When it comes to marketing your day spa, a stunning photograph can save you thousands of dollars! Why? Because humans are visual creatures. We want to see it before we try it. Even if you already have an inviting atmosphere, enticing treatment menu and top-notch staff, the one thing that can truly sell your spa to the masses is stunning imagery.
Not to say that words aren’t important. What you say on your website, social media channels and print ads certainly helps to market your spa. But a great photo will get guests in the door faster. Plus, attractive, engaging and informative photography may also make the difference between capturing media coverage and getting passed over. “Photos sell magazines,” notes Nancy Trent, president of Trent & Company. “Good photography can make or break the decision to include you; the better your pictures are, the better your chances.”
Have you noticed how hotel and resort spas tend to grab a lot more press attention than day spas? While their services and therapists likely aren’t superior to yours, they have the budgets for serious photography and publicity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your day spa camera-ready, too. To help you, DAYSPA enlisted help from seasoned spa pros, photographers and marketing gurus. Say cheese! —Carrie Borzillo
Low-budget shoots usually run from $500 to $1,500. High-end services can cost $2,500 to $100,000 per shoot. “Get three bids from professionals who have had their work published,” Trent recommends. “Ask photographers or their agents for references, and make sure to negotiate your rights for exclusive use of the photos.”
“Ask for a full-day estimate,” adds Marketing Solutions’ Oskin. “Get a list of basic prices and any optional ‘extras’ that may be worthy of discussion. Share your required ‘day spa shot checklist’ with all prospective photographers.” (See Spa Shot Checklist)
Before you hire someone, research locally and nationally respected spa and beauty photographers. “Hire someone with specific spa, salon or beauty photography expertise,” Oskin recommends. “Portrait and fashion photographers may not know how to properly light spa, esthetic and nail-care service areas, nor how to best showcase spa interiors.”
Consider seeking recommendations from editors, publishers and neighboring spas that boast impressive photography. “Ask people from travel and luxury magazines, as well as beauty editors from local newspapers and regional magazines,” Oskin suggests. “Search until you find a talented photographer with a personality you can work with, at a price you can afford.”
Found a talented pro to bring in? Trinette Reed and business partner Chris Gramly share strategies for optimal outcomes:
1 Let your photographer receive services at your spa first to experience what you offer and familiarize him- or herself with your distinct branding message before attempting to capture it through a lens.
2 Request wide shots that show the scope of your location, as well as detail shots. “Variety is very important,” Reed says. “You want to tell the whole story of the spa—this includes architectural details, spa products and still-life imagery, as well as spa treatments, food and drink, portraits, landscape and more.”
3 Personalize your spa. If you’re using models, direct your talent to embody the feeling you’re attempting to associate with your business (carefree? serene? thoughtful?). Urge them to get into that emotional space before shooting. “This is a subtle thing but it can make a big difference in the quality of the images,” Reed says.
4 Lighten up. Don’t underestimate the power of light in conveying a relaxing experience in images. Editors often receive spa photos that are too dark, or artificially lit, which doesn’t quite do the feeling of escape or tranquility justice. Have your photographer work during the time of day affording the most natural light.
A comprehensive list of your needs is crucial to the success of a photo shoot. “Always compile a proposed ‘shot list’ for photographers so that on the day of, you can better organize staff, models, art direction, wardrobe and props,” Oskin says. This would be a very detailed list noting each and every service and area you want featured, that also indicates specific props such as logo-embroidered robes, candles and fresh flowers. (Also make sure your photographers are aware that photos must be sized at least 300 dpi—the minimum resolution requirement for most print publications.)
Here’s an expert-approved, sample shot list:
• Exterior architecture
• Exterior landscaping
• Spa sign
• Interior architecture
• Waiting room/locker room
• Treatment rooms
• Pool, Jacuzzi, saunas
• Boutique area
• Spa products
• Spa equipment
• Décor details: fountains, lighting fixtures, flowers, statues, etc.
• Variety of shots: wide angle, close-up, video, etc.
• Models receiving signature treatments
• Embroidered robes, white towels
• Owner headshots
It’s helpful to capture images featuring people—this allows viewers to place themselves into your spa experience. But should you hire a model, or use attractive clients or friends? Either works. “There is no rule that says you have to use professional models,” contends Trent. “But don’t forget that beauty is an aspiration of every spa customer.”
Not everyone agrees. “We believe it is ideal to use professional models because they can be easily directed and are comfortable in front of the camera,” Reed offers. “However, if you don’t have the budget to hire talent, then of course use friends or family. Just know that in these cases, the photographer will need to spend more time directing and helping subjects feel comfortable, as well as coaching them to achieve the emotion you are trying to convey through your images.”
If you opt to go the DIY model route, Oskin suggests creating a spa promotion by generating buzz around your model search. “Put up `Models Wanted!’ posters and fliers in your facility and on community bulletin boards,” he says. “You can also post ‘Day Spa Models Needed’ want ads on ModelMayhem.com or on Craigslist—if you’re willing to swap spa services for free models.” (For more on hiring and working with models, check out Picture-Perfect Models on dayspamagazine.com.)
Consider hiring a great website designer to showcase your dazzling new photography! “Make sure your website design and your photos share a clear, consistent branding message,” Reed says. “It pays to go with the best quality you can possibly afford on both of these.”
Keep in mind that popular social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest are creating an increasingly visual world online—there are now more places than ever to show off your spa shots. “Your photography and design today becomes the face of your company tomorrow,” Reed notes.
Carrie Borzillo is a freelancer writer and author based in Los Angeles.
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