Setting Your Senior Photography Business Apart In Your Market

I couldn’t be happier and more honored to have Kristin Jones of Any Angle Photography as our very first guest blogger here to talk to us about setting our senior photography businesses apart in our markets!  

Kristin Jones

Any Angle Photography

Photo Credit: Belle Marie Photography

Kristin is an amazing senior photographer and is such a gift to our industry.  She’s based out of her residential studio in Maple Grove, MN and averages 35-45 seniors each year.

A little bit of her story . . .

Seven years ago she took a photoshop class just for fun and was told she needed a better camera.  Of course she bought one! After taking pictures of everything her own high school kids were part of, two of her son’s friends asked her to take their senior pictures.

She never looked back.  

Kristin has been in business for 6 years now.  Last year she quit her ultrasound tech job of 25 years to pursue photography full time.  And we are so glad you did girl!  

Here’s a few of her most recent accomplishments:

Voted Senior Style Guide Hot 100 Icon Status the 2 years 2017, 2018

Voted Senior Inspire 50 to Follow the last 2 years 2018, 2019

Voted The Twelfth Year Top 50 Established Photographer 2018

TCPPA (Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association) 3rd Place Senior Photographer of the Year 2018

TCPPA Board Member 2019 (Member at Large)

Published in Modern Teen Style Senior Magazine 2018 and 2019

I twist balloon animals and can do magic tricks. 


She also has a witty sense of humor if you caught that last line.  That helps with photographing seniors!!

And with that, I will turn it over to Kristin :) 

How To Set Yourself Apart In Your Local Senior Market

Do What You Love and They Will Love What You Do

I picked up a camera for the first time at the age of 45. I learned how to work my camera photographing my sons’ high school theater productions.  I loved capturing them on stage and quickly learned I loved capturing all the kids on the stage.  Any pictures I took, I gave to the directors to use. My first pictures were not good, but I loved taking them so I kept at it.  Through this I met many of the students involved in the productions and once my kids graduated I had improved my work and started to receive compensation for photographing the shows.  This evolved into taking many of these students senior pictures. I continue to photograph the shows (just finished my 8th year), now take pictures of all the choirs, bands and orchestras at our local high school and take several senior picture sessions each year.  

This has been successful, I believe, because going into this I already had a deep love for theater, band and choir and loved photographing the enthusiasm of the students on stage, behind the scenes and in the pit orchestra.  It has always been work I enjoy and that comes out in the images I take year after year.  

Through photographing the musicals and subsequently taking many senior pictures of the participants I have learned how much I love to capture a senior doing what they love.  I started with musicians and performers, but I equally love capturing athletes, seniors with their favorite pets and seniors with their different talents and passions. The love they have for their “thing” comes out in their faces and body language, and we create amazing images collaborating and working together. 

These students are unsung heroes.

They are talented, diligent and work hard to perfect their craft. I have been the lucky one to be able to capture images for them that show their abilities and their personalities.   

Volunteering at my local high school created my business.  Building rapport with the students, leaders and teachers led to senior pictures booked with next to no marketing.   Students came to me and asked for pictures. Once friends saw those images, others asked. 

How can you do this in your own senior photography business?

1.  Identify what you like to photograph then identify ways you can create business around that.  If I had started photographing sports, I don’t think I would have had the same success.   

2.  Find a way in.  Is your kid or other relative involved in an activity you could photograph? Any friends involved in something you could photograph? Work through your contacts and find those in authority over what you enjoy to photograph and then volunteer.  Let them see what you can do for their organization. Be generous to them.  

3.  Once your value is seen, find ways to advertise your other services through their organization.  Flyers, promotions or emails, word of mouth all work.  

What Not to Do

Do not volunteer your services, then hold the pictures hostage. This should be a good will gesture. Make sure intentions and terms are clear at the beginning and there is good communication. Prove your value, then renegotiate terms.  

Reaching out to offer your services is not comfortable.  It’s hard work.  There is competition and the rejection is hard to take.  To be successful, you have to keep trying. It only takes one successful job to engage another, then another.  Find something you love to photograph and find a way to volunteer your service. Hopefully you will find the same fulfillment I found and create a successful senior photography business of your own too.  

Thank you so much for your contribution to Senior Studio Success and to the senior photography industry! We wish you many more years of success!

To find Kristin online visit her here:

Website

Instagram

Facebook

Here’s a little bit of Kristin’s awesome work with seniors too!

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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 all the time in the world 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 big model shoot day. We do get together for a studio shoot in the winter and college reveal shoot in the spring, but it’s just not a monthly commitment. Teens are crazy busy these days too and they get burnt out easily with so many shoots.

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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In Person Sales vs Online Sales

There was a time in my life where I needed the simplest sales model ever for our studio. I chose all inclusive sessions and online sales, a form of shoot and burn, but I still was never a “here’s your digital files” kinda girl. I’ve always been passionate about selling prints to clients, but this was simple and easy for this phase of my life.

Online proofing and online sales worked fine for a while for my senior photography businesses, but I knew I was giving up income. When life settled back down I went straight back to In Person Sales (IPS) because I had seen the value and increased income from it before. This was the best decision ever for my session session sales!

As a photographer who has gone both routes, I can definitely say that there are HUGE benefits to In Person Sales, and I will never go back to selling only through online galleries for senior portraits.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each method.

Online Galleries / Shoot and Burn Method:

Pros:

  • It’s simple and easy (if you set it up well and get your money up front)

  • Nice for introverts

Cons:

  • Sales are capped because there is no opportunity to up-sell

  • Clients can take FOREVER to get back with decisions

  • Images are copied or stolen, sometimes printed or posted online with “proof” watermark, damaging your brand

  • Full editing is necessary before galleries are released

  • Client reactions to their beautiful images are never seen

  • Quickest way to burn out

I could go on and on. There are just too many to list.

In Person Sales Method:

Pros:

  • Full control of the sale

  • It’s easy to up-sell

  • Immediate feedback from clients

  • You can help your clients decide which images will work best for them - for their wall galleries, albums, graduation announcements, etc.

  • The sale is finalized that day, no more decision making

  • Only minor editing is needed for the image reveal, final edits are on purchased images only

Cons:

  • It can take some time to get comfortable running the sales appointment

  • It does take another appointment for both you and your client

  • There is a learning curve for overcoming sales objections

The Value of In Person Sales

You may not realize it yet, but there is so much value in offering this service to your clients. There is a huge difference in a client clicking an email to open a gallery on their tiny laptop versus sitting back to watch a beautiful slideshow unfold to soft music in front of them on a big screen. These are completely different experiences which can lead to completely different sales.

Your client will be overwhelmed and know nothing else to do with the images in her gallery other than to share them on facebook or instagram. Guiding her through the session premiere will help her envision all the possibilities and combinations of that artwork up on her walls.

In the Session Premiere you can compare the images side by side, help her decide which ones will look best together, what size will be perfect for her piece in the foyer and so many other things. This takes such a weight off of her shoulders because she trusts your expertise to help her make the right decisions for her family.

This is truly an invaluable service for your clients. If you want to give your clients a premium experience then choosing In Person Sales is the way to go. And because of this luxury service you can charge a well deserved premium price for your time and expertise.

Let’s Talk Real Numbers

Even when I had all inclusive senior sessions I wasn’t a “cheapo” mom with a camera. I had 3 collections way back then: $900, $1200 & $1500. Clients usually bought the middle and top collections. But I was stuck. Nobody ever spent any more than $1500.

Now with In Person Sales our senior collections start at $1250. Last year our senior average was $4250, and some of our top sales hit 7k. Not too shabby, right? Do I feel like I was tricking our clients? Selling them something they didn’t want? Absolutely not!! With IPS we can actually talk through what our clients want for their home. Our clients hire us (and I’m talking about ALL OF US) for our artistic vision. They trust us to create something beautiful that they can display in their homes and hand down to their children one day. If we just load their images to an online gallery we are doing them a complete disservice. We need to see them through to the very end of the senior portrait process, until those canvases are hanging on their walls.

If you are struggling with finding the confidence to charge what you are worth, do yourself a huge favor and read Worth Every Penny by Sarah Petty. It’s a game changer for every photographer out there.

Do you need help with pricing? Start Here With This Free Worksheet.

How To Transition From Online Sales To The Session Premiere - at your studio or in their home

The Session Premiere (Image Reveal, Ordering Appointment, whatever you choose to call it) is my 2nd most favorite day of the senior portrait process. It’s exciting to see our clients’ reactions to their images as they relive the session day and think about how much their baby has grown up. With online galleries all of that emotion is lost and rarely seen or even talked about.

When booking new clients this will be easy. You just explain to them the ordering process. For transitioning previous clients to your new method, it may be a bit of a challenge. But don’t worry. You got this! Talk to them about how much you’ve learned over the years and how you constantly want to improve and enhance their experience with your business. This is a new premium service you will now be providing for your clients. You may need to stand your ground with some clients, but it’s doable. Just let them know that this is the new direction you are going with your company. Remember, it’s your company. Not theirs ;)

In Person Sales Vs Online Sales. Which One Is Right For Your Senior Photography Business?

Tools You Will Need For In Person Sales

You’ll need to get set up correctly to host your Senior Session Premieres. There are several options, and you can always upgrade software and equipment along the way. Here are a few things you might want to look into though.

Display Options: Some senior photographers like to display their images on a big screen tv in their studio. That’s what we do. Some like to go with an ipad that their client can hold. If you are going to your client’s home I would suggest a projector and portable screen that’s easy to set up because you never really know what sort of tv or connections they will have at their home.

Software For Sorting Images: I’ve used several software options over the years. A lot of photographers use ProSelect. I did for years and years until I finally switched to Fundy because I like the functionality a bit better. We design our albums with it as well. Lightroom or Adobe Bridge are also good options to use especially if you are just starting out.

After The Sale: A great hybrid approach would be to use ShootProof. Yes, it is for hosting online galleries. But it can be used for choosing favorites in the Session Premiere as well. We use ShootProof after the sale if our clients have purchased digital files. I wrote about all the reasons we use ShootProof here in this blog post, but in a nutshell . . . clients can order additional prints straight from our lab, from prices we set, have their orders shipped straight to their door and ShootProof never takes a cut of the sale. Oh, we also design our senior mobile apps through ShootProof too. I love this company!

Lastly, you are going to need a beautiful pricing menu. And of course, samples. You can’t sell what you don’t show. So, if you want to sell large wall portraits, be sure you have them! Most labs will have special sample pricing. Take advantage of it. Clients will want to hold and touch the products before they purchase them. This is not the place to go cheap!

I sure hope I’ve convinced you to give up the exhausting and sale stifling shoot and burn business model and switch to the premium service of In Person Sales. If you have any questions or need a little mentoring here please let me know. I’m happy to help :)

In the meantime . . . do you know how much you should really be charging for your session fee? Download my free worksheet below to find out if you are charging enough for your time!

How much should your hourly rate be?

Let's figure it out!

     

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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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