Sometimes the normal portrait session is just not enough to attract a client to return year after year. In many clients' minds, portrait sessions are only done once a year and in one way-cute kids, cute clothes, nice studio or good location, and sweet portraits afterwards. Family portraits aren't often included in the yearly budget. Instead, parents choose to jump into the children's photo shoot every couple of years, if only to create a family legacy.
Most clients never consider their dog or their horse-although they love them dearly-as possible subjects. Perhaps it's because at our high-end portrait studio, a client might not be able to afford coming more than once a year. Or maybe a client has preconceived notions of what a session is like and doesn't want to go through it. Or perhaps their minds are just not creative enough to anticipate a new kind of photography session that will change past preconceptions and can provide new products rarely available during normal portrait times.
That is where limited-edition portrait sessions come into play. This is a "themed" session, such as our studio's "Making Faces" and "Baby's Birthday Party" (explained below), which offer clients a less expensive (or sometimes free) session with packages consisting of various fun items. These sessions are often brief (10 to 30 minutes) and in a controlled environment, indoors or out. A charity might be associated with the session so that, in exchange for a donation, clients receive a free session. These sessions are also called "limited edition" because they might not be continued in the future or are offered at only certain times of the year.
At Cialone Photography, both Juli Cialone and her partner, Sean Kelley, will brainstorm two to three times a year with the office staff and come up with new portrait events that haven't been seen in their area (or elsewhere, for that matter). This past year, one of the first limited-edition sessions they decided to do was "Baby's First Birthday." They wanted it simple, sweet, and fun. Ingredients? A baby-slightly less than a year old is best-with diaper on but no clothing, a cake (small and round with white frosting and either blue or pink flowers), a towel, and a white seamless backdrop. Just plop the baby on the seamless with the cake in front and photograph!
Sometimes a little encouragement is needed to get the baby to touch the cake, but inevitably you'll have one messy baby and some fantastic images telling an adorable tale. Products for this session sell themselves, including accordion-style albums, image-composite wall portraits, greeting cards, invitations/thank you notes for the baby's birthday party-the list goes on.
When we created the "Baby's First Birthday" session, we were careful as to where it should be marketed. We first sent info to all of our recent brides, many of whom were pregnant or already had a baby. We then approached baby boutique stores to display some of the adorable albums and composites. Obstetric and pediatric offices were approached, as well as several daycare centers.
The marketing piece was carefully composed with individual composites of several children, and a dog, on one side, and a clever invitation on the reverse side, inviting the family for fun and messes. These were printed on card stock with a soft matte feel through Northwest Professional Color.
The program has had so much success that it has become a continuing, year-round program, with babies being brought in before they turn one, so that party invitations (including stamps and custom envelopes), centerpieces, and posters can be created for their special birthday event.
"Making Faces" was the second limited-edition session that was started last year. The session requires a child to sit on a stool with a solid background (white or grey seamless work well) and simply change their facial expressions. An assistant is helpful during these sessions because they can act silly and tell the child stories to evoke different emotions. Once the session is done, the images are edited and presented in composite form. Potential image-composite designs are endless. From the simple 4-square look to 8- or 9-image composites showing one or more children having fun-combinations of images can be created for any desired look. Even dogs make great subjects for these sessions-a little more patience is involved, but they come out great, and the pet owners are thrilled.
We chose to approach pediatric offices first for these sessions, and agreed to give all office staff, as well as the patients of each practice, a free session. In turn, the offices agreed to display their patients' composites on the office walls, in highly visible, high-traffic areas.
"Making Faces" was also marketed to children's boutiques and daycare centers. The composites made great display prints-we even featured them at one of the many cafés where we have permission to use wall space. "Making Faces" marketing pieces were simply double-sided bookmarks with lots of children's faces and text inviting clients to explore their child's or pet's personalities. These are handed out in the quieter spring season (usually January through April) and then are concluded by the time the senior portrait market begins to come into full swing.
Limited-edition portrait sessions will get you thinking and smiling. Most importantly, you'll be able to diversify your studio, while only interfering with the normal studio routine once in a while. The sessions will help you profit in the slower times while having fun. So get out your pens and pads-it's time to brainstorm!
JULI CIALONE & SEAN KELLEY are the partners behind Cialone Photography (www.cialonephoto.com). Sean's wedding and senior portrait photography is cutting edge; and Juli's portraits touch the heart and capture memories for a lifetime.