“I open at the close…”
Graduation photography is one of the best packages I could have started with in my career, for so many reasons.
Clients book with me already thrilled for their monumental undertaking, striving for their degree, coming to an end.
With that end, comes so many new beginnings. There are clear goals in mind with graduation photography and it can be simple, straightforward. Clients are dressed up and ready to put on their best face. Our shoot is outside, so typically we check the weather multiple times leading up to the shoot, especially in Florida. We work around campus, a familiar landscape after a few sessions, especially as a previous student. From there, we work on traditional photos, with the iconic monuments and spots on each campus that truly make it home to generations and generations of students.
But, what makes each session stand alone from each other are the experiences shared by the client.
They look back on those four years or so, and work to capture those finer moments, and sometimes not so fine, with me doing my thing in a two hour window of time. I get to hear about the moments they loved or hated, and all the dreams they have for their very near future. That’s when we get creative and specific.
Graduation is a time that enhances your potential for manifesting, dreaming, pushing yourself. And for me, being around that energy consistently has only benefitted my potential for growth.
I would show up for shoot after shoot with the same earnest sparkle in all of the client’s eyes. It tested me. At first, I was so worried I wasn’t on the right path, and I deviated from my plan, and the outlook I had on my life, a lot in 2022. These graduation sessions made me feel like I was stuck. I was shooting grads moving on and out from Tallahassee, and for me it was now home. Somehow that felt stagnant. I grew up in my adult life here and running a business is never stagnant. While I may not stay here forever, it is a home I chose for myself, and put deep roots down professionally. I was also worried I hadn’t had enough college-like experiences. And still, comparing my path to my clients became - well, so freakin dumb.
I kept shooting graduation sessions. I realized no one path as described to me, was the same. I’ve had large families, clients with tons of friends, clients with complicated family equations, or just the client. For my graduation session, it was just me. There is nothing wrong with any of these situations. I’ve shot clients who have special needs, who have graduated with highest honors and multiple degrees, or by the skin of their teeth. I’ve also met so many pets, my absolutely favorite.
This is true of so many scenarios, but a lesson repeated becomes law. Everyone’s path is unlike others. Experiences, like working with pending alumni, truly helps me see every client as they are, through all avenues. Personally, it’s enhanced how I interact with people as well. Continuing a standard of practice and looking at every package and booking with a clear outlook, has rolled over into my personal life and how I build relationships. Some of the smartest people I know are not doctors, lawyers, etc. And some of the most untrustworthy people, are.
Graduation sessions focus on branding clients and their futures.
I prioritize solid headshots to start off with, surrounded by greenery and brick, or a city background. This is easy for them, they start to get a little comfortable with me pointing a camera at them, and hyping them up. I start to explain how the session will go, an introduction while they hold more of a stiff pose; “So this is how I will likely pose you a few times today, point your feet this way, pick up your chin, stretch your neck-” etc. Then, they think about that kind of pose throughout the shoot, while also just naturally working through prompts I give them, and being themselves. Those are the best photos, clients just candid and emotional - that’s always the goal.
As we progress, I work with those highlights of campus, cover any special requests, and get solid shots. I envision their mom pinning to the fridge back home, or printing out on shutterfly graduation announcements, but always with my own twist. Lastly, we focus on personality. What do you want to gain from this shoot? What can we do to specifically target your story here? This is accomplished more often with friends, popping champagne, pets, or props. From here, clients start to feel like I’m someone they can *actually* trust to make their gallery perfect. I love the texts I get, at 2 am or in the middle of the day - “Are you done editing, yet?” because that means my client is thrilled about the moments we shared together, and to see all we accomplished. I make my art from those raw emotions in the captures, and somehow the edit comes to life.
This practice has shaped me so much when I approach shoots that are so different or challenging in different ways than graduation. It has made me see people for their story and their dreams. It helps me to clearly see them and their character. Then the real work starts - making art.
And that has been my open. I built my brand and style up from this understanding. I am working constantly on how clients see my work and appreciate the product they get back, authentically.