Student posing for senior photography photo-session

How to plan successful senior photos [advice from photographers]

If you want to add senior photos to your photography services, here is a great resource to help you get started. Taking senior portraits is all about creating a special experience for graduating high-school students. It’s an opportunity to celebrate their journey and mark a milestone into the next stage of their lives. As a photographer, you offer more than just a fun photoshoot; you boost the young graduates’ confidence, get them excited about their accomplishments, and create memories they will cherish for years to come.

In this article, you will find everything you need to know, from promoting senior sessions to Gen-Z and finding more clients, to pricing your portraits and selling prints. We gathered insights from several photographers who specialize in senior portraits, and are happy to share their expertise, best tips and advice for planning and delivering outstanding senior sessions.

How do you promote senior photos to Gen-Z and attract more clients?

Rene Bowen, Senior Portrait and Branding Photographer: “It’s super important that we, as senior photographers, understand our teen clients because more often than not, it’s the teen who finds us and is the decision maker as to who gets hired. The parents are letting their kids make that call, so we must be marketing to them effectively.

One of the main ways I do this is to use TikTok, this is where our Gen-Z clients “are”. They may not post as much (as a whole, Gen-Z does not post as much as they consume) but they are on that app more than any other. Snapchat is how they communicate and TikTok is where they get info. In fact, TikTok has surpassed Google for how Gen Z finds info. SEO is just as important on TikTok (and any other social platform) as it is on Google.

Overall, there are three main things I always start with when coaching other senior photographers on their marketing:

  1. In person, word of mouth marketing and having a strong foothold in your area.
  2. Social marketing (TikTok, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Pinterest) needs to support that brand name.
  3. SEO. Blogging and having a consistent SEO plan will add fuel to the fire of the first two. All three should work together and when they do, you don’t feel as though you’re constantly on the marketing train.”

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography, Senior Portrait Photographer: “I offer a Senior Model Program each year, students love being models, parents love "free pics", and I get Gen Z to do the marketing for me. I offer a full senior session to each model, they pay a refundable deposit, and as long as they post two of their photos each week and tag me in it, they'll get their full deposit back. This way every day of the week (during booking season) I'm having current students sharing photos and marketing my business to their peers.”

Rachel Davis Photography, Senior Portrait Photographer: “I primarily use Instagram for promoting my work but word of mouth is everything when it comes to attracting new clientele so making sure the experience you give every single client is top notch is super duper important.”

When marketing your services, do you target the senior or their parents?

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography: “Both. I feel I tend to get an equal amount of inquiries from students and from parents. So I aim my social media marketing towards current seniors, but I make sure I have an updated, professional, and informative website and pricing guides for parents too. Ultimately, it's the senior who is going to say "I like this photographer" but its the parent who is going to pay you, so you've got to make both happy.”

Ansley Pacetti Photography, Senior Portrait Photographer: “I typically create my content with my seniors in mind, this includes marketing. They are usually the ones scouring the internet for their dream photographer. Although I do connect with parents frequently I feel as though it is always initiated through the seniors themselves.”

Renee Bowen: "Both, but mainly the senior, because they are the ones who are calling the shots on who gets hired. However, we need to be speaking to both of them and in slightly different ways. We also need to remember that while our vibe will attract our dream clients, WE are NOT our target client. Photographers tend to market to other photographers, especially senior photographers, more than their own target client. What WE like as far as content is usually not what the teen client likes (or as much) so it is important to know what your target client responds to and how to activate them to buy from you.”

Do you have any tips on preparing for senior photos, to ensure a great client experience?

Ariel Perry Photography, Senior Portrait Photographer: “I strongly recommend doing either an in person consultation or a Zoom consultation before your session. This gives you and your senior a chance to get to know each other. Therefore, some of those nerves are gone the day of the session. That helps with conversation as well. Having your senior complete a questionnaire is also very helpful! When you get to the actual session it is very important that you stay engaged.  It can be weird if there is a lot of awkward silence. The last thing is bring a portable bluetooth speaker and have your senior create a custom feel good playlist. Music always helps!!”

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography: “I have a pretty detailed form that I have every senior fill out prior to confirming their session date. It gives me all the info I need as well as shows clients all of my location options and galleries at each spot. I also put together a fun PDF that I send out to my seniors before their session with tips on hair, makeup, clothing, and other necessities. Most of all, I find it SUPER important the day of the session to make your seniors feel confident in their own skin. It's such a pivotal age with so many insecurities. I want every student to leave their session feeling more confident about themselves than when we started.”

Renee Bowen: “I spend a lot of time preparing them, connecting with them, guiding them throughout the entire process and that includes selling high quality products and not just delivering digital images. I prefer to work with fewer (usually around 40-50 seniors per year) and charge more for the experience than shoot more and charge less. I have found that my sales are way higher when I position myself as the professional and the one who is in charge; I also provide professional hair and makeup and help with styling them for their session so they never feel as though they don’t know what to expect.

I send lots of info to them prior to the session; I have these things automated so I’m not physically having to do them. I’ve found that it’s important to provide all the prep info in both text/list form and video because the teens and the parents will consume the info differently.”

Rachel Davis Photography: “Preparing your clients prior to their sessions is VERY important. Not only will this benefit your client but it will also greatly benefit you. I always make sure outfits, accessories, shoes, and location are all 100% finalized prior to shoot day. This ensures no stress on the day of the photoshoot and that you can match styling perfectly to location.”

What are 3 things you wish you knew when you first started out?

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography:

  1. "If you want to make a career in photography and go to school for it, a marketing/business degree would be more helpful than a photography degree.
  2. Be kind but also assertive. Know your value, don't overcharge and underserve. But DO hold to what you are comfortable offering for the price you feel is fair.
  3. Trust your instincts. Have fun with each session, no two people are exactly the same so no two sessions should be the exact same experience either. Don't be afraid to be honest and say "hey let's try this...might be cool, might not, but let's give it a shot". Seniors relax a lot more when you are just a normal person hanging out with them who happens to be taking their pictures.”

Renee Bowen:

  1. "That I don’t need to do all the things; niching down does work when you do it intentionally.
  2. Outsource outsource outsource! I waited too long to do this and it cost me a lot of time and money; give away what you do not like to do sooner than later. Raise your prices so that you CAN do this.
  3. You don’t need to do it alone; I tried for too long to do everything on my own but when I finally did get coaching, that is when I made huge progress in my business and my mindset.”

Ariel Perry Photography: “I wish I knew that it takes money to make money (I should've invested in getting an expert in SEO before I did); I wish I knew that clients were not going to come right away; it takes time to build a solid clientele, and I wish I found more like minded senior photographer friends.”

Ansley Pacetti Photography: “The number of seniors you book doesn't define your talent, don't overbook yourself, you want to be able to maintain a unique look to each of your shoots and they can start to feel really repetitive, seniors often need a boost of confidence and you have all the power to make them feel that and more!”

What’s the best approach for pricing senior portrait sessions?

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography: “Look around at other local senior photographers and find out what they are pricing sessions at and consider what they are offering, try to be the median price point. If you are brand new to this, be close but don’t be the lowest price range. Then each year you continue, raise your prices. As your experience grows, so can your pricing.

Be sure to offer at least three package options so you can reach a broader demographic. Packages should vary based on three things: amount of time, number of delivered photos, number of outfits. I find the outfit option is typically how I end up upselling packages.”

Rachel Davis Photography: “Pricing should be dictated by a few factors; cost of running your business, cost of living, how much you want or need to make yearly, and how many clients you want or need to take on yearly.”

Ansley Pacetti Photography: “I use two main methods. The first is monitoring the prices of other photographers in the area. You want to price your work appropriately but also competitively. Secondly I make sure that I am clear on what the investment includes. I think providing more than just a photoshoot is essential to being able to price yourself in a higher price bracket.”

Renee Bowen: “There is no one size fits all for this; it depends on a lot! What kind of business do you want to run? (high volume vs. low volume/boutique) Who are your target clients? What do they value? Do you want to sell products? Personally, I structure my pricing in a way that ensures my time & expertise are valued. I have three sessions and they all have time limits, a session fee and a separate minimum order requirement. This works well for me and helps me average 4k per senior client, with many investing well over 6k for their experience. All my clients purchase albums but that is also because I position them well. Understanding pricing and selling psychology is incredibly important.”

Any tips on selling prints and/or digital downloads?

Rachel Davis Photography: “Show your clients products, get them excited, give discount codes if you're able, and post about it.”

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography: “ I allow my clients to print wherever they would like and include the digital downloads with each package, because ultimately that's what everyone wants. How I end up upselling prints is simply by telling clients (typically parents), that though Walgreens might be the cheapest price, the best quality prints of the session they have invested in are going to come via my Pixieset storefront.”

Renee Bowen: “Position them well if you are also selling products, which I always suggest to my coaching students. You make way more money and serve your clients best when you do. While I do offer high resolution digitals, they are priced very high and go down in price when bundled, but they are NOT my main focus - albums are. I include low res, web-sized digitals with every print purchased and this is what people really want; they don’t realize they don’t need high res digitals - that is part of how we need to educate them.”

Ariel Perry Photography: “I am huge on prints/ albums!! Whenever I mentor a senior photographer I always recommend they offer prints and albums. Doing in person sales is a game changer. You have the opportunity to present what the actual print/albums look and feel like. You can explain the importance of having something tangible that is priceless and of exceptional quality.”

How do Pixieset tools impact the experience you offer?

Ariel Perry Photography: “I love how easy it is for my clients to access their galleries and order prints! I only hear wonderful things from my clients when it comes to their galleries.”

Renee Bowen: “I think it’s super important for potential clients to see an entire gallery delivery and not just the highlights we post on social. I send links to galleries to leads so they can really envision what their session will look like.

I also like to use Pixieset for additional sales. I do in person sales but I will put the final images that are chosen into a gallery and encourage the family to share with extended family members so they can purchase additional prints if they like.

I also use Pixieset for mini sessions and proms; this is perfect for allowing downloads as well as for additional print sales. Additionally, I use Pixieset for my headshots and branding sessions since those DO include high res digitals and this is a great way to have the client choose their final shots as well as deliver them.”

Rachel Davis Photography: “Pixieset is amazing. Not only does it allow for my clients to access all of their beautiful photos but it also gives them the opportunity to get print products at the touch of a finger. A one stop shop.”

Ansley Pacetti Photography: “Pixieset is the perfect way to deliver my photos professionally and also so simply. I absolutely love the ease of also being able to build my website in and around my existing galleries. The visually pleasing design and easy to use program has allowed me to elevate my look and client experience.”

Bri’Anne Elizabeth Photography: “Oh man! I don't know where I would be without Pixieset! I've been delivering galleries through Pixieset for years now, it's a gorgeous and easy to use platform. I have my Pixieset page directly linked to my website so clients who want to know what their potential session might look like can simply go there and check everything out. I also rely on the tagging options for each gallery. I have 6 locations I typically shoot at and I've tagged each session to correlate with those locations, so when clients are wondering where they should have their pics taken it's super easy for me to quickly show them galleries at every spot.”

Grow your senior portrait photography with Pixieset

Big thanks to Ariel, Renee, Bri’Anne, Rachel and Ansley for sharing their insightful advice. We hope you found their guidance encouraging and feel more prepared and confident to start offering senior portraits. Pixieset is also here to support you with all the tools you need to power up your senior photography business. Deliver photos, sell prints, build a website, and manage contracts, payments and bookings — all in one place.

Start with a free account. Unlock more features as your business grows.
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