If you are an aspiring photographer, one of the most daunting aspects of business is often marketing. Does social media work? How do I get people talking about my business? Are business cards even necessary these days? There are so many questions that linger around the topic. If you photograph high school seniors, it can be even more intimidating. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m finding at 27, my “hip” days are slipping away. As cool as I’d like to hope I still am, my ability to relate to a 17 year old takes a bit more work. So how do we get a rising senior counting down the days to their Senior Session? We get their friends raving! Who better to have on your side than…seniors?!
The most productive way I’ve found to do this is through a Senior Model Rep Program, but it can also be a time absorbing, profit-eating monster if done incorrectly. How do I know? I spent a couple years being the poster child for unproductive Rep Programs. After failing quite miserably, I decided to make some changes. I researched (what could quite possibly fall into the category of “stalked”) several accomplished photographers who are experienced in senior photography. I pulled together several different ideas to create a program tailored to Dash. This year is still technically an experimental year, but honestly, every year is. Fortunately, it’s already proving to be more successful than the last, but isn’t that what we hope for every year?
The biggest mistake I made was believing high school girls were falling out of their chairs with anticipation to tell all their friends about my business simply because I gave them a few great images. Sure, they “oo’d and ah’d” at first, and even gave me a shout out or two on their social media profiles, then…crickets. We weren’t even to the end of summer! WHAT?! Not only did I give them a free session complete with professional make up and food, but I stocked their “Selfie Sunday” and “Transformation Tuesday” albums for a solid 6 months. Work with me people! That’s when I started to connect some dots. All of the stuff I gave was great for the moment, but that’s where it ended for them. The only incentive I offered for pushing bookings my way was a product discount. Um, hello! The senior doesn’t even pay for the products! They don’t care! After the experience was over for them, their motivation to spread the word was also. I had to figure out how to keep the excitement alive throughout the year.
Now, you could very well be reading this and thinking, “Aw, sweet Amanda. That’s common sense.” Looking back, it’s so obvious to me that my course of action was way off. Yes, appealing to Mom is important. It gets her talking to her friends, and let’s be honest, they foot the bill. BUT, 90% of my senior bookings happen after Mom tells me that Susie won’t quit bugging her about wanting her Senior Portrait experience with Dash. No really, I had a dad call me, and say he was tired of hearing his daughter talk about my photos she had found through Instagram. (Thank you over zealous teenager!) Since that’s the case, my marketing strategy should be aimed at seniors 90% of the time. So, how do I do that?
Previously, I provided all the benefits for the girls right up front. They didn’t even have to work for it. There was zero incentive for them to push bookings my way. So after thinking about it, and listening to a Leah Remillet podcast (shout out to Leah!) I decided on some incentives that were specifically for my seniors. Numero uno: cold, hard cash. Yes, I pay my Reps. What senior doesn’t want extra spending money for a Saturday at the mall, or a concert they’ve been dying to go to? It’s a no brainer. Each time a Rep brings me a booking, they get $25. I simply added it in with my costs per session before I determined session and collection values. For the girls, I’m basically offering them the easiest side job ever. I also incorporated a few different incentives they could work towards. After so many bookings, they can earn a mini session with their best friend, their own senior session, and what’s commonly referred to as “Prom Paparazzi”. That brings me to my next point.
The whole purpose of a Senior Model Rep program is to spotlight the very best aspects of your photography, as well as creating a buzz about the experience your business gives. Therefore, I want the shoot I do with the Reps to be the perfect depiction of my style and my brand. I’m not giving my Reps a free senior session. I’m giving them the opportunity to be a part of a professionally styled shoot, with hair and make up, along with the other Reps. I know what they’re wearing, where it’s going to be, and what my inspiration is. That way, I’m not just hoping the shoot will work for my brand. I’m sure of it. It’s important to be very intentional with your Rep program to ensure you get the best results possible.
Another crucial way of being intentional is to make sure you are recruiting girls that understand what you’re asking of them. The last thing you want is a Rep who isn’t involved in any social activities or has zero motivation. You want outgoing, connected, and confident ladies! I do work on my end connecting with people at local high schools who can give me recommendations or sending out general “model calls”, but no matter what, I send every girl that shows interest in being a Rep to my website which has an easily accessible application. I ask questions that give me a good idea if she is a good fit. This is a very important step in your process.
It’s also extremely important to keep the buzz going throughout the year. Use social media to your advantage, and let your Reps do the work! Sure, you can push posts on your Facebook Page until you’re blue in the face, but you only reach so many people. Let’s be honest, how many 16-17 year olds are you friends with on Facebook? I guarantee your Reps are friends with way more! So what can you offer them to keep them talking online? Find creative, cost effective incentives for different forms of advertising such as Twitter shout outs, Instagram tags, and Facebook posts. Maybe each shout out earns a point, and after so many points they earn a gift card to their favorite store. Remember to offer rewards that are relevant to them.
Next, arm your Reps with attention grabbing products they can share. If you are creating stunning images during your Rep Shoot (which, that is the goal), your Models will be thrilled to show them off. We all know 90% of girls that age jump at the opportunity to show off a good selfie. Create professional, brand inspired products for them to do so. That can be done with Rep Cards, post cards they can send their friends, or Facebook banner photos for their profiles. Be sure to include your business info on the products, and watch your notoriety spread. You are a creative person! Don’t let it stop when you put your camera down. Use it in your marketing.
Lastly, have fun being their friend! These are high school students who are young, excited, and have the world ahead of them! Feed off their excitement, and really work to build a friendship with your Reps. The more they see you care about them, the more credibility you will gain with them. Keep in touch with their lives throughout your program. Ask them how their summers going and how college plans are going. Be genuine, and your return will go far beyond bookings!
Amanda Coker of Dash Photography is a freelance wedding and senior photographer based out of Atlanta, GA. She specializes in giving high school seniors a unique and personalized photography experience to kick off their senior year, as well as capturing the story of a bride and groom’s wedding day as to allow them to relive that life-changing event year after year. Follow her adventures and recent work on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and follow her Blog.
Check out this amazing line up for May!
These critiques begin on APRIL 28th! Yes, that is today, but sign up quick and you are in plus get $10 off your forum membership if you join by the end of the month. Heads up! That is two days away! Just use Discount Code: 10$OFF
Emily Lucarz | Emily Lucarz Photography
Click HERE for Emily’s 4-week BUSINESS Critique
Only 5 spots left!
Alba Soler | Alba Soler Photography
Click HERE for Alba’s 4-week Critique
She is offering this critique in English and Spanish!
10 spots left!
Stephanie Williams | This Modern Romance
Click HERE for Stephanie’s 4-week Critique
Only 7 spots left!
8 spots left!
Have your images critiqued by your favorite photographer or join us for a workshop and breathe new life into your pictures!
Guest Contributor | Leslie Vega