Years ago, as I was transitioning into focusing on high school seniors, I wanted to make sure my images stood out next to my peers. One thing that kept coming back to me when brainstorming ways to differentiate myself was how much better my sessions were the more I knew about the senior. I made a list of questions then, but I have no idea where it is now. Now, it’s more of a conversation than an inquisition, but here are five of the questions I always ask to get to know my senior clients:
- What are your interests at school? This is standard, but it’s where you find out their years and years of soccer, football, basketball, the clubs, and academies. I love shooting sports and clubs creatively, but school interests are just scratching the surface!
- What are your interests outside of school? This is by far more revealing than asking about their interests in school. It’s This is when you find out she wants to be a pilot or is obsessed with a certain author or sews her own clothes. He might love fixing computers or training his dog or is going into the family business. Help them envision what that could look like in pictures because they’ve seen all the sports images, maybe they haven’t seen what can be done with other interests.
- What would you wear to a concert? Not just any concert, but say, Taylor Swift or similar. I found just asking what they wear when they dress up gets one of two responses. They either tell me they don’t dress up or they describe what I would call “church clothes.” And while there is nothing wrong with church clothes, it’s not the same as concert clothes, which is what I want them to think about.
- What is your favorite part of yourself? Sometimes they’ll say they love their hair, or their shoulders, or their personality, but sometimes they just shake their heads and say “nothing,” like it would be embarrassing to openly appreciate any part of themselves. At this point, sometimes the mom will jump in and fill in the blank for them, but if she doesn’t, I’ll just offhandedly say, “I love your smile” and move on because I’m hoping that later, once they’ve had a chance to think and they don’t feel so spotlighted, or even at the session, they’ll finally feel the freedom to say, “Can you show my back in this top?” Or “Do you want me to flex for this one?” And that’s when I know I’ve gained their trust. They know I’m here to make them look good and I usually reward them with a look at the back of the camera.
- I always ask if they have a car. I don’t ask if it’s cool, whether they love it, or anything like that. Usually, it isn’t and they don’t. I explain to them their car, no matter how much of a junker they think it is, is part of their story. The mom usually begins nodding her head at this point. I say, “It’s the car you got your first speeding ticket in or you crammed all of your friends into for ice cream and stuff like that. It’s part of your story. Give it a wash, get the drink cups out of it, and bring it along. Let’s use it as a prop. It’s not the star of the show, but it’s definitely part of your story.
Once you get their answers, begin helping them dream what that could look like in pictures. Show them examples of what you can do and let them express their own thoughts. You will be amazed at what you can create together!