Get the Picture? Photo programs:

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Your clients love so many things about your park. Swinging, jumping, climbing, screaming; all of it. But there’s another thing they like to do, an activity that harkens back to a childhood game.

That game is “show and tell.” And the 21st century version—capturing all those amazing moments in pixels, and then sharing them with the world—may seem like simply a feel-good thing for a guest. But it’s more than that: It’s both a profit center and marketing gold.

Parks with guest photo programs report that the systems make them money, make clients happy, and yes, send the park’s word-of-mouth hits into the stratosphere. And yet, fewer than a quarter of adventure parks have photo systems in place. That means one simple thing: opportunity.

A Marketing Tool

“This is your number one marketing tool. Nothing beats this,” says Ryan O’Grady, owner of Fotaflo, a company that provides photo services to parks and resorts. “People want to talk about what they’ve done. It’s human nature. And today, social media is how they do it. Immediate sharing is what they want, and what you need to provide.”

Guest photos at Princeville Ranch Adventures are taken by four automated cameras and two handhelds.

Guest photos at Princeville Ranch Adventures in Kauai, Hawaii, are taken by four automated cameras and two handhelds.

That can be an overwhelming notion for parks, but done the right way, it can be not only less stressful, but worthwhile. Ben Kottke, CEO of Snapsportz, another photo services provider, says the need is obvious. “There’s a demand for images of people doing the things they do [in adventure parks],” he says. “No one questions that.”

And, he adds, the dual benefits for parks are clear. “Revenue is a big one. Anywhere you have people doing something active, you are going to have people willing to pay for images of that. But so is marketing. Your guests are going to share and show those images, and the park’s brand is going to travel with those shares.”

In fact, Kottke says, Vail Resorts (one of the innovators of action photography shared on social media) found the marketing value of guest photos so great, it was willing to offer free low-res images, suitable for guests to share on social media, taken by resort-hired photographers. (Vail also sells printable hi-res images upon request.) Kottke says the good news for adventure parks is, “people are more than willing to pay for them.”

Customers at Princeville Ranch Adventures review their zip line photos via an on-site photo kiosk.

So, how to set up a photo program? It’s not as simple as handing a few cameras to a few staffers, or even setting up an array of automated cameras. O’Grady says that for the best overall benefit, clients must be happy. And that, he says, means making sure they are satisfied by what he calls the “five pillars” of action photography sales. That means a smooth system of taking the photos, showing the images, selling the pics, delivering them to the client and, of course, meeting their expectations.

The challenge adventure parks have is that, aside from a zip line or canopy tour, there is no set plan a guest takes when heading out. This means a photography program has to be somewhat fluid, and yet predictable enough for the outcome to be easily shareable.

Both O’Grady and Kottke use RFID technology for their photo systems to track guests and organize their photos for viewing later. By placing the RFID card in, say, a helmet or headband that all guests can wear, the cameras on the courses can then identify the guest and gather their images for later viewing.

“That way it’s easy for the guest to see all their images, rather than have to take all kinds of time to wade through images of others to get to theirs,” says O’Grady. “It does not matter which camera takes the picture or when or where; they are all grouped together and coded for that person.”

Automated cameras, by themselves, are often not the whole answer. Both men agree that a combination of handheld and automated photography is the best bet for adventure parks.

“You want to tell the story, not just give your basic amusement park ride photo,” says Kottke. “We want to show it all—the entire story of the entire experience.” For that, he says, a mix of automated and handheld photos seems to work best.

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About Author

Moira McCarthy is a longtime journalist who serves as the winter sports editor (and columnist) at the Boston Herald. She has written for Snow Country, Ski, and Yankee Magazines as well as Disney Interactive, and for trade journal Ski Area Management. She is also a nationally known speaker on diabetes advocacy and life with diabetes, having written "Everything Parent's Guide to Juvenile Diabetes," as well as "Raising Teens With Diabetes: A Parent Survival Guide" and four other books. She has been involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for 17 years and was JDRF International Volunteer of the Year in 2007.

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