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What is your passion? What was the real reason that you picked up your camera for this first time? Why did you decide to make photography your career? Who do you want to affect, and it what way? Do you want to be specific? Intentional?
Hey All, my name is Alicia Mackenzie I am the owner and Senior Photographer at Alicia Mackenzie Photography in Tucson, Arizona. I have run my photography business in two states for over seven years. While I have captured many different types of sessions over the years I have been specializing in Seniors, Tweens, Teens and Women for the past few years. They are all different and yet the underline goal for me with all of them is to be intentional, and to create an environment that makes them feel special and gorgeous and that they do not have to be anything but themselves.
Let’s Chat Seniors. What is your ideal senior? Guys or Girls or both? Are you looking for the sweet and all American, or the school Jock? Do you want to focus on the fierce over the top model or they shy computer programmer? How many do you want to do in a season? Are you going to be high volume lower price or higher price and more boutique? How do you find seniors, or better yet how do you get them to find you, and what do you do when they call or let’s face it what do you say when they text or DM you on Instagram?
First, let’s chat about which type of seniors you want to shoot, guys or girls. Posing is very different for guys than they are for girls, which are you more comfortable with? Are you going for the professionally styled hair and make-up, or are you going to be more of the come as you are…neither of these have to be decided right now, and you can offer both if you are intentional about it and price it accordingly.
Next step, portfolio building for the new season; find a few girls and guy in that age range that you can shoot from your local church, baby sitters, friends kids, box boy from the grocery store, limited social media*, this is a great way to get into a market of kids who might not be able to afford your prices regularly. I make these group sessions, come as you are, with guidance of what to wear and how they do their own hair and make-up.
TIP 1: Always have your models bring more than one outfit just in case what they wear is not what you had in mind for your brand. If you are doing a group session; when you set it up have a theme so they are cohesive, such as bohemian prep, or casual country.
TIP 2: Set the date and time that works for you, but have a back-up just in case. For the model calls I plan on 20 - 30 they do usually go to 45 minutes for outfit changes NEVER more than an hour or it can become their only shoot, this is just a taste and to get them talking about you.
TIP 3: If you are not charging anything for your portfolio building or season previewing I don’t recommend a social media model call it can start precedents of why did you do it free for so and so and not for me.
TIP 4: Gifting sessions as a thank you to an awesome baby sitter, or running a small contest for your teenagers youth group with a session as a prize is a great way to portfolio build without putting out there that you will work for free even in the beginning.
I never do these sessions totally for free because I want them to find urgency and importance in what they are doing and money makes people do that. I charge a percentage of my regular session fee and they get a few social media images for their online profiles. I also add these images into their gallery from their full session later in the year. (If they book and pay their full session retainer before the model date, I give them credit for their model session fee towards their final image package.)
Like any other session, you need at ask a ton of questions! Sending out a pre-book questionnaire is a great way to figure out who is the real client is (no more than 5 questions this is just fact finding). Sometimes it is the senior other times it’s the parents. It can both, but usually one side has more say it what they want than the other. I always recommend meeting for coffee at their favorite spot for pre-session consultation. (What is your favorite coffee shop is a great first question on their questionnaire.)
Ok so you have done your preview session now where do you post your images. Remember that questionnaire we chatted about before, here you go second question, What social media do your prefer to use? That is the big one, you want to post to where your clients are. One for the teens and one for the parents. In your contract, you can ask for user names and permission to tag and follow them.
The first email: I always respond with a so glad you contacted me and I send them my welcome catalog, a list of three dates I have open and what time is good to call or meet for coffee. My welcome packet doesn’t contain pricing, that is a second contact for me. It’s a personal choice that I like to really see what the level of commitment is…its also a way to see who is price shopping verses experience shopping. When they ask the money question first I do say that my session retainer is $XXX and my print packages start at $XXXmy average client spends $XXXX.
They have called to book you what’s next: From the beginning I set up consultations in person before they booked me because for I am better at selling my experience in person than through email. I only had one client not book me from these consultations, and it was a great way to set up expectations from them moment that they meet you. I bring samples, a welcome packet, a contract and a way to collect the retainer. This is a great way to start but is very time consuming if they don’t book. Another way to work it is with the good old fashion phone call, chatting about what you do in your sessions, what they want from their session, these I follow up with an email containing the contents of the conversation, contract, DUE DATE and retainer invoice with a DUE DATE. As a last resort, I do email as a first contact if I can’t see them in person or chat on the phone. Here I send out everything and request a call to chat about it. When you are on the phone or in person you can better judge how people are responding to what you are saying and doing, it’s easier to judge their level or interest and comfort.
TIP 5: Ask for the booking! Its ok, they are expecting you, you can do it so you don’t sound pushy by a simple “what do you think?” or more on point “what day of the week works best for you, (pause) great I have **insert two date a couple weeks apart and at least a week out** on that day that you have available.
Session time: We talked above that posing is very different for guys than it is for girls. It takes some practice to be able to make your sessions flow from pose to pose, or to come up with new ways to spice up the same pose. Posing guides help a lot in the beginning, and so does practicing posing yourself in front of the mirror so you can see how it looks. I always tell my clients that they are just warming up for the first 10 minutes, that way the relax and can get into the groove much faster.
LAST TIP: There are certain things that come with me on EVERY SESSION to give them a professional touch.
- An assistant, someone that can old lights, or reflectors, in a pinch or with a shy senior mom or dad can fill this role well, but I still prefer to bring someone so that mom or dad can just enjoy watching their child. However, If you have a bossy parent, give them a job! So their kid can relax.
- Chap Stick clear, for both guys and girls.
- Water bottles for everyone.
- Bobby Pins, Hair Spray and a lint brush.
- Benches, Stools, and step stool. I am short, and while I don’t use them all the time they have saved my butt a time or two-hundred.
- Props that we talked about in the session if they want them they usually bring them but sometimes its up to me.
I could go on for hours. But Hey…its time to go edit and play.
Finally you need realize that EVERY year seniors are different. Some seasons you will be start getting requests the minute the previous class has graduated and other seasons it will be the day before they need pictures for the year book. Also, especially with guys often times they aren’t as interested in having their senior images taken, but mom wants them, and so they are a bit harder to bring around but when they do its magic.
I could go on for hours. But Hey…its time to go edit and play.
Thanks Kori for having me.
Thank you so much Alicia for SO much helpful information about senior photography!! You all can check Alicia and her stunning images out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AliciaMackenziePhotography/
On Istagram at @amackphoto
As well as her website at http://aliciamackenziephotography.com/
Before you go, please stop by BP4U's senior department for posing guides, welcome magazines, contracts, questionaaire forms, and marketing material!