If you are a senior portrait photographer, you have either done Prom shoots or you want to – and you’re probably confused about HOW. I’m not here to tell you which way is the best way, because you really do have to figure out what is best for your biz (and that should involve all the foundational aspects of running a biz), but I will share with you how I have done them and what has worked – and what hasn’t. Hopefully you will find it useful!
For those of you with studios (and possibly in colder climates), shooting at your studio might be your best bet – and will give you more control over the entire process. However, I don’t have a studio – I don’t need one since my shoots are all on location (and I never wanted the extra hassle of having to maintain a storefront), so I shoot these at local parks or a location that I rent, etc. Again, you have to see what makes sense for you and YOUR biz.
I have done Prom mini sessions various ways over the years, but I will say that at the beginning of my biz, I kinda just flew by the seat of my pants and literally almost died on Prom day lol. I took on WAY too much and allowed my clients to run the show – ie. not confirm how many people were coming, not pay in advance, etc. I had no idea what I was doing and it was HARD. Every year, I would refine it – because my clients really did want prom sessions – but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really got a handle on it.
For a few years, I ran a “Get Ready With Us” day for our proms here in Santa Clarita. It was really awesome because we did hair, makeup and pics all in the same location. The girls loved getting ready with their friends! I highly suggest you do it this way if possible; work up the cost of hair and makeup (and any rental location you might need if you don’t have a studio) – plus any snacks and drinks you will provide, etc. Make sure you are looking at your costs realistically and figure in how much you want to make per person. I charged per couple (so even if my client brought a friend instead of a date, it was one price per couple). Each girl was booked according to the hair and makeup artists’ specifications on how long it will take to get them ready (make sure you are working with pros who are QUICK). The girls were then told what time to have their dates show up for photos and I booked three couples per time slot to account for their friend groups who also wanted to take pics with them. Any couple who did not do the “Get Ready With Us” paid an additional fee just for the mini session.
My model team got priority booking on this – meaning, they were the first to know about the info and the first to have access to the times; they also received a discount. (Some photographers include this IN their model program – which is totally fine – as long as you are making sure you’re recouping your cost and time).
Each girl received 10 web-sized images to post online within ONE day (the key to prom is getting them their images fast). All images were uploaded to an online gallery on pixieset where they could then purchase additional digital files or prints at a discounted rate. Any image they purchased as a print they also received as a web digital file to post (all web images were watermarked but my watermark is small).
I loved doing these Get Ready With Us days, but this year I’m going back to what I did in previous years because Jami and I both have a ton of travel booked this Spring. We are headed to Japan in late March with the family who brought us to France last year to document their family trip, and then Jami is going to Puerto Rico for a school trip. She won’t be here for one of the Proms, and the following two weeks will just be madness, so we opted to do our own things – meaning Jami will book her own Prom makeup clients and I will just shoot photos.
Here is what that looks like:
I use Acuity calendar for my mini session bookings – it’s great because you can create multiple calendars and set up specific time slots – as well as accept payments through them. There are other calendar options, but this is the one I have used for years 🙂 You can see my signup page HERE.
I set up 20 minute time slots and up to THREE couples can book the same slot – so they can shoot pics together. I buffer 10 minutes after each session in case of going slightly over or people showing up late. They all pay in FULL when they book; this is important because I do not have time to collect payments the day of.
I will upload their images online to pixieset and they will choose 20 images to download (web sized & watermarked); if they want to purchase more, they can. I charge $80 for non-models and $60 for models – I just give them a coupon code to use at checkout. For me, this is the easiest way to run a very crazy day. This year, there are three Proms on one day …. so it will be nuts and there is no way I can shoot all of them!!
For location, I choose a local park close to the school (the schools here do not allow kids to drive on their own – they have to meet at the school and ride a bus) so it’s easy for them to get in and out. I make sure and check with the schools to see when they have to be there so I can plan my shooting accordingly.
The thing to remember with Prom shoots is that the more complicated you make it, the harder it will be for people to understand and book – and the more stressed you will be. As with everything, try and keep it simple and clear in your communication. You will run into issues for sure no matter what – that is the nature of Prom …. people will try and wait until the last minute to book, people won’t show up, etc.
Be VERY clear on your expectations when you send info out and in all your marketing for this. Make sure YOU are running the show and not the other way around! Invite people to ask questions – or set up a FAQ page on your site or Instagram highlight – there are many ways to make sure all the information is out there and available to people.
The MORE you communicate with them and let them know what to expect, the easier this will be.
I hope this helps some of you get organized for Prom! I know it can be super stressful and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Be super clear and stand firm on your policies – whatever those are. Prom can be a great way to get your brand in front of other people; to introduce yourself to a whole new crop of potential clients – just make sure you are communicating from your “why” and speaking your target client; otherwise, you will be sending mixed messages to the wrong type of client. Remember, the foundational aspects of your biz are super important – and your mindset plays a HUGE role in this!
If you are struggling with any of that, consider scheduling a call with me to chat about my new online course for Senior Portrait Photographers. I’ve built a very robust course that includes live coaching from yours truly – to help push you and answer ALL your questions. It’s everything I’ve done over the years – refined – into a program that is meant to transform your business and LIFE. Yes, it’s part life coaching and part business coaching 🙂 I have a degree in Psychology so I have always been passionate about connecting with people on a deeper level. I built this course so that I could do just that.
Click HERE to schedule a chat with me to see if it’s right for you … I’m not offering it to everyone.
And – if you just want to connect in a less committed way lol – join my free facebook group HERE – we would love to chat with you in there!