High School Seniors + Sports

How to Connect With Your Senior Portrait Clients Post-Pandemic

May 21, 2021

By Mary Vance

© Mary Vance Photography

As high school senior portrait photographers, we are in a unique position to cheer these young adults on and help them feel seen, heard and celebrated.

When the whole world turned upside down, I remember feeling so grateful for the brands whose CEOs reached out with a personal email or letter. That connection point—even if it was just to say that they couldn’t deliver what was previously promised—invited me to engage with their brand. It let me know that they were doing everything they could to get business back to normal, even when I couldn’t see the behind the scenes of their daily struggle. For all you senior portrait photographers out there, it’s time to do the same for your clients as school years come to a close. Here are three ways that I have decided to connect with seniors as we lead up to the end of their year.

[Read: 2021 RF + WPPI Portrait Photography Tips and Trends]

1. Senior Videos

These slide-show type videos became a huge hit in 2020 when the world was shut down and we couldn’t have shoots. Instead of sitting around waiting for things to open back up, I revisited work I had at the ready. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that I decided to repeat the process again this year. These videos were the perfect addition to virtual graduation parties and announcements, and I know other senior portrait photographers would be able to do this for clients.

The Process

I have each senior fill out a short questionnaire to give me their own words and thoughts, and then I create the short video for them to share with their friends and family. I use photos from their senior session that are already delivered so that I can be maximally efficient.

I use Animoto to create my videos, but there are many other slide-show creation softwares that you can try. Just beware that with some you have to pay to license the music separately. Having to pay individually for each music license may become cost-prohibitive if you are producing videos on a large scale or offering them to your entire client list. And remember, downloading a song from the internet does not give you permission to use it in a video!

[Read: Are You Properly Using Music for Films and Highlight Reels?]

Since I am all-inclusive (and already have an Animoto plan worked into my cost of doing business), I give these videos away for free to any senior who has booked with me. It would be very easy, however, to monetize them as a part of a spring graduation package or solo offering for senior portrait photographers who aren’t all-inclusive. Videos take me about 15 minutes to create using Animoto’s drag-and-drop templates, and then I upload them to Vimeo and send the videos out into the world. You could even choose three or four standard templates and just rotate through those as new video requests come in.

Here are some examples of the senior videos I’ve done.

2. Next Steps Mini Sessions

Several years ago, it became very clear that one single senior portrait photography shoot was never going to be enough for me. I want to walk with these emerging adults through their entire senior year, beyond just that one meeting the summer before school even begins.

But rather than take on the hassle of complicated model or rep programs, I decided to offer my bonus opportunities to all of my seniors. I pride myself on making the senior experience completely inclusive. I don’t want anyone to feel excluded because they don’t look or act or think a certain way, or because they don’t “match” my brand. My goal is to be one of the senior portrait photographers who always makes more room at the table rather than the one who says, “You can’t sit with us!”

[Read: The Right Way To Do Mini Sessions—Special for Them, Profitable for You]

Enter my Next Steps Mini Sessions. Why “Next Steps” and not “college T-shirt”? Because honestly, while many may show up in their spirit wear, that path is not what lies ahead for everyone. Not all of these kids are going to go to college. Some may join the military, or take a gap year, work at a coffee shop or even backpack through a foreign country. And all of those are perfectly valid life choices. When I market these bonus mini sessions, I always make sure to send the message that no matter what their life is going to look like after high school, I’m here to celebrate them every step of the way.


In late spring of their senior year, I schedule two days of mini sessions. Minis are stacked back-to-back and each senior gets a 10-minute time slot. We take a few new photos that they can use on graduation announcements, in senior albums, or to send to friends and family and then call it a day. Turnaround on these images is fast because I can batch-edit everyone and then I simply add the final images to their gallery. I also reopen their gallery at this point in the year for parents to buy from, which peripherally increases print and product sales.

[Read: A Simple Sales Approach for Photographers Who Don’t Like In-Person Sales]

3. Letters of Encouragement

One of the hardest parts of parenting teenagers is feeling like you’re alone in the endeavor. When your babies are little, there is no lack of opinions coming at you from all angles—how to feed, how to sleep, making medical decisions. Everyone seems ready to tell you exactly what you *should* do to raise that kid. And it’s overwhelming! And then, in some dystopian turn of events, your child becomes a teenager and all those voices disappear!!! Where’s the mom group for 16-year-olds?? The pep squad for preteens??

Many of my senior parents have just come through one of the most isolating times in their parenting journey, which is also the time where the stakes are higher than ever before. They are barely keeping their head above water and yet still need to be the emotional support shoulder for their kid.

Spring of senior year is the perfect time to send a heartfelt letter of encouragement for senior portrait photographers. You could even send two if you’re feeling like an overachiever: one to the parents simply acknowledging that their efforts are noticed and make a difference; and the other to the seniors themselves, encouraging them in their final semester of high school, hyping up their accomplishments and generally being the cheerleader they all want in their corner.

If you want to go the extra mile, send your letter of encouragement via good ole paper and stamp. You could even print a favorite photo from their session on a 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 and attach your note to the back. (I love to use Artifact Uprising’s Everyday Print Set for these.)

These letters of encouragement will also serve a bonus purpose: low-cost marketing! You will be front of mind when junior friends start asking who to get their photos with, plus parents will likely remember that they meant to order just a few more prints…

I first sent my letter only to my email list for the senior class. The response was so overwhelmingly positive, however, that I included it on my blog to be available to a wider audience:

To our lovely MVP family and community –

I’ve been reading a lot on social media lately. Some days I feel all the joy and others not so much. I want to editorialize here for a minute though, and address a subject that has popped up in my feeds more than one.

You are absolutely allowed to grieve the loss of so many senior milestones due to this crazy pandemic.

We know that you are resilient. We know that you are going to change the world for the better. We KNOW (and feel it right beside you!) that this just plain sucks right now…

You can continue to read more here.

As high school senior portrait photographers, we are in a unique position to cheer these young adults on and help them feel seen, heard and celebrated. I’d love to hear what you’re trying with your seniors this year. DM me @maryvancephotography or send an email. I can’t wait to connect with you!

Mary Vance is a lifestyle senior photographer and educator based in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. When not photographing seniors, she consults with creative small businesses to help them integrate their systems, workflows, and standard operating procedures.