top of page

The Importance of Inspiration Photos and Consultations

Let's talk about why stylist's love for you to bring hair inspiration photos to your appointment and how it can be a handy tool for communicating during you consultation.

 Inspiration photos fill in the gaps where language may fail. A stylist can scrutinize a photo and create a road map on how to achieve a similar look. A thorough stylist will ask follow up questions regarding the photo, your lifestyle, budget and home maintenance of desired look and work with you to get as close to your dream hair as possible, while also taking all those things into consideration.

Inspiration photos are just that – a starting off point.

Just like any artist, every stylist has a different approach to arriving at a finished product. And trust in your stylist is the name of the game. A photo will help a stylist see what your goals are and a good consultation will include talking you through the ways they can get you there and also what might NOT work on your hair type. Trust your stylist when they tell you what will and won't work for your hair.

There are so many factors that dictate whether you can achieve your dream look. Hair type, hair density, hair health, diet, pregnancy, history of salon services (maybe the biggest one) and so much more. A good stylist will walk you through all of this.

Managing Expectations

You'll hear stylists from here to Timbuktu complaining about client's unrealistic expectations. And they're not totally wrong. Unrealistic expectations just mean there's a lack of education about your hair. Let your stylist educate you. Let's face it, you'll have a decent amount of time sitting in that chair, so chat it up.

Ask about your hair type and it's challenges. Ask for future recommendations. Stylists love talking about hair and sharing info. We live for it.

Great questions to ask are...

  • What is my hair type?

  • What are the challenges (if any) associated with my hair type when it comes to cut, color and extensions (if applicable)

  • What are the best types of product to use on my hair type and for at-home maintenance of my color or extensions.

  • What would you do to my hair if you could do anything? There's a lot to be found out with the answers to this question. We stylist's are always fixing every one's hair in our minds. So this is a fun question.

  • What celebrities have my hair type?

Let's face it we all love a celeb hair inspo photo. And come on, they have great hair!

So it's helpful to know what celebrities might have hair like yours. That way you can look to them in the future for ideas that work for your hair type.

Tips to improve communication with your stylist

So , as we discussed...

Bring those photos. We'd say 3 max. Narrow what you like down to three visuals or less. This will help avoid confusion for both yourself and your stylist. If you can't narrow it down, you may not be ready to set that appointment. Think on it more or just go in for a consult and get more information before committing to a full appointment.

Choose photos of people who have similar look and hair type to you.

As mentioned before, knowledge of your hair type = realistic expectations.

Finding photos of people who have a similar look to type, skin tone, vibe- takes the guess work out and helps with better communication. Skin tone, and face shape also factor into the road map of your goal hair but don't stress about it- just don't grab a pic of J.Lo if your more of an Emma Stone type.

Look in the mirror. Look at your inspo photo. Would you say that you and the model in the photo have the same amount of hair. Similar length? Does their hair seem thicker, coarser. Look at their ends are they full or do they tapper off. If this seems an overwhelming task, go to your stylist and ask them to describe your hair type and perhaps a celeb that may have it.

Avoid Industry Terminology

Industry terminology is often misused by clients. A good example of this is "balayage". Also often mispronounced. BTW, the most accepted pronunciation is, “bah-lee-ahge” or “bah-lay-ahge.”

A client comes in and says " I want balayage" but as a stylist our brain short circuits because balayage is technique not a look. It's an approach to highlighting hair but it only works well on some hair types. So, this is where the photo comes in. Let the stylist assess your inspo photo and your hair and figure out what technique is going to get you where you want to go. It might be balayage and it might be a foiling technique. Whatever gets us to the desired goal is the technique we'll use.

Don't expect a replication of your last stylist's work

A challenge a lot of stylist's deal with is having a client explain to them what their last stylist did. While there may be small nuggets of helpful information in there, it's best to let your new stylist play to their strengths and training. It's totally fine to bring an inspiration photo of yourself (done by another stylist) but it's important to remember that stylists are not xerox machines. Put your trust in them and you'll get a much better result. A micro-managed stylist never does their best work.

Example where a photo saves the day...

A client says, “I love volume. I want a lot of volume on top, but not too poofy”

Even with follow questions, there is room for error here. Do you want Texas volume?

What do they consider a lot of volume? What does poofy mean to them? Is it smooth volume or do they want some texture in there? It’s really hard to gauge people’s comfort level and/or expectation when it comes to volume when they only describe it in words.

Waves and curls are also filled with nuance. Different phrases mean different things to people. So we preach it, photos, photos.

What do I do if I can't find the perfect Photo?

Having something is better than nothing. Even if you’re not picky or fussy about your hair, spend a few minutes scrolling through IG or Pinterest for a few examples of what you’d be happy with. It really helps your stylist out and ensures that you’ll feel confident in your communication going forward.

What if I brought a photo and I'm unhappy with the result?

This is so tough and it's happened to all of us. I mean it. Every single one of us. So, We'll tell you, from experience, the reasons this usually happens and ways to avoid it.

A rushed or frazzled stylist. Either of their own lack of time management or an over booked salon. Whatever the case may be, If a stylist is over booked and running way behind, it may not be the best day to get your hair done. If it looks too chaotic- communicate that you don't want to be in a rushed environment and would they please reschedule you for a less busy day.

On the other side of that is a client rushing or micromanaging the stylist.

If you are in a hurry. Reschedule. Simple as that. And don't micromanage the stylist. Even if your nerves are getting the better of you. Putting your stylist on edge will not help the situation and may make it worse. If they feel rushed or like they're being watched or jabbed with untrusting questions, they'll get nervous or agitated and that's when mistakes and shortcuts happen. Leading to inconsistent results.

Don't rush them and if you don't trust your stylist, ask yourself why and maybe find a new one. Chances are, you'll both be happier.

Communication failure on either or both parties part. Sometimes clients are too quick to trust a new stylist. Don't think just because you have a photo that it's all you need. Please talk, talk, talk. A big red flag is a stylist that goes "I got it" and doesn't ask you follow up questions. Here's what should be covered...

  • What do you like about this inspo photo

  • What do you like or not like about your current hair

  • Are you willing to follow a maintenance plan at home to keep your hair looking good after you leave the salon?

  • What's your budget/ How often are you willing to come back to the salon for maintenance?

  • Then move on to discussing your hair type and what may or may not work on it and a road map to achieve your goal look.

Don't skip a consultation. It's the #1 reason for client dissatisfaction.

This is why it's important to make sure you vibe well with your stylist and trust them completely before moving forward with an appointment.

Can you still be disappointed if you take all these steps? Yes! We'd be lying if we said you're never gonna have a bad experience ever. There are so many factors to a great hair outcome. An experienced communicative stylist. An open minded client. Choosing a salon based on reputation rather than price...the list goes on and on. But if you follow the tips above, you will bring the chances of a bad experience down to a minimum.

We're all about the consultation experience at Salon Bilancio. So, if you're thinking about getting extensions, we'd love to talk to you and see if it's a fit.

We hope this has helped and let us know if you'd like us to do an article on what to do if you DO have a bad experience.


Salon Bilancio

1414 Fourth Street

San Rafael, CA


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page