Senior Moments: The Art of Photographing High School Seniors with Leslie Kerrigan
Senior portrait photography might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like any other genre of photography, you’ve got to make your clients feel comfortable in order to make your photos shine.
In order to bring that level of comfort, you’ve got to do the legwork beforehand to prepare your clients – and yourself. Teenagers appreciate the experience, so do what you can to make it a positive one for them.
In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Leslie Kerrigan, a senior portrait photographer from South Carolina. Leslie shares advice on how to start working with teens, how to bring out her clients’ personality during a shoot, and innovative ways to market teen photography and get your name out there.
What’s in this episode:
- [05:06] Why Leslie decided to focus on senior photography and her advice for those who are intimidated to start working with teens
- [09:24] How Leslie handles posing female teens in a way that doesn’t appear too sexy, and her thoughts on teens using filters on their photos
- [13:38] Leslie’s process on how to extract a client’s personality during a shoot, especially when they are shy
- [18:05] Leslie’s tips on how to enforce boundaries and provide clarity to ensure that a senior photo shoot doesn’t become an entire family reunion photo shoot
- [23:30] Innovative ways to market for teen photography and get your name out there, including using a spokesmodel team
Tune in to this episode for how to incorporate senior photo shoots into your photography services.
And if you want to hear more from Leslie and how she’s bringing the poses and personality to her senior photography sessions, she’ll be teaching at our online 2023 Family Retreat! (Grab your spot now!)
Leslie Kerrigan is a photographer in South Carolina specializing in high school senior portraits. She is obsessed with helping other photographers be successful and profitable in their senior photography businesses through her education site, Seniorologie. In addition to teaching photographers through her coaching program, she has hosted her own workshops and conferences as well as spoken at WPPI, Creative Live, Clickin Moms, and PPA. She has had her work featured in Rangefinder and The Wall Street Journal. When she is not photographing senior clients or helping other photographers with their businesses, she can be found hanging with her family including her husband, two teenage boys and Henry, her toy doodle.
Connect with Leslie
Did this episode inspire you to try senior portrait photography? Check out this episode Spotlight on Senior Portraits: Cultivating Confidence in Teen Sessions with Ariel Perry that offers you even more insight on finding alignment in your business!
[00:00:00] Leslie Kerrigan We cannot just show up on a session and expect the same kind of results personality wise if we didn’t do the homework in the beginning. So I do a lot of pre-session consultations, wardrobe consultations, a questionnaire to get to know them. I sit with them at hair and makeup when I am not holding my camera and I’m just talking to them while they’re getting their hair and makeup done. All of that allows me to get to know them. Break down those barriers. They’re not nervous anymore because they’ve gotten to know me through all that process. So I think that helps, number one. And then number two, just like I said earlier, just being silly and making them laugh at me, I think really helps. And just talking to them. I think too much silence with a teenager is a bad thing. So you want to constantly tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Ask them questions. I refer back to the questionnaire on a shoot. I’m like, Oh yeah, that story you told on my questionnaire about that memory in high school. That’s so funny because this happened to me and I share that or things like that. I think that’s really what gets their personality out.
[00:01:08] Lisa DiGeso Welcome to the Art and Soul Show where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business life and that messy in between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the Art and Soul Show. Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show today. I’m super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Leslie Kerrigan. Leslie is a photographer in South Carolina specializing in high school senior portraits. She’s obsessed with helping other photographers be successful and profitable in their senior photography business through her education site, Seniorologie. In addition to teaching photographers through her coaching program, she has hosted her own workshops and conferences as well as spoken at WPPI, Creative Live, Clickin Moms and PPA. She has had her work featured in Rangefinder and The Wall Street Journal. When she’s not photographing senior clients or helping other photographers with their businesses, she can be found hanging with her family, including her husband, two teenage boys, and Henry, her toy doodle. Welcome, Leslie.
[00:02:42] Leslie Kerrigan Thank you so much. You’ll probably hear Henry bark in the background.
[00:02:46] Lisa DiGeso I love it. I love it. Maybe he’ll make a little cameo. You might never know. So tell us really who you are and what you’re really, really passionate about. I know that I kind of like dove in a little bit on your your bio there, but I want to know more.
[00:02:58] Leslie Kerrigan Well, I am super passionate about helping other photographers because when I started, I didn’t really have any help. And I know that sometimes, you know, reaching out to other photographers can be intimidating and some will help you and some won’t. So through that process, I figured out that, you know what, I want to be able to be a resource for photographers so they don’t have to be intimidated to ask for help because, I mean, it can be lonely to run your own photography business. So super passionate about helping other photographers, super passionate about helping young girls, mostly, I do photograph boys, too, but you know, I do the majority of girls, but both really feeling good about themselves when they’re a senior in high school. It’s such a special time, you know, in your life. It’s kind of scary, but exciting all at the same time. I love to connect with them and really show them what everybody else sees.
[00:03:49] Lisa DiGeso I love that. I love that so much. I’m in Canada and so senior photography really isn’t a huge thing here. Like, it is such a crazy untapped market that I’m like, seriously, photographers in every city would have like a monopoly. It’s insane, how it’s just a wide open ocean up here.
[00:04:06] Leslie Kerrigan Well, it’s funny you say that, because when I started a long time ago, it wasn’t really a thing where I live either. The only thing that they high school seniors did was go get that very traditional yearbook photo where everybody looks the same on a blue backdrop with the black fake draped like a fake tux or drape or whatever. And they still get those. But when I started, you know, over 15 years ago, that was it. That’s what people thought was the only option. And it was. But that’s also kind of why I started, because I was every market is somewhat oversaturated with photographers and I was like, you know what? Instead of competing with all these other photographers in my area, let me do something different. That way nobody’s competing, you know, or I don’t feel like I’m competing because I’m doing something they’re not really doing. So I had to create my own market. So if there’s any Canadians listening and you want to know how to create the market, call me.
[00:04:59] Lisa DiGeso Seriously and we’ll make sure that we have all your info for Seniorologie in our link set for for our listeners out there. So as a photographer that you have specifically focused on senior photography, could you share maybe why specifically you chose this genre? And any advice for those that might be a little intimidated wanting to start working with teens?
[00:05:19] Leslie Kerrigan Yes. Yes. And I get that a lot about, you know, being intimidated because, you know, teenagers can be hard sometimes. I mean, you know.
[00:05:29] Lisa DiGeso My son is 14. He’s almost 14. And I’m like, yeah.
[00:05:34] Leslie Kerrigan I know. I have a 19 and a 17 year old. So yeah, you call me when he gets, you know, a little bit older. 14 is still good, honestly. Yeah. And not the 19 and 17 are bad, but I mean, you know, they’re just it is a different world. But I get the whole intimidated because, I mean, they just can be a little opinionated and you know, they think we’re old ladies. I mean, you know, that’s what they probably think about me. I’m uncool or whatever. So I get that mentality of, oh my gosh, I don’t want to seem uncool or I don’t want to seem like I don’t know what I’m doing or whatever when it comes to teenagers. So it can scare some photographers off. But I just go with it because I’m just like, you know what? If they’re laughing at me, at least they’re laughing and having a good time. So I say, don’t get all up in your head. They’re not as critical as you think they might be. You know what I mean? And really, the goal is just to have fun with them. They want to have fun, too. They want to have somebody they can laugh at. And you’re not their mother. So that’s a plus, right? Like my kids think I’m so uncool, but every one of their friends likes me. You know what I mean? But why I started focusing on seniors, number one, like I said earlier about not really wanting to compete, I shot every genre there is. I am not a baby person whatsoever. So that was out. I joke that even my own babies weren’t my favorite when they were babies. Just because I don’t like to not know what’s going on. And you know, babies can’t communicate anyway, so that through all those different genres of weddings I don’t love only because you can’t redo them if something happens. I mean, that’s super stressful. And I just, you know, I do mesh well with teens and they actually mostly want to have their photo taken, or even if they don’t, they’ll sit still and do what you tell them to do. Whereas kids, you know, run around. When I was first starting out and taking photos of kids where I live very Southern, I’m in South Carolina and every mother wanted that perfect photo and that is not what kids are. So I had to get out of that real fast because I’m like, look, I mean, you can have the perfectly posed sitting on the porch and pretend that the whole, you know, day was perfect. But really they were throwing blocks each other or whatever. So anyway, seniors tend to do what you tell them a little bit more so.
[00:07:59] Lisa DiGeso They can take a little bit more direction. And, you know, it’s so funny. I was just thinking I was like, if you think about like back to when you were actually that age and a senior, I don’t think I was thinking about anybody else beyond my self right at that age. Right. Like, I wasn’t judging other people. I was so worried the world was judging me. Yeah.
[00:08:14] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah, right. Absolutely. Well, and you can, you know, no matter what age you are, everybody’s most everybody’s been a senior at this point in our lives. Right. So you can remember what it was like. And it’s not that much different than, you know, when I was a senior versus when current seniors are seniors. You all go through the same stuff. So I think you can relate to them on that level and really just give them the opportunity to just have fun and be okay just with it being all about them and not, you know, not worry about anything else. Just have a good time.
[00:08:47] Lisa DiGeso I love it. And it’s such a such a beautiful thing to just celebrate that time of a child’s life, really, because it’s such an age of like, transformation of like and all those questions like, what are you going to do with your life? What are you going to do for your job? And it’s just like, you know, I’m not done being a kid yet. I have no idea. And so it’s kind of just that time where you get to celebrate them, just who they are with that personality right then. So special. I love that.
[00:09:12] Leslie Kerrigan And it also is just a great time to celebrate because family dynamics change, especially when the oldest one goes off to school. So that’s super important too.
[00:09:21] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, yeah, that’s so true. Now I think there’s a little bit of a fear, especially when posing female teens and seniors, especially with sexiness and making sure things are not coming across too sexy. So how do you you deal with that when you’re working with a client?
[00:09:39] Leslie Kerrigan Well, I think the first thing to do is to look at the way they’re dressed. Because if they are dressed a little bit more in a revealing manner than your poses have to go the complete opposite, right? Like they have to be way traditional, in my opinion. If they’re a little more covered up and what they’re wearing, you might can push the boundaries a little bit. I mean, never being too sexy or anything like that. But I’m saying like you watch individual clients a little bit more is my best advice. There are some girls that can pull off like this model type pose, and it doesn’t appear to be wrong for them. Right. And then there are others where you know that this one, this girl’s a little more traditional or, you know, maybe she wore something that maybe I don’t want to focus too much on whatever that outfit might be focusing on. Right. So I think it’s a little bit of watching your client, knowing how far you can really kind of push them in one direction or the other and what they’re wearing. And I often always say, please don’t wear something too short or too tight, because then you really are limited in posing because no matter what you do with something too short and too tight, it’s still too short and too tight, you know? And I also think start out when it comes to posing, start out very easy and simple, always just very easy, simple poses. Then as you’re getting more comfortable with your client again, you can see how far you can push them and also tell them not to wear strapless.
[00:11:05] Lisa DiGeso Right.
[00:11:07] Leslie Kerrigan You know, if you get too close, it looks like they don’t have anything on. Yeah.
[00:11:12] Lisa DiGeso Good point. Yeah, I’m impressed actually, with the social media. It’s like especially in the teen age, like we never grew up with that, with seeing everything on social media, seeing all your friends with filters. How as a photographer, are you finding the response when they are getting their photos on? And we’re not putting filters on when it’s something maybe they’re used to doing?
[00:11:34] Leslie Kerrigan You know, I haven’t run into a ton of my clients using filters. I mean, one person stands out in my mind and it was kind of it became a joke because she always applied a filter. But most often I don’t find that they’re applying filters and. I find that they like the very natural. This is, you know, this is who I am and, you know, the best possible way. Rather than applying the filters, I feel like sometimes the filters kind of cover up something that maybe they think they need to cover up. But if you do a good job on the session of making them feel really good, then they end up feeling really good about the photos. I mean, I joke and say you could take a really crappy photo, but if you made the person feel really good about themselves, then they’re going to love that photo no matter what. So then I think that eliminates the need to put a filter on it. Do you know what I mean?
[00:12:29] Lisa DiGeso Totally.
[00:12:30] Leslie Kerrigan That’s my theory, anyway.
[00:12:31] Lisa DiGeso I love that. I love that you’re not running into that because it was always just been like a wonder and a concern, just with all the kids just being like, it’s just so inundated it. Right? And I mean, even like me, like I’m 45 and like, heck, I’ll throw the Paris filter on just to smooth my skin like. Right. Absolutely. No shame in the game. Absolutely.
[00:12:52] Leslie Kerrigan I once put the doggie filter on just to be funny and somebody like messaged me and told me how dumb that was. And I was like, Oh God, okay, sorry. Because I didn’t have makeup on. I was like, okay, let me throw this filter on and be funny. And it did not go over well.
[00:13:07] Lisa DiGeso It’s so funny because I’m on TikTok and I’m just like, the filters are getting like, terrifying. Like I can like, side tangent, I can’t even imagine online dating with, like, catfishing that you can do with it. Like, it’s nuts. Oh, my God.
[00:13:20] Leslie Kerrigan The orange filter was a big thing for a little while. And the one person that sticks out in my mind, that kind of became a joke. It was very much that orange filter, which I do think has phased out, thank God. Yeah, right. No more filters, please.
[00:13:38] Lisa DiGeso I love it. So what I really love about your work is that you really also follow the personality from your client. So can you maybe share your process to extract a client’s vibe?
[00:13:46] Leslie Kerrigan So I think the major thing you have to do is prior to the session. We cannot just show up on a session and expect the same kind of results personality wise if we didn’t do the homework in the beginning. So I do a lot of free session consultations, wardrobe consultations, a questionnaire to get to know them. I sit with them at hair and makeup when I am not holding my camera and I’m just talking to them while they’re getting their hair and makeup done. All of that allows me to get to know them, break down those barriers. They’re not nervous anymore because they’ve gotten to know me through all that process. So I think that helps, number one. And number two, just being silly and making them laugh at me, I think really helps. And just talking to them. I think too much silence with a teenager is a bad thing, so you want to constantly tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Ask them questions. I refer back to the questionnaire on a shoot. I’m like, Oh yeah, that story you told on my questionnaire about that memory in high school. That’s so funny because this happened to me and I share that or things like that. I think that’s really what gets their personality out.
[00:14:57] Lisa DiGeso I love that. Now, what about clients who tend to be on the shy side? Sometimes it’s the parents advocate and they’ve got this really introverted kid that they’re really hoping that you can bring out of their shell. So what would be your approach when working with a shy client?
[00:15:10] Leslie Kerrigan That is very true. I can remember those clients. They kind of stand out in my mind and it’s a little bit of a challenge and I won’t sit here and lie to you guys and say that I haven’t had some that I just never got it out of. I have. I mean, it’s happened and and at a certain point during the session, you just know that this is all this person’s going to give me and that’s fine. But they’re few and far between, like I say, because I do all that work up front. And I do think that showing them the back of the camera, showing them the poses yourself, having that conversation during the photo shoot as opposed to it only being about do this, do that, that tends to help. Sitting with them at hair and makeup definitely helps. But again, you also have to watch your clients because those shy girls are never going to probably be okay doing some crazy pose, right? So, you know, you just know which ones you can push a little bit more posing wise and which ones you have to stick to the more traditional poses. But getting them laughing and talking is the best way to get them out of their shell. And I can literally talk to a lamppost for an hour and a half.
[00:16:18] Lisa DiGeso I think honestly, it’s a skill that you really need to develop as a photographer is really just finding ways for people to be at ease with you and to relax in front of your camera. Because as you and I both know, the minute someone starts to have that doubt, you can see it in their eyes, right?
[00:16:38] Leslie Kerrigan Oh, yeah. And then they shut down. Yeah, absolutely. So I think praising them along the way, showing them the back of the camera so they know because I think the worst thing is them just not realizing, they don’t know what we’re doing. So if you don’t show them how you’re doing this. Really well and oh, my God, I’m praising them. Girl, you’ve that shot is amazing. I think that goes a long way, especially when it comes to teenagers feeling, you know, somewhat awkward. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have some teenagers that I don’t even have to pose because they come prepared, but most are not that prepared. Most of us don’t have our photos taken all the time.
[00:17:12] Lisa DiGeso You know, it’s funny because I’m sure your children were the same as mine. Like, he grew up with a camera in front of him, but now.
[00:17:18] Leslie Kerrigan He does not want his photo taken probably.
[00:17:21] Lisa DiGeso Painful. And so last night I was like, trying some lighting in my studio and I had my son coming just to help me and they’re so funny at how awful they are and how miserable he is and like, he needs me to know that. Right.
[00:17:34] Leslie Kerrigan I would add. But would you let me tell you a little secret about the video that I did for the retreat? It’s my son and I had to buy him an X-Box to get him to do it. So there you go.
[00:17:47] Lisa DiGeso I mean, we still bribe around here, too. I took him. No joke. Actually, we did the test shots. He helped me build a fake wall. And then he’s like, Mom can we skip the dishes, And I’m like, Oh, babe, it’s 830 at night. It’s going to take an hour to get here. I’m like, Let’s just go to McDonald’s.
[00:17:59] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah, good bribe right.
[00:18:02] Lisa DiGeso Price is still cheap, so I’m sure without clarity beforehand, the photographer can really run into a senior session that turns into an entire family session, including grandparents and extended family, which I mean can be great, but only when it’s pre discussed prior. Now, can you maybe share your advice on making things crystal clear with your clients so you don’t end up photographing a family reunion when you actually booked a senior portrait session?
[00:18:33] Leslie Kerrigan I do love when my clients bring a sibling or their mother, especially just because moms are rarely in the photo. So I do when I am talking to them, when they’re inquiring, when I’m talking to them after they’ve boooked through the pre session consultation, I mention, you know, hey, it’s always a good idea to have maybe your mom dressed up and ready for a photo, not super dressed up, but just ready to jump in a photo. And then sometimes that turns into, well, what about the entire family? And I’m okay if it’s the immediate family. And I just say, okay, yep, we’ll grab a very few and the last 5 minutes of the session because this session is all about the senior. But if that turns into what if I can bring my dog and my grandmother out, then you just have to be very clear that, okay, more people just means that it’s its own session. So happy to book. Let’s go ahead and book that. Let’s go ahead and put that on the books. We can do a mini session that is a family session or we can do a full session. But either way, once you get over about four people that become because you know, they’re going to want the senior with grandma and grandpa and, you know, all the different variations. Right. And that does become more than 5 minutes. So I think when you talk to them in the inquiry, being upfront about that, who you be bringing to the session, if you want to bring your mom or your sibling, that’s fine. But it’s the last 5 minutes and that’s it. If that becomes more, well, what about my whole family then you just say, let’s book that as a separate session, because this session is all about the senior and that many people will require more time and that becomes its own session. So you just have to tell them. I mean, and most clients are totally okay with that.
[00:20:16] Lisa DiGeso And I think that’s the funny thing is it’s something that you don’t really realize at the beginning that like all the the things that we, you know, are clear about now are probably things that we bumped up against ourselves. Like, I remember like I think I’d been shooting maybe less than a year and I booked a family session and I was expecting five people and 22 people showed up and I was like, Oh my God.
[00:20:39] Leslie Kerrigan Were you so stressed? I would have been.
[00:20:42] Lisa DiGeso Oh, yes. I was like, What happened here? Like, how did I mess this up so badly that they thought 22 people was perfectly fine to bring, right? For the price that I’m charging.
[00:20:52] Leslie Kerrigan That’s crazy.
[00:20:53] Lisa DiGeso Like it was literally it was literally five. It was two, I think it was two grandparents and then it was like five. And then it was just nuts. It was nuts. Yeah.
[00:21:04] Leslie Kerrigan Well, you know, you can always add to the questionnaire. Who will you be bringing with you on the shoot in case they just never talked about family. Right. Because I mean, that’s another thing they didn’t know what they don’t know, like, so they didn’t know not, you know, not to bring that many people or not to tell you that they were going to bring that many people. So adding that to the questionnaire can help. And I do always say bring with you who is going to be the most supportive, but also don’t bring too many people because it’ll feel like you’re on display. So I think that can help too. But definitely a free session consultation. I do a wardrobe consultation, which is kind of my pre-session slash what to wear. Yeah, and that’s when we talk about it. Okay, so who’s coming with you? And I take notes and so those types of things can help you pull out what you need to know, because clients don’t know what they don’t know, they don’t know what we know anyway, you know?
[00:21:59] Lisa DiGeso Exactly. And even I remember like adding in a boat mobility issue and like, that was that was one that was huge. I was like, I had planned this location and it was not something you know, this is maybe two years and I wasn’t asking this question. And then we got to the location and I was like, Oh, gosh, this is never going to work.
[00:22:16] Leslie Kerrigan Right.
[00:22:17] Lisa DiGeso So I need to have like make sure that this is on me. I need to be asking these questions like.
[00:22:23] Leslie Kerrigan Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think my policies and procedures change every year because of something that I didn’t think about putting in there because it happened and on the fly you deal with it, but then you take it, okay, I’m learning from this. This is now what I have to put in my contract or my policies or whatever or what you have to ask your clients.
[00:22:43] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. I think there is a misconception maybe with newer photographers thinking that when they do bump into these things, they’re not normal or like they’re a bad photographer, they’re a bad business person and it’s really not the case. Like we’re just learning from all these lessons too. Like, none of us has got this figured out perfectly well.
[00:23:00] Leslie Kerrigan I mean, I’ve been in those forever, 15 years, and I learn something new every year. I know that’s going to be policy. Seriously, you can’t possibly foresee what could come up. So have a general policies plan, have a general contract. But it’s always evolving based on what you learn in every day, dealing with sessions and people and every client’s a little bit different and some will push you a little harder than others, right?
[00:23:30] Lisa DiGeso So let’s talk maybe a little bit about marketing for teen photography. So maybe can you share your thoughts on some innovative ways to start getting your name out and booked?
[00:23:38] Leslie Kerrigan Yes. Well, I don’t know how innovative this is, but majors are on social media, so that’s number one. And I run up against this like helping other photographers, you know, especially if they are around the age, which is, you know, we didn’t grow up with social. It doesn’t come easy for a lot of us. Right. But with teenagers, that’s where they are. So you got to figure out a way to be you that be you on social right and attract them. I mean, I always go with about five marketing things with seniors, senior model team, social media, SEO and blogging, your website needs to attract high school seniors, so you don’t want them to see newborns or weddings or any of that right off the bat. Does that mean you can’t do that? It’s just if you really want the majority of your business to be on seniors, they need to see themselves, right? Same thing for your social media. They have to see themselves on your social media. So if you’re showing a whole lot of other genres and not a lot of seniors, it’s kind of a catch 22. I mean, I get it. You got to go out and create some content because they’ve got to see that. And then word of mouth is the other is the fifth thing. But, you know, moms talk. So giving your clients a really good experience and really given the mom a lot of and I say moms it could be dads, whoever but moms are typically who book me but giving them a lot of info and helping them being super organized, they’re the ones they’re going to spread the word of mouth a lot. The girls will talk to their friends or the boys will say who their photographer is. So that’s other word of mouth. But then they will share it on social. So they’re going to share it a little bit more. Moms going to see it share it on Facebook. So I think those while they’re not super innovative, I guess that’s what works. That just being consistent in those five things, that’s how you get your name out there, but you got to have the content to do it.
[00:25:34] Lisa DiGeso I love it. So tell me more about senior model teams.
[00:25:36] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah, so Senior model team, it is actually funny story. The only reason I even ever did a senior model team was the very first time I ever went to WPPI. It wasn’t even a class. But have you ever been to WPPI?
[00:25:50] Lisa DiGeso I haven’t, actually.
[00:25:52] Leslie Kerrigan Oh no, you need to go, you know. But everybody piles out of a class and the women immediately go to the bathroom like, that’s what we do. Okay, so we’re all in line in the bathroom. And I’m like, eavesdropping over this conversation between two other photographers and I hear the term senior spokesmodel team. And she really didn’t elaborate. Like, I was like, huh, you know, I mean spokesmodel is pretty self-explanatory, right? So I’m like, okay. So I literally went home and started figuring out, okay, how can I do this? And that was right when I also was deciding to specialize in seniors. And that, I would say, is why I’m where I am today. If I hadn’t have done that, I would not have gotten my name out as a senior photographer because I was marketing myself, but I’m one person. But if you have a team of spokesmodels who are also helping you market, you get that many more people talking about you to people they know, and then it’s a domino effect. So, in a sense, it’s a team of high school senior girls that help you market your business and give you that content that you need in order to say, I photograph seniors.
[00:27:01] Lisa DiGeso I love it. Now, are you exchanging images for them for their guest referral? Referral marketing, I guess.
[00:27:07] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah, it’s referral marketing. And way back when I did my first team I think was class of 2012. That was more, that was very extremely referral based, meaning you have to do this in order to get this right. Like you have to get one referral in order to get your senior, your individual senior photo session was what I did. Nowadays I would say that because I’ve had a team since 2012, it’s a little looser when it comes to referrals. I mean, yes, they’re supposed to share their images and yes, they’re supposed to tag me in them and talk about me to their friends. But I found that over the years, teenagers are different today than they were in 2012. Not to say today’s teen doesn’t work as hard, but the ones in 2012 really did like went out of their way to help me. Right. And now it’s more, I think it’s more experience based and they want it to feel authentic. So if you give them a great experience, then they are sharing and telling their friends about you and of course, tagging you every time you do photoshoots. Because as a model team member, you do get more than just your senior photo session. You get to participate in these group sessions with the team. So you’re kind of constantly always getting content throughout the year, both the photographer and the team to share. So therefore you’re always in front of someone with fresh new content.
[00:28:33] Lisa DiGeso I love this because I’m a newborn photographer primarily, but I also love children’s fine art. And so my brain is going I’m like, What if I had a children’s fine art team?
[00:28:42] Leslie Kerrigan Oh, I think you totally could. Yeah, I think it could apply to several genres. I mean, the bottom line is every client could actually be a spokesmodel. You could create a card to give every single client at the end of their session that says, If you tag me, you’ll get $10 off your order or whatever you want to do, or a free 5 by 7 or whatever. And I think essentially you could make anyone a spokesmodel, or I do think you could have a team. Moms would eat that up because they want their child to be on it.
[00:29:15] Lisa DiGeso And how big is your team?
[00:29:16] Leslie Kerrigan So I my first year in 2012, I had four. Now I have 32.
[00:29:22] Lisa DiGeso Oh my gosh.Now is it like 32 of the same grad class?
[00:29:26] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah.
[00:29:27] Lisa DiGeso And are they like from the same school or like various schools?
[00:29:30] Leslie Kerrigan Different schools, different schools, some same. I mean, you know, there’s probably a handful from the school in that school. And where I live, there’s maybe ten major high schools now. And also from year to year, different high schools apply, like for class of 2024, there’s a school that I didn’t get any applicants from this year that I do have currently on my team. So it fluctuates a little bit. Back when it was very, very referral based, I limited the number per school because I didn’t want them feeling like they were competing for those referrals. Now that it’s more experience based and you know, there’s no set like you have to get five referrals type thing. Now I don’t necessarily limit it.
[00:30:08] Lisa DiGeso I love that. Now what does the application process look like?
[00:30:10] Leslie Kerrigan They sign up for a VIP list so that they’re the first to know around November or December of their junior year. All the ones that get on the list, get the info and the application, and they have to fill that out by a certain date. Then those that apply get invited to model info night and they have to bring a parent. Because you know, one thing I love teenagers that they don’t necessarily share all that info. So you want to make sure that everybody’s open to it because it’s not free. But they come to model info night and it allows me to explain the program in person because even though there’s a detailed, you know, magazine that goes out detailing the program, a, not everybody reads everything. B, sometimes explaining it in person is just a little bit better, right? So they have to come to that. I interview and I say that because it’s not a formal interview. It’s just I want to make sure I talk to every single person because I just want to make sure they all will get along and, you know, are all super excited, like their moms not making them do it kind of thing. I want to make sure they’re going to participate. And then I just pick which ones that I feel like are the best fit that, you know, kind of fit my brand and will mesh well together.
[00:31:23] Lisa DiGeso They pay to be part of the program, too. Yep. I love that, because that would that would just really eliminate no shows or just flakiness. Like that would really, really help.
[00:31:32] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah, there’s so much more invested if there is a fee. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did it free for several years and I probably wouldn’t tell someone starting out to do it free because it’s a lot of work. But at the same time, if I hadn’t done it, I don’t know that I could have gotten somebody on board because I wasn’t. I was somewhat of an established photographer, but I wasn’t seen as the senior photographer. Right. So just and nobody did a model team. So it’d be very weird to try to convince somebody, Hey, pay me whatever to be on this thing you’ve never heard of from this person you’ve never heard of. So I like to create the demand before I kind of charge. So now everybody was, you know, I shouldn’t say everybody, but a lot of people want to be on it. So now it’s, you know, kind of a no brainer. But yes, you do pay.
[00:32:18] Lisa DiGeso I just think it’s brilliant. I love it because you could just you could really use this for so many different genres. I think that’s. Fantastic.
[00:32:29] Leslie Kerrigan Well it’s basically taking influencer marketing before influencer was a thing. Spokesmodel is influencer it’s just nowadays we use the term influencer.
[00:32:36] Lisa DiGeso Totally. I love it. My brain’s gone on fire right now. I love it. So you ready to switch gears?
[00:32:44] Leslie Kerrigan Yes.
[00:32:44] Lisa DiGeso Okay. We’re going to go into our lightning round. So coffee or tea?
[00:32:48] Leslie Kerrigan Coffee and tea, sweet tea.
[00:32:50] Lisa DiGeso I’m Canadian and I have I don’t really know what sweet tea is about. Like Nestea iced tea or is it like Nestea iced tea?
[00:32:57] Leslie Kerrigan It’s iced tea, but you have to make it with the sugar originallly, like when you’re making it, not put a thing of sugar in it afterwards because that don’t work.
[00:33:06] Lisa DiGeso So is it. It’s like a tea bag?
[00:33:08] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah. So I just made some last night. You heat up four cups of water in the microwave. It has to be boiling water however you want to heat it up. Two teabags and you let those steep for a while. Then you make a simple syrup, which is one cup of sugar and one cup of water. Mix those together and then you add cold water until your pitcher’s full. It’s so good.
[00:33:32] Lisa DiGeso I’ve never had it. We just have like the Nestea powder stuff.
[00:33:34] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah. They do you make sun tea where you could, I’ve never done the sun tea where you put the tea in water and let it sit out in the sun. That’s like an old school kind of way, I think.
[00:33:44] Lisa DiGeso Oh, I might try that this summer. Favorite TV show as a kid?
[00:33:48] Leslie Kerrigan So as a kid, what did I love? I mean, I watch TV all the time. Like I’m on TV. Probably watch too much TV. I loved, like, Give Me a Break, and Silver Spoons, oh gosh, Facts of Life. That’s telling my age, but I loved all of those.
[00:34:06] Lisa DiGeso Yep same. You know, I watch everything. You know.
[00:34:08] Leslie Kerrigan Everything. Yeah. I even watched Dallas before I was probably old enough to watch Dallas.
[00:34:13] Lisa DiGeso Yep. Yep. I remember coming home and watching Young and the Restless.
[00:34:18] Leslie Kerrigan Oh, I still watch Young and the Restless, girl. Oh, my gosh, Don’t get me started. My mom watched it, so then I watched it and now I still watch it. I used to plan my, before I was a photographer and I had, like, you know, a different kind of job where I actually had to go to office. I would go home from 12:30 to 1:30 so I could have lunch and watch The Young and the Restless.
[00:34:39] Lisa DiGeso I love it. I love it. So morning person or night owl?
[00:34:43] Leslie Kerrigan Morning. Yeah.
[00:34:47] Lisa DiGeso What did you want to be when you grew up?
[00:34:49] Leslie Kerrigan I wanted to own my own clothing store. I used to sit in church and design clothes on the back of the bulletin.
[00:35:02] Lisa DiGeso So funny, because when I was 19, I moved from my little small town to a university and I took the business program and I wanted to have a clothing store called My Sister’s Closet.
[00:35:12] Leslie Kerrigan Oh, that’s cute. Mine was called Social Butterfly.
[00:35:19] Lisa DiGeso Love it.
[00:35:20] Leslie Kerrigan I mean, I had a logo and everything. When I was little, I just wanted to own my own business.
[00:35:23] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, me too. And I’d loved marketing. Like loved marketing.
[00:35:26] Leslie Kerrigan Yeah, Well, I used to play, you know, my own business or office, you know, it’s just always some kind of my own business. Yeah, That’s so funny about that.
[00:35:38] Lisa DiGeso Do you like to cook? And if you do, what do you like to cook the most?
[00:35:41] Leslie Kerrigan That’s a hard question. I do cook. Yes. I like it better when somebody tells me what they want and I can just cook that instead of me having to try to come up with the meal. That’s the part I don’t like, but I don’t mind the cooking part.
[00:35:53] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love it.
[00:35:54] Leslie Kerrigan And what do I like to cook the most? I mean, I like to cook spaghetti.
[00:35:59] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, tacos. We do that a lot too. Favorite guilty or not guilty pleasure?
[00:36:04] Leslie Kerrigan Probably watching TV because I love like, literally, that’s one thing that I’ve done since I started my business was to shut it off at a certain time and go watch TV and then go to bed. Like I’m big on that. I would say silly shows. I mean, I watch all kinds of reality and unreality. So probably watching TV, I also do like to relax in a bubble bath every now and then.
[00:36:28] Lisa DiGeso Same, love that. What are you most grateful for in this season of life?
[00:36:33] Leslie Kerrigan That I have a great family. Two healthy teenage boys, knock on wood, and I’m in a photography business that allows me to do stuff like this, which I never even back. When I was playing business and all my own business, I never thought that I’d get to meet such amazing people. And travel and meet other photographers, though. You know all that.
[00:36:55] Lisa DiGeso What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
[00:36:58] Leslie Kerrigan Stop worrying about what other people are doing. Put your blinders on as hard as it is. And then my best piece of advice that I like to give is to just do it. Just do it. Like, don’t think about it. Because honestly, that’s probably been the best thing that I’ve done in my own business is if I think about it too much, it’ll keep me from doing it. So just do it. Nobody cares if it doesn’t work out. Nobody’s paying that much attention. I mean anything. And even if they are, it just shows that you tried something and you tried something else.
[00:37:28] Lisa DiGeso So I love that. Where can our listeners learn more from you?
[00:37:32] Leslie Kerrigan So you can follow me on all the stuff. Seniorologie.com and it is spelled with an i e kind of like Anthropologie. So that is a website full of resources. I do have my own photography business. Leslie Kerrigan Photography, so you can find me there as well. Have both Instagrams, both Tiktoks, both Facebooks, both all the things.
[00:37:55] Lisa DiGeso And you’re joining us as an instructor for the online family retreat. So can you share what you’re going to be teaching on there?
[00:38:00] Leslie Kerrigan So as I mentioned earlier, bought an X-Box for my child. So he is helping me just demonstrate how to prep, pose and edit senior boys. So I go through the whole process of what I do to prepare them because that’s important and how I post them. So you see me actually do a senior session with him and then how I edit. So yeah, it’s exciting. It was, it was fun to do. And my favorite videographer, Nate, was my videographer, so shout out to Nate on it.
[00:38:32] Lisa DiGeso Amazing. I watched. It was good.
[00:38:34] Leslie Kerrigan I’m like, okay, I’m so and so to work with.
[00:38:38] Lisa DiGeso So I’d love to end my interviews just with this last question. And it is what are you currently curious about or artistically curious about?
[00:38:46] Leslie Kerrigan I think right this second I just literally just Marco-ed some for a photographer, friends of mine, Marco Polo. I feel like I’m at that stage where I’ve kind of been doing the same thing for a while and I almost want to like go back to the beginning and relearn or just something to push myself a little bit more creatively when it comes to taking photos. So I think you go through that as a photographer. When you’re first learning, you kind of feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Then you get the hang of it. Then you kind of stick with that for a while. I just think I am right now curious as to how I can take what I’ve been doing for so long and make it even better, because I think we can always learn, you know, and be a little more creative with shoots and things of that sort. So that’s what I’m mostly curious about right now.
[00:39:36] Lisa DiGeso I love that. Leslie, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:39:39] Leslie Kerrigan Yes, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
[00:39:42] Lisa DiGeso Oh, my beautiful friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation just as much as I have. I am sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We will see you next time. Thank you so much for listening to the Art and Soul Show. If you’re the kind of person that likes helping others, please share this podcast with your photographer friends. Sharing is caring, and it’s our mission to help as many photographers create a business and life they are truly passionate about. I’m here to support you on your journey, and if you have any questions, topics, or guests you would love to hear from, please shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we may even feature your question in an upcoming episode.
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