Senior portrait sessions lagging? Let’s talk about it.

Sparkle sisters and glitter guys – assemble. Lean-in because we’re about to have some real-talk about the one thing I hear over and over again among photogs near and far. A little bird tells me that you {and everyone} want to book more senior portrait sessions. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Seniors are an elusive little sub-culture of clients who need special attention, extra glitter, and all the right feels to connect with the photog who is going to capture the biggest year of their life {so far} on camera.

This is seriously tricky business. 

As professionals, it’s not enough to advertise senior portrait sessions and call it a day. No, no, my sweet friends. We have to be motivated and in-the-now to reach out to seniors. We need to know the current trends, listen to what seniors are doing and saying, and stay relevant!  Guess what, guys… when most of us were seniors… having eleventy-billion wallets to hand out to friends was all the rage. Seniors ain’t got time for that these days. They are disinterested in wallets. They go for alternative options {cough, cough – social media sharing} that allow them to express themselves, how they wish. With some legit help from the Sparkle Society Community, we gathered data related to senior portrait sessions from all over the country and I can’t wait to share the {fascinating} results with you down below.

Let’s break it down.

What did the seniors say?

1. What They Look For in a Senior Photographer. 

As we mentioned before, seniors are somewhat of a sub-culture. They are neither children {who need hand-holding}, nor adults making executive decisions. A couple things, however, were consistent among those we surveyed. Seniors want to feel comfortable {with their photographer}; they want to see your work {hello, social media}; and they do what their friends are doing. As a result, you have to work hard to get seniors and their parents {the ones with the pocketbooks, btw} to know, like and trust your brand. You’ll need to be actively posting your work; blogging; tagging; connecting; and being present in the community and elsewhere if you want to be seen, heard and booked.

2. Why Seniors Aren’t Booking with You. 

Seniors called out marketing {if you’re doing a pooh-pooh job – they know!} – this generation is all about marketability and they are watching you! They also want you to be an amazing communicator. Remember, this is the “now” generation and if you don’t respond quickly and completely – seniors will lose interest and move on as fast! It’s also important to make your seniors feel amazing – comfortable, calm, and confident. All of these things lead to an amazing experience for our senior clients, from consult to IPS! Also, speak their language!! Seniors want a FUN session and you, my love muffin, need to do your homework to define FUN in the eyes of a senior.  If you’re not relevant and don’t take the steps to get to know them and, more importantly, earn their trust – they are NOT going to book with you.

3. Brands they Love. 

Our survey results showed a resounding number of seniors follow hair professionals, make-up artists, and boutiques. Therefore, we know that glam is something they are after. You will do very-well to connect with local hair professionals, MUAs and boutique-owners who are interested in working with your brand, as well as senior clients. It’s all about building a strong network of supporters to buy-in to YOU.

4. Where They Shop & Who They Follow. 

Among the seniors we surveyed, many of them shop at American Eagle, boutiques, Target, Forever 21, and stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx.  But it goes beyond that, an overwhelming majority of the teens also reported following beauty bloggers and makeup brands.  You’d be wise to study up on Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sephora, Jeffree Star, Kat Von D Beauty, Tarte, and Jaclyn Hill.  All of those names were mentioned multiple times in the survey…. along with one-off mentions like Bass Pro Shops and some classics like Nike, Lululemon, and Victoria Secret’s PINK.

5. Why is this important? 

Since being relatable is a must, you have to understand your market {aka the often-elusive 17/18 year-old senior} – knowing what’s trending in their world; what looks are interesting to them; and realize how you can market yourself accordingly. You’ll have a hard time attracting clients if your understanding of what’s hot and what’s not is off-base. So, make sure you pay attention and follow the brands that your clients are interested in so you have an advantage going in.  Study their marketing.  Study their images, their text copy, how they promote, what value they provide to the teens.  THAT is what you need to start to incorporate into your business!  Not all seniors are the same, obviously, but when you learn a little more about them, your marketing can be so much more fine-tuned!

6. What Makes a Senior Portrait Session Amazing?

Senior portrait sessions have changed so much since we were in school. Gone are the days of showing up with a few favorite outfits and posing on over-sized props. Today’s senior class calls for supermodel treatment! Many seniors reported back to us saying that they love feeling like a {pampered} model for the day. This first-class treatment and the chance to get glam while showing their unique interests and style is a major self-confidence booster.

One senior commented, I loved being in front of the lense [sic] and feeling like a model for the day! Having new and beautiful pictures to post was amazing and I loved that I could combine traditional senior pictures with my other passion of dance!”

And, overwhelmingly, seniors responded by saying they want to have photos to share on social media.  This is where a custom app of their photos from Sticky Albums may be just the thing you need!

“Be the energy you want to attract.”

What are the successful senior photographers saying?

1. Model Programs. 

What works for some, isn’t right for all. Once again, Sparkles, this is about knowing your demographic. Some of the successful senior photographers we surveyed have very successful senior model programs, some do not either due to choice or lack of interest. Therefore, it was {importantly} noted that model calls can alienate some seniors. So, here’s your bottom-line info: choose your approach carefully and follow-through. What works with one senior ‘tog, may not work with all and it may not be what your clients want year-after-year either. Leslie from Leslie Savage Photography shared this point, “the idea of “cutting” girls and losing clients was completely counter-productive to the message of acceptance and true beauty that I want my business to communicate.”  Leslie has now developed a different approach that affords modeling opportunities to clients who have already booked and invested in her brand.

Anne, from Senior Films, steers away from a model program because of something she calls the Unicorn effect.  This phenomenon is something that photographers are reporting more and more around the country!

2. Know your tribe. 

This means spending time outside of booking, editing, and shooting. You’re going to want to be where the seniors are {community activities; school functions; vendor fairs, orientations, etc}. Therefore, you must be a familiar face to seniors and their parents. This is so important because in order to invest with you, they have to know, like and trust you. In order to know, like, and trust you, they have to see the real you outside of your social accounts. Billie, from Billie Mitchell Photography, had this to say about knowing your tribe: “You’re going to have to hustle and find different ways to meet people. Also, in my experience, it also takes time. It’s not all going to happen in a month or two. It takes some time to establish relationships and trust with your community.”  So, friends, get out of the box and start building those relationships.

3. Social Media.

Since your tribe lives on social, you’re going to want to use that to your advantage. If you’ve ever heard me #PREACH before, you know that posting on social and walking away is a big no-no. You will need to be a social media savage, sisters!! Claim your tribe; follow who they follow; interact with them; reply to comments; tag the snot out of relevant brands, businesses, and groups that your tribe will identify with. Furthermore, you have to interact and show your heart. Since you already know where I’m going with this – I have two words to share. GO. LIVE. You. can. do. it. If you want to score those senior portrait sessions, you’re going to have to go for the gold. Fabiana from Fabiana Beatriz Photography is spot-on when she says, “don’t be fake, they can spot it a mile away.” So true! Your tribe will love you for YOU. So, don’t hold back, engage in an authentic and meaningful way and your tribe will follow!

4. Your Ideal Senior. 

Just because senior portrait sessions are an option on your list of services, that doesn’t mean that ALL seniors are for you! That will not be the case in photography or any other industry, my dears. Learn early: not everyone is your client – and that is okay! Leslie from Leslie Savage Photography is known for her light and airy photos that boast a whimsical feel centered around boho fashion and elements of nature. While she does book some male clients, they aren’t her target demographic. Leslie is aware that her style is mostly feminine in nature and; therefore, her ideal client is a senior girl who feels desires and encompasses that style before her senior portrait session is even in the books.

How do you feel about senior portrait sessions now?

Soooo, with all of this fabulous info in mind, how are YOU going to improve your senior portrait sessions? What will you do differently in terms of engagement, social media, and interaction? Tell us one thing you’re going to do differently, in the comments below!

PS. If this has been majorly helpful to you, I want to send you a free social media workshop! Click here to get the goods and I will get you all hooked up on social.

cyrissa sparkle society

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  1. Great advice, that applies to many fields! The Millenial generation and beyond is definitely looking for authentic, and I also think you are spot on in saying that people want to be pampered like a celebrity!

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