Hi Sheryl, Tell our community a little bit about yourself and how you got into senior portraiture. What was your road like to becoming a photographer?
Hi! I’m Sheryll Lynne. I’m 36 and live in Salt Lake City, Utah and Louisville, Kentucky (for about 1/3 of the year). My best trait is my humor, or so I tell myself. I play a LOT of Call of Duty and I buy a lot of books that I never read. I also want to travel the world once I get over the fear of flying on flights longer than five hours.
I’ve been a full-time photographer for 8 years and when I started my business I was shooting everything and anything. In 2015 I started photographing high school seniors and realized that I connected with this specific audience more than others. Now I’m a full-time senior photographer (but will occasionally shoot other portraits to mix it up). I love being a part in helping seniors feel beautiful and confident about themselves before they move from this milestone into adulthood.
You’re based in two different states - Utah and Kentucky…How does that impact your business? Is there anything that changes in your workflow or style when you travel to either places?
It’s definitely complicated running one business in two different states. My clientele in Kentucky is different than my clientele in Utah, and I would say most of my business is in Kentucky. Everything remains the same, but the impact is pretty heavy if I run into rescheduling issues. Because I travel back and forth, I have my schedule set pretty far in advance. Last year I booked over 125 seniors and almost half of them had to be rescheduled due to weather. I went from having one shoot a day to three shoots a day, and having no time to really have a relationship with my clients. Needless to say, it drove me a little crazy and I was close to burning out… This year I’m trying not to overbook myself by setting a smaller limited number of clients so that I have room on my calendar to accommodate any schedule changes.
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 main goal in helping them relax is earning their trust - and that took me years to figure out. It’s one thing to get pretty pictures of a senior, but it’s another to get them to connect with the the camera, and that’s where the self-confidence pops out of the image. So I would say the biggest key in looking natural is earning their trust. Two weeks before their session is set to start, I send them their Pre Session Consultation form. To keep it casual and informal, I offer these consultations over Facetime/Skype and we review outfit tips, location ideas, and other things to help them feel completely prepared for their shoot.
One of the biggest things I go over are the different smiles I’ll want to shoot. It sounds silly, I know. But trust me - IT HAS CHANGED MY SHOOTS. The smiles that we love on our clients sometimes tend to not be the smiles they love on themselves. It’s normal- we all have a smile we don’t like on ourselves. And they’re teenagers in the digital age. They grew up being able to snap photos of themselves WHILE seeing their face. They’ll take 100 selfies until they get the right one. As a teenager I grew up with film cameras and not seeing my blind selfie until a few weeks/months later when I had them developed - and I was just lucky enough to get a photo where I wasn’t blinking or where my finger wasn’t taking up half of the photo. So I go over the different smiles and ask them to practice in front of a mirror or on their phones- and to connect with how their face feels like when they’re doing the smile that they love.
As far as posing the rest of body, I never want my client to just sit or stand in front of me looking directionless- I want my client to look connected and that has to do with their body language and facial expression. If their facial expression/smile doesn’t match the body language, I’ll do what I can to make sure it compliments each other before I take the image. I’ll definitely put them in a pose, but then I’ll have them do certain actions that will elicit a natural response- and then I’ll shoot them in that same spot in different angles to have variety without moving my senior’s position.
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?
My workflow has to be simple because I run my business in two states. I also use Design Aglow’s Workflow Assistant to keep me on track. Once my client is booked, I’ll set up their Pre Session Consultation one to two weeks before the session date. Anything over two weeks is too early and my seniors may forget everything we discussed, and anything under one week may not be enough time for my seniors to prep outfits and practice the things I’ve showed them. After that, we do text back and forth to keep in touch. I’ll have them text me photos of their outfits (laid out on the bed) to make sure everything looks good, and the night before I’ll check in with them again to make sure they’re ready.
After the session I backup my images and pull two of my favorites to edit (with Lightroom and Photoshop) and post a sneak peeks for my client on Instagram and/or Facebook. Once their images are edited I will reveal them to my clients in a slideshow, created with Animoto. As soon as they’ve watched it, I’ll unlock their online gallery on Pixieset to view and make their final purchases.
What advice do you have for photographers who are new to the senior market? How should they go about finding clients?
Understand your client! There are a lot of high school seniors out there, and not all of them are for you. Know who your target client is and do your research. I know where my clients shop, where they eat, the music they listen to, what they like to do on the weekends, etc. I found my clients as soon as I started targeting the right seniors for my brand and because of that, word of mouth spread and my clients’ friends were booking me. I tried out a Senior Model program a few times and landed on one that worked really so well I no longer need the program to fill my calendar!
I’m a Senior Portrait Photographer based in Kentucky and Utah. I have a loud laugh and a constant need to dance and eat cake.
Discount only valid on select senior products with code 'SENIORWEEK2017'. Promotion ends September 1st, 2017 at 11:59pm PST.
Every photographer has their own unique style. Some like to blend in and shoot in a more photojournalistic way. And others prefer to choreograph every image. But most land somewhere smack in the middle.