Why You Need People in Your Pool Project Photos

Eric Herman Headshot
photo of kids jumping off of a diving board
Photo courtesy of S.R. Smith.

One of the themes I’ve repeatedly shared both in these blog posts and in print has been the value of taking quality photographs of your work. I won’t recap those discussions other than to say that visually recording your best work should be viewed as a standard part of the design and construction process.  

I’d like to push the point a step further by fusing the topic of photography with the “experience factor,” an idea eloquently and forcefully articulated by industry icon and AQUA blogger Vance Gillette. 

I’m an unapologetic supporter of Vance’s view that the pool and spa industry needs to do a better job promoting the lifestyle associated with its products. After all, as Vance argues, whether we realize it or not, what we’re really selling is the lovely plethora of human experiences made possible by manmade bodies of water in residential and commercial settings. 

It’s an idea that will hopefully help drive our industry’s efforts to promote the beauty of pool and spa ownership, and it triggered a thought regarding photography: When we look at pictures of pretty pools, quite often there’s something missing. 


In my 25 years covering pools and spas, I’ve found it surprisingly rare to find pictures of great looking projects that also show people enjoying the water or the space around it. Yes, we do see such images in various ads and certainly in promotional material from vacation destinations. But when builder do take photos of their work, it’s very rare to see humans in the shot. 

We see people in pool-centric advertisements because advertising professionals realize that depicting human experience creates positive mental associations that in turn drives demand. Perhaps we should take a big cue from professional communicators and apply the practice more often. 

Of course, I realize this adds extra work and planning to an already busy builder’s schedule. Many homeowners are not comfortable being photographed, meaning a builder has to find and pay models. And it should go without saying that anyone who does submit to being photographed should do so knowing that they will likely be seen in any number of media platforms, from print and video materials to social media. 

Still, I can’t help but think that since we really and truly are in the business of selling experiences, wouldn’t it behoove us to — even just sometimes — make a point of capturing images of people having those experiences? Wouldn’t having those images help promote the ownership experience and send powerful messages about how wonderful pools and spas can be? 

Stop and think about it. How much more powerful is an image of grinning kid going down a water slide compared to an image of slide with no one using it? It’s not tough to imagine having images of kids playing, couples dining poolside or even a party scene. As it is, most of the time we’re leaving it to consumers’ imaginations to visualize physical interaction with the spaces that our industry strives so hard to create. 

Kudos to those of you who already are using people in your project images, and I’m sure most of you would add that it’s not necessary to take people pictures for all projects. You’d probably only need a few. 

To be sure, having pictures of beautiful settings with no one in the shot is far better than nothing, but this media professional believes that without images of people enjoying the industry’s end products, we’re missing some big opportunities to portray what pools and spas are really all about.    

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