The photos of your self-storage facility that appear online or in advertising materials create an important first impression for people who are shopping for storage space.
A good way to market your business is by using photos of the best things you have to offer, said Robert Chiti, president and CEO of OpenTech Alliance and a board member of the national Self Storage Association. Good photos can distinguish you from the competition.
“Think about the picture as a selling tool,” Chiti said. “If you rent trucks, make sure the picture of your property has a rental truck in it.”
Other good photo subjects are clean units, sturdy security gates, well-tended grounds and tidy, professional-looking offices. Damaged signage, littered parking lots and unkempt landscaping will send potential customers elsewhere.
Choose compelling subjects
Natolie Ochi, vice president of SKS Management, which runs storage facilities in California and Hawaii, said many facility owners make the mistake of using marketing materials that show only rows of storage units. Those tend to all look the same. She likes to show signage that customers will recognize when they come to check out a facility in person.
Diane Gibson, owner of Cox Armored Mini Storage Management, which runs self-storage facilities in the Phoenix, AZ, area, said she employs a staff photographer who regularly updates websites and marketing brochures with new images.
Anything that is messy or needs cleaning will photograph poorly, she warned. Before any pictures are taken, make sure everything is “bright and shiny,” Gibson said.
If you’re a photographer who hasn’t made the transition from film to digital images, you’re at a disadvantage. With digital cameras, you can post photos directly to the Internet from your camera. A digital camera also lets you see your images immediately after you’ve taken them. This way, you can determine whether you’re capturing the desired shots. With film, you must get your photos developed first.
Avoid stock images
People who aren’t confident about their ability to take good photos might be tempted to buy stock images. Stock photo websites sell high-quality images, but they’re generic. A stock photo can’t capture the unique character of your storage facility. No matter how great the images might be, they aren’t your images.
Here are three other photo pointers:
1. Take a bunch of pictures.
The more images you shoot, the more likely you are to come up with the pictures you want. If you plan to post five photos online, shoot 50. It’ll be worth the effort. You’ll be surprised how many photos that seemed great when you were looking through your camera’s viewfinder didn’t come out as well as you’d envisioned.
2. Be aware of the lighting.
Lighting that seems adequate to the naked eye might result in photos that are much too dark.
3. Focus on people.
If you include people in photos of your self-storage facility, the images will be more interesting. For example, if you decide to photograph a storage unit, positioning a person inside will provide size and scale for the viewer. Just be sure to get permission from your photo subjects. That way, no one will ask you to remove photos from your website or marketing materials.
Should you hire a pro?
Today’s digital cameras are so easy to use that you don’t need to be a pro to come up with great images, said Chris Hitler, president of the Wisconsin Self Storage Association and owner of Mequon Storage, a 200-unit self-storage facility in Mequon, WI. He takes marketing photos with a cellphone camera, and he’s pleased with the results.
“I’m sure a professional photographer would do better, but I’m not losing any business because I did it myself,” he said.
Perhaps that’s true, but Ochi said she doesn’t take any chances. She always uses a pro.
Professional photographers are plentiful, so you probably can find one in your areas. Just be sure to ask to see examples so you can judge the quality of their work. If you talk to several photographers, you’ll get a good idea about what is fair, competitive rates.