Winter Graduations 101-part 2

Winter graduation season is upon us. If you already have a relationship with a school, their graduation ceremony is a natural way to do more work for existing clients. Here are some of our best practices that could be used when shooting and selling graduation images as part 2 of our graduation series.

Day of the Graduation Arrive at the venue at least two hours early. This allows for plenty of time for setup, meeting with the contact to confirm locations of the photographs, deal with any equipment malfunctions, or get additional equipment or staff if necessary. After the contact has verified the shooting location, setup the equipment and backgrounds if necessary. Setup a video camera aimed at the reader and graduate handing their card to the reader and two audio recorders to be used by post production to ensure that the order of the grad cards matches the order that the graduates processed in. Buddy shots can then be conducted in the holding room and email addresses can be collected from audience members using web cards. Web cards are a two part card that allows you to collect email addresses from the graduation audience as well as leave them with a card that shows them how to access their graduate’s images online.

As the graduation starts, PR pictures can be taken. These will include processional, band, singers, speakers, stage setup, and anything of interest at the graduation. The handshake and additional photographers will take their positions prior to the conferring of the degrees.

Keep an eye on your grad cards. They are essential in ID’ing the graduation. IDing is matching the names up with the images of the graduates. This makes it easier for the graduates to find their images online. Immediately following the processional, collect the grad cards and place them in a secure location. Secure the memory cards and label them immediately after the graduation. After the graduation has ended, send photographers out to do family and friend photographs while organizing the memory cards and reader cards. Label the friends and family memory cards when the crowd has dispersed. Pack the equipment and be sure to clean up any tape or marks that have been made at the venue. Check in with the contact to ensure that they do not need anything additional and thank them for having you at the ceremony.

Fill out ceremony reports. The ceremony reports are pre-printed forms that allow photographers to draw diagrams of the ceremony as well as include notes about what took place at the ceremony. They also include checklists to help the photographers remember what PR pictures to take. This, if done every time you go to a graduation, will allow photographers to share the setup, details of the ceremony, and any trouble that they had. These notes will allow the post production staff to figure out anomalies that may have occurred during the ceremony and to do a better job at future graduations.

Post Production Post production starts immediately after the graduation materials return to the office. The goal is to get the graduation online within 24 hours of the ceremony. Getting images online quickly is striking while the iron is hot. Graduates and their guests are still excited about the commencement and are more likely to buy increasing the percentage of participation.

A team of production staff needs to be waiting to start when the photographers return. The list of duties is as follows:

• Check the materials that were returned – video, audio, grad cards, memory cards, notes in the binder • Backup all images and audio/video on hard drive and CD • Setup rendered backgrounds in CCS Transfer (if using green screen) • Upload the images to the event • Listen to the audio recordings and check the accuracy of the order of grad cards • Type the grad cards while uploading images • Import the graduate name list • Add secondary emails that were collected on web cards • Align the images • Spot the graduates to their names and addresses • Enable and check the event online • Queue emails and proofs to be printed • Quality Check all events that go online • Order a sample from each graduation to ensure that the website and offer are working properly • Check and correct bounced emails Email Campaigns

Email campaigns are started within 24 hours of the graduation and continue to be sent for at least 12 months and up to 3 years. We suggest emails include an image of the graduate or the group of the entire graduating class. This helps increase traffic to the website. It is important to send additional emails during the holidays that highlight products or include special deals. This will maximize the sales from each graduation.

Sales Review and Audit Tracking the results of a graduation is essential to knowing what works and what does not work in your area. Track the results immediately and frequently after the event. Doing this will identify problems with event postings and mailings and will allow for a quick recovery. Within 24 hours of the event, begin tracking the $ per graduate, % ordering, average order, and email/address counts. By comparing graduations to the previous year or similar graduations, any errors will be made apparent.

Post-Event Follow-up Send the PR images to the school to be used in promotional materials or on their website. Include the student names list with addresses and emails that can be used by their alumni association to contact the students after the graduation. The name list collected during the graduation is unique because they are fresh emails and addresses that will be much more current than the information that the school has from the beginning of the year. This step adds value to your services for the contact at the school and it will make it harder for someone to book away from you.

For additional information on how to shoot graduations and on the highly-specialized tools CCS has to offer for the graduation market, please contact a customer development representative.

NOTE: Graduation marketing posters and flyers can be obtained from the CCS catalog. CCS has a default product offering that includes our suggested list of graduation products. CCS offers pre-made email campaigns to use in-conjunction with graduations. These emails are automated through CORE or QuicPost to send automatically throughout the year.

Winter Graduations 101-part 1

Graduations are a lucrative photography market that requires planning and precise execution. Many schools have winter ceremonies. These graduations are a great opportunity to get your feet wet shooting in this market. Here are some of our best practices that could be used when booking and preparing for graduation shoots in part 1 of our 2-part graduation series.

The Basics of Graduations Typically graduation ceremonies are shot by several photographers simultaneously in different locations around the ceremony. Handshake photos and 1-2 additional positions yield the best results. Implementing green screen can open new opportunities including unique school-specific backgrounds and allow you to build a virtual group of the graduating class. Speed is essential in the successful execution of a graduation as some ceremonies process across the stage as quickly as 1 student every 2 seconds. Marketing these photographs is typically done online as well as with paper proofing. Advertising your services before, during, and after a graduation ceremony will increase traffic to your website and lead to higher percentages of participation from your graduates and their families.

Before the Shoot It is imperative to have effective communication with the contact at the school. Visit with the decision makers at least 2 months prior to the commencement date. This will help maximize your opportunities at the graduation as well as establish a partnership and relationship with the contact. Discussing what shots you will be taking, the position of these shots, venue details, and flow will determine how smoothly the photography will run during the ceremony.

Traditional Formal

The handshake photograph is a staple of the graduation market. The formal handshake pose is best for the following reasons: You get a better exposure, head size is the same for the graduate and the presenter, tassels are less of a problem, and you can see the face of the presenter. The formal handshake is composed of both the presenter and the graduate facing the camera as they shake hands or hand off the diploma. Alternatively, you can photograph this

using a traditional handshake which is shot over the shoulder of the presenter, capturing the graduate’s face. The photographer should discuss this detail with the school contact before the graduation as it is difficult to get these changes made the day of the graduation.

Discuss additional photography opportunities with the school before the graduation. Talk to the contact ahead of time about any additional locations that you would like to photograph during the graduation such as a green screen location, a flag shot, or a close up with the graduates in the background. This is also a good time to discuss taking PR photographs for the school of their speakers, processional, and overview. Try taking family and friends or buddy pictures before and after the ceremony. All of these images will yield higher sales numbers.

Promotion of photography services is the key to successful results at a graduation. Pre-promotion includes sending the school posters or flyers, making audio announcements, collecting email and street addresses, advertising on the school’s website, and being included in the graduation program. Collecting emails and addresses can be done directly on your website. Always ask the school to advertise your services on their website and make periodic announcements to their graduates about how to find their images after the graduation.

Send grad cards to the school two weeks prior to the graduation for use during the graduation. Explain that these should be strung or placed in order of the students graduating. If the cards are kept in order, it will save time when doing

the post production. We also suggest making a box for each letter of the email address to force graduates to print legibly.

Pre-Production Get your online event ready including any offer graphics, upload any background images that are needed for green screen and get your emails ready. Setup a location that will be used for post production. Check all of the computers that will be used to ensure that they have all of the software that will be needed to do production. Make a chart or graph that will allow you to track post-production and see where the team is at a glance.

Staffing Do not underestimate the amount of staff that you need to do a thorough job. There will be a need for one photographer at every position that will be photographed, photographer assistants to help the graduates into position and keep the line moving smoothly with no delays, information collection staff to obtain email addresses from the audience members, friends and family photographers which can sometimes be the same photographers from your ceremony, and a lead photographer at every venue.

Train the entire staff well before the event date. Use role playing to train each member of the staff to do his/her specific job. Teach the photographers how to troubleshoot the equipment along with how to take a great picture. Setting sheets or diagrams should be included in training as well as in the equipment that is sent to the event. Details of the graduation must be written out for the staff that will be photographing the event. Include key points for successful execution and point of potential pain with the school or contact that they will be interacting with. Any points of negotiation with the school should be included in these notes.

Post production staff will need to be hired and trained before the graduation takes place. To determine the number of post production staff that will be needed, you can assume the following: 1 hour of labor/30 graduates (this includes uploading images, data entry, spotting, enabling the event online, proof mailing, and checking the event) so, a 300 person grad will equal 10 labor hours.

This time will then be divided by the number of staff members that you plan to have working on each graduation to determine the total time it should take to get the event online. If you have the 300 person graduation mentioned above, with 10 labor hours, and have 2 people working on it, the entire production process should take 5 hours. Make a spreadsheet of all of your graduations and plan the production staffing using this simple formula: # of students divided by 30 divided by # of production staff= total amount of production time (or students/30/production staff= time).

Additional Photography Opportunities Don’t settle for just shooting the handshake pose at a graduation. Talk to the school and advisors to find additional opportunities to photograph the graduates and their guests. Buddy shots can be taken of the graduates and their friends in the holding room before the graduation. Friends and family pictures are a great opportunity for additional sales. These are typically taken after the ceremony is over either at a banquet or outside the venue in which the graduation was held. Take PR photographs during the graduation of the processional, band, speakers, valedictorian, alma matter, vocalist, and anything significant that happens during the ceremony. Post these online for purchase and deliver them to the school as an added value. Overviews are taken of the entire graduating class and offered for purchase.

Equipment Nikon D3000’s or other suitable SLR’s are recommended for graduations. This is a great camera for grads. Set it at medium resolution (5MP) and use an 1870mm lens. SunPak 544s are used for lighting along with a hobby battery. 2GB SD Memory cards are recommended as well. SanDisk, Lexar, Transcend, and Kingston are the recommended brands of memory cards.

Digital audio recorders are recommended with the equipment. Two per ceremony allow for any errors or technical issues that may occur. As a backup to the audio recording, a video recording is also used. This will allow your post-production team to see the face of the graduate as they pass the reader and makes spotting a difficult graduation much easier.

A 5×7 green screen is used in the venue to take the green screen pictures that will be rendered with the school background or used for a virtual group. Don’t forget a stand and super clamp to affix the green screen background to.

Include tape, rubber bands, envelopes, markers, and something to mark the spot that the graduate is to stop for their photograph with the equipment.

Include enough extra grad cards to cover the number of graduates in case the contact does not have the cards that were sent ahead of time.

Graduations require a LOT of attention to detail, but can be extremely profitable. If you are currently shooting jobs for any middle schools, high schools or colleges (including vocational or technical schools) then graduations are a natural progression in your business.

For additional information on how to shoot graduations and on the highly- specialized tools CCS has to offer for the graduation market, please contact a customer development representative.

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