Today we start a series talking about What I’ve Learned as a Senior Photographer. Caroline Trespalacios of CG3 Photography is a Seniorologie Tour Alumni who is sharing her thoughts on what she has learned as a senior photographer in a series of blog posts over the next couple of months. We all learn things everyday and sharing the things that we have learned along the way is a great way for others to learn! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Caroline!
Things I learned as a Senior Photographer – Part 1
If you told me when I started CG3 Photography three years ago, that I’d be blogging for Seniorologie, I probably wouldn’t have believed you! Yet here we are! I guess I should tell you a little about my background, huh?! As you might have inferred, my name is Caroline, and I’m from Naperville, IL. I’ve been running my business for 3 years and exclusively shooting seniors for the last 2 years. I may not be one of those ‘I always knew I was a photographer’ types, but pretty close. Having studied Interior Design, I had a foundation in many of the concepts that I still pull from today and it was this foundation that led me to photography. I took two photography classes on a whim at the local college and couldn’t get enough! The slow pace of the classes just didn’t cut it, so off I went to teach myself everything I could! I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m still learning every day.
Ok, back to the topic! When I thought about what might be most useful for everyone in a ‘what I’ve learned’ blog post, I figured I’d start with my most frequently asked question. Can you guess what it is?! …
“How do I find Seniors?!”
It really is the question, isn’t it? One thing is for sure… they don’t come to you! Or do anything that they think people want them to do, for that matter! They are independent, dynamic, hesitant and often shy at the same time. You have to break out of your shell to get them to break out of theirs. To combat that in the early days, I hit the pavement, literally. I went to the places they hung out: Chipotle, bookstores, frozen yogurt shops, the mall, you name it, I was there. I would walk right up and introduce myself and hand out business cards. That’s right ladies (and gentlemen LOL) check your ego at the door and put yourself out there. I would usually target teens in pairs or groups so that they didn’t feel so isolated or confronted. And, yes, occasionally I did get the “ugh, you creepy lady!” look but I didn’t let that slow me down. For every 5 girls I approached, one would book me. That’s pretty fantastic odds and as such, every rejection just pushed me further to that 5th senior for the yes that was likely around the corner!
As I progressed in my market I constantly tried to think a step ahead: a step ahead of my market, my business and my clients. Bringing in clients the old pavement way was great, but how do I get them to come to me? Start a rep program perhaps. The key here is to have the ‘in’. Don’t get discouraged though, I guarantee you have one, and if you don’t think you do, you just haven’t thought about all of your connections. Between facebook, linked in, twitter, instagram, we’re all really only a few comments away from Kevin Bacon, wait, I mean one another.
Ahh instagram, pardon me while I pause on that gem of teen social media for a minute…
ok, ok, I’ll get to that later! back to the rep program. So for me, my connection was my sister’s best friend. I knew she worked at one of the high schools in my area, so I asked her if she would hand out flyers to some of her students. She agreed and before I knew it, I had my first 5 reps!
My rep program has been huge for me. I would definitely mark that as the true kick off point for my senior business. In fact, combined with a TON of hard work and social media of course, I can honestly say that my program has been the single biggest contributor to my biggest applicant pool to date which is directly linked to the business I can expect to drive next year. This past November I had over 90 applicants from 7 different schools for my 2016 senior rep program. This gave me the opportunity to be very selective with the 28 I accepted.
So, let’s summarize, so far we’ve gotten rid of our ego and we’ve started a rep program, what else can we do? Let’s get back to that social media gem, Instagram! Instagram is my best friend and my number 1 way to reach seniors. If you’re not on Instagram, you need to be, because trust me, that’s where they are. Forget Facebook! Well, maybe don’t forget it, but don’t try to find seniors there. You know why they aren’t on Facebook… because that’s where us Moms hang out! LOL and there is nothing cool about Moms, wait… that’s not true! But put yourself back into your teenage self for a minute and then you’ll be there with me!
Social media should be your mainstay, think of it as your lifeline to the senior community, but don’t discount those early days of hitting the pavement, you can’t really skip ahead, you’ve got to do all the work to get there! It’s helpful to have the opportunity to attend high school sporting events. Take the time to make connections with kids and their parents and have your business cards ready. If you’re talking to a senior, have them pull out their phone and follow you on IG (cool talk for Instagram!that’s right, this Photographer Mom knows what’s up! ) If you’re not sure how to get started attending a game without feeling like that crazy lady that we mentioned earlier, then be creative! Volunteer at the school store, or school library and talk to other Mom volunteers and spread the word of your business. You’re creating a community and inserting yourself in the center of it to build relationships and brand awareness just by being you openly!
There are many different ways to find your senior clients and each region is different. Just be personable, outgoing, and funny! Whatever you do, you have to be yourself, but you have to let yourself be that person outside of your shell! Honestly, it’s those qualities that will help you build your clients and are essential during the session as well, but that’s another topic!
You just need to brainstorm, sit down and look through this list of ways to find seniors. Put a place, name or date by each one, then start doing them!
Ways to find your senior clients:
- Get out there and look for them!
- Approach them at teen hang outs and hand them your business card
- Start a rep program
- Get on Instagram
- Go to school sporting events
- Talk to neighbors and friends who have teens
- Have senior clients tag you and repost your images
- Run a fun contest on Instagram
- Do all of these things, and keep doing it! It’s the persistence that will truly drive you forward!
Whatever avenue you choose to find your senior clients, make sure you have a good portfolio to show your work. If you primarily photograph families and babies, make sure you have a senior gallery for them to see. You want to be the answer to their problem and if the problem is that they need a senior photographer they don’t care about babies! If you make them do too much thinking, you’ve already lost them! Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about intelligence… I’m talking about attention span, and that’s not even specific to teens. That’s EVERYONE. However it’s even more relevant in the teen market! These days, we expect to have the information at our fingertips, so make sure it’s there for them to find. When you think about your online presence, don’t let life’s current drive towards instant gratification trick you into believing that you aren’t succeeding if it doesn’t happen immediately. It’s a process but with hard work and dedication, you’ll find a great senior clientele.
Be smart, be strategic and be persistent and don’t be afraid to be you!