I had a question come through yesterday on the high school senior market and how you build a list of qualified prospects. And since the high school senior market is coming up in full force here in the States, I thought it would be the perfect time to create a new post and look at how you can fill your portrait studio up with high school seniors.
Like other niches within the photography industry, the high school senior market has become a cutthroat business. Years ago, many high schools in our area had a pre-select group of photographers to choose from. You had to go with one of them to be included in the yearbook. So of course all high school seniors selected from those few photographers. Then things changed.
Now any photograph can be included in the yearbook. A child simply has to get it into the yearbook office before the deadline. There are very few restrictions, which means if you look at a yearbook, you’ll see the good, the bad, and everything in between.
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Because people are looking for extra money, the high school senior market seems to be the one area that is easy to jump in. With no requirements from the schools, its just a matter of offering a low enough price to gain some business, or so a lot of photographers seem to think. And in reality, it works.
Places like Marathon Press offer preproduced senior marketing tools, which means you don’t have to use your own images – just buy a selection of preproduced postcards and you’re on your way to booking clients.
And that works for a good portion of the population.
But what if you want something more? What if you want to reach out to the group of people that still care about quality senior photography, and want to invest in a beautiful portrait of their sons and daughters? They still exist.
The first step is to create your own customized marketing campaign.
Pick Your High Schools
The best way to gain a following is to choose your high schools carefully. You may have a dozen or more in your area, yet you shouldn’t approach them all at once. Instead, select one or two the first year and put your focus on them.
Head into the office and find out how you can advertise internally. High schools are looking for all kinds of ways to make money. You can advertise in play handouts, school newsletters and even sponsor websites. You can advertise in the yearbook and in school newspapers. You might even be able to put up posters or attend “senior” promotion days.
If you can find a group to work with early, you can start getting your samples ready for the coming year. For instance, if the girls choir is a traveling choir with 50 members, and offers performances around the state, see if you can offer your services to photograph the group as well as each individual at a performance. With a model release in hand, you can now use those images in your brochures.
Dig Deeper: How To Develop A Great Senior Portrait Package
High school kids love to go where the masses are. If they see people they recognize, they tend to flock to that photographer. So a photographer with postcards, ads and brochures using recognizable faces will have far more success than a photographer who uses preproduced brochures.
Now that you have samples, use them to generate exposure.
You can build mailing lists around specific demographics, such as zip codes, what high school they attend, age, etc.
- Use a list service like Student Lists that will provide you with one time or unlimited use lists based on your requirements.
- Use Marathon Press for there customized brochures.
- Or choose a complete service like PostcardMania that will develop the postcards, senior lists, and even handle the mailing for you.
Then change your marketing along the way. You should never print “a ton” of marketing materials to have year after year. Instead, create only what you need per mailing or event. That way you can continue to add new photographs of the newest batch of high school seniors.
Change things up and offer what the kids love. Yes, they will want images they can share with friends on Facebook. And that’s okay. Remember, the key is to get them talking about you. Nothing can be better than filling up your entire day with a group of 8 friends that all want you to photograph their senior portrait.