High School Seniors + Sports

Cultivating an In-Demand Senior Portrait Experience with Audrey Woulard [Free Webinar]

August 10, 2021

By Brienne Walsh

Audrey Woulard realized early in her career that in order for her business to be successful, it needed to mirror her family life. A mother of four boys, Woulard, who is based in Chicago, didn’t want to travel a lot or work long hours. Instead, she chose to focus on photographing families and babies. As her children grew—her sons are all now in their late teens and early twenties—Woulard began to focus primarily on senior and teenager photography and on building a unique senior portrait experience for her clientele.

Audrey Woulard during a senior portrait shoot.
Audrey Woulard hard at work during a high school senior portrait shoot. Courtesy of Audrey Woulard
Woulard builds a whole senior portrait experience for her clients.
© Audrey Woulard

Her secret to success? She listens to her gut and stays true to herself. She knows where her strengths lie, and she utilizes them.

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In her recent RF + WPPI webinar, Cultivating an In-Demand Senior Portrait Experience, held in conjunction with Rangefinder’s Reset series, Woulard, a Nikon ambassador and Profoto Legend of Light, shares some of the secrets to her success and offers fail-proof tips on gaining (and keeping) clients, as well as marketing to find new ones.

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Defining Your In-Demand Senior Portrait Experience

“An in-demand experience is one where you can convince your target market that you can deliver [a product] that no one else can,” Woulard said. “It’s your blueprint.”

In an image-saturated world, it’s harder than ever to convince people (and especially teenagers) that they need professional portraits taken, especially when it’s so easy to do it yourself with a smartphone, Woulard noted. “Today’s seniors are very discerning.”

Read: Transition From Window Light to Flash with John Gress [Free Webinar]

According to her, there are several ways that photographers can set themselves apart in offering a senior portrait experience. For example, they can offer hair and makeup to their high school senior clients, or they can have a style closet on hand to allow teens to wear the latest fashions during their shoots. Some photographers even fly their portrait subjects to remote or exciting locations such as Las Vegas or Amsterdam.

All of this may very well not be enough to convince image-savvy teens (and their parents) to hire you. Instead, you need to dig deep and figure out what sets you apart. Woulard suggested writing your thoughts down as a starting point.

Capitalizing on Your Strengths

Every photographer has a strength; Woulard’s is taking a subject to a location where they are unable to envision the final image, and then taking an amazing shot in that location. She doesn’t like “pretty” locations—she likes locations that have a lot of grittiness and texture. “The key here is for them to be ‘wowed’ by the final result, not to guess what I’m doing beforehand,” she said of her clients.

“I will never take a senior to a place where they can envision the shot before I take it,” says Audrey Woulard, WPPI speaker and portrait photographer specializing in high school seniors. Hear her one of her top tips for achieving awesome senior portraiture in this clip.

She pointed to a shot she took of a teenage girl in the doorway of a run-down warehouse in Chicago. Outside of the frame, the place was dirty, covered in spilled popcorn, trash and other forms of detritus. In Woulard’s composition, however, the doorway served as a sort of stage to bring her subject into sharp focus.

Read: How Susan Stripling Creates Portraits that Pop [Free Webinar]

“My senior would never go to that spot and think it’s a good place [to take a photo],” Woulard acknowledged. “To me, that makes me stand out.” Her clients never know what she is going to do, but they trust she will deliver.

In fact, Woulard is so confident in her ability to use her gift—a strong photographic eye—that she doesn’t care if her clients are sharing their own images of the shoot on social media. “Their pictures just aren’t going to look like mine.”

What teenagers want today, Woulard said, is being photographed in a spot where no one else would go to take pictures.

Woulard’s Lens of Choice and Other Photo Equipment

Woulard has been using her 85mm f/1.4L lens for almost a decade, since her now 20-year-old son was in middle school. She photographs with a wide aperture to capture various elements that together make a crisp, focused image. “I typically like to break apart my depth-of-field,” she said, showing an image of a teenager on an empty street. In the image, the girl looks sharply focused because of various elements, including parking meters and a train, that shift the focus towards the subject. “If my client comes back here, they can’t come recreate the shot…because they don’t know what I’m thinking.”

Woulard said she often has police escorts clear a street in advance of a photo shoot, and that she would never have a subject stand in a dangerous scene.

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Generally, she relies on natural light, although she often uses a Profoto B10 kit and a 2-foot Octabox to enhance the light already present. She doesn’t overly edit in post-production; she merely clarifies the image and sharpens the color.

Woulard’s senior clients today are much different than they were 20 years ago. “Teenagers in 2021 are more socially conscious and identify with people as they are, not as they pretend to be,” she said. The most important thing you can do, she reiterated, is to figure  out what your strengths are —and uses them to your advantage. She doesn’t let other people doubt her vision. “I can’t trust my gut if someone is telling me what my gut is.”

Have questions for Woulard? Feel free to reach out to her directly.:




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To learn more, and see Woulard’s images in depth, watch the webinar here.