Competition between photographers to land senior portrait business is greater today than ever before. How does Randall Roberts Portraits become the go-to choice for his area? He shares how he grows his senior portrait business. One unique point just to throw out there: Randall keeps away from railroad tracks. I know what you’re thinking, “How can he be a senior portrait photographer if he doesn’t break the law, trespass, and sell illegally acquired photos to youngsters?” Well, he has his secrets. Read on to hear more.
To run a successful senior portrait business, the first thing is to be active in local schools. Support the school by buying ads in their yearbook, get to know the parents and students, and build genuine connections so they know both you and your photography business. Let people get to know you and your business name.
You also need a superior product, which means you must know lighting and posing. There may be pressure to perform, but you have to deliver. With seniors, if you give someone a photo that makes their friends say “wow,” you’re golden. They may use other terms like “boss” or “clutch” or “sway,” or whatever the latest slang is. You get the idea. When this happens, they will beg with their parents to hire you.
Be in the know
A photographer will likely be overlooked if they don’t know how to use editing software very well. I’d go as far as to say that slick photo retouching skills are a requirement for success in today’s senior portrait industry. Some software titles are easier to use than others, so look for an easy to use, fast software program like Exposure from Alien Skin. Not only do you need the right digital tools, but you’ll also need an intimate knowledge of current trends. Young adults are sticklers for what’s hip and trendy.
Right now, image toning is very popular in advertising, and so it’s growing in popularity for portraits–especially in sports. Multis (multiple pose image series) sell extremely well for me. This year especially. Students and families want more than just a standard print. I sell three poses on a 10X20 digital matte mounted on art board ready to frame. These products are a major profit center for my business.
From my experience, you will need to do studio shots as well as environmental photos. Families really like to see more context than a studio can offer. No matter what: stay off railroad tracks. The iron slats fad died much too late a while back. Mostly because it’s dangerous, illegal, and above all, cliché. It hasn’t been gone long enough to be vintage, so just let it rest and try to forget about them completely.
Today, it isn’t enough to just pose a student with a graduation banner or in front of lockers. Get to know what their interests are and play them up for the shoot. If they play an instrument, are into sports, or are the local chess champion, involve those things. Someone who is into music may want photos of themselves wearing headphones with their eyes shut. Swimmers can pose for shoots by, in, or near a pool, runners will likely enjoy shoots involving the track. Whatever the client may be into, make sure to deliver an experience that’s just for them. This is key for developing a thriving senior portrait business.
No matter what you are shooting, let them know what else you do. If I am shooting attorney headshots, I make sure everyone at the firm knows I also do family, senior, and newborn portraits. Once you complete the job and pass the prints, don’t be afraid to say you’d appreciate referrals.
Things to avoid
No matter what: Don’t badmouth other photographers. If someone is considering you over another photographer, simply ask the potential client to compare your work to competitors and encourage them to decide who they are most comfortable using. Don’t mislead them by smacktalk. This doesn’t only hurt the person you talk about negatively, it also reflects on you. If you downplay other photographers skills, others will do the same about you, and that’s not good for any of us. If you aren’t doing photography because you love it, then don’t bother.
Don’t forget–one first step to a successful senior portrait business: no railroad tracks!