Senior Portrait Photographer Jen Basford: The Importance Of Web Presence & Fashion Trends

Colyn Montgomery


We interview senior portrait photographer Jen Basford about her awesome website, reaching clients on Facebook, and her unique fashion oriented shoots and events.

For many photographers today, the importance of a web presence is still not as much of a priority as it should be. Senior portrait photographer talks to us about how careful attention to this aspect of business can have amazing positive results for photographers.

Jen Basford is a photographer from Edmond, Oklahoma, who specializes in fun and artistic senior portraiture. She began her career in 2006 as an on-location photographer, and her operation blossomed into an extremely successful high-end boutique studio that is often booked months in advance. Jen custom designed her studio — 3 Girls Photography — and she often refers to it as her ‘Disney World’. While she also photographs children and families, Jen has exploded onto the senior portrait scene with her annual standing-room-only fashion shows and her ability to keep things fresh with her seniors.

You maintain an awesome website and blog! How important is your web presence as a marketing vehicle and point of contact for your seniors?

Well thank you!! Our web presence is definitely one of the key factors in our growth and success, especially with our seniors and underclassmen. It gives us both a place to market our studio AND to create relationships and touchpoints with clients and potential clients. I think that is a key factor that SO many photographers overlook in using the internet – relationships. Both in our blog and especially on facebook I make sure that people who take the time to check us out also get a feel for who we are and what we’re like as people. This way so many peeps feel like they know us – and know us well – before we ever meet in person.

As far as points of contact – a big resounding ‘WOO HOO’ here as well. Many of our new seniors will use facebook to contact us for the first time, allowing me to create a personal touchpoint with them before they even call the studio and talk to one of the girls. This is definitely an area that sets us apart from both the traditional studios and the newcomers who use the internet ONLY for marketing purposes.

How are you using Facebook to reach new clients? We noticed some Animoto videos on your page!

Ahhhh…. this is critical!! But I will point out that while EVERYONE who owns a camera uses facebook to reach new clients, HOW you use facebook to do this is critical. As I mentioned above, you HAVE to put more into this than just marketing and realize that everything you do – everything ABOUT you and who you are – IS marketing to your clients. They need to see you as a person they want to know, and get to know MORE, before they’ll let you into their world. And this is where Animoto plays a HUGE role in our business.

We LOVE to put our imagery out on facebook, and in a world where we have SO little time to ourselves it has made life easier and cooler for us to be ‘us’. I can upload my images into animoto, add a few video clips from my flip video (which is SO easy a caveman could do it…trust me), pick one of my fave tunes from the Animoto library, and click a button. Voila! Animoto is THE ultimate outsourcing for us – we can show seniors (as well as families and children) their images while showcasing them in their very own fierce music video. And while everyone who owns a computer is familiar with Animoto, the pro version for photographers DOES set us apart in the virtual world. It makes us even cooler than we already were.

You place a large emphasis on fashion by putting on large shows and working with top stylists every season. When did you begin doing this and what has the impact been on your business?

We just finished our 4th annual fashion show this past week, and I can’t emphasize enough what this has done to our business (our first show was in April of 2007). For the past two years, this is pretty much the ONLY marketing we do to our seniors (mixed in with our senior model program), and it has a tremendous effect. This is an area that truly sets us apart from other studios and brings us into a blue ocean market – one that has no direct competition and lets us set our own boundaries.

The show itself gives us credence as experts when it comes to fashion, and seniors and underclassmen get to see firsthand how much fun and energy having their senior portraits done with us creates. The show also directly markets to underclassmen, so that when these kids are juniors they are going to want to become a model for 3 Girls Photography – thus locking them into the fashion show (the HUGE perk) and as a paying client. Win-win.

We go all out on the show, making it an enormous production akin to a New York runway show, which sets us apart from school productions as well. We show Animoto videos prior to the stepoff on the runway, and this just elevates the experience and puts us on a whole new level of ‘cool’.

How does your investment in fashion and make-up consultants affect your bottom line?

It has only a positive effect on our bottom line. We do not market like traditional studios – in the form of direct mail, paid advertisements and the like – so the money we invest in fashion and make-up actually takes the place of this type of expense (in a roundabout way). To us, this IS our marketing, so we budget accordingly. Positioning ourselves as experts in fashion and style is part of what allows us the freedom to command a higher price for our services. We are not simply here to push the button and ‘capture a moment in time’ – we are here to create images with impact for each client that walks through our door. This investment allows us the freedom to do what we need in order to make that happen. So in an indirect way these investments actually INCREASE our bottom line.

What about video? How does Animoto fit into your product offering and do you plan on using video more frequently in the future?

We have BIG plans for animoto and video in our future! We currently use Animoto for our seniors, and also for marketing purposes and in the fashion show. When Animoto first came out with the addition of video to the shows I was scared to DEATH to try it (the word ‘video’ might as well read ‘rocket scientist’ to me). But I put together a video of the spa fashion show this year using clips people had sent me along with still images and I was FLOORED at how easy and user-friendly it was!! Even a photographer could do it (LOL!)! With that in place, we added a new product option for our seniors this year using Animoto and video clips (from either our flip video or the video feature on the 5D – both are PERFECT for animoto videos!!). We plan on making this a more prominent part of all of our product lines over the next year. This is something that takes VERY little time, is CRAZY easy to do, and gives us TONS of cool points in the eyes of our clients. I feel cooler every time I use it.

Where do you see the future of senior photography going?

The only thing I can see for certain in the future of senior photography is CHANGE. We have so many factors that are currently at odds that something has to give. I think technology is going to play a HUGE role in the next wave of senior portraits in our industry – kids are motivated by instant gratification, and being able to share images instantly is going to become more and more important to them. We’re going to have to be ready for this, and with companies like Animoto on our side we’ll be able to lead the way. Sharing Animoto videos and senior images on iPhones, iPads, facebook, laptops and more is going to set studios apart from the pack and drive the need for senior portraits to a whole new level.

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