America’s Next Top Senior Photographer | Eye on Business

You know the gut-wrenching part where the contestant stands in front of a panel of judges on that reality TV show while being told how incredible they are and then in the next moment, are shot down with all of the the not-so-wonderful things about themselves?  I hate that part.

I’ve never been one to willingly put myself in situations where I must compete against others to be the best.  Oh I’m competitive (just ask my family on game nights…wait, DON’T), but I’m also the one who wants to see everyone succeed and BE NICE to each other (cue the Beatles…”and we all will live as one…”).  I didn’t realize that when I went into business as Suzanne Mellott Photography, I was signing up for the chopping block.  Chances are, you’ve been on the chopping block too.  Don’t worry, it happens to EVERYONE at some point.

With so many photographers vying for the title of “Most Amazing Senior Photographer,” it’s hard to wrap your mind around what you should do to earn the title while trying to avoid that nasty chopping block.  I decided to take one for the team and step in front of my own panel of judges.  A few of my gorgeous seniors volunteered to be interviewed about their own experiences with me as their photographer.  This is a long post but worth it to read until the end.  Here we go.

With so many photographers competing for your attention, why did you choose me as your senior photographer?

  • Jessica: I saw my friends’ images and loved that you could pick your own locations or type of scenery.
  • Abby:  I’d received pictures from the seniors one year older than me and I thought they had a really unique spin to them, not posed and unnatural.
  • Myan:  I saw other seniors’ photos you’d taken and they were beautiful.  I knew then that I trusted you fully to take the exact photos I wanted.
  • Julie:  I saw your work and fell in love with your style.
  • Lindsay:  I loved how everything was shot outside and how you were creative with every image.
  • Erika:  I looked through your images and I felt that I would connect best with you and you would really portray my personality.

{LESSON:  Make sure your images get in front of the seniors and their friends. Every senior told me they had seen my images because of someone else, not because of anything specific advertising I paid to do.}

How involved were your parents in making the decision about your photographer?

  • Jessica:  My parents were a little involved and we all agreed that we loved your images the most.
  • Abby:  My parents weren’t involved at all.  They told me to choose someone who I liked and thought I would feel the most comfortable with.
  • Myan:  My parents were involved and very supportive when they saw your work.
  • Julie:  My mother showed me your photography so she was very much involved!
  • Lindsay:  My parents left it up to me because they were my senior pictures.  However, I showed them your work and they loved them as much as I did.
  • Erika:  My parents wanted me to be happy and knew that you were the perfect choice when I was so interested.

{LESSON:  Make sure to include the parents AND the senior as decision-makers.  Don’t just market to one or the other.}

What was the most challenging part of your session (before, during, or after).  Ex., wardrobe, feeling comfortable, waiting for images, etc.

  • Jessica:  Probably trying to change in the car and trying to get at least a couple of images of all the outfits I wanted.
  • Abby:  Hands down it was choosing my wardrobe and figuring out where and how to change during the session!
  • Myan:  Definitely waiting to see my images!
  • Julie:  Probably either the wardrobe changes or that creepy man in the laundromat  {Occupational Hazard #34:  Creepy session lurkers}
  • Lindsay:  Definitely trying to change fast enough to fit in all of my outfit choices
  • Erika:  Wardrobe!  I contacted you and you put me at ease and told me to bring it all!  I let you decide and it was fantastic!

{LESSON:  Choosing outfits seems to be the biggest challenge for my seniors. I will continue to encourage them to email and text me with their ideas.  I have a pinterest board for seniors’ wardrobe ideas that I will send to them.  I will continue to help them pick out their outfits during each session.  Keep up to speed on the latest trends by reading the Eye on Fashion series here on SSG  😉 }

What is your favorite memory from your session?

  • Jessica:  We went to a dirt lot and a tractor and trailer came through, throwing up dust making the perfect background. My mom decided to take her car and try to stir up more dust so we could get the shot!
  • Abby:  Getting photos taken with my momma!
  • Myan:  Choosing what to wear!
  • Julie:  I think the shots we took in the laundromat, riding around in the cart and all!
  • Lindsay:  We went to what you thought was a public airport and got locked in behind the gate!  {Occupational Hazard # 72:  Always ensure that you have proper permission to use a location}
  • Erika:  The intense temperature during my shoot, high 90s!

{LESSON:  Make sure the session is FUN and relaxing!  It shouldn’t be rushed or stressful for you or your senior.  DON’T get locked in an airport.}

What was your favorite product offered by your photographer?

  • Jessica:  Graduation announcements
  • Abby:  Accordion albums
  • Myan:  Graduation announcements
  • Julie:  Accordion albums
  • Lindsay:  Graduation announcements
  • Erika:  Wall standout and accordion albums

{LESSON:  I see a trend.  All of my seniors order custom graduation announcements.  It’s my best marketing tool to date and every new client mentions them.}

Is there anything you would change about the experience?

  • Jessica:  Cut down the number of outfits and get more images instead of spending the time to change.
  • Abby:  I would not put that man’s stinky hat on my head, LOL!  {Don’t ask…}
  • Myan:  Nothing!
  • Julie:  I loved it all!
  • Lindsay:  We ran out of time to photograph me in my cheer uniform so I would make time for that.
  • Erika:  The heat but we can’t control that!

{LESSON:  Hmm, other than the stanky hat (Sorry Abby, LOL!), I need to remember to keep a time limit on myself for each outfit and be upfront in telling the seniors that I average 3-4 outfits}

In your opinion, what works best for attracting seniors to a certain photographer?  What is the lamest marketing tactic you’ve seen out there?

  • Jessica:  The best way is through other clients’ opinions and FACEBOOK.  Trying to bribe us with special offers and badmouthing other photographers is lame.
  • Abby:  Having a fun session because everyone talks about their sessions at school and using facebook to show images.  Business cards are lame because teens don’t really look at that stuff!
  • Myan:  Word of mouth is best and getting your images out there, so many of my friends still in high school are determined to have you because they saw my images!
  • Julie:  Posting preview images on facebook because people were constantly coming up to me and telling me how beautiful my images were!
  • Lindsay:  Sneak peeks and senior videos on facebook!  It makes you feel special!
  • Erika:  Be you!  You are relaxed and crazy at the same time and bend over backward to make your seniors’ wishes come true!  Shooting the same old boring shots is lame.  Be willing to step out of your comfort zone for your seniors!

{LESSON:  Facebook.  Sneak peeks.  Videos.  Be myself.}

Last one….what is your favorite image from your session?