This is a new addition to Senior Style Guide! We are going to try to feature a senior portrait photographer once a month. It is always great to get tips and tricks and to also know we are not alone in this market. I hope you find this addition helpful! Give us some feedback and feel free to suggest who you would like to see in future Be Inspired features!
Today we are featuring Maya from Such Great Heights located here in Central Indiana! I am personally a fan of Maya’s work so it wasn’t too difficult to decide who we should interview first!
How did you know the senior market was right for you? Do you focus entirely on seniors and why?
I started off in weddings because it seemed like the right move to do. Weddings took on a life of their own and soon we were doing 27-30 a year. I started doing some senior sessions and realized how much I loved them. I already knew I had a heart for high school students but didn’t realize how it could come together with my photography. Now I solely focus on high school seniors/students. I will do some families and photography for family friends but my main focus in on high school seniors. This targeted focus helps me really make the experience unique to each of my clients.
Starting out is difficult. Seniors do not like to be marketed to…what was the biggest mistake you made and what was your greatest accomplishment thus far marketing to them?
I think my biggest mistake was having certain expectations with it. I thought it would develop as quickly and organically as the wedding business. However, it takes more time for word-of-mouth to spread amongst high school students. So I had to lower my expectations a bit on the timing of growing my business. It is A LOT of work to keep your business first-in-mind to high school students.
It’s hard to identify my greatest accomplishment because I always hope that is to come. Looking back though I think of all the times I have had a senior or senior parent tell me how thankful they are for the experience they had with Such Great Heights. That is always my goal: to make each senior feel unique and beautiful.
How do you handle the undercutters in the industry?
Frankly, I ignore them. Yes, I get frustrated sometimes with the idea of undercutters but they are not me. I can only make my business uniquely my own and make the experience different than any other. I have had a couple photographers rip off my branding, try to do some of the same things I have done, etc. The problem is that if you are not making it your own, it’s not going to work. Find out what it is about you that is unique and tailor it in everything you do.
What is in your photogrpahy bag?
Two Nikon D700s, usually one with the 50 1.4 and the other with the 35 1.4. I always have the 24-70 2.8 on hand in case I see a need for it but it rarely comes out of my bag. My reflector is always on me too.
If you could only shoot with one lens…what would it be?
I love both the 50 and 35 so that’s hard but I guess I would choose the 35.
What is the one thing you wish all senior photographers would know or do?
Most people know I’m pretty passionate about going against the trend of “sexy” senior photography. We are dealing with high school students here. I don’t agree with senior portraits in waterfalls with shirts off, Victoria’s Secret type posing and overall sexualizing of high schoolers. They deal with enough pressure from media and so why would we take part in that as a photography community? I think senior photography should be about capturing them as seniors, not sex symbols. Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now!
Do you shoot only on location or do you have a studio?
I shoot on location mainly. I have a studio setup that I use in my home but the outdoor photography is more popular. I have found that my clients feel more comfortable outside than in the studio. I do have a space in my home that I meet with clients as well.
How many years have you been doing this and what changes have you seen in this market?
I have been doing photography full-time for almost four years but just in the past year I have focused on high school students. The major change is that new photographers keep coming up daily. I just have to stay focused though and realize not to get caught up in that.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a mom of two boys, ages one and almost five, and I’m married to my artist husband. These three boys/man (and God) come first in everything I decide to do and the business decisions I make. I have volunteered with high school students in my youth group for seven years and absolutely love being around them and inspired by them. I’m a huge reader and have a to-read list of books that’s just ridiculous! My favorite thing to do is explore a new place with my husband or the boys and just find places that are hidden and fun.
Anything else we need to know about you, the biz, or any other random factoid?
Here’s all the info on links to my business:
Such Great Heights Blog – suchgreatblog.com
Website – sghseniors.com
Personal blog – mayalaurent.com
Ok now it is time to take in some of Maya’s gorgeous images! I hope you are inspired…