Senior season is fast approaching, so I wanted to share with all of you my Top Three Tips for Shooting Seniors, and hopefully you can put them to good use with your upcoming shoots. :)
3. Just Because You're the Photographer, Does Not Mean Parent/Senior Ideas Are Bogus.
This is a rude awakening and a tough bit of advice for some photographers to hear. It's probably one of the toughest things, and admittedly when I first started I had trouble coming to grips with it. Don't get so set in your cycle of poses/locations/whatever that you go into robot-photog mode and tune out anything else.
Your customers will question you and offer ideas of their own, and you must not dismiss it. Once you pay more attention to it, a majority of your customers will shock you with the amazing ideas for poses they have. Seniors will astound you with something they want to try. A lot of times, it will look fantastic. Sometimes, it looks awkward but Mom/Senior is happy with it, so keep it anyway. And, occasionally, it really won't look good at all, and you move on with your shoot. But it means and impresses customers more than you may understand at the time when you are so open to trying what they suggest. Seriously.
Try it, and you won't be disappointed.
2. Don't Ever Book Senior Shoots Back-to-Back.
This one is probably equally important as the number one thing, so I had some trouble deciding what order they should go in.
However, I will flat out say from personal experience: There's nothing more embarrassing in the entire world than you not being done with your current shoot, and your next customers show up at your studio. If this happens, your current customers will feel rushed to get out (even if you didn't), and the folks that just showed up will be angry that you're running into their appointment time.
At that point, you're always running late depending on how many shoots you have in the day, and things will just continue going downhill.
I recognize and acknowledge that you have a business to run, and to be honest, if you're busy enough that you could book back-to-back for days, I applaud you.
This entire problem can be averted by simply booking a little buffer time in between your customers showing up. It doesn't have to be significant – even something like 20 minutes in between sessions will do. If you happen to run over, you can finish up your shoot without people feeling upset or rushed, and you can take advantage of the time yourself, too. Grab a snack, get a glass of water, swap cards, whatever you need to do. The mental preparation time in between shoots will be more helpful to you than to any customer, so do yourself a favor and include it.
1. Your Seniors Are NOT Professional Models, So You Can't Treat Them Like It.
This is the most important thing you need to keep in your mind as you shoot. You will be in a setting that, from the outside, looks entirely commercial with your model having no experience to back it up.
Yes, it's a pretty tough spot to be in, because he/she may look like a model, but isn't.
If your voice isn't hurting at the end of the day, you didn't direct your Senior or talk out loud enough. Senior doesn't know techniques for modeling like switching poses often. They will be posing stiffly, nervously, and unsure of what to do. You may very well need to give Seniors "Do this, Do that" sort of direction, which is OK. Just don't make it sound too commanding!
The worst thing you can do in this situation is to click away shots while saying nothing, because the first thing going through Senior's mind is “What am I doing wrong?” And Mom thinks “Why did the photographer stop talking? Don't they know what they're doing?” – neither thought you want going through either one. There's a high chance that your photo session is the very first time in a senior's entire life that there's been a photoshoot that revolved only around them. They probably have a parent/sibling/other family hovering around, fixing hair, brushing this, doing that. They've got you as the photographer saying pose like this, move like that, look at me like this. And they've got themselves, hoping that they look good, hoping that they're posing OK, and other things.
I've seen photographers get visibly frustrated with a model's inexperience, and it's truly heart-wrenching. The photographer's job is very stressful, but the senior's is much more so. Please, be considerate of how you are treating them. You may be on a tight schedule, but don't make them feel rushed or you really won't get the results you're hoping for, and you'll have to spend more time on it in the end anyway.
Perhaps most importantly, when you DO get a fantastic shot, turn your camera around, say "Wow! That was great!" and show your Senior and the family member the wonderful moment they just helped to create. Do NOT be so interested in making it through your shoot that you don't show your subjects any progress being made. Show a beautiful shot, and it will bolster the Senior's confidence not only during but after the shoot as well, and it will prove to Mom that you do actually know what you're talking about, because she wasn't so sure after shooting her daughter in front of some weird vines. If you aren't getting fantastic shots straight out of your camera good enough to show your customer then and there, you may want to consider how much you're actually doing in photoshop and reevaluate your shooting technique.
Happy shooting, and see you again soon!