Expert Advice

Sell Color Makeovers with Photos

Web Editor | July 10, 2011 | 6:19 PM
Colorist Sandy Kurtzman, owner of a self-named salon in Austin, Texas, and an American Board Certified Hair Colorist, began taking before and after photographs of color clients a few years ago to document her work. She was the first to be surprised at clients' response. "Most clients claim to have never had a good photograph taken of themselves, and in the end are astonished at the quality of the captured image," she says. "They also rave about the novelty of the service and how the timing is perfect to have a photograph made – right after your hair has been styled professionally." Now Sandy uses the photos for both marketing and advertising her color-centric salon. (See her befores and afters at

Sell Color Makeovers with Photos

Sandy Kurtzman's in-salon photo studio.

Space is usually at a premium in salons, but I am not kidding when I say it only takes about a 3x5-foot area – just 15 square feet-to accommodate a studio.

In my reception area, you will see I have two lights, a seat and a honeycomb shade that doubles as a backdrop.

My camera is a Nikon D-80, but I started out with a D-70.

I recommend that stylists get digital cameras that have different lenses that can be switched out. However, in the beginning, you could start with a point and shoot camera-a consumer-oriented camera. They do have their drawbacks, mostly related to the amount of light that enters the lens, the amount of control the photographer has over the final product and their inability to add higher quality lenses (i.e. telephoto, anti-vibration, higher optical quality glass, etc.), but the upside is that you probably have one at home already.

Once you've got your camera, you only need to add the backdrop and two lights.

To print out the shots, a computer and a printer makes things more convenient. Otherwise you need to plan on taking your camera card into a store that can print the photos.

I myself enjoy having my computer with all of its different software and my printer handy so that I can deliver a package, on the spot, that includes one 5x7and four 2.5x3.5 photos for the client to take home.

While the photos are printing, I get the client to sign a model release. During this time I also explain that they can obtain one digital image for their personal use for $100, but they must include attribution (Photo and hair color by Sandy Kurtzman) when they use it.

Once the photos are finished printing, I sign them on the front with a gold gel pen, including a copyright symbol (©) and the year. I quickly stamp the back with my salon logo and address.

It sounds like it takes a lot of time, but it's really only about three to five minutes start to finish – two minutes to download from my card to the computer, a minute or two to select a few photos and about a minute to print them. I have a cutter to separate the photos, and I then place them in a manila envelope that will protect them on the client's trip home.

My salon is in located in a residential neighborhood, so clients have to be motivated to find me. The photos offer me a helpful "hook," and it really catches the client's attention when you tell her she will receive this added-value service.

The word-of-mouth referrals I've gotten are amazing! I have been called upon to photograph wedding receptions, since I am getting known for capturing great candid shots – and I've ended up doing the hair for the bride.

Since I don't do actual wedding photography, I have developed some professional friendships when I refer clients to wedding photographers. It is truly a mutually beneficial relationship, since we will eventually have a family portrait done and I will have paid it forward. 

It's also funny the other "clients" the photography has attracted. One day a man called and asked if I was the "hairdresser that, you know, is also a photographer," and when I told him I was, he asked me if I would like to shoot a rodeo. Since I have no fear, a couple of great telephoto lenses and know how to use the "Action Shot" button on my camera (my little secret), I said I would do it.

I shot the rodeo on my day off and, in addition to getting in free to see some incredibly talented cowboys perform, I was paid $1,000 for about four hours. Then, I made oodles more cash off the prints!

I don't buy posters; I have them made. My clients' photos decorate my salon. I use them in my advertising, in the Yellow Pages and other places. I have a book of before and after photos I use during consultations, which helps to establish immediate trust.

My photos also show up on mouse pads, on my website and as labels. In fact, when I did my first mailing about six months ago, I received a call back from "Celebrity Sophisticates Hair Styling Guide" letting me know they wanted to use five of my before and after photos for a spring issue. Imagine how cool the clients feel when they see their photos were chosen for a national publication!

The possibilities are endless…you never know how you will get new clients, or what other creative detours you may take along your career path to keep things interesting.

I started just having fun taking photos of clients, and I wasn't afraid of failure, or looking stupid, or whatever. It's not brain surgery and no one is going to die if you have to hit the "Delete" button, so just go for it! -Sandy Kurtzman

More from Expert Advice

Expert Advice Sponsored by Salon Centric

You’re Ready to Raise Your Prices. Now What?

January 14, 2019

You worry that raising your prices might cause strain on your clients. They may even leave. But as a businessperson, you really can’t afford not to raise your prices. Here are some smart strategies on how to raise your prices right.

Load More