Specializing in Seniors… is it for YOU?

How many of you would like to specialize in Senior Portrait photography?

Is photographing High School Seniors your passion?

Is this something you would LOVE to do in your business, but you’re not quite sure how to get there?

I’m Pati Pakulis.  I have been a professional photographer in Phoenix Arizona for almost 7 years now and I specialize in high school seniors.  There, I said it, “I specialize in seniors” and I’ve gotta say that it feels great!  I recently made this decision that for the upcoming year, I would “specialize”.  Photographing seniors would become the main focus and emphasis of my photography, my business, and my future.

I launched my photography business in July of 2008 with the same hopes and dreams that every aspiring professional photographer has, to make a living doing something you absolutely LOVE and are passionate about. It’s a big goal to begin with, and to specialize in a certain genre, well that can be an even loftier desire.   But what does it mean, really?

Well, I have the honor of taking on this subject and writing about it for Senior Style Guide for this entire year,  not because I am an expert, or because I have ARRIVED,   but because I have made this a goal for my own business.  I am humbly going to share my story with you, the successes, the failures and some of the strategies I have used along the way to get to the point where I can say, YES, I specialize in High School Senior Photography.

So I think a good place to start is to ask yourself:

Is this a goal that you would like to achieve?

Do you want to specialize?

Are you completely passionate about High School Senior Photography, enough to focus solely on this area?

If your answer is yes, then the second thing to think about and ask yourself is: Are you ready to give up other types of photography?


The word SPECIALIZE means, “to concentrate on and become an expert in a particular subject or skill.”    So in other words, do you have a desire to concentrate on and become an expert in the business and craft of photographing and marketing your business to High School Seniors?    My own answer to that question was ABSOLUTELY!  Like many other photographers, I began my career by photographing EVERYTHING, weddings, engagements, families, babies, newborns, maternity,  children, seniors, you name it!    I did notice one thing however.  After my senior shoots, I would race home to load my images to see what I got.  I almost always started editing immediately. There was such a level of excitement and joy for me with this genre.  I didn’t experience that with any of my other types of shoots.

Does this ever happen to you?   Do you race home to upload your images after a Senior shoot?

I think that passion and desire is one of the key components to whether you decide to specialize or not.

For me, my passion for Senior Portraits became the dominant force that caused me to begin to specialize.


I believe the road to specializing is a process.  For example, in the past 2 years, my business began to really take focus.  I stopped photographing maternity and newborn shoots…and thank goodness!  Honestly, that just wasn’t for me.  I had no real joy in doing it which meant it was very difficult to really put my heart into it.  It was an easy decision to make, but difficult at first, to pass on that client to a photographer who does enjoy maternity and newborn photography.

And as for weddings, wow!  Talk about stress in my world.  Personally, I think wedding shooters are studs. I admire them greatly. Weddings are nothing short of demanding and you simply have to be on your game for long periods of time.  Giving up weddings became easier and easier for me.  When I have someone ask me to do a wedding, again I now pass on the referral to other photographers who are experts in that genre.  It’s kind of a leap of faith, passing on referrals.  But it is also one of the big steps in moving toward the goal of specializing.  And I will say, it feels great!  It’s freeing actually.  You have to start to say no to other genres.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much I hope to cover throughout the year.

For example, maybe you’re thinking, “OK… I’ll pass on that referral, but now what?  I just lost a client or some potential business…  How do I sustain my business when I’m passing on referrals to other photographers?”

Yes, it’s a bit of a leap of faith. And I am here to say that it does NOT happen overnight, it IS a process.  One of which I will be able to dissect throughout the year,  twice a month, covering this question, and many other topics related to Specializing in Seniors that will hopefully  inspire and encourage you!  So check back and join me as we journey together down this road.

Some of the topics I’ll be covering in the weeks to come are:

Your Mindset

Developing Name Recognition

Spokesmodel Programs – Do they work?

Referrals to other Photographers…Seriously?

Until then, go ahead and take a moment to ask yourself, are you ready to take that leap of faith? Is specializing in Seniors for YOU?

You can visit me in the “Specializing” topic area of the Senior Style Guide Forum.  Ask questions, share ideas, or just say hello.  I’d love to know you’re out there and that you’re  interested in this pursuit.

Until then, happy shooting !

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