have ten small appliances? Well, I want to show all of them off, but you know what, it looks cluttered. Remove the small appliances, you know, you know, it's not necessary to do that. So those are my two biggest things is to look at their portfolio. Then look again at the details and make sure that those details are in place.

And then the second thing asks them to do you, the photographer, take care of little details before you shoot or do I have to take care of those and make sure everything's perfect, and you walk in shoot and walk out. That's another big thing. So for like my clients, I make sure I do all of that for them, I touch practically everything in a room before I even shoot. So it does take me a little bit longer than normal, but the care and simply knowing how to make a bed is there.

There are two small appliances that I do highly suggest that you make sure you get pictures up. So whether it's leaving it on the counter in the wide-angle or coming indirectly to show those two and that's one the teakettle, two the coffee maker, you've got to get those in there. Otherwise, you're going to get so many questions, and you'll still get items do you have this. Still, those two things are so important to the vast majority of the world, one or the other, not necessarily both, but one or the other is very important?

What is the one change that you would like to see in the short term rental market in 2020?

I would like to see all the different parts of the industry working together more so whether that's a short term rental bed and breakfast, a boutique hotel, even the big hotel, we're all in hospitality, we're all providing a space for travellers. It's just each of us is focused on a different segment of travellers, but we're all providing hospitality. So I would love to see all the different parts of the hospitality industry come together and really create something special for travellers and moving forward. And just in because I started in the bed and breakfast industry last year and talking to all the innkeepers in the US and getting to know them more and it's just amazing learning from them and then be able to tell them about the short term rental industry and helping them To learn more about us realizing how that we're same in some places but so different and other places and different parts that we really can merge and work together next to each other.

Quickfire questions

What's your favourite business book that you have read in the past year?

It's not necessarily considered a business book, but I've applied it to my businesses, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and I've given some presentations on it as well.

What is your favourite podcast and/or a  YouTube channel at the moment?

I don't have a favourite podcast one because I've got so many friends who have podcasts, so I listen to all of them. I'm also going to be starting a podcast as well. So be on the lookout for that. That's all I can say about that. And the favourite YouTube channel would be The Holderness family.  They make song parodies and music videos according to family life. And I connect with almost every single one of those.

What is your favourite purchase under $100 that you have made in the past year?

That would be my teal Eddie Bauer storm down coat

What is the biggest pain point in your business right now?

Bookkeeping, especially since my bookkeeper quit on me two days ago.

What is the one big tip that you have that you can pass on to a host right now to increase in their direct bookings?

My one big tip is to tell your guests that you take direct bookings because if they don't know that, they're not gonna do it.

What would you say would be your superpower?

I know how to create photos that sell an experience but also justify the purchase with facts because people buy on emotion and justify with facts.

Listen to the full podcast on iTunes or Anchor or visit Boostly Hospitality Podcast for the full list of episodes!

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