Proms, which used to be the golden goose of the Spring photo season, have now become a financial challenge for photographers in the digital age. Proms are still being held all over the country, and expensive tuxedoes and fancy dresses are still all the rage at these events; but pre-paid posed photographs have taken a serious hit.
The cultural shift that we have seen in the college market in the sale of Party Pics, has worked its way down to the high school market, and the printed photograph is not the prized commodity it once was among the 14 -18 age group. Combine that with the proliferation of digital cameras, camera phones, and other recording devices and you have a very steep mountain to climb.
Ah, but all is not lost. If you are serious about cracking into the prom market or trying to make some lemonade from these lemon-scented events, then you will have to change the way you think about proms. Though it’s true that the students may not be interested in photographs, their parents are!
A few years ago a CCS customer decided that he was going to change his marketing direction for proms, and instead of directing his efforts towards the students, he would now target the parents of the students. Working with the administration of the schools, he enlisted their help in providing a mailing list with all of the parents’ names and addresses. He then sent out a nostalgic letter reminding the parents how important, fun, and prized their prom photos were when they were in high school; and wouldn’t they like the same valuable experience for their sons and daughters?
His success rate was instant and his stable of prom events quickly doubled their gross sales over the previous year. Marketing in advance of the event proved successful and it can work for you also, but it will require some work on your part. In the communication sent to the parents you will need to let them know in advance what the packages contain and their cost. In addition, you’ll need to include an order form, or provide a link to one they can print out to bring with them—with payment—the night of the prom. You may want to include a pre-order discount code that they can bring with them the night of the prom to receive a percent off discount.
Remember to display the background to be offered at the prom prominently on any flyers or order forms distributed. Create posters with samples to display around the school for a few weeks prior to prom. Provide each school with website/password cards to be used as invitation/ticket stuffers. Each card should include information about your portraits and candid service.
In Oklahoma City at our retail division we are still shooting many proms but how we execute the event has changed dramatically. In order to photograph as many couples as possible we shoot everyone with no money collected upfront. When our pre-paid sales dived to next to nothing we decide that, in order to get couples in front of the camera, we would have to offer a free sitting with many poses which would encourage them to view those poses online to pick the best one for their prints.
Depending on the school and the number of couples attending we will also include the Jump Studio as an alternative photo location at the prom where they can do whatever they want to do—photographically—within reason!
Now, if you’re looking for something completely different to offer consider green screen for your proms. Green screen will enable you to offer more background options—online—without the added investment of props. If you choose to go the green screen route it is imperative that you test, test, and test again for the correct lighting setups. Green screen is not very forgiving when improperly lit so if you go this route you will have to TRAIN your photographers to execute perfectly.
At the prom make sure your shooting location is highly visible. Your portrait location should be easily accessible and within sight of the dance floor to increase participation. If possible provide a short script to the DJ for regular announcements over the sound system on your behalf encouraging the attendees to have their photos made.
After the prom is imperative that you utilize an email campaign for at least three months. Just because they didn’t buy shortly after the event doesn’t mean they won’t do so several weeks or months afterward.
For more information about executing proms, marketing or pricing prom packages call Brian at 800-336-4550 ext. 251.