This next post comes to us courtesy of Jessica Edwards, an award winning photographer based out of Southwest Missouri. A graduate from the prestigious Ohio Institute of Photography and Technology, Jessica has owned her business for several years and has gladly agreed to share the story of her success with us.
Be the Trend in Senior Portraiture
Senior portraiture has really changed since I was in high school. 1999 was the year I had my senior portraits taken and I’ll never forget it. They lined up all 108 of us in the gymnasium and we waited in a single file line while each of us got our turn with the camera. The photographer had set up a single white background and you go snaps of the camera — one sitting on the floor, one standing, and one leaning on a white ladder. It was “one…two…three…NEXT!” Boy, did they turn out terribly! I’m not sure what I was thinking when I chose my outfit and I still want to smack some of my friends who insisted on standing behind the photographer making goofy faces.
Needless to say, I didn’t buy a single senior picture. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but one that I do have is not having some high quality portraits of myself at that stage in my life. I think that regret has fueled my love of senior portraiture. I want to give all of my clients the type of images that I wish I had gotten almost eleven years ago.
Over the last decade, the style of senior photography has changed tremendously. Photography in general is always evolving, but not at the rate of senior portraiture. In today’s age, trendy is everything to high school seniors. Of course, you’ll want to take some classically posed and lit portraits to make the parents and grandparents happy, but to be really successful senior photographers, we have to make the teens happy. Although the parents typically are the ones footing the bill, teenagers have a lot of say over which photographer they choose.
It’s becoming more and more typical for teenagers to choose which photographer to hire for their senior portraits from seeing work on Facebook, whether it’s coming from the photographer themselves or from their friends uploading their portraits to their profile. I whole-heartedly believe that if senior photographers don’t utilize social networking sites such as Facebook, they’ll get left behind. It’s been called “the world’s directory” because so many people regularly log into Facebook. I, myself, am a Facebookaholic. It’s always running in the background on my computer. While it can sometimes be bad for a procrastinator like myself, the pros far outweigh the cons.
I’ve been recognized by high school seniors from as far away as an hour’s drive because we are Facebook friends. Other photographers and potential clients alike have told me that they feel like they know me just from having me as a friend on Facebook. People are much more likely to hire someone that they feel some sort of personal connection to. In addition to constantly uploading new portraits and announcing current specials, I make sure to add lots of personal touches. Uploading mobile pictures of your cat sleeping on your head…or of dinner that you ordered at your favorite restaurant…or of the time you tried to put a ring on over top of a black satin glove and got it stuck (I’m guilty of all of those) makes you seem like a real person and not a business just looking for money.
My studio’s success is almost solely due to my senior rep program that I implemented on Facebook. A year ago, I moved to a new state, where I knew virtually no one. I needed a quick and cheap way to get my business going. I devoted a lot of time and energy to Facebook by adding potential senior clients as friends, being friendly, visible and relevant. I then started promoting my senior rep program. I updated my status regularly inviting current juniors to fill out an application to become a part of our senior rep program. Over the next couple of weeks, we had about 50 completed applications and ended up with 25 awesome reps that helped spread the word about our business. During their junior year, we had a 15 minute mini session to get images to use in our marketing campaign. In no time, my business was up on its feet! I honestly believe that if it wasn’t for that senior rep program, I’d only have a mere fraction of the clients that I’ve been fortunate to work with thus far.
Pretty quickly other photographers began noticing that I was getting a lot of work…quickly. After many many hours of explaining how I used my senior rep program to launch my business in a new state, I decided that I was going to put everything in writing regarding how I built my business using this rep program implemented on Facebook and my blog. This is how Be the Trend was born. Be the Trend is a website that offers marketing and mentoring services to photographers.
In this day and age our industry being over saturated with “Uncle Bobs” and “Moms with Cameras”, educating yourself is extremely important. I believe that by helping to educate those just starting in the industry (and those looking to take their business to the next level) will eventually help us all. Let’s face it…every one of us was a new photographers at some point. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew then what you know now? I know I do! Having a mentor to help new photographers along in the beginning stages in their careers, sharing their successes and failures, is invaluable. In my opinion, with an education and a yearning to never stop learning, we can revive our industry.