There’s a ton of information from this Q&A session with Lemonade and Lenses I did in 2011. I answered a handful of real questions from readers! I chat about how I got started, senior portraits, advice about getting published and more…
Please find a transcript of the Q&A below…
• Sveta asks “How did you get started? A few shoots here and there that’s what you said, but what next? I am at this point right now – I shot weddings, babies, families, couples and can’t decide what to focus on and what to do next. What area to target and how to get the word out? Thanks!”
I shot EVERYTHING, and ANYTHING – ANYTIME as long as it was paid. Now that you have done it all, it’s time to decide what you are most passionate about. Surely there was a reason you got into photography? What makes you excited? What keeps you up at night? Start focusing on that, and coming up with ways to reach the clients YOU want. Then go from there! It’s a long, windy and hard journey, but once you are only doing what you truly love the most – it’s all worth it in the end. You can hear more about how I got started on my recent Framed Episode
• Sarah Perkins Photography asks “How did you transition from doing ‘everything’ photography to just seniors? How do you say no?”
I did it all, until I started to drop things one by one, and then slowly narrowed to a few things that I enjoyed the most (Weddings, Fashion, Seniors & Headshots) and then eventually I did not have enough time to do what I REALLY loved the most (Seniors & Fashion) so I completely cut out Weddings, and now only focus on what I am most passionate about. It’s easy to say no because I am too busy, but at first it WAS scary. I had to take that leap of faith, but sometimes there are things I can’t say no to and I evaluate whether I have time to work on it, or can refer it to someone else in my network.
• Kami asks “I would love to know how you get a senior comfortable with going towards a stylized shoot instead of capturing them in their own element? (their own sense of style)”
We actually do not style our high school senior portrait clients. One of my biggest philosophies in working with our teens is about bringing out their TRUE beauty and TRUE sense of self through their own style. I have spent years developing my brand based upon being “YOU” and we give suggestions for clothes, and clients read our blog – therefore we attract a very specific client – but they are wearing their own clothes, and style themselves. I would never want to talk my clients into a stylized session, unless they wanted to create that. I don’t believe in putting props in their hands, or using locations that don’t speak to their true identity. What you are seeing in our high school senior portrait portfolio are REAL teens in their own clothes.
• Kerrie Mitchell asks “I would love to know how Michelle converts her shoots to sales. I love photographing teenagers here in the UK but without the same demand for shoots here (we don’t have yearbooks) I find it hard to sell any products afterwards. The teens just seem happy with one picture to use on facebook. Does Michelle market to parents instead? Thats an idea I’ve been toying with but don’t want to alienate the teens. It’s them that I want talking about me and recommending me to their friends afterall.”
I’ve said this from day one – always give your clients complimentary facebook photos with your logo on them. They want them – and it prevents them from scanning prints, screen-capturing your proofs, etc. I always include this, BUT I never post them until they have seen their gallery. We market towards parents and teens, and we teach them the value of our services, and quality products. Believe in what you sell, price yourself correctly, and you will win your client’s trust (and those sales!).
It also helps to offer neat and unique products that your clients can not get anywhere else, and that they are dying to have. We keep our product line-up simple and classic, so they stay fresh and modern for years to come. Sell products to the parents, and throw in the goodies for the teens (such as Facebook photos), and you’ll have a winner!
• Jen Story~Storybook Photos asks “I would love to know if and how she stays busy all year with seniors? It seems here to be busy a few months leading up to graduation and then nothing until the next year. How do you keep them coming all year long?”
It’s a few simple marketing techniques,
1) Educate your client (tell them it’s okay to do your portraits year-round)
2) Keep your blog, social media and website updated with work year-round
Many of the schools I personally work with do not have yearbook deadlines, so this helps. Our season fluctuates – but we do shoot year-round, and as often as the weather will allow it in Seattle during the winter. Our busy season is April through early November. January through March we work with the upcoming senior class Senior Reps for our studio.
• Ellie asks “How DO you find magazines that will feature your work? Is it possible to find them and build relationships without needing to physically be in the same place/at the same events?”
Yes we live in a technologically advanced world, but NOTHING beats face to face interaction. You can try all day to email everyone and their mother about working together, but nothing is going to replace meeting someone in person over coffee, or at an event. It puts a face to a name. Going to events, meeting people for coffee, networking and getting your name (and face) out there will get you leaps and bounds further (and faster) in the editorial and commercial world.
• Erin Scott asks “Might be a funny question, but I’m always wondering how to keep both parents and seniors comfortable with the logistical aspects of the shoot. Specifically, how do you handle transportation logistics? Do seniors come to your studio for their makeup and then drive separately to the location? Do you go back to the studio when the shoot is done? Thanks!”
We always meet at my office before the shoot, and our clients have their make-up application. From there we head out to the location. Clients are asked to drive themselves due to liability reasons. Everything is laid out for our clients before-hand, so they are completely aware of our policies and what happens “The Day of the Shoot”. Lay everything out for your clients, and there will be no awkwardness or questions the day of.
• Toni asks “What is Michelle’s focusing method? Back button? Centre point recompose? Toggle focal points around? If recomposing, is she doing that wide open? Doesn’t that shift the focal plane too much wide open?”
I am constantly switching between focus points on my camera. Luckily I shoot with the 1ds series, so I have a dynamic range of focus options. I usually stick between f2 and f2.8 so as to make sure the eyes stay sharp!
To everyone who asked about posing, and working with teens to help them be comfortable in front of the camera, please check out the POSING & MOORE guide for $149 – thanks!
I tried to answer as many questions as I could, so I apologize if I didn’t get to yours! If you want more answers to your questions, please check out my Articles & Features section on my new website!