While Little's pricing is available on his website, broken down into five different packages, everything he offers can be customized. "All my packages are mix-and-matchable to make sure they get everything they want. The seniors and their parents appreciate not feeling bound to one thing. Their referrals run my business. We also do a lot of mailers, go to local fairs, and have a booth at the annual Fulton County Fair, where we book half of our seniors." They have a shoot every day this year.
To heighten the dramatic appeal of his images, especially the current grungy look, he relies on Graphic Authority products. "I use their frames, borders, and brushes for designing mailers and senior books, and for bordering proofs. They have the edgy style I was looking for and are a great company to deal with."
JON & LINDA JOHNSON: Model Job
JON and LINDA JOHNSON (www.triangle
photographers.org), based in Ohio, know that their client base is primarily girls who want to look and feel like models. "We promote the seniors session as your ‘senior experience'-come and feel like a model. Our sessions run about an hour and a half and are fast-paced with many outfit changes, so it feels more like a fashion shoot. We photograph so many looks that it makes it much harder for clients to narrow down their selections. They want a photograph in every outfit. This has definitely increased sales of our Capri flush-mount and peal & stick 8x8 and 10x10 albums. Some of the seniors actually use their 10x10 albums as their first modeling portfolios."
Switching to DVD proofing was another good move for the studio. "Our senior orders doubled the first year we introduced DVD proofing, because they don't have paper proofs to scan and copy. They are ordering more and they're happy about it. After transferring all our images onto DVD with Photodex ProShow Gold, we buy copyright-free music, then play the slideshow like a video. Our clients feel like they're watching MTV and they're the stars. They take the DVD home and mark their favorites in a little book of all the images. Large images, music-it adds to the experience."
JAMES SCHMELZER: Get Out There
Operating out of Shelby, Michigan, JAMES SCHMELZER (www.elitefoto.com) is everywhere, from MySpace to YouTube to MTV. "Word of mouth is really our strongest asset. We do direct-mail fliers and have a MySpace page and a commercial on YouTube. Everybody has a MySpace page and watches YouTube, so we try to get the kids to our page and add us to their friends list." They also have a video production company, where they produced their own 30-second commercials, which run on VH1 and MTV."
Most of their business is from referrals. "What makes a photographer is their everyday work," says Schmelzer. "Can you make someone who is average look exceptional? If you get a teen supermodel and you place her picture on all of your brochures and postcards, it doesn't say much about your ability as a photographer."
The studio itself has played a huge role in booking clients. "We have a big, new warehouse studio, so it looks really edgy. Kids can see if you're doing something new as soon as they walk in. We have five sets inside-even the outside scenes-each with five Westcott lights. With 22 sets, I can take them through different scenes without moving any lights."
ANGELA CARSON: Diversify
What do you do when a client wants one image and her mother wants something completely different? According to Michigan-based ANGELA CARSON (www.angelacarson.com), you diversify. "With senior photography, you really have two clients. I have two people I have to make happy, and that's why they both come to meet with me ahead of time. I always ask my seniors, ‘What are we going to do for Mom, and what are we going to do for you?'"
Carson creates panels with multiple images to satisfy both clients. "These panels have really been popular this year. You have one large image that's 24x30-a base image-and you place other images onto it like a montage or a collage." Using one of her clients as an example, she explains, "We had a senior who was a guitar player. I asked him to tell me what his music meant to him. He said, ‘Everything just stops when I am playing.' We incorporated that quote into his panel."
"Using Classic Albums, we do a ton of 8x8 leather-bound books with 30 to 50 images, which gives seniors and their mothers an opportunity to select more than your typical packages." Clients select their images while seeing them projected in Carson's studio. "We don't make proofs and we don't offer images online. Part of our custom experience is spending time with clients choosing images."