High school seniors no longer want to graduate with only a cookie-cutter yearbook picture as their legacy.
Beyond Still Photos
Video and multimedia slideshows — still images set to music complete with transitions created with programs like Animoto, Showit and Photodex ProShow Gold — are also potential trends in the seniorportraiture market. Though still in its infancy, video’s popularity seems to be increasing. The Krakoras, for example, initially partnered with a local videographer to create live footage of seniors but hope to shoot their own videos in the near future. Right now they’re still researching equipment and technique as well as marketing possibilities, but from their experience, video or Senior Fusion Film seems to be a highly viable — and exciting — opportunity for expanding their senior business.
Swales and Kramer both produce multimedia slideshows but are using them for promotional purposes rather than as a source of income. “I consider them marketing tools,” says Swales. “Once it’s online and their friends see it, the excitement dies. Once parents see it, they don’t need to see it again. I put them out as viral marketing. In the short term, I lose X amount of dollars, but it’s far more valuable [as a marketing tool] in the long term.”
In The Bag
Full-frame DSLRs are the norm for most senior-portrait photographers, usually paired with 70-200mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses. Wide-angle shots are especially hot, and Scott Hayne will sometimes go to the extreme with a 15mm fisheye lens. At the other end of the spectrum, Hayne also shoots with a 100mm macro lens for close-up images. Hayne and Mike Krakora also love the look and bokeh (out-of-focus detail) of 85mm f/1.4 lenses.
Off-camera flash is often used on location shoots, whether with dedicated units such as the Canon 580EX Speedlite or powerful alternatives like the Quantum T5DR. More-complex setups might involve a set of AlienBees monolights. In the studio, photographers use both monolights and softboxes. Jonathan Brown has a four-light Elinchrom studio setup and uses a main light, fill light and, sometimes, a hair light and background kicker light.
Social Media Marketing
Facebook, as Tammy Swales says, “is the single most successful marketing for me, hands down,” and others agree. Whether it’s a fan page for the studio or a personal page (Swales has both), Facebook — and MySpace — is a direct line to seniors. Watermarked images are posted on the photographer’s Facebook page and tagged with the seniors’ names. Then it goes viral, with tagged images appearing on friends’ pages as well. Word-of-mouth recommendations add another dimension to marketing. A number of photographers invite a group of about 10 select seniors to participate in a “senior models” or “senior rep” program each year. Session fees may be waived and other perks are used as incentives for the teens to spread the word among their peers about their photo session. It’s a win/win situation — the kids love being part of a select group, and it costs the photographers little or no expense for effective marketing.