I was recently visiting a small, touristy, upscale New England town, and stopped to have lunch at a gourmet deli/foodie & wine gift shop. But a sign on their door stopped me. It listed a few requests of its customers, including this one:  No Photographs.

The deli owners were probably trying to protect their brand, but, to me, this is a big marketing mistake. I don’t know how long that sign’s been up, but this is 2012, and you want your customers to take photos.


  • Almost half of US adults own a smartphone.
  • What’s the second most popular thing they do with them? Take photos.
  • Images get the most engagement on social media.
  • They also share those pics on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor (this place is a tourist destination).
  • And those images help boost your SEO and word-of-mouth marketing.

When I got home later that night, I did a Google image search for the business—there were a handful of related shots, but most of those were of the outside of the building.

I don’t know about you, but if I’d first stumbled upon this place online, I don’t think I’d want to go. Boring photos of a restaurant’s exterior don’t tantalize my taste buds. You know what does? Seeing the indulgent trays of gelato in the dessert case, and piles of pasta mixed with delicious meats and veggies in the prepared meals section. Those are the photos I would have taken.

Allowing photographs of your business is all well and good, but not every customer with a smartphone is going to take the initiative. So make it an active part of your marketing.

Here some best practices from four businesses that are doing a great job with customer photos:

Set up a photo booth

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, (a Constant Contact customer) broke the rules with the opening of their “Hats” exhibit – they let visitors play with the art. The museum set up a photo booth, and invited museum-goers to take photos of themselves wearing the hats on display, and to model their own hats. Then, they posted all of the photos on a Pinterest board to promote the exhibit.

Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, lets visitors take photos of themselves wearing the hats on exhibit.

Allow photos on your Facebook Page

When you set up a Facebook Page for your business, one of the questions you have to ask is, “Should I allow my fans to post comments and photos on my page?” If the answer is yes, then you might have a Facebook Page like Sugarbush Resort in Warren, VT (a Constant Contact customer). The ski resort encourages and comments on customer photos, which include vacation shots, photos of food and drinks from the lounge, event photos, and photos of weddings held at the resort – including one brave bride riding a zip line.

Show off your customers’ creativity

Sharpie markers has a huge following—more than 3 million fans on their Facebook Page. And their customers are happy to show their love by posting pics of their own Sharpie art, and it runs the gamut. Customers use Sharpies on pet cone collars, coffee mugs, cars, and fingernails. The company shares photos sent in by fans or posted to the wall, as well as fan art they find on Twitter.

Make it easy to share

Woodchuck Cider loves fan photos, and the brewery has shared hundreds of them on social media. How do they get all that content? Woodchuck has an app on its Facebook Page, where fans can upload photos of themselves enjoying a cider, or an image of their cider bottles in some interesting locations. They have an Instagram profile, and encourage fans to tag them in their Instagram photos to compete for Fan Photo of the Day.

Woodchuck Cider shares fan photos on Instagram

Snap Happy

Don’t be afraid of customer photos. These examples show how pictures can paint a positive image of your brand. People who take the time to snap a few photos and post them are showing you how much they love your business, so give them a place to share them and keep the fan love going.

Do you let your customers share photos of your products or business? Tell us about it in the comments.