Growing Your Senior Portrait Business During the Pandemic

Growing Your Senior Portrait Business During the Pandemic

As state orders and safety protocols shut down schools, weddings, and other events, a lot of photographers were left wondering how to stay afloat during this unprecedented pandemic.

We spoke with Samantha Grant of Samantha Grant Photography about her experience during these unprecedented times:

growing senior portrait business pandemic

Silver lining alert! This pandemic has forced a whole slew of changes in my business; many are changes for the better.

The obvious change is that I wear a mask to shoots and I ask that the parent attending also wear one. No big deal.

The major change is IPS sessions. Before the pandemic I invited clients to my home studio for their viewing appointments. After presenting a slideshow of images, I would then show them all of my studio samples. They could touch the samples and ask questions. I always considered this step an important part of my process.

But living in a heavily affected county, in-person viewing appointments have not been available since early last March. How to show off the studio samples? My solution: At the end of a photoshoot, as the client and I walk back to our cars, I joke that I will now be doing a trunk show – a literal trunk show!

Apart from wall art, I have all the studio samples in my car. I don't allow clients to handle the samples, but they can still see the thickness of the pages in my albums and the printing quality.

pandemic strategies for senior portrait growth

A few days after the shoot we schedule a zoom call. They still get to see a slideshow and I still use Lightroom to help narrow down which images to use for which pieces of art.

You know what's great about the zoom IPS? So many things. Because the clients have already seen the studio samples, they have a better idea of exactly what they want before the appointment. This means my average call time is shorter than before.

Also, because no one is coming over, I don't have to clean the house. I don't have to worry about whether someone opened a can of tuna recently. I don't have to beg the kids to be quiet (I wear a headset during the zoom calls so the client really only hears me, not the rest of the house.)

But the biggest perk is that I now show proof images. Before the pandemic I fully edited every image of a gallery before the IPS. I was worried that a client might look at imperfect skin or fly away hairs and nix an otherwise gorgeous shot. But over Zoom the image quality isn't that great anyways! I still do basic edits for their call (white balance, fix horizon lines, exposure, contrast etc.) But now I only fully edit the images they purchase.

The kicker here: my sales average during the pandemic is higher than before. If you factor in the time savings, I'm making even more money per hour.

seniors photography business during covid

Initially I was very concerned that my wall art sales would decline. “Show what you want to sell,” is the old adage, and I've always felt it was true. But here's the thing: my wall art sales have gone UP.

I have two theories about this. First, because I was so concerned about a drop off in wall art sales, I think I became better at selling it – about talking about it at several points in the process when a client expressed interest. Second, I think that by spending so much time at home, families may actually value wall art of their children more now than before.

Of course there are always clients who don't want wall art, and that's fine. But for those who are on the fence, or who just hadn't thought about it before, those clients are much more likely to buy wall art now than before the pandemic.

The take-away message I have for other senior portrait photographers is to embrace new practices for your business. You might discover benefits you didn't even realize were there! Good luck!

Samantha Grant Photography is a boutique studio in Northern California that specializes in teen, tween, and senior portraits. Samantha is a moderator of The Twelfth Year, a Facebook forum for thousands of high school photographers focused on business education. She also mentors professional photographers in pricing, sales, and social media marketing.

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