[Image: Courtesy of Trinette + Chris]

As a spa owner, it’s enough to have an inviting atmosphere, enticing treatment menu and top-notch sta, right? Wrong! The one thing missing that can truly sell your spa is stunning imagery. Beautiful photography often falls low on the list of a busy spa pro’s priorities—if it’s even on there at all. However, there’s no denying that the world is very visually oriented these days, and you need to take note.

That’s not to say that words aren’t important. What you say on your website, social media channels and in your 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 help sell magazines,” notes Nancy Trent, president of New York City- based marketing firm Trent & Company. “Good photography can make or break an editor’s decision to include you in a story, so the better your pictures are, the better your chances.”

On the plus side, websites like Instagram and Pinterest are creating an increasingly visual world online—meaning that there are now more places than ever to show off your spa shots once you’ve invested the time and effort to get them. “Your photography and design today becomes the face of your company tomorrow,” notes Trinette Reed, co-owner of Trinette Reed Photography in San Francisco.

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Have you noticed how hotel and resort spas often grab more press attention? Although their services and therapists probably aren’t superior to yours, they’re more likely to have the budgets for serious photography. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your spa camera-ready too. To help you put a plan into action, DAYSPA enlisted help from seasoned spa pros, marketing gurus and photographers alike.

Why Go Pro?

With today’s advanced smartphones it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anyone can snap a great photo with their cell. “Don’t kid yourself: Hire a photographer,” cautions Kim Marshall of Santa Monica, California-based marketing and publicity firm The Marshall Plan. “There’s ultimately a big difference in quality between amateur and professional images.”

“A photographer’s expertise is like that of an electrician or massage therapist,” adds Larry Oskin, experienced photographer and president of Marketing Solutions in Clermont, Florida. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Would I cut corners on electrical wiring or staff training?’ You really need professional photography to promote all of your services, especially those facilitated behind closed doors.”

Try to view a professional photo shoot as an important investment rather than a cost. “Business owners will often spend a lot of money on renovations and interior decor, but then fail to budget enough for photography and website design,” says Reed. “Photography is what initially brings customers to the spa, and then the actual experience is what keeps them coming back.”

Bamford Haybarn Spa

[Image: Courtesy of Bamford Haybarn Spa]

Set Up the Shot

Low-budget shoots typically run from $500 to $1,500, while high-end services can cost $2,500 to $100,000 per shoot. “Get three bids from professionals who have had their work published,” recommends Trent. “Ask photographers or their agents for references, and make sure to negotiate your rights for exclusive use.”

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Before signing on the dotted line, you’ll have to do your research to find the right fit. “Hire someone with specific spa, salon or beauty photography expertise,” counsels Oskin. “Portrait and fashion photographers may not know how to properly light spa, aesthetic and nail- care service areas, or how to best showcase spa interiors.”

Consider seeking recommendations from editors, publishers and even neighboring spas that boast impressive photography. “Ask editors of national travel and luxury magazines, as well as local newspapers and regional publications,” suggests Oskin. “Search until you find a talented photographer with a personality you can work with, a portfolio you really like and a price point you can afford.”

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Make the Most of Your Photographer

Found a talented pro to bring in? Reed and business partner Chris Gramly share strategies for optimal outcomes:

  • Let your photographer receive services at your spa first to experience what you offer and familiarize themselves with your branding message before attempting to capture it through a lens.
  • Request wide shots that show the scope of your location, as well as detail shots. “Variety is very important,” says Reed. “You want to tell the spa’s whole story—this includes architectural details, spa products and still-life imagery, as well as treatments, food and drink, and more.”
  • Personalize your spa. Direct the models 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. “It’s a subtle thing that can make a big difference in the image quality,” notes Reed.
  • Lighten up. Don’t underestimate the power of light in conveying a relaxing experience. Journalists 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 that affords the most natural light.

[Image: Courtesy of Trinette + Chris]

Human Focal Points

It’s helpful to capture images featuring people—this allows viewers to place themselves in the spa experience. But should you hire a model, or use clients or friends? Either works. “There’s no rule that says you have to use professional models,” contends Trent. On the other hand, “Professionals can be easily directed and are more comfortable in front of the camera,” oers Reed. “But 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 promotion by generating buzz around your 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 sites such as Model Mayhem or Craigslist if you’re willing to swap spa services for free use of their time.” Also, be sure you have written permission to use friends’ and employee’ images–simple waiver can be found online.

–by Carrie Borzillo

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