I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the 3 DVD set from the Senior Portrait Artists 2009 convention and it has transformed my thinking (and practice) about senior portraiture.
There is no doubt moving forward my senior business will be done differently (and better). Translation = more bookings + more print sales = more revenue. The added bonus is that many of the marketing ideas and practices will improve my overall photography business.
"SPA at the Rock 2009" is three DVD's packed with 4 1/2 hours if information from start to finish. No fluff here.
DVD 1 is all about shooting, shooting at different locations, with different challenges, some sessions are in brilliant mid day sun and others in overcast cloudy days. There are also many "breakout" sessions done in and around the hotel where the event was held. During each training session photographers like Bob and Krista Ashmun, Ken Kneringer, Kevin Harrington, Tim Babin, and Fuzzy Duenkel walk us through how any photographer can not only overcome each situation specifically, but also how to overcome obstacles in general to get the best possible shot with what we are presented.
DVD's 2 & 3 take us to "business school" where Kirk Voclain, Kent Smith Photography, Kia Bondurant, Nancy Nardi, and John Ratchford share with us the business ideas and practices that make them some of the most successful senior studios in the country (and Canada). What makes their stories even more impressive is when you learn that some of these studios are in communities of only 15,000 people yet despite the small population they are still wildly successful.
The final 30 minutes of DVD 3 is a "round table" discussion with some of the attendees of SPA at the Rock 2009 where we get to sit in and listen to the challenges they face in their studios and how they will take what they have learned from the convention and apply it when they return home.
One person in particular drove home the reality and credibility of the presenting instructors, it was photographer Sarah Smith, who told two stories, one that impressed me, the other that moved me.
What impressed me was her way of thinking and presenting things in a positive light, she shared a story of how one studio in her area would warn seniors that if they were 15 minutes late for their session they would lose one outfit (some photographers set senior sessions by the number of outfits worn), Sarah tells her seniors that if they are ten minutes early for their session they'll receive a $10 credit towards their prints. Both want to accomplish the same thing, having the client arrive on time, but which one does a better job and has the added benefit of presenting a positive? You really don't have to answer that, it was kinda rhetorical.
What moved me was when Sarah talked about the challenge of shooting a "heavier" senior, she did it with far more sensitivity than I am able to put into words. It gave her great credibility as a person and made everything else she said even more believable, more impressive.
I am a self admitted frugal person (my daughters are less generous in their descriptions), so I know many will pause when they go to the SPA order page and see a price of $599 for this DVD set, but all it will take is one senior session to make back that money and moving forward every session you ever book, every print sale you make because of the techniques you learned from this DVD is money in your pocket you otherwise never would have had.
If you can't take anything away from this DVD to improve your studio you are either already wildly successful, or should think about doing something else.
Here are a couple videos that will provide you a good "sneak peek" for what is contained.