Erica Peerenboom, a member of our Pro Team, has a passion for photography that is easy to see in her vibrant and dynamic images. Based in rural Ohio, Erica has been photographing people for as long as she can remember. Her raw talent combined with a casual, documentary style approach makes her a photographer to keep your eye on. Today Erica shares insight into her favorite type of photography, senior portraits. Shooting and marketing seniors today is not what it used to be and senior portrait photographers, such as Erica and Jessica Edwards (featured in a past blog post), are often using these current strategies and efforts to stay on top.
Shooting and Marketing Senior Portraits – by Erica Peerenboom
When I first started my business I had no idea how much I would love shooting seniors. Once I realized how much fun I was having during the sessions, I began to market my business heavily towards seniors.
Know Your Market
First and foremost, I researched the market and learned as much as I could on the trends and styles. Seniors’ pictures today are not what they were back in my day – and that’s definitely a good thing. Back then our pictures were taken in the gym with cheesy backdrops and number blocks. There was no individuality and no creativity at all. Guess they figured the hair and make up from that time was creative enough!
Today’s seniors know what they want. They want unique and different. They want to stand out and be an individual. They want to be noticed! The seniors usually come to me with ideas and suggestions they already have in mind. I listen and try to incorporate their ideas with my own vision.
When the shoot is taking place I always try to get a shot of the senior with the parent(s) if they accompany them to the shoot. Sometimes they are apprehensive to get in front of the camera, but that sneak peek on Facebook more often than not becomes their profile picture. The shoot is about the senior, but remember that the parents’ satisfaction is also important, as they are often footing the bill in the end.
Leverage Social Media
Seniors are often the ones finding the photographer and telling their parents who they want to use. Usually this occurs after seeing their friends’ pictures on Facebook and liking their images. Due to this, I rely heavily on Facebook for my marketing. I make sure each of my seniors has their own album of at least five images from their session to share with their friends and family. This helps spread the word about my business and leads to referral business. I also encourage my seniors to use my watermarked images as their profile pictures and then tag myself. With that said, I make sure that the watermark is not too distracting from the image, but still recognizable and readable. Again, more referrals follow. Facebook and social media are definitely great marketing tools if used correctly.
Create an Incentive
I have created a Senior Ambassador Program for my company that has been amazing for my business. It’s a program that enables me to pick seniors from local schools to represent my business. I start accepting applications in the winter from local high schools while the students are still in their junior year. This gives me time to select my representatives in the summer between their junior and senior year. I want representatives that are social and outgoing, love to be in front of the camera and participate in extra curricular activities.These are the reps that will have fun with the program and also benefit my business as well. For being selected they receive a free session along with some rep cards, which are basically like business cards. They pass these cards out to friends and for each referral they send me they get a print credit to apply toward their order. It’s a win-win for both of us.
Find Out Who They Are
Last but not least, I recommend you get to know the senior that you are photographing. I always have a consultation to find out about their likes and dislikes, sports or extracurricular activities they are involved with, clothing they will wear, etc. It just helps the shoot go much smoother to know who you are shooting beforehand. I always try to base my shoots around the senior and their personality. That oh-so-important car? Let’s get some shots with it! Have a beloved pet? Let’s include them in a few images! If they are involved with sports or the band, I encourage them to bring their instruments or sports gear to the shoot. I want to include things that are important to them and tell a story about who they are and what they aspire to be. I also find they tend to open up more and be themselves if you show a genuine interest in them.
Seniors are always full of such hope and excitement for the future, and I love to capture those emotions in pictures for them. That is what it is all about! Their passion and personality shine though and show in their portraits. This is such a fun age group to shoot with, such creativity and energy involved with the entire session. If I had to pick only one area of photography to specialize in, seniors would definitely be it! How exiting and rewarding to shoot people at such an amazing time in their lives. It is important to love the photography you shoot, and I just love it!