Craig Stidham started his career as a fashion photographer 15 years ago. A few years later, he added senior portraits to his repertoire. His senior biz started on a rocky note–like most stories of photography businesses, BTW. He started out with seniors by modeling his work after inspiration from Google searches, but he wasn’t really happy with what he was getting. This, of course, impacted his business. So he decided to start shooting creative senior portraits instead!
Read on to hear more about how creative senior portraits helped Craig get his business back to bustling. Thanks for sharing!
I wasn’t happy with using other photographer’s work for inspiration. At the time, I felt like senior portraits needed to have a certain style in order to have an effective business. I needed my photos to sell. They weren’t my favorite, to be honest. So, I felt like my work was fake–it just wasn’t me. Then, one day it happened. I decided to make a change and start shooting with a different perspective. My perspective. I was going to make creative senior portraits, to treat and shoot seniors just like they were agency models.
I asked my other team members to come to a shoot and help out. A make-up artist, hair stylist and a wardrobe stylist joined me for a normal high school senior session. Keep in mind that using a team did not become widely popular until recently. The lessons I learned by using a team were extremely valuable. Having the flexibility to make changes on set lead to more creative senior portraits, too.
In the past, if you were to tell a senior that you were going to shoot them in a studio setting they would probably cancel. So I had to educate the client that a controlled environment offers a lot of flexibility. I was not interested in sitting in chairs, and would rather burn cheesy backdrops than to see them in my studio. Instead, I used the same tools of the fashion world–just the necessities like using apple boxes for stools and chairs. I have a 35’ square cyclorama wall with 20’ ceilings. By using the same tools, team members, and state of mind my biz was off to a brand new, creative start.
For location work, I changed that as well. At the time, I was taking a small generator out with me for electricity, which in the fashion world was a normal day. The term “off camera flash” really meant you purchased a hot shoe cord that allowed you to move the your speed light to a stroboframe. This was very popular in photojournalism and wedding photography. In fashion photography, we took the entire studio outside and powered it up with generators. It’s been done as far back as I can remember. Old school photographers just called it “bringing in lights.” So in short: For my creative senior portraits, I brought in lights.
With my team, equipment, and a senior for our model, the only thing needed was inspiration. A normal, non-practicing model-client to walk, act, express, and pose like proper agency talent. Turns out, this is where the “real” art happens.
I know my images are not your typical senior images. I also know that I only cater to a low percentage of the senior market–which is totally cool. I am only getting the seniors who are truly fashion forward, and who seek creative senior portraits. I embrace my creative style. To keep it simple, I am shooting images that trip my trigger and make me enjoy every day.
My words of advice–shoot happy. It’s really the best option for success in any market.
If you’d like to see more of Craig’s creative senior portraits, visit his site here.