Senior 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…
1. 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.
When 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
You’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).
The 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.
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 www.annbennettphoto.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/annbennettphotography.