Diversity in Your Business

Diversity in Your Business

Diversity in Your Business with Skip Cohen

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the March issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

With this month’s theme being “Seniors,” it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about diversity in building your business. Seniors can be an incredibly strong revenue component, and they can push your creativity.

 

Photographing a high school senior is all about personality. While the yearbook might require a standard pose and Mom wants a more traditional portrait of her little angel, the market is all about defining the subject. From their hobbies, friends, sports, music and special interests, you’ve got an opportunity with every senior to capture so much more than a well-exposed headshot.

 

There are plenty of writers and educators on this issue to help you work with seniors and get great images. I want to talk about it as a building block in your business.

 

Let’s start with my regular reminder of why people hire professional photographers. The top three reasons are brides, babies and pets. This data comes out of a Kodak survey from over 20 years ago, but I don’t believe it’s changed.

 

Here’s what I think today’s list looks like. Beyond the top three are children, family, seniors, business and boudoir. This month’s theme is in the top eight reasons for people to hire a professional photographer.

 

A lot of photographers and educators believe you need to be a specialist in just one category. I don’t totally disagree, but there are some incredible opportunities you leave behind if you take that approach. Every photography business owner needs a few secondary specialties that logically connect to your core business.

 

Let’s talk about a specialty in wedding photography to start. To be a great wedding photographer takes a unique personality and a comfort level in knowing you have minimal control—over your subjects, the environment and the clock. You’ve got no opportunity for a second chance with most of the images you capture. You either get the shot or miss it, and another magical moment is coming up almost as fast as you can click the shutter.

 

But that’s only part of the challenge. You’ve got to know how to tell the story. A wedding photographer needs to have excellent editing skills and be an outstanding storyteller. The wedding album isn’t just a book of photographs, but the first heirloom of a new family.

 

And there’s the keyword: family. The average age of a bride in the United States is 25.3 and the average age of a woman when she has her first child has risen to 26.3. Statistics on the average age of a bride are all over the place, so the SoundVision.com data may be a few years old, but it doesn’t matter.

 

Think about your experiences with friends and relatives. It’s likely that within two to three years after marriage, there are some new members of the family being born. That means the status of your bride and groom is going to change, and new photographic needs are on the horizon.

 

Families mean babies and children. Families often mean pets. Babies grow up to be children and seniors. During the process of the family growing up, Mom and Dad might have a business, and their photographic needs expand beyond the immediate family. There are needs for updated headshots, along with publicity for events, real estate and even insurance photographs. And somewhere in the process, they may want a boudoir shoot.

 

I look at the cycle starting with the wedding, but wherever your skill set fits, you can diversify and expand into other specialties. If you did a great job on the wedding, why not be there for the photographic needs of the family as it grows?

 

Let’s go back to seniors. What I love most about the senior market is the potential for you as the artist to be creative. Every senior is a blank canvas waiting to express herself and share who she is.

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Great senior photographers are relationship builders. They don’t just come in, grab the headshot and move on. There’s an opportunity to bring out the very best expressions with each subject, but only if you focus on building the relationship.

 

As I’ve written before, great senior portraits are about the photographer’s ability to listen. It’s about building trust and then capturing images that showcase the personality of the senior.

 

Senior and school photography are not easy to get into. There are contracts for underclass photography that can go back years in a community. It’s a tough market.

 

But senior photography has changed so much over the last decade. It’s more like lifestyle photography when you look at the finished results. A senior photographer isn’t limited to just a headshot. Because it’s a younger audience, you can get creative with a high-impact slideshow with contemporary music, and even hybrid slide shows with video.

 

Breaking into the market takes time. A good starting point is to get a few seniors in front of your camera. These first subjects are going to be your ambassadors and help get the word out, but your work has got to be the best, and sittings need to be fun. This is where your relationship skills come into play.

 

Look at what everybody else in your community is doing, and then do something different. Great slideshows play a role, especially if you’re capturing the personality of the senior, their interests and the fun of the session.

 

Put together the story the same way you’d do a slideshow of a wedding. Include still images and short video clips all put together with great music. Remember, each presentation you put together is also a marketing piece.

 

Think about offering a day-in-the-life shoot as part of your package. Day-in-the-life shoots capture the story so much better than just a few images. It doesn’t have to be an entire day—just four hours, during which you capture images that tell the story of who they are, their friends, interests, family and hobbies.

 

The images, when put together in a small album, will give you something different to share as a finished product/service. This is storytelling at its very best, and who better to tell the story than you as an artist?

 

And that brings me full circle. Seniors become adults, and another cycle starts. They get married, start families, build careers. There are logical connections for every photographer in the portrait/social world to step into the cycle wherever it makes sense—as long as your skill set matches the needs of each specialty.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the March issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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Diversity in Your Business

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