Each year over 2 million high school juniors make their way into their senior year, and start the long trek to finishing up high school and starting out life as an adult. Because it’s the last step to enter adulthood, it’s always been a right of passage to commemorate it with a special portrait session – the high school senior portrait.
Competition is fierce within this marketplace these days. Even just a few years ago, many high schools had a closed door policy, and they would interview and select a few photographers to recommend, and require each of their seniors to go to a pre-approved photographer. Schools have opened up now, and allow anyone to go anywhere. Yearbook inclusions are more lax, and you’ll see a variety of sizes, styles and displays within the senior graduating class section.
Just because anything goes doesn’t make that the right approach to senior photography. If you make it an experience, it can still bring you in a substantial amount of income during the few months of shooting time. But you have to know how to package accordingly. Here’s some advice.
Start out with a plan
Many senior photographers grab a client, head out to the park, and spend 30 minutes shooting a few images. They put them on a disk, hand it over to the client, and pocket $50 or so. And that’s the end of the revenue stream. You will never get a reorder if you hand over the files for this price. The client will take them and run, and do whatever they choose with the images. So that should never be an option.
Your first strategy is to set up more than one package, and gently lead a client to the higher package.
If I offered 3 packages: $150, $300 and $450, and offered the files in the $450 only, how many clients do you think would jump at the $450 package? Yep, a good majority of them. And I’ve increased my profits because I’m still willing to give the files, just not at the lower price.
And your $450 client will be a much better, easier to work with client than the $50 special. They will have more patience, more time, and be willing to let you do a variety of things to bring out the best in the senior. Plus you will feel more comfortable spending time with the senior, knowing you will be bringing in a lot more income.
Give a professional presentation
Marathon Press has always offered a variety of ways to market to the senior market. They have preproduced pieces that give you an easy way to order postcards and brochures, ready for mailing. They also provide fully customized services, allowing you to place your own images into a variety of formats. Because they specialize in marketing pieces for the photographer, their work is 100 percent quality, and their goal is to help you bring in the business.
Create a theme each year, and carry that through your entire promotion. You should also update your images each year, including the recognizable faces from the last class. If you are including photographs from several years back, the new graduating class doesn’t recognize the faces, and has less motivation to use you.
Turn the package into something fun
If you provide a package with an 11×14, a few 8x10s, 5x7s, 4x6s and wallets, it’s easily comparable to everyone else – and to the discount stores that do the printing for a very low cost.
But if you include a 20×20 wall portfolio with a series of images in it, it’s no longer comparable. It’s unique.
Look for ways to turn your senior packages into more than anyone else can offer. Look for groupings, special sizes, and special ways to display your images.
Then showcase your differences. Anyone can take a senior picture. But only a professional can give you the experience of a senior portrait session.