1. Relate to your clients
To be a really successful senior portrait photographer, you’ve got to be able to relate to your clients. If your clients don’t feel comfortable around you then their pictures won’t turn out well. Most of us can easily relate to adults, but may have trouble relating to high school students. “Kids theses days!”
I intentionally begin to build a relationship with my prospective clients at their initial contact. I primarily receive e-mail inquiries. I respond with enthusiasm at the prospect of working with them and interest in their desires and opinions, and I do so in language that is familiar to them. Here’s a sample of a reply e-mail I might send:
2. Ask questions
Sending a questionnaire to seniors allows me to gather essential information about the client for my records as well as ask them questions about their hobbies, interests and style. The pre-session meeting is also very important. In the last year, 100% of clients who met for a pre-session meeting with me ended up booking their senior pictures with me. Being upfront with your pricing is also critical because you’ll be wasting your time and theirs if you set up an in-person meeting just to find out that you’re outside of their budget.
3. Learn about your client
At the pre-session meeting, I do the same things. I ask the seniors more questions about themselves, their style and their interests. I ask what their plans are for next year and some of their goals for the future. All of this helps them relax around me and helps me get to know them. I give them a folder with pricing information, my contract/liability release form, an FAQ page and a couple business cards. I take some small samples of products I offer, including my favorite product, the custom-designed session album. I offer to buy them a coffee or treat while they look over my sample album.
4. Explain how your sessions work
Next, I explain what a typical session is like and ask if they have any questions for me. I encourage them to consider bringing a friend or parent with them to the session. I suggest locations based on what I’ve learned about them and we look at our calendars and finalize the booking. I encourage them to call, text, or e-mail me if they think of any questions.
5. Social networking with high school seniors
After the pre-session, I “friend request” them on Facebook and “follow” them on Twitter and Instagram. Sometimes I tweet about how excited I am to work with them. Usually the students “retweet” my tweets (free advertising). If you’re a high school senior photographer, you’ve got to get in the habit of using Twitter.
6. The photo shoot
During the session, I continue to make them feel as comfortable as possible with small talk. Since I already know their hobbies, I’ll ask more about them. For example, if a student is a soccer player, I’ll ask how her games are going, how their team is doing this year, if she plans to play in college, etc. I try to continue the conversation while shooting to help them be as relaxed and as natural as possible. I’ll suggest poses and make jokes and we usually laugh and have a good time.
7. After the session
After the session, I tell them how much I enjoyed working with them and that I can’t wait to show them their pictures. Within a few days I try to post a “teaser” on Facebook and Instagram to get them excited about their pictures. I text them to tell them that I’ve posted a teaser for them and that I hope they like it. They usually respond with enthusiasm and say they love it and that they can’t wait to see more.
8. In person ordering
When they come back for their viewing and ordering session about two weeks later, I set out snacks and drinks. I have music playing (music I know they like, because I know them pretty well now) and sample products set out.
(Let me pause for a second here and say that I know some people don’t have a studio or a home they can open up to their clients for viewing and ordering. But at the very least, I recommend doing in-person ordering at a coffee shop or even at the client’s home. In person ordering will multiply your sales tremendously – but we’ll talk more about that in another post.)
Once they’ve narrowed down their photos and decided on an order, I let them know that I will deliver the prints when they are ready. In the meantime, I try to do a blog post of their session using their favorite pictures and share it on social media sites so that they can show their friends (I say “try” because sometimes I get really behind on blogging).
When the prints come in, I text or e-mail them to arrange a time for delivery. After delivery, I write a thank-you note and try to mail it within a couple of days along with some kind of gift card. Sometimes I try get a gift card that I know they will like based on their interests, but if I can’t think of anything Starbucks is my default.
10. Relate to your customers to stand out
Relating to clients and giving them a memorable experience is key in order to offer a premium service and to stand out above your competition. The most important thing to remember is that high school students are very social and most of them interact using social media and technology daily. In general, they prefer text messages and e-mails to phone calls. Get to know each client and be willing to be flexible on how you interact and communicate based on their needs and preferences.
The above information is just an example of things that I do. I encourage you to come up with your own ideas on how to better relate to your clients. If you have any suggestions that I didn’t mention, feel free to talk about those in the comments section!
Need help with posing seniors? Check out the MCP Senior Posing Guides, filled with tips and tricks for photographing high school seniors.
Up next: Specializing within the Senior Market
All images in this post were edited using MCP Enlighten Presets for Lightroom 4
About the Author: Ann Bennett is the owner of Ann Bennett Photography in Tulsa, OK. She specializes in high school senior pictures and lifestyle family photography. For more information about Ann, visit her website or Facebook page.