How to Monetize High-Volume Wave Pool Photos and Videos

January 31st, 2024
Surfer in blue wetsuit riding a wave on a white board at The Wave, a wave pool in Bristol. The Wave is an artificial, inland wave pool where you can learn to surf.

You might not realize it, but wave pools have been around almost as long as the art and science of photography. In a 2019 article, Wave Pool magazine credits a mad Bavarian king in the 1870s for engineering one of the first pools ever built to create artificial waves using electricity.

About the same era that photography was experiencing tremendous commercial success in the early 1900s, other wave pools came onto the scene, mostly in Germany. One of the most famous public artificial wave pools opened in 1927 in Budapest, Hungary. The popular Gellért Baths are still operating today.

As the 20th century progressed, the business of photography well outpaced the growth of commercial wave pools. In the 1960s, wave pools started to catch up when a “Surf-a-Torium” opened in Japan and the first USA wave pool opened in Newbury, Ohio, kicking off the modern tide of industry growth. Today, numerous wave pools operate across the globe and new pools open every year with well-known surf names such as Kelly Slater contributing to an exhilarating experience for visitors that can also produce captivating images.

In July 2023, Men’s Journal listed the top 10 wave pools for surfing:

  1. Kelly Slater Surf Ranch, Lemoore, CA
  2. Waco Surf, Waco, TX
  3. URBNSURF, Melbourne, Australia (a member of the Zenfolio photographer community)
  4. Alaïa Bay, Sion, Switzerland
  5. Wave Park, Siheung, South Korea
  6. The Wave, Bristol, UK
  7. Surf Lakes, Yeppoon, Australia
  8. Surf Snowdonia, Wales, UK
  9. Wavegarden Cove, Praia de Grama, Brazil
  10. The Wave Palace, Tenerife, Spain

While some popular wave pools are located in picturesque ocean-adjacent lagoons or islands like Saipan and Turks & Caicos, it’s understandable that some of the most successful wave pools operate in landlocked regions. The attraction and novelty of riding a gnarly wave nowhere near the ocean makes the occasion even more photo-worthy.

Wave pool popularity and business models have evolved from single-day visits to now also include event hosting, corporate retreats, weekend warrior experiences, and pro or amateur competitions. Some wave pools charge as much as $250 per wave to catch a barrel or up to $50,000 per day to reserve the entire park (in season), so riders will certainly want to immortalize their experience with photos and videos–whether just for bragging rights, social media sharing, or indisputable proof that they can really shred.

That’s where the opportunity to leverage a structured wave pool photography program as an additional income stream comes into play. This is where photographers and wave pool operators can adopt a business-oriented approach to effectively monetize photos and videos that enhance the experience for patrons. 

Photographers who specialize in action sports or event photography might find new income opportunities by associating with nearby wave pool operators. Likewise, wave pool management can choose to partner with independent photographers or studios if they don’t have full-time photographers and videographers on staff. In both cases, Zenfolio offers a sophisticated, business-focused set of photography solutions to help manage and streamline the process for photographers, wave pool operators and their clients. 

Let’s paddle in to see how Zenfolio advanced tools and resources can help wave pools and photographers structure and expedite a high-volume program to carve out a viable revenue stream.

How to use Zenfolio’s advanced workflow and ecommerce tools to increase revenue.

Whether you’re a photographer looking for new ways to expand your repertoire, or you’re a wave pool operator who has not yet integrated photos and videos into your visitor experience, it helps to have a partner specializing in the business of photography.

Zenfolio has already done all the groundwork for you. Over nearly 20 years, Zenfolio has been the business partner for hundreds of thousands of successful photographers. Zenfolio spent millions of dollars and leveraged years of experience to build the most advanced technology platform in the photography industry. All of this technology and expertise is here to help you jump into the deep end of action and event photography business with minimal investment and effort on your part.

Zenfolio ecommerce tools give photographers and clients a streamlined workflow with custom galleries and expedited delivery of downloads, prints and photo products. Advanced intelligent technology assists with time-consuming tasks like uploads and culling…even automated seasonal marketing to keep clients engaged and ordering.

Tremendous focus went into designing the Zenfolio user interface for easy navigation and functionality. Whether setting up a photography website from scratch or incorporating Zenfolio solutions into an existing website, the process is easy and intuitive with plenty of options to customize design, style and branding.

The Zenfolio platform also offers a user-friendly interface to simplify the setup of an online storefront and the management of sales transactions. Whether the wave pool business strategy offers the sale and on-site delivery of photos and videos, or ordering photo products for delivery direct to clients after their visit, Zenfolio ecommerce resources have the flexibility to accommodate various business needs.

In the case of selling various photo products to wave pool clients for delivery after their visit, orders can be processed from your own custom online store with the option for auto-fulfillment and direct delivery of products including:

  • Digital downloads of photos and videos
  • Photographic prints 
  • Fine Art prints with canvas and aluminum options
  • Photo products like mugs, magnets, buttons and keychains
  • Holiday greeting cards

Advanced technology is employed in Zenfolio resources to help you streamline the process of serving your wave pool photography clients and encourage ordering prints and products to commemorate their surfing sessions.

Shareable Client Galleries: Zenfolio client galleries are the key to making it easy for wave pool visitors to review and order photos or videos. After uploading images from a visitor session to a client gallery, they can proof, comment, share and order directly from the gallery. The photographer or wave pool management controls gallery access and security with custom presets.

Online Store: an online store can be set up as part of a photographer’s website or the wave pool site. It’s easy to set up and preview the shopping experience to see what clients will see. All popular payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, credit cards, and PayPal are accepted. Smart Pricing assistance is also available to make recommendations based on your local market.

Auto or Self-Fulfillment: for prints that aren’t generated on-site at the wave pool, Zenfolio partners with labs that produce professional-grade prints and products for auto-fulfillment. After clients review their wave pool session in their client gallery, they can simply select images and products to order. The order is sent to the lab for production then shipped directly to clients for a completely hands-free process. Self-fulfillment ordering is also an option to manage the process and delivery with local labs or other labs you prefer to use.

Advanced Technology Tools: if needed, sophisticated tools are available to save lots of time on tasks like image grouping and culling with, finding faces in a crowd with People Filter–very helpful for event photos–and also automated seasonal marketing with Client Campaigns to encourage ordering holiday cards and more.

BookMe Scheduling: while scheduling might not be a high priority with wave pool photography, automated booking is available to streamline the process. BookMe syncs with your calendar to instantly show your availability, session types and packages offered. Clients can make full or partial payment at the time of booking.

kid surfer wearing black wetsuit and yellow helmet riding a wave on a white board in a wave pool.

Strategies for Pricing Wave Pool Event Photography Packages

What do you charge to capture a once-in-a-lifetime image? Photographers and videographers who specialize in surfing and action sports are among the most sought-after specializations. The right subject performing just the right action can produce a nearly priceless photo. Wave pool photography is likely even more arduous than beach surfing action since the swells are continuous and not dependent on the moon and tides to produce the occasional perfect curl.

Several factors weigh into wave photography pricing, including the type of shot:

  • wave-riding action
  • event or group
  • pre or post-ride portrait

While some types of wave pool shots might require lighting and set up (portraits or groups), others might be burst mode sequences with a monopod or handheld (wave-riding). Be sure to factor in equipment costs and degree of difficulty involved in the session shot types as you set prices.

All photographers should consider their overall expertise and tenure in the industry in their pricing formula. There are young surf photography prodigies and grizzled veterans alike who command premium prices, especially if they are widely published. A few Fine Art surfing photographers are among the highest-paid in the art world. Some of the most popular “destination” wave pools could attract big name photographers or those on the rise. For other photographers who haven’t yet achieved that level of fame, a job or engagement at a wave pool is a great opportunity to hone your craft.

Professional aspects to factor into pricing wave pool photography:

  • expertise level
  • experience in the surfing genre
  • market demand–signed prints

It’s also important to consider any expenses or hard costs incurred. Wave pool operators will likely provide a full complement of photo or video gear for staff photographers. If on-site printing is offered, management should factor in and amortize these costs in services and prints sold. For independent photographers who strike up a relationship with a wave pool operator, calculate how much of your own gear and supplies you use to do your job and make sure you are covered, depending on how the wave pool pays you either for services and/or a share of prints and products sold.

Once pricing is settled, it is important to define and clearly explain what wave pool clients get. At venues like a wave pool or theme park, photography options might include:

  • free photography for all participants–just pay for prints
  • standalone session or per person pricing
  • packages or bundles including photos as part of the activity fee
  • special photo packages including a specific number of prints
  • add-on pricing for videography

Zenfolio offers ample options for custom pricing of sessions, packages and prints or products to be purchased later. It’s also possible to create mini-session packages to cover individual clients or small groups at a single event. Zenfolio Client Campaigns also offer automated marketing to set promos or discount codes for a particular wave pool event and reach out to clients seasonally without the photographer or venue management lifting a finger.

Optimizing Zenfolio’s Sales Features for Wave Pool Success

Zenfolio is designed and built to help professional photographers get down to business and start selling sessions, prints and products in just minutes. Wave pool operators and photographers can easily set up client galleries and online selling with ONE resource integrated with your website instead of separate platforms for client review and sharing, downloading, photo or video storage, and payment processing. Rather than juggling multiple subscriptions, hardware and technology specifications, and sending your clients all over the Internet, conveniently and happily keep them within your branded ecosystem for the entire process from proofing to purchasing.

Set up selling in less than 10 minutes:

1. Price List: 2 minutes

  • Review the price lists already in your account, organized by shoot type.
  • Add or remove products and easily adjust pricing or choose to set default pricing with our Smart Pricing engine that uses location, local lab prices and shoot types to recommend best prices.
  • Experienced sellers can also build custom price lists from scratch.

2. Payments: 3 minutes

  • Give your clients multiple options to securely pay online.
  • Connect Stripe and/or PayPal to offer the most popular payment methods.
  • Accept payments from Apple Pay, Google Pay, Credit Card & PayPal – directly to your bank account.

3. Connect Price List to your Client Galleries: 1 minute

  • Add the Price List you created in Step 1 to any or all of your galleries.

4. Choose Automatic or Self-Fulfillment Labs: 2 minutes

  • Auto-fulfillment by a pro lab partner for direct delivery to clients.
  • Self-fulfillment using local or other favorite lab partners you prefer.

5. Opt-in to Run Promotions: 2 minutes

  • Motivate clients to shop and increase sales.
  • One-click pre-built sales campaigns keep you in front of clients.
  • Powerful marketing tools to run seasonal promos via email and gallery banners.

Wave pool management and photographers have control over every aspect of the process to set access and permissions in client galleries, watermarks, online store pricing and payment methods. You can also easily check activity and sales with data and reports for important metrics including client gallery views and sharing, website traffic and revenue reports.

Wave Pool Photography is Tubular with Zenfolio

From single surfers, to groups and events, to competitions…wave pool photography and videography is a great way to make clients happy and enhance sales. Zenfolio client galleries, streamlined ordering, and ongoing marketing promos can also help keep wave pools engaged with visitors. Photographers who specialize in action sports and events can readily monetize their volume endeavors and open up a new career path with the backing of Zenfolio ecommerce tools. You just need to jump in, paddle out, and ride the wave to success.


  • Cheryl Dell'Osso

    Cheryl is the Director of Content Strategy at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer at Portraits by Cheryl and Seniors by Cheryl in Raleigh, NC. Cheryl has mentored countless new photographers looking to build successful photography businesses.

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