High School Senior Photography for Boys

High School Senior Photography for Boys

High School Senior Photography for Boys with Phillip Blume

 

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One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting on my mom’s lap listening as she sang “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” to an audience of one. The audience was me, her biggest (or, more accurately, chubbiest) two-year-old fan. The 1984 Footloose hit lives on today as an anthem for momma’s boys everywhere. And I was most definitely a momma’s boy.

 

My family never had much disposable income, so my sisters and I had few professional portraits made over the years. Sure, a school photographer shot our annual portraits, but even those fell outside the rigid family budget. This year, my mom actually tracked down the daughter of our old school photographer, and, fifteen years after I graduated, finally placed her order for my senior portraits.

 

There was nothing flashy about my senior portraits—well, perhaps the borrowed tuxedo top I wore over plaid shorts against a blue backdrop. (The image, of course, was cropped above the shorts.) Yet my mom remembered and coveted those portraits throughout my life. Fifteen years and 14 grandchildren later, she still cares and finally owns them. And I’m still her momma’s boy.

 

Are you fully tapping your senior market by attracting boys? They and their mothers value the product you offer. Or do you, like most photographers, notice a huge surplus of female subjects? Come on already. Let’s hear it for the boys.

 

Here’s my list of strategies to help you appeal to more male senior clients. If I have the ratio right, adding boys to your bookings may nearly double your senior business.

 

  1. Direct mail

 

For most of our clients, direct mail is not a good marketing option. Blume Photography specializes in weddings and newborns. For all his snooping around, the postman still can’t predict wedding dates or due dates. But for seniors, it’s a different story. There’s a lot of information available about household makeup, and through direct mail you can target households that have kids in school within a particular district. How powerful is that?

 

There’s a huge benefit in marketing to boys this way. Even though you can’t know the gender of kids within a household you market to, I guarantee you boys are more likely to respond to your mailer than they are to the marketing pieces they see at school. Why? Peer pressure.

 

Even if your marketing pieces look fantastic, no kid will dare pick one up if it isn’t “cool.” And it ain’t “cool” for boys. First, their friends are mocking them for even entertaining the idea of a photo shoot. Believe me, kids in high school are even more aware of the female trend in senior photography than you are. Senior portraits are “for girls.” But if you can reach a good momma’s boy at home, he (and his mom) can unabashedly view and consider your call to action: Book now.

 

Search the Internet for easy direct-mail services offered by companies like infoUSA or even USPS. They’ll help you get started. Then make sure your marketing photos feature a male subject, even if the picture is secondary to one for your target female audience.

 

  1. Stylized portraits

 

When I was studying photojournalism in college, we called these “conceptual portraits.” As photojournalists, we steered clear of Photoshop. There was no tolerance for modified images; they had to be 100 percent “real.” But once in a while we got the chance to work on conceptual portraits, imaginative photo graphics to illustrate ideas. What fun. My favorite was a portrait I created of a local coffee roaster, whom I Photoshopped buried under a mountain of coffee beans.

 

Stylized portraits may not represent your typical brand or personal style, but it’s always fun to branch out a little. Fewer guys than girls are interested in a “vanity” shoot, to look cute or improve their self-image. But a lot of guys are obsessed with the sports they play, the bands they’re in, the cars they drive.

 

Make a presession questionnaire part of your senior workflow, and find out what your subjects are into. It doesn’t have to be the main thrust of your shoot, but take some time to feature what’s important to them. If you typically don’t touch off-camera flash during your bright, airy senior sessions, take the leap and start creating a few edgier high-contrast shots on the football field in front of those Friday night lights.

 

Remember, boys aren’t the only ones obsessed with sports, music and cars. You’ll probably start to see demand for this type of session from a whole new segment of the high school girl population you didn’t even know existed.

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  1. Business partnerships

 

The most direct inroad to reaching a new client is often the most obvious. Don’t miss what’s right under your nose. What physical businesses do your target clients already visit? How can you reach those clients in those places by offering value to that business? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask before building a marketing strategy for any service you provide.

 

In reaching high schoolers before their senior year, we realized kids that age all go to the orthodontist. So we created a business relationship with an orthodontist that makes the doctor look good to his clients and adds value to his practice. We create high-quality gift certificates through the terrific Simply Color Lab, which we then gift to the orthodontist. He gives the certificates to his patients (well-qualified leads with disposable income) as a thank-you gift after removing their braces. And guess who receives that gift certificate directly? You got it: Mom, the holder of the purse strings and the lover of her baby boy.

 

As a result, we photograph as many, or more, boys than girls. It’s an introduction to our process, and we load their mommas up with information about Blume senior sessions while they’re here.

 

So what’s on our certificate? It doesn’t say, “Enjoy this free headshot from Blume Photography.” The certificate reads, “We invite you to enjoy this personalized session with award-winning Blume Photography Studios, compliments of Dr. X.” It’s from the doctor. This kind of marketing gives us the chance to talk ourselves up, but gives the good doctor all the credit while adding value to his services. What business would turn that down?

 

These are simple 10-minute headshot sessions at our studio. (Before we built our studio, we took headshots in front of a simple backdrop in our living room.) The sessions book up easily. We include a free 8×10, get additional sales via our amazing ShootProof online galleries, and tend to book a lot of senior and family sessions afterward.

 

  1. Male-focused products

 

Notice I didn’t say “masculine” products. I’d like to think I’m as tough as the next guy (or gal), but many of us can probably relate to not fitting the mold of “most masculine guy in high school.” I don’t think you need a completely different product line for the guys. But it does help to be aware of items that may appeal to guys more than girls.

 

The foundational products in our studio are senior coffee table books (from Graphi Studio and VisionArt Books) and gallery-wrapped canvases (from Simply Canvas). Favorite add-ons are personalized mobile apps (created easily right inside ShootProof) and graduation announcements (from WHCC).

 

Follow the trends in your sales. Boys seem more interested in leather book covers, whereas girls want photo covers. We offer both, but it helps to know when we’re creating a sample book for show.

 

Although boys seem to be less enthusiastic about sharing mobile apps with their faces plastered across them (you can view exactly how many downloads your apps get from ShootProof’s admin side), they do seem to order more graduation cards than our girls. During in-studio sales sessions, moms often force their girls to order announcements, while our boys more often seem excited about this product. I’ve wondered if the difference relates to the culture of sports card collecting and trading. When it comes to designing cards with a stylized portrait, they definitely take on that feel.

 

You can bet we’ll be experimenting with new print products (maybe something closer in size to a baseball card, maybe with stats on the back) for guys. How could this help you market to the whole sports team? Never stop thinking or innovating.

 

  1. Customize the experience

 

I never want any portrait subject of mine, boy or girl, to feel awkward. Even more than the finished images, I believe the way they feel about the experience in front of my camera is what matters most. That is what will sell your business: not just your portfolio, but the emotions clients carry away with them and talk about to their friends.

 

For girls, there are several go-to methods of creating an experience they won’t forget. Providing hair and makeup, for example, makes girls feel pampered and fulfills the expectations that magazines plant in them about what a professional photo shoot should be.

 

What about boys? What will make them go away talking about you? I tend to guide them into things I myself enjoy. We climb to out-of-the-way locations (whether it’s really necessary or not). I force fewer smiles and ask for more of those confident “James Dean” expressions. They aren’t wearing heels, so I get more active and shoot a faster shutter speed while they jump or run for action shots. If it suits their personality (do they go mudding or play football?), don’t even hesitate—make a bucket of mud and plan to get dirty for the last shot of the day.

 

Finally, don’t forget to create at least one good portrait of Momma and her boy (preferably before the mud starts flying). She’ll refuse, but remind her it’s a rare opportunity, and no one is going to force her to use it if she doesn’t like how it turns out. That alone can guarantee an extra sale for you, and an extra-meaningful image they’ll both cherish all their lives.

 

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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High School Senior Photography for Boys

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