At FOTO, we are committed to helping our fellow creatives flourish. In our Q&A style blog series, Coffee with Creatives, we are highlighting the unique expertise of some of our favorite professionals, sharing tips and information on relevant topics to bring you some practical insight and inspiration for the important work you do.
Today, we are talking with expert senior photographer and Seniorologie Founder, Leslie Kerrigan, to unlock some of her secrets on photographing teens and senior portraits.
First things first, how do you take your coffee? (And if you are not a coffee drinker, what is your beverage of choice to energize you?)
Leslie: So funny story! I actually used to hate coffee! It’s only been in recent years that I even started drinking it! I also hate breakfast food and my sister kept saying just drink coffee for breakfast! So I started drinking the white mocha at Starbucks which is super yummy but also has a ton of calories! Yikes! So I slowly weaned myself off of those and now I make coffee at home with just a touch of creamer! If I do go to Starbucks, I get a tall Pike with one pump of vanilla and add a touch of cream!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your photography business?
Leslie: I started photography like many others out there, as a mom who wanted photos of my kids. I taught myself through Googling, YouTube, reaching out to photographers I admired and workshops. I took photos of anything and everything and figured out what I liked and didn’t like. I saw that there were a lot of photographers in my area photographing a little bit of everything and so I thought what is no one really doing and seniors was something no one had really done around here. Most people thought of senior photos as the yearbook photo with the school photography company in front of the plain backdrop with the black drape that they make you wear. I thought, okay, I am going to do something different and the senior side of my business was born.
Why did you start the Seniorologie community?
Leslie: Around the same time that I was deciding to specialize in seniors, I was trying to find resources for senior photography to teach myself about that genre and was coming up empty. So I thought if I am looking for it, maybe others are looking for it. So why not create it myself and I can share what I learn along the way. It quickly turned into not only a resource for inspiration but a resource for education and I started small workshops and shoot outs just for senior photographers and then that grew into what it is today.
How did you develop your specialty in photographing this specific age group?
Leslie: I really just kept showing what I wanted to shoot, working on my client experience and tried to show potential clients that there was something different that better showcased their personality in the type of senior photography I do than the yearbook photo. Little by little I just grew in that area which allowed me to solely focus on seniors.
In your opinion, what is special about the experience of taking senior pictures?
Leslie: I think it is such a special time in their lives so capturing that, making them feel beautiful and giving them an experience that they will remember forever is what is special. Looking back at their photos, they will remember their senior year, what they were going through at the time, their friends, how much fun we had on the shoot and those feelings of what was to come as they moved out of their parents' home and went out on their own to college.
What have you found to intimidate teenagers the most about taking their senior portraits? How do you deal with this challenge?
Leslie: I think I try to remember that even though most of the teens today grew up in a digital social media world and selfies, they are still not models. They are not used to being in photo shoots. They may play around with their friends and take selfies or other photos, but they are nervous when it comes to having professional photos taken. So I try to make sure that I am there for them every step of the way from beginning to end so they are comfortable with me and therefore comfortable in front of the camera. Showing them what I want them to do, watching them so I can say, "Oh thats great, do that," and then showing them the back of the camera so they see they are doing great is super important.
Any practical tips you can share to make shoots fun for teens?
Leslie: Talk to them, ask them about themselves, their interests, be genuinely interested and don’t just put the camera in their face. Laugh with them, be goofy and just have fun! And bring music! They will relax if you have a small speaker that you can play music on during their session!
Any advice for other photographers who are hoping to develop a specialty in working with young adults?
Leslie: Remember what it was like to be that age and be understanding. Sometimes the simplest thing is to just be there for them and listen. Make them feel good about themselves. Teens just want to be accepted and feel good about themselves and I think photographers can really help their clients feel that way through their photo shoots.
When you are not photographing seniors, what/who do you most enjoy taking pictures of?
Leslie: My kids but they really don’t allow me to do it so much anymore as they are both boys and teens! Ha!
Lastly, what Fotostrap(s) do you wear?
Leslie: I have three and I love them all!! I have the Golden, the Graphite and the newest one in my collection is the Dove!! I love Fotostrap and Fotothanthropy!!
Looking for more inspiration from industry creatives? Check out these other Q&A's:
Coffee with Creatives: Misty Rodda's Tips on Keeping a Fresh Perspective
Coffee with Creatives: Katie Lamb's Tips on Finding that "Mompreneur" Work/Life Balance
Coffee with Creatives: Caroline Jurgensen's Tips on Running a Business with her Spouse
Want to be a guest on our series Coffee with Creatives?
Nominate yourself or someone you think would inspire our FOTO family: