They’re tuned into trends, they’re savvy social media players and they’ve got their parents’ pocketbooks! Ok, so there’s more to this unique market than those traits, but nobody can dispute this fact: Senior Portraits continue to grow in popularity. The Senior market is expanding as teenagers continue to connect with photographers who can create unique portraits of them and their friends. Since Spring is Senior Portrait Season, we’re sharing a series of posts from photographers who specialize in Seniors. Get to know these talented photographers and learn tips and tricks! This week’s featured Senior Portrait Pro is South Carolina-based photographer Ruth Rackley.
What got you started photographing seniors?
Since the start of my business, I have always dabbled in Senior Photography. Until recently, my main product line has always been weddings but with the birth of my daughter, I made the decision to expand my product lines to include Seniors. What I found was my new love! I love capturing that fleeting moment between youth and young adult.
How is the energy different from weddings? Is your approach to shooting different?
Wow, the energy in some ways in so different and in other ways it’s the same.
When I say different, I’m talking about THE STRESS. The stress factor has totally been removed for me!
With weddings there is always an eye-on-the-clock as to what is about to happen next. As a wedding professional, I’m very focused on the moment and the details revolving around what is happening. My goal is to capture a wedding with limited direction, so my clients can be who they truly are.
My senior photography style is a spin-off from that philosophy. I want seniors to feel comfortable, just as themselves. So, I usually take a laid back, fun approach to sessions. That doesn’t mean I throw focus out the window. Each session has an action plan for what I want to accomplish. So unknown to the client, it’s actually controlled fun! But I always keep in mind that Mom and Dad want to see the “baby” they have always known. So, I keep an eye open for little moments that Mom and Dad will connection with and associate with memories of their child.
How do you reach seniors? Do you focus on marketing to them using social media?
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all been great for me! I’ve discovered that local teens only use Facebook to post pictures. They seem to enjoy Twitter, but all they seem to do is retweet. So, if you can get a group of them to follow AND retweet your messages, then they’ll spread news about your business like wildfire! Instagram is somewhat popular, but only as a tool to get personal snapshots posted on Facebook. Facebook has slowly become my “senior” website.
How much of your business is senior portraits/lifestyle sessions?
This year will be 80% Senior/Lifestyle Sessions.
Do you have a separate website just for seniors? If so, why? If not, why?
Not currently. Honestly, I feel like the kids aren’t really interested in checking out a website. They are more interested in seeing the images on Facebook, where they hang out anyway!
When is your typical shoot scheduled? How far in advance?
For me, shoots are typically scheduled about three weeks in advance.
Do parents play a role in the session?
Actually, I encourage parents to come along at least for the first location. I talk a lot with the parents and ask questions to find out what little “looks” or “mannerisms” remind them of their senior. If I sense the senior is distracted or embarrassed, I’ll politely ask the parents to allow us to finish the session alone.
Do you focus on the shoot (upfront fee) or do you have a post-shoot workflow for product sales?
Just this year I’ve changed my workflow to sell Collections/Packages. I’ve always focused on the product sales, but I’ve tried to make it easier for clients by creating packages. I can say it has definitely increased my sales!
About Ruth Rackley
Ruth grew up with her feet grounded in the red Carolina clay. The daughter of a missionary, she discovered a love of photography through the photographs her mom would share from her work abroad. Picking up the camera only seemed natural, and at an early age Ruth felt at ease traveling and viewing the world through the lens.
The images she produces tell the stories of the people she meets. For Ruth, shooting is a quiet and emotional experience that allows her to focus on the nuances of her subjects and the decisive moment. It’s her think-feel-react way of photographing that allows the viewer to quickly and easily understand her images and relate to the moment.