Hi Alex! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was your road like to becoming a photographer? What made you want to pursue senior photography?
My name is Alex Lasota and I’m a Wedding and Senior Photographer in Tri-Cities, Washington. Ever since I was in grade school, I had a fascination with documenting memories; probably because my mother followed my family around with a camera most of the time. One of my grandmothers had her own professional photography studio in Poland as well, while the other retouched photographs in upstate Pennsylvania, so one could say it’s in the genes. :)
In high school, when most teens would go to parties, I found myself going out to the fields on Friday nights with my friends, taking their next MySpace profile photo (I feel so old saying that!). From there we’d grab take out from our favorite Mongolian BBQ place, pop in a movie, and I’d edit their photos while they watched TV. Photography was definitely something I enjoyed but I never thought it would wind up becoming my career!
I wound up going to WSU to pursue an English degree, while working at a news station, in hopes to eventually become a reporter. After working for the station for three years, I realized my interest layed more in production then it did with being in front of the camera. It was at that time I got my first DSLR and started to dabble more into taking photos professionally. Seniors captured my attention because, at the time they were close to my age, and reminded me of my time out in the fields with my friends in high school. As my photography career has evolved to cater more towards weddings, senior photography is something that I still offer because I have such a passion for teens because they are figuring out who they are. Photography aside, if I can shed a little bit of wisdom, and let the know it’s ok to follow their dreams and passions, then I’ve done my job.
Aside from photography, I love to travel around the world, I have a golden retriever named Bailey, I’m obsessed with California rolls and have more business books than anyone I know!
You shoot both weddings and portraits. Why these two? Does your workflow or approach differ from each type of shoot?
I adore weddings because I love the attention to detail + once in a lifetime moments that go on throughout the day. I also adore seniors because similar to weddings, this is a pivotal point in their lives as they are just figuring out who they are. Both types of photography document a moment in a person's life where significant change is about to incur, and as a creative, I find those moments the most intriguing to document. I also love the fact that senior photography and wedding photography offer two totally different environments (one being more high pressure and the other being more laid back), which allows me as a human to find an even balance in my work.
Aside from the relationships I’m building with my clients, what I enjoy most about photographing seniors and weddings is they both require tremendously different workflows, which pushes me to be more creative in shooting and more strategic and organized in my client processes.
For both weddings and seniors, I provide a magazine filled with tips and information regarding my processes. I also offer a complimentary consultation for both types of photography, so I can learn about my clients and hear their needs, as well as explain my processes. From there the road splits. I usually work with wedding clients on timelines, family shot lists, and vendor lists prior to the day of, whereas with seniors, all of the pertinent information (style, location, make up etc.) is hashed out during the consultation. Weddings definitely take more time and planning, but both come with their separate set of needs and demands. In regards to shooting my processes stay the same, as I like to provide all my clients with a mix of candid and posed images.
Another added bonuses by photographing both weddings and seniors is that I nurture relationships with my teens, so when the time comes for them to get married, I’m hopefully the first person that comes to their mind.
How do you ensure that each senior photo shoot is unique to the client?
I ensure my clients have a unique experience, by conducting in person consultations over coffee. During these consultations, I’m able to tell my clients about my senior process (senior photo prep, the day of, and what to expect after our session). From there we chat about all things them, anywhere from their likes and dislikes, college plans, to hobbies. I’m able to gauge a little bit about who they are during this portion of the consultation, which will then segue into location/outfit choice/ and style for their senior photos. Luckily our small town has a mix of different “vibes”, from beachy, to industrial, to desert, to forest - so seniors are able to match their personalities to one of these location and we then plan out outfit choices around that. I always encourage them to integrate some part of their personality into their photo shoot, so they can remember their interests at this moment of their lives.
Clients can get a little awkward in front of the camera... How do you get your seniors to relax? Do you have to pose your clients often, or does it all come naturally? (We would love a few tips or pointers!)
My best tip when it comes to posing seniors, is to always bring music. I’ve found that having music playing in the background lightens the mood, and allows for the subject to move more fluidly to the beat. I usually bring my iPhone and BOSE speaker to almost every shoot.
Another huge posing tip that’s helped create organic laughs and smiles, is allowing my seniors to bring a close friend. Aside from posed shots, I try to create a type of organic and natural feel to my photos, which means laughter and movement. To be perfectly honest, I am the least funny person I know, so having a friend there that they can look to for a laugh helps me obtain those ‘candid laughing moments’ because there is a genuine laugh going on between two friends.
My last posing tip is to always use words of encouragement. Usually many of my sessions start out with ten minutes of awkward photos because my client is getting warmed up and we’re trying to find our groove. During this time I never correct my senior or tell them they are doing something wrong, rather I just maneuver to a different pose and mentally make note of what is most flattering to them.
What’s your workflow like? Take us through your whole process from start to finish. What products do you use to help ensure your workflow goes smoothly?
With the volume of clients I work with per year, I work heavily off of template emails. Whenever a client sends an inquiry, I copy and paste the email, which includes a link to my pricing magazine, and send it their way. My magazine lays out the entire process, what to expect, recommendations for hair and makeup, alongside style do’s and don’ts, and lastly, my pricing. If after a prospective client reads the magazine and finds we are a fit, we then schedule an in person consultation and chat about the entire process as well as who they are From there a deposit is paid to hold the seniors date. On session day, I meet my client and usually a family member at the location we determined during the consultation. Sessions usually last anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours in the evening (around sunset) to obtain that gorgeous golden glow.
After a session is finished, I provide a sneak peek on social media for my clients within the week, and will turn around their session in an online gallery two weeks after their shoot date. Each collection comes with a certain amount of photos, however I do edit all photos from the session date and provide it in the gallery. My clients will then go through the gallery and favorite their certain amount, or will upgrade to a higher priced collection so they are able to keep more of the edited photos. After this is finished I provide them with the access code for download alongside the galleries printing instructions. All my galleries are tied to WHCC, so all clients receive professionally printed images.
What advice do you have for photographers who are new to the senior market? How should they go about finding clients?
If you’re new to the senior market, I highly recommend becoming involved with your community. Before I became a senior photographer, I actually volunteered for a teen church group, which introduced me to a ton of teens, who eventually became the first Alex Lasota Senior Models.
From there just make sure to treat your clients well and give them the attention that they need. People always talk, so when you treat others well, you can almost guarantee you’ll gain more business from them or their friends and family in the future!
Alex Lasota is a professional wedding and senior photographer located in Eastern Washington. Rather than merely taking photographs, Alex strives to build authentic relationships with her clients, whom you’ll often catch her calling her friends. Her mission aside from providing her clients with beautiful memories, is to create a unique, carefree, and fun experience, where you’ll dance, laugh, and overall have a good time.
Discount only valid on select senior products with code 'SENIORWEEK2017'. Promotion ends September 1st, 2017 at 11:59pm PST.