Successful Senior Photography Tips: Breaking into the Market

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Successful Senior Photography Tips: Breaking into the Market

Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior MarketSenior portrait photography can be a very profitable business, but it can also be a difficult market to break into. There are plenty of high school seniors out there but it can be a challenge figuring out how to reach them.  But there is one very important key to reaching seniors…
Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior Market1. Be Social. High school students are very social. They talk, they text, they tweet, they update their status and post pictures to Instagram multiple times a day. If you want to be a successful senior photographer, you’ll have to be social, too.

Initially, the problem you’ll run into is that in order to reach them, you have to find them. This will be the most difficult part of breaking into the market, but once you’ve climbed this mountain, it gets much easier.  As long as you create quality images and a memorable experience, your clients will practically take care of marketing for you.

Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior MarketWhen I first started, I decided to offer a free senior session to one senior from a handful of local schools. It’s important to try to choose a senior who is friendly and social for maximum impact. Some photographers do this by offering some kind of senior rep program. Personally, I think rep programs take more time and energy than they are worth.

Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior Market2. Give Some Sessions Away. I volunteer at my church’s youth group, so that was one of the ways I initially found some students. I also asked teachers that I knew at local high schools and friends with high school students who they thought would be good candidates for a free senior session.

It’s important that you do not expect any income directly from these sessions. I would explain to the student that I was trying to break into the senior market and that I would like to offer them a completely free senior session because I’m trying to get my name out there. Be upfront and honest, they’ll respect that and most students will be more than happy to have free photos taken. All I expected from them was a signed model release so that I could use their pictures for marketing and permission to post and tag them in the photos on Facebook.

Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior Market3. Get them spreading the word. If the student is happy with their pictures, you’ll know it. They make one their profile picture, they’ll share them and post them on Instagram. They’ll post statuses and tweet tweets so that all their friends will see. Once you’ve had a handful of students that do this, you’ve gotten your foot in the door. You’ve broken into the market. The really hard part is over.

Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior MarketYou’ll probably get a handful of new clients inquiries from students who liked what they saw on their friends’ pages.  That’s great! They’re starting to come to you. But an inquiry is usually not as simple as “You’re the best photographer ever. I’d like to book a shoot with you no matter what the cost, how much money should I send you?” (Although, once you become a successful senior photographer you will probably get those e-mails occasionally).

Senior Photography: Breaking into the Senior MarketThe inquiry is just a tug on your line, it typically takes more to hook them. But that’s beyond the scope of this post. All I’ve promised here was to help you break into the market. Check back soon, as I will be doing a series of posts on how to become a successful senior photographer.

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

Up next: Successful Senior Photography: Relating to Seniors

All images in this post were edited with MCP Four Seasons Summer Solstice actions.


Ann Bennett
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


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  1. Kristin
    June 8, 2013 at 1:26 am —

    This is wonderful info. Thank you for sharing! =)

  2. May 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm —

    Hi. Thanks for sharing – great ideas! One question – when you say you offer them a completely free senior session – what do you provide the senior? Digital images? Prints?

    • May 15, 2013 at 10:41 am —

      Hi Jeffri! Sorry it took me a while to get back to you, I haven’t checked the comments lately! I do the sitting fee completely free and don’t have any expectations for a print purchase. That way, I’m never disappointed, but if they do make a print purchase, it’s a pleasant surprised (:

  3. May 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm —

    You are right about them spreading the word on social media. I just broke into this market, and my clients began hashtagging my images in Instagram. I had yet to set up an Instagram page for my photography! They were way ahead of me. I even got some “tags” on Facebook before my page was ready. I was burning the midnight oil to keep up with the social media! So my advice is DO THAT FIRST! Then go get your seniors! 🙂 Happy shooting….I absolutely love the senior market!

    • May 15, 2013 at 10:43 am —

      Yes! Isn’t it awesome?! I think social media makes seniors one of the cheapest and easiest clientele to reach.

  4. May 3, 2013 at 9:33 am —

    thanks for the reminder i really need to get in on the senior market.
    will start trying to find senior reps using your tips thanks so much

  5. May 3, 2013 at 2:31 am —

    Definitely needed this looking to break out into this market soon.

  6. May 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm —

    Good tips for those just starting out in the senior business Ann! You are spot on about the social piece. The one point you mentioned which I would expand on is with regard to a senior rep program. To your point I feel that trying to break into the senior market with a rep program requires a realistic approach otherwise they could seem like they are more time and energy than they are worth. Reps aren’t going to be able to lure a whole bunch of their friends into your studio so easily before you’re established so it would be important to establish realistic goals for you and your reps if you choose to go that route. Where we might differ is whether rep programs are not worth the time and energy overall. Our spokesmodel program is a big part of our marketing, not to mention we really enjoy doing it, but of course every studio has to decide what’s right for them. 🙂 By the way I’m also happy you mentioned getting a signed model release. I mentioned that in an earlier post here on MCP Actions and someone argued with me that it’s not needed and that I’m flat wrong… Whether you technically need it or not because your use of the images may or may not fall into the definition of “commercial purposes”, you still need to get it to show that you care. To share images for your portfolio without permission of people who don’t want them shared whether it’s technically your right or not is studio suicide.

    • May 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm —

      GRRRRRRR!!!! I guess because I’ve guest blogged for MCP before my browser logged me in as “guest blogger” when I went to the site. The comment above is mine…. that’s me – Doug Cohen. I didn’t realize I was logged in and I wasn’t sure if I could delete it and reenter it as me. Struggs, lol.

      • May 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm —

        Hey Doug! Thanks for your comment! I appreciate the feedback. I know that rep programs have worked great for some photographers, and it may just be the way I had designed mine, but I didn’t feel like I got enough out of it from how much time & money it cost me. I’m not unhappy that I gave it a shot, though, and I’m glad it works well for you! Thanks again for your feedback.

        • May 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm —

          No problem Ann! I hear ya. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good groove with your seniors. I checked out your website – seems like you’ve got a nice setup down there on your property for shooting. Following you now on fb and wherever else we can find you. 🙂

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Successful Senior Photography Tips: Breaking into the Market