I absolutely love senior sessions, or what we like to call “Graduate Sessions”. I seize the opportunity to work with young, fashionable high school seniors and implement some of my more creative/crazy ideas with them. Most of all, because I know they want to be set apart. At this age they want their photos to be different-maybe even a tad better than their friends. So we find that seniors seek us out to accomplish this for them. Not only that, but they want products that are different and creative. This is very exciting for me, because I love coming up with new product lines to offer to our graduate clients!
I approach each one of my photography sessions as an opportunity to build trust with my clients. I really enjoy making people feel comfortable and I like to encourage them about who they are. One reason why I enjoy Graduate sessions so much is because they are challenging in a whole new way. But there is just something different about these sessions…they are at an age where they are seeking out affirmation on a daily basis, and maybe not always receiving much affirmation from one another at this time.
I enjoy making the session all about the girl who’s secretly always wanted to be a model and teaching her how to be fully confident in herself, just by telling her she’s beautiful, or how she’s really rocking the shoot at that time. I enjoy making jokes with the guys who probably feel a little goofy and letting them know it’s okay to get their photos taken. It really can be fun! I ask them about their girlfriend, sports and what they’re interested in, and I try to be like a big sister to them at the time of the shoot. I think that’s the key to helping this age feel comfortable, ask them a TON of questions about themselves. I also throw in a story or two about my high school days, probably much like their “boring parents do”, but none the less, I’m relating to them.
We’ve found that the senior market wants collages – in whatever way they can achieve this – that’s what they really want. The mothers love our storyboards that include 3-5 of their favorite photos on one mounted 10×20. It’s really easy to sell these because they virtually fit everywhere; on tables or small sideboards, and we often sell a vertical storyboard to them to hang on that odd wall space where nothing else would fit. I like to include what I call “flourishes” on the actual 10×20 design to help frame the photos. It helps to spice up the plain design a bit!
One product that we’re currently marketing is our Graduate Book. We custom design each book to fit the style of the client. The book includes questions that we’ve come up with that we feel will best describe the graduate at that time in their life. Questions that not only they can answer, but specific pages where their friends can sign and answer questions. In addition to this we offer a Friends Graduate Session as an up-sell to our clients where they can bring their closest friends to the studio and we’ll take fun photos with them and their friends for their book. Not only does this make the book more special, but it exposes more graduates to us that would not have known about us otherwise.
The only thing that’s necessary for all of this to work to it’s greatest potential is photographing the graduates in the summer before their senior year or early on in there senior year. If not most of them have already had their photos taken. This has been the hardest process for us…we don’t do any advertising, so at times it’s not uncommon for us to shoot a graduate session later in the year. We also take the opportunity to sell the mother a duplicate book. How special would it be for the Mom to look back at the book in ten years and remember what her daughter’s favorite movie or song was when she graduated?
Another product that we offer is our custom designed Graduate Announcements. These announcements are an easy sell because most of our clients are bored with the same announcements that people have been getting through the school for years. They don’t have to purchase a ton of wallets to go into each announcement because the photos are the announcement! This is GREAT advertisement for us, therefore we don’t charge outrageously, but we do charge appropriately. We are always sure to include our website URL on the back of each card.
That about sums it up, we look forward to continuing to make Graduates a big part of our business!
If there is any advice I can give about senior sessions specifically it would be to charge appropriately. I do find that we do more retouching work, and I spend longer on the actual session…so we are sure to calculate the number of hours we spend from start to finish so that we are sure to bring in a decent profit.
Heather will also be offering her Graduate Book templates, as well as Graduate Announcement templates through her design website: www.art-isdesign.com in the very near future!
Written by Heather Essian of Heather Essian Portrait Arts