Today’s post comes from Mike Fulton of TriCoast Photography. Tricoast is an award-winning photography team out of Houston, Texas that specializes in senior photography and teaches tips on posing, lighting and marketing to photographers world-wide. Today, Mike shares a few top tips for photographing high school seniors and getting the most out of every session.
Pre Consultation Meeting:
Have a pre-consult meeting with all your High School Seniors with their parents present. This way you not only get to know more about the student, but also what the parent expects from the session. Find out if there are certain wants and needs to fill from the session, such as a certain place in the client’s home or a certain feel or look both the senior and parent would like. Also go beyond just what the session will offer and find out simple personal things like what their favorite music is, what’s their favorite color and even their favorite sweets. Come session time this information will help have simple communication with the senior and their parents but also upon delivery of the portraits you can add their favorite sweet as a thank you bonus.
Sell the Experience:
Come session day – it is ALL about the senior. At TriCoast we have our own Senior branding, website, logo and more. We want our seniors to feel it is all about them and that they are a star from the moment they walk through our studio door. From a simple 20 minute session to an all day event, we sell the experience every step of the way. Having their name on the dressing room, having their favorite soda or drink in the fridge to having their favorite music playing in the shooting area. By doing this, the senior is left with good memories, the parent is left smiling and the portraits we captured from the event are almost secondary.
Posing and Lighting:
Lighting is important in any aspect of photography, however when photographing High School seniors it is even more important. TriCoast always tries to blend 3 different lighting patterns into each session. Each one of these patterns suits our client the best and shows off their best beauty.
Posing and lighting can really be a post in itself. My top quick tips would be to remember to challenge yourself to learn your weakness, push yourself each and every day to learn a new trick of the trade, don’t be afraid or too proud to admit you are not ‘everyone’s gift to the photography world’ and go study from others who make your weaknesses a strength.
Go viral – of course we have all heard that but sometimes a little is just right. We love sharing what we are doing on our TriCoast Senior Facebook page, but we do not ‘give the farm away’. Always stay professional and only give enough information to keep the students and their friends interested. NEVER post ‘sneak peak’ photos as it lowers your profit drastically. Trust me on this we have done it both ways and have the numbers to back it up. If you think about it why would you give away freely the one thing the senior wants to see the most? Hold on to these images until their purchasing appointment (we call ours the Investment Session).
Use online sources to get the High School Senior/Grad excited as well as their family so when they come to the Investment Session they are just exploding with excitement ready to see the images and purchase away. Once the portraits have been purchased, watermark them and put them online in a slideshow to share with everyone.
Just because an 8×10 print costs $2.50 from your lab, does not mean it costs $2.50 to produce. Remember time is the most important aspect in life not just the photography business. Time away from your family, time away from your TV shows, time away from you and your friends hanging out together, all of it is time you won’t have if you don’t charge correctly.
A simple Senior Session at TriCoast consists of the following:
• Pre-consult – 1 hour
• Shoot a session – 4 hours
• Processing of images – 4 hours
• Sales – 1 hour
• Ordering Prints – 1 hour
• Designing Albums, Grad Announcements, Slideshow, Custom framing, etc. – 10+ hours
So each session we roughly (on a low end) have 20+ hours involved.
Selling to your client:
First and foremost, remember you’re not selling to yourself. Your personal limitations are not the limitations of your clients. Just because you would not or could not spend $2000 on Senior Portraits does not mean your clients can not. Have a clean yet effective sales method so everyone understands, and don’t be tricky as you will get the money up front but a bad reputation afterwards.
NEVER leave money on the table, meaning ALWAYS have enough product until the client finally says they are done and happy with their purchases. You never know one’s limits until you find them, by not finding them your leaving money on the table. Remember the couch your client sits on in their house most likely costs $2000 and the portraits they purchase from you will see two, three or four couches in its lifetime. Charge correctly!
Simply put – EXCEL in Customer Service. Tell me one company which has bad customer service and if they are still in business let me know what people think about them. Customer Service is EVERYTHING. It is like playing Golf – it’s easy to do but hard to be great at. It takes time, effort and constant work, but your reward is a solid foundation in your community with a business which will grow for years to come.
I will leave you with this to think about: What is the difference between a Large Pizza and a Professional Photographer in today’s times? The Large Pizza can feed a family of 4…………. Work smart, always learn, hire your weaknesses, and throw away the pride. In time you will create a solid business model and with luck can feed a family of 4 in the process.