Graduating from high school is one of the most important rites of passage for a teenager. As seniors say goodbye to their longtime friends and head off for the unknown, senior portraits are one of the ways they will take a little bit of their history with them. Young people know this, and so it’s important to them that these portraits are personal and flattering.
The importance of this event means a large and enticing market for photographers. Senior portraits often require less time, transportation, and headaches than weddings and other large events. Because of this, there are many photographers out there scrambling to photograph seniors. Here are some suggestions for attracting customers and breaking into the business.
Word of mouth is still the best way to advertise. Large photography companies can afford to spend serious money on yearbook ads and mailers, so you need a way to compete with this. Why not start out by doing a free session for a senior that you know? A friend, neighbor, or relative will definitely appreciate this favor, and it can provide you with a way to get the word out. Make their portraits flawless, and get them to hand out business cards along with their photos to their friends as a condition of the deal. Do the prints quickly (but make sure they’re good!) so that your senior will have their pictures very early in the year. That way there will be time to show the pictures around and book appointments for all their friends (no longer free, of course).
Speaking of business cards, you’ll need to make some new ones that will appeal to high school seniors. A larger postcard with some fun and diverse portraits will also help. Then get them to the soon-to-be-grads! Leave them at places teens like to hang out: shopping centers, casual restaurants, sports games, and local churches. Mail your postcards to seniors and their families. For a fee, you can download mailing lists from online list distributors.
You can also attract attention and business by offering photography packages that cater to high school students. Consider discounts for groups of 3 or more. These sessions can include shots of each senior as well as some group shots. Because you are getting the business of everyone in the group, it may be worthwhile to do these on location as well. Senior girls especially like these packages; having friends around is a great way to make the session enjoyable for them.
Offer more finished products than just the traditional paper prints. Nowadays, photo editing software makes it easy to make collages and slide-shows. These could be put online or on a CD for your customers, ideally with some background music. (But make sure you watch the copyrights on this!) While you’re at it, let your customers view their prints online and allow them to order any size or pose they want.
Give your customers a password to this site; both the seniors and their parents are sure to give their friends a “sneak peak” at their proofs, which is great, timely advertising for you! Posing becomes an issue sometimes and you can get many terrific ideas from this guide on photography poses.