Sandra Henderson 0:01
We’re back with another interview today and this one is full of the most amazing takeaways. My friend Rob from Square 8 Studio joined me to talk about senior photography and how you can utilize this market to gain clients as a wedding photographer. And when I say senior photography, I think that most people are automatically going to think of high school seniors, especially if you’re a US based photographer, because that is a huge market there. But we’re not talking about high school senior photography today! Rob has cornered the market in working with college seniors, especially those in fraternities and sororities. And by delivering an incredible client experience to these students during their senior sessions, he’s able to create return clients who in the not too distant future are going to be taking their own walk down the aisle. That, combined with his mindset around pricing, and his approach to creating a simple pricing structure, helps him book out his calendar year after year in both his portrait and wedding photography businesses. No matter where you’re located in the world. I know you’re gonna get so much out of this episode. So let’s just get right to it, shall we? You’re listening to Episode 26 of Keeping It Candid!
Sandra Henderson 1:09
(Intro music) Welcome to Keeping It Candid. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, an international wedding and family photographer and business coach. I help wedding photographers use systems to build out the back end of their businesses to gain control and continue to thrive no matter what life throws their way. And on a more personal note, I’m a strong Enneagram three wing two who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for traveling combined with navigating chronic illness life are just two of the many things that drive my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner. Join me every week for a candid behind the scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer, where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends. So go grab your favorite notebook and pen and let’s dive into this week’s episode. (Intro music fades out)
Sandra Henderson 1:57
Well, welcome, Rob, and thank you so much for joining me! I’m so excited to have you here today! Before we get started, if you could just take a quick second to introduce yourself and tell everybody a little bit about you.
Rob Greene 2:08
Yeah, thanks for having me! I am a photographer and educator based out of Fort Worth, Texas. So very opposite end of the accent spectrum from your neck of the woods, I would imagine. Hopefully I come through relatively neutral. But yeah, I have been doing this now for six going on seven years and have loved every bit of it. It’s been been a wild ride.
Sandra Henderson 2:33
It’s so funny that you bring that up about accents, because you and I first met at the Showit United Conference in November 2021. And so many people- I was like one of two or three Canadians, and there were so many people were like, ‘Wait, it doesn’t sound like you have an accent.’ But then I said the word ‘out’ and then all of a sudden, like I had people cheering for me. So yeah, it was so funny that you brought that up.
Rob Greene 2:54
Oh, yes, for sure.
Sandra Henderson 2:55
So I’m super excited to dive into this topic, because a lot of people as they’re building their businesses in the wedding photography industry, or just the photography industry in general, we hear a lot of people telling us that we need to niche down and we need to offer, you know, just one or two things. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think that you know, as someone who primarily focuses on like weddings and families on my own website, I still get inquiries for all kinds of things from there. So I’m really excited to talk to you about how senior photography has impacted your business as a whole and how it’s impacted you as a wedding photographer as well.
Rob Greene 3:31
Yeah, well, and just to hit on what you’re talking about there with, like, niching down and, you know, do I focus on just one or two things? You know, I get inquiries for a lot of things, too. I only show the things on my site I want to book lots of, but I do think yeah, like, you know, in like this, we’re just talking about before I jumped on here how the, you know, I did a couple of headshot sessions this morning. I don’t advertise publicly that I do headshots, but you know you if opportunities for them to present themselves. I’ve got the stuff in place to do that for people. And I’ve built this quiet little side thing with that as well. But yeah, as far as seniors, I think it’s really important to distinguish because for most people when they think senior photography, they think high school seniors. And I have found that that for me is not where I want to be for a number of reasons, not the least of which is, you know, you have those like helicopter parents that want to jump in and control how the session goes and those sorts of things. And for somebody that started in wedding photography, I’m used to being able to work more directly with the client and have that kind of interaction. And so for me when I think of senior photography, I’m not thinking about high school seniors at all, I’m actually thinking about college grads, and that for us has been an unbelievable source of revenue and quite honestly just joy in running my business that has opened up a ton of doors for possibilities and become like the number one source of how we get our weddings as well, which has been really cool.
Sandra Henderson 5:05
Oh, that’s so awesome. And how has it been like it becomes your number one source is there like one or two specific things that make these ideal clients that transfer them over into weddings?
Rob Greene 5:16
Well, think of it like this. Imagine because you know, you said you do weddings and families imagine let’s start with the family aspect of this. Imagine your perfect family that you love working with. And imagine they lived in a massive neighborhood, full of only perfect families, for you that love your services, right. And they all and they all hang out at the pool on the weekends, or they all go out and eat dinner together. Like they’re always having parties at somebody’s house. Or take the wedding scenario. Imagine your perfect bride. And she lives in a neighborhood with all people that just got engaged in every year, a few people get married and move out of the neighborhood. But every year a few people move into the neighborhood. And they’re also like the perfect client for you. And they’re all telling everybody Oh, you got to shoot with Sandra. That’s what college is like. It is a demographic unlike any other because you have 1000s. And in some cases here in the States, 10s of 1000s of ideal clients that all live on a college campus, that’s just a few blocks, you know, in radius. So you’re talking about 1000s of ideal clients all living within a few blocks of each other, all hanging out in class, on the weekends, at games at parties going to dinner together. And they’re all when they get together, what are they doing, they’re talking about the things that they love. And all you have to do as a photographer, is build the kind of brand that people love. And they’re going to be talking about you when they go to all of these places. So for me, it’s been the most rich and like dense word of mouth market that I could have ever imagined. I’ve never seen anything like it in photography. And yet for so many photographers, they have no idea it even exists.
Sandra Henderson 6:59
Yeah, absolutely. That’s such a good point. I love how you brought up that like, these are all people that are regularly hanging out together going out for dinner and things like that. There’s that saying that like birds of a feather flock together. And I think it’s so true, you’re not very likely going to come across a group of 10 friends where every single one of those 10 people is completely different with absolutely nothing in common. Like they all enjoy watching the same shows and listening to the same music going to the same restaurant. So they will likely have the same tastes and ideas as they go into wedding planning as well.
Rob Greene 7:32
Well, and here, here’s another unique thing about this market Sandra that I think just really has made it a perfect fit for me with all the work we do with our weddings is when I think of high school seniors, I think of an individual. And I think of them and probably their mom coming on the session with them. And that’s pretty much it. You know, maybe you’ll have them like bring a friend that jumps in a picture to at the end. But with college, it’s all about friendships. It’s all about relationships. And so when I’m doing the senior sessions, yes, sometimes it’s just one person. But more often than not, who I’m photographing is a group of five or seven or 10. Or we actually just booked one for a group of 15 friends that I’m just like, man, bring it on. It’s so fun. Because then for me as a photographer, I don’t even have to worry about like, how do I make sure this is fun for them. They’re already hanging out with their, you know, 14 other best friends, they’re gonna have fun, all I have to do is just like ride the wave of energy that they bring to the session. But here’s what happened Sandra is they have an amazing time with me. They get back a bunch of photos with them, and they’re besties. And then a few months later, Jojo the boyfriend goes and puts a ring on it. And that all those besties that were in those pictures with them are now getting invites to become bridesmaids. And so this bride to be is sitting there thinking hmm, who should I reach out to about my wedding photography? And then they realize oh wait, here’s this guy Rob. He just took a bunch of pictures of me and all these girls that are gonna be my bridesmaids. We loved the way we looked in our photos. We love the way the photos turned out. We love how much fun we had with him. Why would I go searching for somebody else that I may or may not have that kind of connection with when this guy shoots weddings to and he’s made us look amazing. And so we wind up skipping the line it’s like a Fastpass at Disney or something you know we we just skip the line to of the inquiry process because we get these people that have already worked with us and already know us already. Trust us already love our work. And it just makes the whole experience so stinking rich.
Sandra Henderson 9:43
It’s like a total no brainer decision at that point. And it just makes I’m sure it takes a lot of the stress off their plate when they’re planning their wedding and just gets them often to just such like exciting foot because a lot of people that I connect with are like, you know, getting through that initial stages of the wedding Planning process can be really daunting and overwhelming. But when you already have that connection, it’s just kind of like a breath of fresh air as you keep going forward.
Rob Greene 10:07
100% I remember last year, there was this gal Sydney. She was one of my campus reps. So we also have this team of campus reps that are people on TCU campus. I’m near TCU. That’s the college here in Fort Worth, and which we just got to go to the playoffs for college football this year and we are stoked about it. I’m so pumped. Sidney was one of my campus reps her senior year. So we did a bunch of shoots together as a part of that. And then we did her senior photos with her best friends. Then we also she told her boyfriend Josiah, hey, you got to do your senior photos. So this guy so Josiah rounds up like 10 of his best buds. And we did all their senior photos. Well, all her girls were bridesmaids. Most of his guys were groomsmen. When we I shot their proposal, all their engagement photos show up at their wedding last December. And all the bridesmaids were people I’d photographed all the groomsmen or people I photographed half of the college aged wedding guests were people that I’d done their senior photos. It was the most fun I’d ever had shooting a wedding because you just felt like you were part of the family at that point. And there was so much trust built up. There was so much just like shared understanding of how this needed to go what needed to happen, that it made things a breeze like the least stressful wedding I’d ever photographed.
Sandra Henderson 11:25
Yeah, oh, I can imagine and that kind of thing… It makes the day really enjoyable for the couple and the experience enjoyable for them. But it really makes it enjoyable for us.
Rob Greene 11:34
Sandra Henderson 11:36
When you get home from that wedding day, doesn’t matter if it was 10-12 hours. It’s feeling like you were working for a fraction of that time. So why do you think that this is such an untapped market when it comes to wedding photographers, using seniors and college students as a lead in to getting new inquiries,
Rob Greene 11:51
I think comes down to a couple of things, Sandra, I think number one, I think most people assume college students don’t have money and can’t afford photos. And so for photographers, so many of us were struggling with this idea of like trying to establish our value and establish that people should pay us what we’re worth, and we’re trying to raise those prices. And we’re feeling like, ah, you know, like, I feel bad. Even charging, what I’m charging now is supposed to go to this audience where you know, they’re eating ramen noodles for three meals a day or something, you know, and there’s just this assumption that college students don’t have money. But when you go and look, especially at schools that have Greek life, where people are used to paying dues for sororities, and they’re paying astronomical tuition to go to school, and they’re doing all these different things that have large expenses attached to it, really your expense for these memories is a drop in the bucket of all of their overall when you look at the scope of their college experience, it’s a small fraction of the overall expense that they incur along the way. Not only that, but you also have the ability to set up your pricing in a way that can make you both the most expensive and the least expensive photographer on campus, all at the same time. And so what I’ve been able to do is position ourselves to where we are, we make on average around $1,000 A session. So we’re doing 1012 $100 A session right now, for a one hour session. And yet, we are affordable for everybody because of how we’ve structured our pricing. And so it’s one of these things where, man again, once people hear about you and get on camp and your your name is on campus, if they know that their friends shot with you, they want to shoot with you too. And so it just makes it much easier to get into them people realize.
Sandra Henderson 13:37
Hey, friends, I’m interrupting this amazing interview for a quick second to let you know about a brand new freebie that I just released. If you want to give your wedding workflow, a refresh this year, or if you’ve never had a workflow at all, run, don’t walk over to my website, simplysandrayvonne.ca/freebies, and steal my wedding workflow. This is the exact 16 Step workflow that I use in my own wedding photography, business. And it’s ready to help you take your clients from the time they book with you right through until you’re finished your time together and are asking for reviews, all you need to do is input these steps into your favorite CRM system, add in your email templates, and voila, you’ve got a complete wedding workflow and can start delivering an incredible client experience while getting some of your freedom back at the same time, head to simplysandrayvonne.ca/freebies to get your copy.
Sandra Henderson 13:37
Hey, friends, I’m interrupting this amazing interview for a quick second to let you know about a brand new freebie that I just released. If you want to give your wedding workflow a refresh this year, or if you’ve never had a workflow at all, run, don’t walk over to my website, simply Sandri vaughn.ca forward slash freebies and steal my wedding workflow. This is the exact 16 Step workflow that I use in my own wedding photography business. And it’s ready to help you take your clients from the time they book with you right through until you’re finished your time together and are asking for reviews. All you need to do is input these steps into your favorite CRM system, add in your email templates, and voila, you’ve got a complete wedding workflow and can start delivering an incredible client experience while getting some of your freedom back at the same time, head to simply Sandri vaughn.ca forward slash freebies to get your copy.
Rob Greene 14:31
That would lead me to the second thing is college and sorority photography. I think what holds people back from jumping into it is they don’t know how to start. And so what I have been able to do over these past couple years is take everything that I spent six years learning how to do with no roadmap and basically creating a roadmap for photographers on how to break into this market that nobody knows how to do Break into, because there’s a lot of people out there that will say, I wasn’t in a sorority, guess what me either. I’m a dude. You don’t have that, you know, we they do for attorneys, I don’t even do fraternities, I knew nothing about Greek life going in, I learned all this stuff as I went. But so I’ve been able to build a roadmap for people that we’re now seeing photographers at big schools, small schools, schools in the north, south, east, west, all over the country. I actually just had one sign up, that’s in Canada. So I’m excited to experiment with this. She’s over near Vancouver. So we’re going to be testing this out with her as well, in the coming weeks. But we’re seeing photographers around the United States experienced incredible success. They’re doing things in months, and sometimes weeks, that took me years to do, just because for the first time, there’s a roadmap on how to do it. That’s amazing.
Sandra Henderson 15:47
For everybody that’s listening, definitely make sure that you check it out. I have not checked out this specific course, or roadmap. But I have had the chance to see some of the work that Rob does with teaching flash and hear him speak at a conference as well. And your education is amazing. I love the way that you explain things. And the way that you break everything down makes it so easy to understand. And for someone who has been in the industry, like I’ve been using Flash for a good like 1415 years now. And I still learned, like so much just from the way that you phrase certain things that was like a light bulb went off in my brain that I was like, Oh, like that makes so much more sense to look at it that way. So yeah, everybody, make sure you run over to Rob’s website and check out some of his education offerings, especially if you are interested in diving into senior photography.
Rob Greene 16:31
Absolutely. Well, and we’ve got a thing coming up here in a couple of weeks, Sandra, where I’m actually gonna be doing a free five day mini course on college and sorority photography, that is- we call it College 101. And it’s going to walk you through all the basics to get on campus and get started booking your first sessions with college students. So if anybody’s interested in figuring out how the heck do I crack the code on this market, it sounds awesome. But I don’t know where to start. And I definitely wasn’t in Greek Life myself. It said You know, it sounds weird. Sounds scary. Let me help break that down for you the way we’ve broken down flasher, Sandra, and we’ll get you on campus and get you rolling with your business for the next year.
Sandra Henderson 17:11
I love that! I will definitely be signing up. I live in a what would be the equivalent of a college town in the US is where I live in Canada, we have a college and a university here and a couple other colleges like just outside the city. But we do have a lot of fraternities and sororities here, so I am definitely excited to check that out.
Rob Greene 17:31
You’re- you’re in a prime location, then, and I will keep you posted on how this goes with our friend in Vancouver as well to find out what we learned. Because I have a feeling this is gonna- I feel like there’s just there’s so much correlation geographically, even for our two countries that, you know, the similarities between college students I think around the world are largely similar, but especially US and Canada have a thin there’s going to be a ton of overlap and how those experiences go and what that can do for wedding photographers in the Canada area as well.
Sandra Henderson 18:00
Yeah, I agree, I definitely have had some reservations in terms of senior photography, when it comes to high schools, I think that that will be a lot larger of a task to break into with it not really being a thing that happens here. But I totally agree with you about the overlap between how colleges and universities work between the US and Canada. And I can definitely see how that can be really successful. So I hope that that goes really well for that photographer in Vancouver. And I’m definitely excited to see how that plays out. But that actually leads me into my next question is for any photographers who are living, whether it be in the US where they’re not, there’s not a huge market for senior campus photography or other countries where they may have different schooling systems. Do you have any tips for them about how they can tap into that kind of market without doing photos of seniors annually?
Rob Greene 18:51
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is to start tapping into any existing connections you might have, maybe you’re not on campus yourself. But if you have a friend who has a friend that goes to that college, or if you have a friend whose daughter goes to that college, or if you have a co worker who has a daughter that’s in a sorority at that college, or if you go to church with somebody who you know is going to that college, wherever you have, I have found that man, a little bit of generosity goes a long way and starting with one free session for that one person or that one person and therefore friends, because again, college is all about the friend groups. And so if you can, you know, insert that one strategic free session for a few friends, you’re going to wind up getting your your brand and your name inserted into that social pipeline, that rich social structure we talked about of just 1000s of students all living within a few blocks of each other. And I guess my other thing would be Yeah, come sign up for College 101. We’re going to be starting out here in a couple of weeks. And we’d love to have you in there because we’re going to unpack exactly how to do that how to make those ads asks, and how to several other avenues that you can pursue that will like showing up at tailgate parties before football games, and just walking up and taking pictures of photo, taking pictures of people and swapping Instagrams while you’re there. So many different strategies that you can use to just insert your name and your brand into the conversation. And once you’re in those conversations just spread like wildfire.
Sandra Henderson 20:25
Yeah, I can totally see how like, well, one can lead into the other and how beneficial this is going to be for wedding photographers. And earlier you mentioned that you position yourself in such a way that you are able to be the most expensive and least expensive photographer offering services on campus. I would love to know a little bit more about what that means.
Rob Greene 20:45
Yeah, great question Sandra. So I’m a big believer that your pricing needs to make sense to people. And one of the biggest mistakes I see photographers making when they book out portrait sessions is charging by the person. I think this is a huge mistake. Because most often we wind up spending the same amount of time shooting the session and delivering a very similarly sized gallery if not a little smaller, because a lot of us get nervous working with larger groups. And yet for each individual buying in, they’re getting fewer photos of themselves that feature them. And so I don’t believe it makes sense to the average client to have to pay just as much for the session if there are more people involved. And so and we teach this in the college and sorority course, but we I’m a huge believer in pricing in blocks of time, because I think everybody understands that your time has value. And so because we price by the hour, I’m able to say hey, when somebody comes to me and says, Hey, I would love to work with you. But do you have anything less expensive, I say, absolutely bring a friend with you. And you’ll both pay half as much. It’s still an hour of my time, I’m still doing the same amount of shooting editing. But for these two friends, they have now been able to cut their costs in half. But they’ve also been able to have a better experience because they got to do this with somebody, it’s it can be so awkward when you’re not used to taking photos. And now you’re one on one with this photographer, you’ve maybe met him once or twice. And now you’re having to stand and pose and do all these things like what do I do with my hands? Well, once you have your best friend there by your side, you’re laughing, having fun, you’re enjoying them, you’re thinking about them not thinking about what do I do with my hands. So I’m able to create a better experience for these friend groups. And they’re able to spend less per person on the session because we charge by the hour and not by the person.
Sandra Henderson 22:42
I love that perspective, I totally agree with you. I know there are lots of photographers who are, using the family portraits as an example, where we get a lot of times extended family sessions where three, four family units are all coming together. And a lot of photographers will charge a premium or add ons per family. But I totally agree with you, you can still essentially get the same number of photos done in that hour. But each individual family is going to be getting less photos of themselves, because you’re adding in those large family photos as well, and photos of just the kids and things like that. So that’s such a great perspective for portrait sessions across the board.
Rob Greene 23:19
And I find those families thinking about the extended family think those families tend to wind up all buying prints at the end there, you’re going to be making more naturally on those sessions. And yet they’re going to understand it. What I would say to those people is like if that’s you, if you’re that extended family photographer, and you’re you’re wrestling with like, oh, but how can I make that switch? People understand that it takes more time to shoot more families. So add on time? Well, we have we have college students to do it all the time with us. They’re like, hey, we have a larger friend group. Can we add more session time? Absolutely. Here’s what that cost. Now, that’s an easy decision for them, because they understand more of my time is more valuable to me, and therefore they would spend extra for that that makes perfect sense to them to do that with.
Sandra Henderson 24:02
Yeah, absolutely. And making things as easy as possible for the clients to understand means that it makes it easier for us to get paid. And that is ultimately like an end goal that I think everybody should make a priority
Rob Greene 24:14
100%. I am a big believer in a no brainer booking process. The less brain cells people have to burn through, you know, trying to think through how do I get this thing booked and get my date picked and get my money put down? The less they have to think about that. And the easier we can make for him. That’s just an extra way to serve them before they’ve even officially become a client just by making this easy for them.
Sandra Henderson 24:35
Yeah, absolutely. Before we wrap things up, this has been the most amazing conversation. Do you have any final takeaways that you hope that wedding photographers or campus photographers take from this episode or anything that they can apply to their businesses going forward?
Rob Greene 24:50
Yeah, I would say if you think college photography as a wedding photographer is going to be just like high school photography. You are sorely mistaken they couldn’t. College photography has so much more in common with what you do as a wedding photographer than it has with high school photography. So do yourself a favor do your business a favor if you like working with clients who already love you already trust you already are obsessed with your work before they even reach out to you. If that’s the kind of client you look forward to having inquire about you shooting their wedding, college and sorority photography is where you need to be spending some time in this coming year, not building out Google ads and paying for Google ads and Facebook ads. Go get connected on your local college campus because it is going to become the best source of weddings for you this coming year.
Sandra Henderson 25:41
And who doesn’t love clients like that? And wedding days like that? Really?
Rob Greene 25:44
Right? That’s what I’m saying. They’re just the best!
Sandra Henderson 25:49
Where can everybody find you online if they want to check in with your courses or just follow you on social media and things like that?
Rob Greene 25:56
Yeah, great question. I have a few different places number one, jump on Instagram. That’s the main like social media place to find me. You’ll find me at @square8studio. And then I also have a podcast, The BOP, that I do. So it’s a fun actually to be on a this end of the conversation Sandra, I’m really enjoying this aspect of it a lot. But I do monthly episodes with people around the photography industry. And then I also have an education page square8studio.com/education where you’ll find all of our courses and free classes, like that College 101 that’s coming up here in a couple weeks.
Sandra Henderson 26:36
Amazing! Well, thank you so much again for joining me. It was really great talking to you! I loved this conversation, and I hope that our paths crossed again soon!
Rob Greene 26:45
Absolutely. Let’s make it happen!
Sandra Henderson 26:47
(Outro Music) Thank you so much for listening. You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid in the meantime, let’s connect. You can find me on Instagram and Tiktok just search @simplysandrayvonne. And if you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honored if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave a review. Until next time! (Music fades out)
Rob Greene is the owner of Square 8 Studio, a photography and education brand based out of Fort Worth, Texas. Through both his online courses and his podcast, The BOP, Rob and his mini Goldendoodle, Snoopy, are on a mission to help photographers build their business, wow their clients, and make photo magic. Rob is a firm believer that you’re always ahead of someone and always behind someone, therefore you should always be teaching and always be learning. When he’s not taking photos or teaching photographers, you’ll find Rob obsessing over his latest Apple devices, or watching his favorite soccer team, Atlanta United.
February 21, 2023