If you own an indoor playground business, you likely already know that social media is a great way to reach out to potential customers and keep your existing ones engaged. But, to make a lasting impression, you need to make sure that your photos look professional and capture the essence of your brand.
And I just want to give some tough love for a moment.
And this is meant with 100% love, but still tough love, because sometimes we all need it.
Recently I was doing some research for a Youtube video that was planning to highlight some play spaces that opened in 2021 or 2022 that I loved, many of which I’ve visited in person.
BUT- for over half of the spaces on my list I had to spend 10-15 minutes (at least) digging for even one clear picture of the space.
I typically start with the website first...
Then if I don't find a picture of what the play area looks like (most of those who are open still mainly have stock photos up or blurry zoomed-in pictures of 1-2 parts of the play area)--
I head to instagram...
Where I usually find mostly graphics but sometimes more blurry, dark, zoomed-in pictures that don't really show the play area or space in its entirety..
So finally I head to Facebook...
Where I (more often than not) have to scroll and scroll (and scroll some more) to find even 1 picture of the play area.
Sometimes the FB page cover will save the day and may have the only clear shot of the play area.
I am not calling out any one specific business or person, because this was actually surprisingly more common than not when I was researching!
And I felt like this was such a shame, especially when I know first-hand that so many of these spaces are absolutely beautiful and have so much to offer.
Sometimes we are SO close to our businesses and spend so much time in them that we get to know them like the back of our hands. And that makes it really easy to forget that not everyone is going to have that same familiarity with our spaces. A lot of us think, “well, I posted a bunch of pictures when we first opened!”, but as you expand your reach and get new eyes on your website or social profiles, chances are they are not going to spend the time scrolling and scrolling to try and familiarize themselves with your space.
I cannot stress enough how, if I had been a new customer checking out some of these spaces for a party, I would have been left with absolutely no clue what to expect when I arrived at the space and I likely would not have booked, I would have actually probably found my way to a competitor’s website.
And for working parents who cannot always visit a space during normal open play hours to get an idea of what it’s like for a party, having clear and professional looking photos online is absolutely crucial. In my experience, so many customers are willing to book sight-unseen as long as the website and social channels do a great job of depicting the space clearly.
And also in my experience, sometimes these customers who book sight-unseen are the busiest, and are quick to book the most elaborate packages and supplement their party with tons of add-ons to further save them time and energy.
So in this article, I wanted to share some tips for planning a professional photo-shoot for your indoor playground or play cafe for social media. Because something that can so easily be fixed should NOT be costing you bookings or customers.
Between that episode and this article here are NO excuses anymore. I am going to make this easier and more affordable than you likely thought possible. So let's increase our website and social media conversion rates and STOP losing out on potential sales and bookings simply because we aren’t showing off our beautiful spaces enough.
When it comes to hiring a professional photographer for your indoor playground business, there are a few tips that can help ensure you find the right person for the job. Here are some suggestions:
And here are a few bonus tips for you when you’re searching for a photographer:
Before your photographer arrives, plan out exactly what you want to capture and send them a shot list beforehand, and be as specific as possible. Consider the unique features of your business that make it stand out.
Think about the atmosphere, the decor, and the specific aspects you want to showcase. This will help you create a cohesive and visually appealing set of photos that will actually work to create bookings and sales.
For example, if you have a great seating area for adults that you know people would love if they are searching for a venue that can accommodate a large number of adults, that’s definitely something to add to your shot list. If you have a great quiet corner or an area for nursing moms, be sure to add those items as well as these small details can often go overlooked but, when emphasized, can really differentiate your business and show off your values and inclusivity.
It’s best to again get this list in order well before the shoot, so you can more easily breeze through them on the day of. It will also allow you to make any repairs or touch ups if needed, or do some deep-cleaning.
Natural light is always the best choice for taking photos. Plan to take your photos during the day when there is plenty of natural light. This will help you avoid harsh shadows and make your photos look more natural.
A big mistake I see a lot of indoor playground owners make is doing their shoots after-hours, when it’s dark outside. Don’t be afraid to open an hour or two later on a specific morning, because it will be worth it to have the best possible results from your photography investment.
And again, please ensure you’re working with someone who understands the amount of light in your space and is prepared to work with it!
Take some time to stage your shots before you start taking photos. Move things around, adjust the lighting, and make sure everything is in place before your photographer arrives.
As I mentioned, schedule a deep-clean if needed beforehand, and ensure all paint and other touch-ups get completed.
If you’re planning to have staff in the photos, make sure you communicate with them about what they should wear if you have a uniform. Remind them that their uniform should be clean and wrinkle/ stain-free, or even better, provide them with a new crisp uniform for the shoot.
Props can help add interest and context to your photos. Consider using items like flowers, plants, or other decorative items to add depth and texture to your shots.
I also recommend taking some shots of you or a staff member pointing to something or holding a blank chalkboard or sign. This can come in handy when you are creating social graphics or ads. You can easily edit some text onto the board and change it based on the promotion you’re running.
Ask your photographer as well if they have any suggestions when it comes to prepping anything or having any props on hand, they may have some great tips or ideas, especially if they are experienced in shooting retail businesses!
Don't forget to capture the little details that make your business unique. Take photos of the small details like your signage, menu boards, or any other features that will help showcase your brand.
This should be done in conjunction with more large-scale shots of your space that can give customers a better idea of the layout, size, seating options, and other helpful things to know before they visit or book a party
While we will talk more about it in the next episode, I recommend doing a mix of both clean and pristine empty-space photos and pictures that showcase your space’s personality and the joy your customers feel when they visit.
Be sure to always use a photo release when photographing other people’s children, and be sure to let your photographer know if you plan to take any live-action or candid shots.
And my tip is to keep it simple here. 5 or 6 kiddos with varying ages and genders is plenty for your shoot. Again, we don’t want any chaos to detract from the features of the space. And if you do work into your contract that you will be doing multiple shoots per year, try and get a different group of kiddos each time.
If you have an elaborate birthday coming up OR if your kiddos birthday is soon, this could be a great opportunity to take some staged photos for your party booking page and social media.
For our staged party photos, I would typically use my own childrens’ parties, since I would have complete control over the add-on and decor options, and therefore control over what would be showcased.
I was always sure to highlight some of our most popular and high-profit margin add-ons such as balloon art, an unlimited coffee bar, entertainment, and more.
I would recommend having your photographer come at least an hour prior to the family or guests arriving to have ample time to get all of the details included in the photos. You can then take your own high-quality photos of the guests enjoying the party on your phone– I definitely recommend using the professional photographer’s time and talent for the staged, clean and pristine photos.
And if you’re not quite sure how to take professional and cohesive photos with your phone, stay tuned because that is exactly what the next episode is all about and I even have a professional guest expert joining me to share her advice and experience– so you won’t want to miss it.
But to wrap this one up, taking professional-looking photos of your brick and mortar business for social media is all about planning, staging, and finding the perfect person for the job.
By following these tips, you can create a visually appealing set of photos that will showcase your brand and help you connect with your audience on social media and convert more followers into clients and bookings.
And if you read my article all about preparing your indoor playground for a recession, you already know just how important improving that social media profile or website visitor conversion rate is right now– so while taking fresh pictures of your business can be a fun creative process, it’s also crucial to your success and sustainability– so don’t take it lightly.
Your Business Plan is the first major milestone of your planning process, but MUST be completed with accuracy and detail to ensure success in this industry. Join me WEDNESDAY December 6 at 12:00 PM ET!
I asked 7 Play Cafe Academy and Play Maker Society members what is working RIGHT NOW in their businesses to attract customers and grow sales. I want to send you their answers in my FREE newly updated 2023 "What's Working" Guide!