Airbnb is a household name in the travel and accommodation industry but did you know the company’s name was originally Airbed and Breakfast? It was founded on an idea born by two 27-year old’s when they were struggling to pay their rent. When an industrial design course was held in Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky’s home town of San Fransisco in 2007, all of the local hotels were booked out. In response to this, the lads decided to put 3 air mattresses on the floor of their apartment and charge $80 per guest per night, with breakfast served the next morning. They created a website, had 3 guests book and it was a success. As they said goodbye to their guests after the conference they realised they could probably go further with this idea.

They brought a computer scientist and programming friend Nathan Blecharczyk on board and originally targeted festivals and conferences across America, recruiting people to advertise their own shared spaces through the website.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: (L-R) Airbnb Founders CTO Nathan Blecharczyk, Chief Product Officer Joe Gebbia and CEO Brian Chesky speak onstage during the "Introducing Trips" Reveal at Airbnb Open LA on November 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Airbnb)

Ok, so what does this have to do with photography? Well, fast forward a year and they were still only making $200/week with zero growth. After a couple of hair brained ideas to raise capital and some initial seed funding they travelled to New York to meet some of their hosts face to face and encounter the Airbnb experience first hand. What they discovered was that the photos depicted on the website weren’t up to scratch. Hosts were taking photos with their phones and the results didn’t truly represent the spaces that were on offer.

So they hired a professional camera, went door to door of their New York City listings and took high-quality photos of the spaces (Gebbia and Chesky both have design backgrounds), and guess what? They started to get some traction. Those listing with professional photos saw 2-3 times more bookings and by the end of the month, their revenue had doubled. They also changed their focus from shared space to entire apartments.

Airbnb now contracts professional photographers to take photos of all their listings. It was a costly exercise to set up but one they believed was worth the investment, and it has been. Airbnb has overtaken the biggest hotel chains in terms of nights booked. The photographs inspire trust, one, by creating transparency. They ensure the listings aren’t a dump and the traveller knows exactly what they are getting. Secondly, by having a third party take the photos it quite practically confirms the property address.

In my post, 5 important things images do for your website, number 4 was Convert Customers. And here is a global company who have done just that by improving the photos on their site. So, is your website reaching its full potential? Can you capitalise further by upgrading your website imagery? Are your service or product photos representing the best of your brand and what you have to offer?

If you want to do better please let me help. We can discuss concepts specific to you, incorporate your ideas and put together a package that is perfect for you. I want you to reach your potential, let’s grow together!



Airbnb: The story behind the $1.3bn room-letting website, The Telegraph

How Airbnb Started – Infographic, Funders and Founders

Photos: Airbnb Media Assets