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Breaking into the Senior Photography Market

Breaking into the Senior Photography Market

Breaking Into the Senior Market by guest blogger Sandi Brandshaw

First off…I want to say thank you to Jodi for inviting me to blog here with you all! And…I also want to thank you all for welcoming me here! I am excited to share with you some of the ins and outs of working with seniors. I really enjoy doing senior work and I hope to be able to share with you some tips that will help you to grow your senior portfolios as well as offer ideas to make your senior work stand out.

But…before you can make your senior work stand out…you have to get those seniors in the door! The senior market is a very viral market, and if you offer great images and have seniors that are excited about your work then you’ll begin to see a domino effect once things get rolling. However, you can’t take advantage of that viral market until you’ve got some initial seniors to work with…and sometimes even their parents…that are willing to be cheerleaders for your studio. This is commonly accomplished by working with Senior Reps.

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Senior Reps have become a popular trend among photography studios. However, as the photography market has become more saturated and senior reps have become more popular…you’ll want to be creative with your approach to senior reps. If you’ve already got a portrait business established and you are looking to break into the senior market…your established clients are a great place to start for referrals. Everyone knows someone who is a Junior in high school. If you don’t have an established business as of now, but you want to begin with seniors…look around! Don’t be shy! There are high school students all around you…hair salons and nail salons, movie theaters, games, you can usually spot the kids who appear confident and outgoing. Juniors are the best age to work with as reps because they will be heading into their senior year…and many seniors get their senior portraits done during the summer heading into their senior year. So, it makes sense to work with Juniors who are willing to spread the word about your studio.

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Try to think logistically and socially when you are choosing Senior Reps. What high school markets do you want to break into? What areas/cities are you hoping to cover? Do you want a wide client base for seniors…or do you want to dominate the market for a couple of schools in order to keep your clients as local as possible? Do you want to work with a particular social group or club? Whatever your plan…work at it effectively.

If you are looking to have a broad client base…covering multiple schools then you will want to have at least one rep from every school that you are hoping to obtain clients from. If you are looking at a more local approach then you may want 3 or 4 from one school where word of mouth referrals will spread quickly. Keep in mind that regardless of whether the seniors your work with are officially your reps or they are regular clients…with the viral lifestyle of high school students…they will all become potential reps for you as you book additional sessions.

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There are a few important things to consider when choosing senior reps…

• Choose friendly, fun kids! Don’t base things solely on appearance. It’s far more important that you choose kids who are outgoing and involved and who are genuinely nice kids. They are the ones who will not only have an audience for sharing their experience about your studio…but, they are also the ones that others tend to appreciate advice from. A genuine, outgoing, fun, yet average looking, senior will make a better rep for you than a supermodel who is shy…or worse, unfriendly.

• Choose wisely for your market. Although, on an individual level, you do not need to base your senior rep decisions on economic status, you do want to choose kids who attend schools that are in your target market. If you’re in the portfolio building stage of your business…or your senior portfolios…then your target area may not be as significant of a decision. But, if your studio is geared toward a particular market or demographic then you will want to make sure that you are choosing reps from that area in order to see your business grow in that direction.

• You’ll want to make a decision on what you’ll offer them in exchange for their time and their commitment to spreading the word about your studio. Make it worthwhile for them…they are working for your studio! Offer them products for their personal use, their viral marketing use…and an incentive for spreading the word! I personally offer my senior reps a nice print package and a high resolution digital file for their own personal use…as well as additional products that will make it easy for them to share my business with their friends…web optimized images and referral cards…and an incentive for marketing for me…their senior session the following year will be at no charge and they will receive a print credit for every referral.

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And finally…MAKE IT FUN! I can’t stress that enough! One of the most important factors of success with your senior reps is their actual experience of working with you! Have fun with them! Shoot like it’s a party! Make a day of it! Everyone wants to share their fun experiences with others…if they enjoy being with you and you make it fun for them…they’ll want to tell their friends all about their experience with you. And that’s when things will start moving…

Good Luck!

I will be happy to respond to questions in my next post if there are any. So…if you’ve got a question or two please feel free to leave it in the comments section! I look forward to hanging out with you all over the next several weeks!!

‘Til Next Time!
Sandi

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Need help with posing seniors?  Check out the MCP Senior Posing Guides, filled with tips and tricks for photographing high school seniors.

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23 Comments

  1. April 17, 2009 at 8:31 pm —

    Thanks for sharing your tips Sandi. I am a big fan of your senior portraits – they are beautiful and your girls are always dressed so cute and fun! Last year was my first year of using reps – it was to close to the end of the school year before I decided to use reps and neither were very outgoing…so, yes that is an extremely important factor in choosing reps. I had 2 reps and I gave away a whole lot of my time and product for them not doing a whole lot other than helping build my portfolio. This year I changed it a bit, so hopefully it will work to my advantage. They have to work a bit harder to earn their 2nd session free…they’ll need to recruit 3 seniors. I have 6 this year and all have made the initiative to contact me…so I know they are excited and want to do this.

  2. July 3, 2009 at 7:17 am —

    Nice blogging. I bookmarked your site 🙂

  3. April 13, 2012 at 8:44 am —

    Sandi,

    Do you then have 2 photo sessions with you reps? One for them to use to get referrals, and then their actual Senior photo session?? I am working on getting into this and already have 6 Senior Reps, and am basically just trying to iron out the details. I was going to do their Senior session in May so that they could get their photos out and start some buzz. Am I going about this the wrong way? Any feedback would be appreciated!
    Thank you,
    Holly

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Breaking into the Senior Photography Market