Picture this: after years of investing into your personal training dreams, you finally open your own small business and help others achieve their fitness goals.
The startup funds are secured. The space is searched for, purchased, decorated, equipment is bought and setup, and you're ready to welcome new clients.
But if you're relying on your smartphone's camera to capture images that amp up your marketing … you're living a fairy tale.
Small businesses must differentiate themselves and make a great first impression online in an increasingly Instagram- and Facebook-centered world, where customers will first learn about your business.
Professional photography is a powerful tool that helps small businesses stand out and attract customer attention. I know this firsthand -- after several years as a personal trainer, I realized my dream of opening my own personal training facility in Lombard. I knew that high quality photographs were needed for my website, ads, and all other marketing materials and social network posts. To make my new business really shine in the online space, I enlisted the experts at VHT Studios, the nation's largest real estate photography company, to professionally photograph my facility, helping to legitimize my business and gain credibility and a competitive edge in the saturated fitness center marketplace.
Embracing the digital world
High quality images are becoming increasingly important to effectively market a small business in the digital age. It makes sense, as research shows photography is more impactful than words in making a lasting impression.
In the past, clients would get their first impression of a new business from a phone call or a walk through the front door. However, the proverbial "front door," is now open 24/7 and clients can enter anytime, learn more about your business, and decide whether to patronize it after viewing photographs.
Now, more than ever, businesses are using stunning, crisp, sharp photos to tell their stories. It's a beauty contest online and customers will skip over your business and choose the gym or training facility that depicts what it's like to actually work out there.
VHT Studios photographer Martina Magnusson says she considers the view in every image she captures. "When I photograph a business, I view it from the client's perspective -- what would they want to see?" says Magnusson. "Clients will want to know the feeling of a space; is it warm and inviting? Will they have the equipment and work out gear to achieve their goals? Is there enough parking? And those are the questions that quality photographs will answer."
Legitimizing a new business with quality photographs
When you're building a new business, professional photography can be a valuable tool in legitimizing it more quickly.
In an age where many people have fairly high-quality smartphone cameras, or even full-on digital cameras (called DSLR's), many mistakenly believe that DIY photographs will suffice for marketing purposes. Capturing high quality photographs requires the eye and creativity of an experienced artist and the proper lighting and equipment to create photographs of consistent quality and appeal.
VHT Studios, for instance, works with photographers who have years of experience under their belts as well as the necessary know-how to create quality photographs without depending on digital photography editing software Photoshop to "fix" everything in postproduction. All the Instagram filters in the world won't help an already bad photograph look any better!
That's why it's so important to invest in professional photography as a vital part of a small business' marketing efforts. There is clearly so much more that goes into photography than simply snapping a photograph -- it's also ensuring the perfect blending of multiple exposures, getting the right angle, making sure the lighting is correct, and so much more. It may be something you think you can do on your own to save money, but if you have a professional photography company to do it, it's definitely worth the investment.
Propelling business forward
In addition to legitimizing a business from the very beginning, professional photographs can also help elevate small businesses to the next level, attracting new clients and even prospective employees for continued and future growth.
You don't want to look like someone who is just starting out -- for my business, it's peoples' health and well-being we're talking about, and they want the best care and product possible. Although having a stellar reputation is crucial, projecting a professional image is an important factor in earning trust.
Like most business owners, growth and expansion is my goal, and I'd love to be able to open another location or two in the next few years. Professional quality photographs will be a part of the marketing arsenal that will help propel my business to that level.
If you're looking for a way to put your business' best foot forward in an increasingly digitized world, investing in professional photography will make a world of difference.
• Colin Merdian is the founder and owner of The Rough House, a personal training facility in Lombard, who engaged VHT Studios to take high quality photographs of his business.