How To Keep Your Senior Model Team Engaged All Year Long

Teenagers are tough, right? Today’s teens are busier than ever and easily distracted! It’s just how they are wired now and it’s the world they live in. So we have to meet them where they are!

Running a successful senior model team can be a challenge. Keeping your senior girls engaged is probably harder than getting them to show up to events on time! And once they have their images it can be like a ghost town. Been there!!

So how do we keep our senior model team engaged?

Simple. We create community. We give them the opportunity. And we stay consistent.

As a mom of 3 boys who are constantly on the go I don’t have the time for multiple group shoots and monthly events with our senior model team. Maybe I will during another season of life, but for now I’ve found ways to keep our girls talkative and “in it” long after their model shoot.

How To Keep Your Senior Model Team Engaged

The most important thing is to give them a place to “hang out”. We use an app called Group Me for our girls. It’s an easy texting app that allows you to not only chat but create events and polls. Plus it has fun features like gifs and video too. The girls love it and it’s an easy place to keep info in one place.

Here are 5 simple ways to create community in your Senior Model Team Program using GroupMe:

  1. Question of the Week - Ok, these can be silly or just opinion based or maybe even about a specific topic. Some of our most popular ones revolve around food! I mean, we all gotta eat! Ask them what their favorite ice cream flavor is, their favorite song right now, night owl or morning person. You get the idea. Just give them something to talk about!

  2. Polls - These are great for anonymous voting for things that you want their opinion on but they don’t necessarily want their name attached to it or for something quick, like does Wednesday or Thursday work best.

  3. Inspirational Quotes - Now, they may not comment much, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. Sometimes these can spark a conversation. Sometimes you’ll just get likes, and that’s ok! Just remain consistently in front of them.

  4. Celebrate Them - We make a big deal out of birthdays in our studio. They are all added to our Google Calendar to repeat annually. Session days are easy too. Let them know when one of the other girls’ session is coming up and to watch behind the scenes on your Instagram. Give them a shout out if you see something their mom posted to Facebook about them like getting accepted into a college or any other big accomplishment. Celebrating in your group app together is fun as the sweet comments and funny gifs start to roll in. It’s a great way to make someone feel special.

  5. Ask them what they have going on - This is such a simple and easy thing. Be interested in their lives. Maybe they have finals, they’re prom dress shopping or they have a big game. Cheer them on and the other girls will rally around too!

    BONUS IDEA: Model Takeover!

    Let your girls take the lead for the week. This gives you a break and gives them some leadership skills. Plus it lets you get into the mind of a teenage girl. It’s been a long time for some of us! Haha!

What’s some of your favorite ways to keep your model team engaged? We’d love to chat with you about it!

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How To Get Killer Testimonials From Your Photography Clients

We all know we need great client testimonials. But how do we get them? It’s not as daunting a task as you might think. There are a few key factors at play here though. Let’s talk through some great strategy for getting testimonials and Google reviews from your photography clients.

How to get killer testimonials from your photography clients, why you should ask for a google review

Give clients an amazing session experience.

From their first inquiry to the canvases on their walls, your clients should be completed wowed. When we give our clients a wonderful senior session experience they can’t help but want to share about it.

Surprise & delight your clients along the way. How? I’m glad you asked ;)

Have their favorite candy in the studio. Create a welcome sign up with your senior’s name on it. Send your senior client a handwritten note telling them how excited you are about their upcoming session. Send them a little text telling them how well their session went and that you can’t wait for them to see the images. Little unexpected moments like these are the ones that keep your client talking . . . in a good way :)

Over communicate. The goal at our studio is that a client should never have a question. We go out of our way to over educate and communicate so that they feel fully prepared and excited about their session.

Ask for the testimonial! And do it right away.

Do not be shy about asking for the testimonial. At the end of every session we give our clients a big hug and tell them what to expect next . . . their sneak peek on Instagram and Facebook and the email asking for a review of their session experience with us. Let them know it’s coming while emotions are high! They will love sharing about how much fun they had with you. Google reviews and word of mouth are key to a small business being successful. Be bold and ask for the review!

Because life is crazy, and we know we can’t remember everything, our testimonial request email template is built right into our senior client workflow in Honeybook, our studio management software. This way we don’t forget to ask for it!

Guide them through the testimonial.

It’s perfectly fine to ask your clients leading questions to jog their memory or give them writing prompts.

Most of your clients won’t really know how to right a nice review. It’s ok to help them out here.

When it comes to photography sessions it’s all about the emotions. How did they “feel” during their session? What did it “feel” like working with you. Ask these type of questions.

Some questions you could ask . . .

  • Leading up to the session how did you feel? (nervous, excited, not sure what to expect)

  • Describe how the experience actually made you feel during the session.

  • Did you know what to expect before your session?  Did we provide the information you needed to prepare for a successful session?

  • What was your favorite part of the session?  What did you love?

  • What about help with posing? Putting outfits together at your different locations? 

  • How did you feel when you saw some of your images on the back of the camera?

  • What surprised you most about this experience?

  • What advice would you give to a friend who is looking for a senior photographer?  And what would you tell a friend who is considering our company for their senior portraits?

  • Basically, was it a great EXPERIENCE?  Most importantly, did you have fun?!!

Give them an incentive to write a review.

The best incentive we have found is a sneak peek from the portrait session. At the end of each session we tell our clients what to expect next and to be on the lookout for our testimonial request email. We explain that if they will post a review then they’ll get an extra sneak peek. This little trick works like a charm because everyone is on an emotional high from the session anddddd back to giving them a great experience . . . they want to tell the world! :)

Ask your clients to share their testimonial on Google and your Facebook Business Page.

Instead of just asking them for a testimonial that only you will see, give your clients the link to your Google listing and ask them to post it there. We’ve even hinted that copying and pasting to our Facebook Business Page would be extra nice. Some will go the extra step. Some won’t, but that’s ok. Getting the review on Google is the most important because these are the ones your next clients will be searching for. Be sure you always respond on Google and thank your clients when they do take the time to write and leave a review. An unanswered one doesn’t look so great.

Create testimonials on your website and social media.

Once the testimonials are on Google you can also add them to your website. Create a page just for this purpose. I’ve seen them called Raves and Reviews, Kind Words, What Your Friends Are Saying. Get creative, but be sure it’s clear. Testimonials (in part or whole) can be added next to your client’s image to your website and social media. You can create really cute testimonial graphics to share on your Instagram feed and story too. No need to post them all. The will live forever on Google, but posting a few key ones each year is great for keeping your website fresh for new senior clients to see.

I can’t stress how important it is for photographers to get testimonials from their clients. Blow them away with amazing service and images and they will be more than happy to leave you a wonderful review! But you have to ask :)

Senior Guy Portraits: A Lost Revenue Stream

I was scrolling facebook because umm, facebook . . . And I ran across a conversation between a few senior photographers about photographing senior guys. There were different opinions on the topic, of course. But to sum it up, none of them ever counted on getting senior guys into their studios to photograph.

I was speechless. Thank goodness! I’m glad I didn’t comment because usually the first thing I think of is never the first thing that should come out of my mouth!!

But it got me wondering . . . why are we so afraid to photograph guys?

Why are so many senior photography business models built around girls only? I just don’t get it! Sure guys aren’t as excited as girls are about senior portraits, but their mamas sure are! They’ve been waiting 17 years for these portraits too. They’ve raised wonderful young men and want to celebrate them.

As a mom of boys I want senior portraits of my son just like any other mom would!

Guys are generally not going to ask their moms for senior pictures. So there needs to be a mindset shift when it comes to marketing. You have to market mostly to their moms, but you gotta show to the guys that it will be worth their time and not be lame!

So how do we do that?

How To Keep Your Senior Model Team Engaged

Figure out who he is. What is he all about? You’ll do this mostly through having conversations with mom. Is he quiet and reserved? Is he the life of the party? What lights him up?

Photograph his car, truck, passion, his dog . . . but do it in a way that fits his personality. Don’t try to make him into something he’s not just for a cool shot. If you can get him comfortable you will get some killer images.

Do not pose him in a feminine way. A guy should look strong and not at all posed like a girl. Study posing if you’ve never photographed a guy. Here’s a great posing book by Lindsey Adler. She is the queen of posing and lighting!

Guys love to lean on things. They should look natural and not forced into a pose. It just doesn’t work and any awkwardness he feels will come through in his images.

Create classic and timeless images for him, not something gimmicky that he will be embarrassed by later.

Most guys will give you a serious look all day long, but if you can get a genuine smile, or better yet, a laugh, you will melt his mom’s heart. At the end of the day that’s all she wants really . . . natural expressions that she sees every day from her boy.

So, don’t be afraid to start marketing guy senior images. The moms are out there waiting for you to show up in your area! Be an expert when it comes to photographing guys. I’m shocked at the phone calls we get from moms who call me saying that there aren’t any other photographers around that even have images of guys on their websites. Wow! Just wow! Hey, I’ll gladly take those sessions though ;)

What’s it gonna be? Will you start photographing guys this year? Offer friends who have a teenage son you are comfortable with a small session to practice posing. Build a portfolio, get to work and add to your bottom line with this new offering at your studio!!

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Should I Offer Discounted Photography Sessions To Build My Portfolio?

Portfolio building can be tough.

When you are first starting out as an amateur photographer you will photograph anyone who will let you and most likely for free! I see no problem with that at all. You are just learning manual mode on your camera, you really have no idea what or how to get a proper exposure and you’re missing focus left and right! And guess what?! So did I! We all have to start somewhere. As my assistant always says . . . “everybody has a day one.”

Discounting portfolio building sessions: the pros and cons

Should you charge for portfolio building?

This is a tricky question. Depending on how much practice you are getting I would give it a full year before ever charging anyone. You need to hone the craft and perfect your style before you ever think about designing a logo or building a website. A service should be paid for when it’s worth being paid for, and I hope you don’t take offense to the next thing I’m about to say (I’m a straight shooter). But in the beginning you don’t know what is good and what isn’t just yet. I sure didn’t! When I look back at images I thought were amazing way back then I just cringe. Haha!

But when can I start charging for my work and how?

The first part of this question can only be answered by you. The second part I can help you with a little more here in this blog post. Before you can charge you have to know your costs. That’s a lengthy discussion that I will save for another time. But just know that selling digital files doesn’t mean there are no hard costs.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Your time

  • Print costs

  • Marketing costs

  • Studio rental

  • Equipment wear & tear

  • Editing time

  • Childcare

  • Liability insurance

  • Taxes

  • Internet & phone

  • Mileage & travel time

  • So much more

Let’s get back to the main question . . . should you offer discounted photography sessions to build your portfolio?

My thoughts on this one is yes, but only for a limited time. And that needs to be very clear to your potential clients. There are several ways to go about this. You will more than likely adjust your pricing as you go along. I did several times! Once you run a profit and loss statement and are hit with more loss than profit when you thought you were doing so well, you really start to pay attention to real numbers. From the beginning you need to run this business like a business, not a hobby!

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when portfolio building:

  • Pricing yourself too low and trying to charge more to the same clients later. They will drop you like a bad habit!

  • Not collecting a session fee. Hello no shows!

  • Collecting too small a session fee. They never come back to order!

  • Placing images online with a very small or no watermark at all. You’ll see those later on Facebook with absolutely no credit to you. Ugh.

Wanna know how I know all of that? I’ve made every one of those mistakes first hand. And I want to keep you from doing the same thing!

How To Discount Your Portfolio Building Sessions The Right Way:

Charge a session fee and get it up front. Make sure it is large enough to cover your time to drive back & forth to the session, cull down & edit the images, your time for the in person ordering appointment or online hosting for the gallery & the time you spend on the phone & email planning the session. So yeah, $25 isn’t going to cut it here. Ok? :)

Make sure your pricing is set to where you want it to be in the future. It should scare you and make you pretty uncomfortable. But don’t apologize for it. Own it!

You have 2 options at this point:

  1. Let your clients know up front that this session is meant to help build your portfolio so you will be offering them a discount of 30 - 50% (you decide) at the ordering session or give them a coupon code to use for their online order. Most hosting platforms offer this option. I know that ShootProof does. They are my all time favorite for hosting galleries. The big thing to emphasize is that this is a limited time opportunity and pricing won’t be like this forever. Set expectations up front for when they come back ;)

  2. Give them a gift certificate for a few hundred dollars (but please make sure your pricing is high enough to handle this option). I personally like this option the best, especially if you have packages or collections. These will bump the purchase up a bit because it tells them what they need and what “most people” purchase.

I sure hope that helped answer the question we have all asked when starting our photography businesses. Whatever you do, please do not release images without payment in full and do not even edit images with some sort of partial payment towards their purchase. That’s a topic for another day! See you soon friends :)

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Should I niche down in my photography business?

This decision to niche down in your photography business can be such a tough one, right? I’ve been there. You need the money to keep things afloat, but you don’t want to do work you don’t love. It’s quite a dilemma.

But here’s the thing . . . you can’t be great at all things.

The best restaurants are the ones who specialize in a certain cuisine. Why? Because they make the same type of foods and use the same ingredients day in and day out. The chefs know what their customers want and expect. They have honed their craft and are specialists in their field. Those are hands down the best places to eat!

The same goes for photographers. Yes. We need to niche down. Whether that means weddings, newborns, family photography or custom high school senior portraits. Find your passion and go with it.

Be the specialist in your area, not the jack of all trades.

This is the best decision I ever made way back in 2009. I made the switch to only photograph high school seniors. Our studio quickly became known as the senior studio in town and I was finally happy doing what I loved. Don’t be afraid to make the switch. I don’t regret it at all! My happiness and profits increased dramatically :)

At the end of the day, does it really matter?

I think a big fat YES is in store here! Wouldn’t you rather be serving your ideal client running a profitable business you love instead of just doing sessions because you need the money to pay rent? Think about it. You started this photography business to make money doing what you love and to provide for your family while fulfilling your dreams. Right? So, yes. It matters. For your sanity, for your peace of mind, for your bottom line, for you.

Should i niche down in my photography business, specializing in your photography business

5 Steps To Niche Down and Specialize In Your Photography Business:

  1. Go through your galleries. Which images move you the most? Which ones light you on fire?

  2. Think about your sessions and past clients. Which ones are your favorites? List reasons why.

  3. Once you have it narrowed down to where you want to be in the photography industry, start researching your area. Is there anyone else doing what you want to do? Are your styles similar? Know your direct competition, but don’t obsess over them.

  4. If you don’t quite have enough image samples in your portfolio it’s time to start adding to it. This might mean a few discounted sessions, gift certificates or trades with a hair and makeup artist in the area. Perfect your craft with this segment of the market while beefing up your galleries. You have to show what you want to sell.

  5. Once you have your galleries where you want them it’s time to own your new speciality! Market like crazy. Not in a cheesy used car salesman type way. But fill your social media feeds with what you want and love to do. The clients will come. You just have to show them why. You are now the best at what you do in your area ;)

What’s your passion? Have I convinced you to go for it? I sure hope so. It’s so worth it friends. Let’s keep in touch. Let me know how it’s going, and if you have any questions about niching down in your photography business. I’m happy to help!

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