Getting Started & Research Your Market


Senior Portraits: Create the Ultimate Experience


Lesson Info

Getting Started & Research Your Market

How do you get into senior photography and as some of you already you know, photographs seniors, some of you out there probably already doas well, but maybe there's some that haven't yet branched into it, eh? So we're going to talk a little bit about how you can get into it and even if you have already started your senior portrait photography, some of this stuff will help you, you know grow that so so that's what we're going to talk about now the first thing to dio is researcher market this's so important because with seniors particularly it's different all over the country on def, you don't know how it is in your area and then how are you going to market tio? How are you gonna get your business out there? So what is senior photography like in your area? I actually talked to a couple of people all over the country as you can see on this map andi asked them, you know, what is it like for them isat a yearbook photo or is it a senior portrait experience or is it both there? Those two thin...

gs are different, but in certain parts of the country their yearbook photo is their senior portrait experience s o we have britain clues who is here in washington she has a very distinct senior season and the reason for that is because her clients can submit their own photo to the yearbook, they hire a photographer, whoever they want to hire and they get their great photo session, and then they pick one from that to putting the yearbooks everybody's photos different, I'm sure there's some people that probably submit iphone photos within some people you know, submit these great photos by britney or somebody like britney, so that's important to know and because of the way then they do it. She knows that her senior season is a certain amount of months, period, because she knows that everybody coming to her is trying to get that photo for the year book, and she knows the deadline, so she knows she's gonna amp up her marketing before june or right around june and market through september thirtieth and book up those months that's when they're going to have it taken after that. Yearbook photos do like october first or so, so she knows she's done at that point until the next season. So that's important to know for you in your area because that way you'll know when and how to get out there s o that's, britney on dh, then local in dallas, missie davis hers there is two separate things, which is a lot like what it is in my area and some other areas in other words, the high school's contract out this big you know, photo company, I think you know, there's a couple of different ones out there on the students go to the school, they have generic backdrop, they might wear like one of those drake black great things, the guy's probably wear that fake tux thing, a test that's what they do in my area and I think that's the same and misty's area on dh, so they have to have that if they want to be in the yearbook and then separate from that, they would hire somebody like misty or myself or whatever to take a completely different photo session more about them or about the personality, let him wear whatever they want, aware that those aren't the ones that go in the yearbook. So knowing that that you have to be able to market, why do people need to come to you? They've already had this yearbook photo taken that's kind of how it was for me is people knew the yearbook photo and thought that was their senior fortunate experience, and I'm like no, no, no there's the whole another thing out there that you, khun dio and educating your area if it's something similar to misty's or mine eyes really important because you've got to tell them why they need to come to you, they've already had this yearbook photo taken water they need another one well because we're going to give you a better experience we're not going to give you the exact same pose that every single other student in your class had we're not going to make you tilt your head some weird away are the other day I asked a senior and she was like oh my gosh it was so hot I felt so weird because they kept saying until tilts more tilts more till you are as you said on the time they got where she loaded I think she was like this and she felt I'd you know and generally I hear from them that it just isn't what they wanted it's more you know, just that generic photo right by god doesn't gaggle right? But so that is what I can give them that's different so knowing that and knowing your if you are somebody that can you submit their own photo then you need to know that deadline because you need to know when you've got to get those clients in and when you've got to get them edited and when you got to get him back s o that's important if you are somebody that has an area where you know separate photo shoot for your book and then you give them something else within you've gotta educate that client to tell them why they need to do both so those are some of the things that you really need to know to really get into senior photography so you know how to market your business, how to build your business, what you're going to offer that different. So those air something's there very important in my area, they're a bunch of different high schools. So the next step is to really know what each of those high schools have in place. What there, when they take their yearbook photo, usually it's july from my area, some high schools it's, august, but it's usually the summer before their senior year. So knowing that, as I do a good job marketing before they go, take that photo when they take that photo and don't necessarily have some great experience, then they automatically think of mayo, I gotta call her. I didn't. I really enjoyed that, or it wasn't me so that's important. So knowing the difference is important. What is the difference? Twenty yearbook photo and a senior portrait experience. Now, if you are somebody out there that wants to be the contract, a photographer and you want to do that that's great, but the type of senior photography that I do that I think all of you do here in the audience is different than that contract id photo shoot it's, more of an experience, so let's talk about the difference. With a boutique photographer or senior portrait that are very experience, you know, they get to wear whatever they want, aware they don't have to wear black great, they don't have to put this fake tux thing, they can wear whatever, however many that you let them where they can really showcase their personality through their style. I mean, take what I'm wearing. For instance, I love color this saying who I am without me saying a word, I mean, you know, to me, like, you've got some impression of me about the fact that I have on these bright colors and these, you know, this big necklace and whatever so style is important, and then being able to express it is important, maybe their urban, maybe there a little more grungy, maybe they are hipster, maybe they all these different things? Maybe they're a combination of all of them. They can do that in a senior portrait experience. They can change however many times you want them to change. You can limit that you cannot depends on your business that's different than the yearbook photo yearbook photo most likely they're going to have to wear black drape, and they're going to look the same, and I get that because in a yearbook, it looks nice. I mean let's be honest it looks nice in my yearbook everybody wore different things granted that was a long time ago we won't mention the year but everybody wore different stuff and oh my gosh we had this backdrop can I tell this it dates me because of the backdrop I actually wore something that would have stood the test of time it was this black sheath dress that I mean was popular in the sixties seventies a I mean you know like all but the backdrop gives me away it's got these gosh awful like laser beams going across my head there like purple and blue and pink and no no thank you it was not that was not good you know but that's what that's what itwas that was what was popular back then anyway so knowing the difference okay so what's the wears the big thing they have to wear certain thing for yearbook photo in most places but with you they can wear anything they want they can showcase their style okay so then when they have their photos taken that's different dependent on your market which is again back to the research you need to know this my market I can take their photos any time between the summer before their senior year fall of their senior year we don't really do winter all the way up until they graduate that's when my market is I know that with the yearbook squeaky sorry with the yearbook photo, they have to have it done in july or august period that's it and they can't make the date that would set. I don't think they have another option. They may have won makeup date, you know? So that again is more personal. It gives them a more personal experience. They can pick when they want always till girls they called me and they say, you know when is the best time to have your photos taken? And I'm always like well, do you love the fall? Do you love spring? What do you love? Tto waiter personally, I love spring and summer clothes the best so that makes sense to me to have it done. I love the weather I love the you know, the I love warm weather. I love the colors and stuff like that, but there are some people that love fall. They love coats and they love jackets and they live starves and boots and all that stuff and they love the fall leaves so that's a perfect time for them. So again, it goes back to being personal. You don't have to have it taken when somebody did takes to you that you have to have it taken so that's the big difference, background on location as I mentioned, laser being background would not have them much always right? No, thank you I had a senior a couple of years ago, she's actually my own baby sitter, she didn't know what the backdrop would be and showed up and it was a red brick backdrop she had on rid so she basically was camouflaged in her photo. So with the senior portrait experience with the booty photography type experience, you can find out from them. Do you have a favorite place? Do you have, you know, a look that you won't do you like a country, you know kind of field you like a field open field with that sort of romantic type feeling? Or do you like an urban look? You can go to these places or do you like both? And can you incorporate both into a session and give them the ultimate experience where they can do you know all aspects of their personality? So that's important? Because again with yearbook photo it's most likely in the school, gym or library or wherever inside the school that's set up? If you're somebody that loves to shoot in a studio, if you have a studio there again, you can still personalize it by finding out you know something unique to the senior and incorporating that into a backdrop like a glitter backdrop thing drop it modern has amazing backdrop so that's something you want to incorporate you could find out from your senior you know what do you like and then find a backdrop that morph if it's them instead of just a generic backdrop that everybody would have so backdrop in location important on dh then what order? You know you guys have the ability to create collections or packages are all a cart that really speak to your client, you khun kind of research what they've been buying and then make a package accordingly? Like what are your most popular items? Whereas maybe the yearbook photo eyes just a generic package they can't probably change it a lot if you think about your kids photo package is that you get, you know, in elementary school or whatever, I can't change it that much I mean it's you know it's this this or this and that's it, but with a boutique photographer or senior fortune experience you can created however you want, so there's air the differences and I think that's powerful information because again, you can build your specifically to be different than that yearbook photo if you are somebody that has that type of senior photography in your in your area so that's a little bit about that jumping with a question for you because really it's really great to hear how you're approaching this and also the type of education that you might have tio educate your clients your potential clients as well what I've been talking about but folks were wondering how do you actually get that information? That's so yeah exactly so how do you how do you find out? Okay, yeah, we'll talk about that for sure. Yeah, because you do you do have to do some research you do have to find out it's not necessarily mean again if you don't have a student, you have a child that that aid you you probably don't know this stuff. So yet so that's when profiling your area high schools coming into play information to gather on each high school will answer some of these questions for you let's talk about ok so simple things name of high schools address where are they? Contact info website these air great ways to find out you know what high schools in your area I know for me they're seven public high schools in my immediate area I know that there are three private schools in my immediate area this is just internet search or just knowing and talking to people on dh then I know there's several other high schools in the outer lying areas suburbs, if you will of greenville not agreeing with huge so it doesn't really have suburbs but still easily is a town like twenty minutes away simpsonville thes towns outside of greenville I could potentially market too if I wanted teo so no one how many high schools isan important thing to find out about your area because you want to figure out which high schools you want a market too so you need to know the name of them you know again where they are the address because if you are going to be marketing to the students and that high school you're most likely going to maybe have tio traveled to that area or maybe you have them come to you but knowing the distance is a good thing because you know, like I say time time is money, so if you're if I'm going to market too easily, which is twenty, thirty minutes away, well, I gotta figure that into my pricing, you know, domain so these things help that helps build that on dh then other things is like I say distance from you number of students in your senior classes I know angela here's from dallas and they have like a million senior students in their class is e mean, they're high schools are he longest? But she knows that and you know what? She knows that she can't physically probably shoot every senior, but then she doesn't have to worry about that she just use the market her ideal client because you can't physically shoot every thousand kid, and you're, you know, in your high schools or whatever. So no one that that can come from the school's website. You get a pleasure of information from school's website that, you know, they have to have it on there anyway so you can go find out, you know, income or parents jobs, really, they'll tell you, it will tell you that I'll tell you how many kids are in the whole school to tell you how many graduate I'll tell you, how many go on to college there's a lot of information you could get and then simply picking up the phone and calling the secretary tons of them. So yeah, I mean, I just called her after I'm like, hey wins your yearbook photo deadline. What? Who is the company that takes them? And she told me, I called you know, like I say, I've made a list of the high schools that I really wanted teo market to I have I'm actually my house is smack dab in the middle of riverside high school and eastside high school. I literally could walk to this, so I knew immediately I wanted teo market to them. They're in my area I knew people that you know, I might have kids that go there or whatever, so I picked up the phone I called the secretary said, hey, you know, do you guys have a deadline for your book? But yes, we do it's such and such a date? Do you have a deadline for ads in the back of the yearbook that's important? Because if you are at a in an area where they have toa have a yearbook photo, a lot of students will then buy an ad in the back of the yearbook and put one of your photos in that because they want to show who they are they might put a photo of them when they were kids, their babies or whatever their parents might buy this ad and say, you know, good luck, amy or whatever and show some photos throughout her year, so no one that's important to you and they'll tell you that generally my yearbook deadline for like ads and stuff is very early, so know that ahead of time because a lot of time some seniors will wait till the very end of the year to actually have their photo session done s o that way they've missed that deadline to possibly do that s o educating them, saying, hey, you know something you're thinking about really make sure you book a session the summer before your senior year or september but I think mostly they're due in october so you got to know that but yeah finding out how they handle the yearbook photo again information you can find out just from talking to people we know anybody that has a student or has had a student yeah yeah so you deal with the yearbook probably right in so one of the things that other photographers can also do is go online and call the secretary and find out who's the journalism teacher and email them because they know all of the deadline that's right? They know all the different that's right? And if you have a student for a past client that was on your books down yes you can find it out from there so yeah just don't be afraid to call him the worst they could do is say sorry I'm not telling you that and they won't that that's the worst they could you know yeah that's a good tip journalism I went school for journalism so yeah anyway so okay so yeah find out how they handle the yearbook photos find out when are these photos taken andi all of that good stuff to be able to really get this knowledge of of your area do having questions up there so we absolutely do have questions but we also have people commenting about what it's like in their area so sharing for particular parts of the us and we want to hear from me of here international as well right here about what markets are what people do in your countries as well but we have ha photo who says my areas divers here in our love whole area the seniors can only use those school photographers images in the annual yearbook but normally have had shoots for school and then they normally I get clients that have had those chutes but then they come to me to get the ones that they actually want to own similar to what we've been hearing in k pool in southern michigan or at least her part of it yearbooks photos were taken by school photography companies and senior portrait are taken by a professional photographer pers so just starting getting to know what it is like random and maybe we can hear from some of us so what it's like in your areas as well yeah lindsay in portland they used my picture for the year but on so it's a really short season for me the same also the weather right but when thing I've offered in the past because I'm basically full through september which is kind of when their yearbook pictures they're due november first is if people want to book after that I just do a little mini session and do a yearbook picture that's a little more time for me but then I can extend my season season, right? Yeah. Which is great. That's awesome. Yeah, something you can do to extend that season when you have such a distinct season. Good. Maybe even do family senior photos, you know, like, that would be a good idea to keep that relationship with clients, maybe even give them, you know, the one that booked maybe give them some sort of freebie. If they book a family session, then you do the family sessions later in the year? Yes. It's going to have a deadline, you know? May I? Yes, I think that's a good idea. I thought of offering, like, for the next summer doing unlike family, many sessions. So I do sometimes shoot family. So just right before they go to college, right? Like college moms usually want that, or at least in my area they want to capture their family before their little girl goes off. Blast out of this do you know? So it is a great marketing tool and would extend your season, you know? Can you shoot? What months can you shoot? Because the weather I am happy to shoot anytime. I mean the weather it's starting in october. It's questionable issue november or december at all just because rescheduling is so crazy right on dh, then winter like january tell mei is slow okay so most seniors want to wait till the end of august because they want to have a tan right they want the end yeah there's not a lot of time in oregon to get a chance write right you gotta pack a man right yeah so I have august is always and what do you do that rain I'm a lot I had a shoot on tuesday night in the rain so we're just going right and then got so it just kind of depends on the client if they're ok I mean it wasn't pouring if it was pouring we'd reschedule okay got it yeah funny we've had shoot here and started sprinkling and would you do you have to work with what you got especially if you live in an area that it rains you probably don't have the luxury of get going a whole lot right now well this time of year when I am booked then there's not a lot of time to schedule and I have you work with a makeup artist so that I have to work with her schedule also yeah yeah so anybody else want to share about how it isn't yours signor photography is you have one day online so we have christy cousins who is joining us from the uk oh good oh good and so she says it's all really new here we've been having prompts for a few years but your backs haven't really come in so that I don't have your books and the shooting as far as she knows so she's wondering about approaching a local school and seeing if they're interested way also have we have I know there's a good question about this where I'm from this is di berta lucci, where I'm from senior photography isn't really a tradition, but I'd like to be the pioneer so what would you recommend that I d'oh it's not even in the area? Well, and same thing for me I mean, when I started, it wasn't the thing again people thought that yearbook photo was the only photo they took s so it took me a little while to sort of educate my area I mean, I remember the first year maybe photograph one girl here, how did you do that? Well, that one I got because I started talking to people and that's really important, you know, more than you think, you know, as far as like, because I get people all the time so I don't know any seniors, I promise you somebody you know does so my very first senior, that photograph was because I knew somebody that knew new somebody basically and I, you know, you start reaching out to these people just like you did when you started photography in general, maybe you offered some free sessions here and there, you know, with families or kids or whatever, and then where it gets out and you start showing what you want to shoot, we'll talk about that a little bit later, too, when it comes to branding and stuff, because you really definitely have to show what you want to shoot. But concept shoots come in handy for this, which, again, we'll talk about a little bit later, more in detail, but setting up shoots and showcasing that this is a possibility will start to educate a market that maybe doesn't realize you got to tell him that it's an option eso find, you know, the very first seniors a shot we're actually sophomores, so they weren't even seniors. I asked a friend of mine, brantley, who, who is has a son at the time he was not in high school bidding ran on the high school track team, so he knew a bunch of students or she knew a bunch of students. So I called her and I said, hey, do you know anybody that's really good for this would be good for this photo shoot I was trying to do, and it was a concept shoot and actually did it with another photographer, a teamed up with her, at least carpenter at least but anyway so we teamed up together and we did the shoot and we had a blast and it was a new year's eve party type theme so we you know, we have balloons and confetti and they were all dressed up and it was super fun and the girls had a good time and I started putting that out there and, you know, just constantly working it and showing and constantly shooting you're not shooting seniors they won't call you a meaning to maine like if you're constantly putting newborns up there you're not gonna get a senior going and there's just no way they're not going are you so that's a way that you have to start you have to start educating your your area as faras what it's possible eso do the concepts you don't think you have to just shoot an actual senior get a sophomore, get a freshman anybody between the ages of say fifteen to maybe eighteen is that range of a senior so those photos will start attracting that age range on dh then the best thing about that was eventually those girls became seniors and I did all their senior portrait so they got a fun session when they were sophomores and then when they got to be seniors they were like, hey let's call leslie you know, I mean like I was the first person that popped in their mind and I like I say I had taken the time over those years teo continue to educate my market on just put yourself out there so that's that's one way I mean, it takes time, it does it takes time I mean, it's not an overnight thing I remember going l guys the senior ever going to call me this is what I want to do aren't people calling me and a lot of times you may still have to supplement your business with other things and that's okay, but maybe you don't show it as much. You got a sort of wean your way out of the things you don't want to shoot so I didn't show is many weddings I, you know, actually second shot weddings more than I did my own weddings, so I just never showed those photos, but I got tons of practice, you know, the main anu anu after one or two weddings that really did more shoot weddings, but I kept doing it for the experience because you can learn a great amount of photography just shooting weddings, but I just didn't show it I didn't show it because that's just not what I wanted to do, I don't ever show a newborn because again, I'm sorry it makes a sound so mean, I love babies it's not that I just I'm not a great baby photographer but don't show him not mean at all I tell you I have photographed seniors I photographed babies I thought that that was what I wanted to do it's really hard it's very hard and so you have to be very dedicated very andi and patient and we have other classes about right, right, right but again you may have to supplement your business with some things that maybe you started I mean you know you might have started with kids you may have to keep photographing kids but gosh asked those mothers if they have a baby sitter I'm promising you they do and most baby sitters are teenagers so that's another way to find that age group if you are part of a church a youth group you know ask ask the youth director they know seniors that'll start getting you those first seniors on dh start shooting them and maybe you do have a period of time where you discount your pricing or you portfolio build and don't even charge ii didn't charge when I first started photography in general so why not treat seniors the same way? Because you need the portfolio stuff actually go to you know I mean sing urology to r there's tons of shoot outs or there's tons of events that you can go to where you can portfolio build the market you know the genre that you're trying tio get into and then you have a ton of photos to put out there. So those air great things, I mean, I know we do shoot outs all over the place and that's what people are coming for, maybe they don't have enough clients yet, but they need that, you know, that thing to show because I mean, seniors only care about what you could do for them when they're teenagers. They got a lot of stuff going on if you can't show them right off the bat, what it is that you want that you could do for them there, they're going to the next website. So you do have to have that kind of a catch twenty two it's like the job interview that you need experience for to get the job, but you can't get the job because you don't have the experience kind of the same thing. You gotta you gotta shoot what you want to shoot and, you know, good and well, the more busy you are, the more you're phone's going to ring it's like, you know, it's just the way it is. What is that murphy's law or something?

Class Description

High school seniors are energized, creative, and fun – and the best photographers know how to take portraits that capture that spark. Join Leslie Kerrigan for a guide to designing, marketing, shooting and sustaining a senior portrait business.

In this course, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create senior portrait sessions that aren’t just a photo shoot, but are memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Leslie will share her unique approach to creating a style closet, providing wardrobe consultations and keeping up with the of-the-moment social networking tools teens use. You’ll learn about connecting with seniors’ personalities, interests, and sense of style to ensure their portraits are every bit as unique as they are. You’ll hear from the teens, themselves as Leslie hosts a roundtable discussion with a group of teenagers who will talk honestly about what they want out of their senior portraits and how to reach them. You will also explore ways to leverage that personal connection into more sessions, sales, and referrals.

Don’t miss this opportunity to become the dynamic, must-have senior photographer for every teen in your area!


Lynn Powell Roberts

I learned a lot from this course. I watched all day when CL replayed Sal Cincotta's senior course and I wanted a second perspective, so I bought Leslie's course. I'm really glad I purchased Leslie's course because it was a great complement to Sal's course. Leslie covered different things like using a style closet that I especially found useful. She also did a beach shoot with a male and female model, which I found very useful and different from Sal's style. Leslie is so excited about "her girls" that she photographs - it's very engaging. I highly recommend this course.