This guest blog is by Andy Bondurant, co-founder and director of Senior Portrait Artists (spa) an organization dedicated to equipping and inspiring senior portrait photographers. spa holds an annual Event that will be held this year in Palm Springs, California, in February 2011. Feel free to follow Andy on Twitter (@spartists), Facebook or the spa blog. Find out more about how spa and spa Event can help your senior portrait business by visiting www.spartists.com.
One of the problems that confront photographers who create high school senior portraiture on a regular basis is the question “What's too sexy?” It seems like every time I get together with a group of photographers, this discussion comes up. Everyone deals with it. I've posted on this question several times over the past year, and it has been one of the most viewed blog posts on the spa Blog to date.
In short, there is no real easy answer. You may please the senior, but not the parent or the parent but not the senior. Or you may be able to please both the senior and mother, but totally miss on the father. It's a fine line to walk no matter how you approach it.
Quite a few years ago we learned a great tip from fellow senior portrait photographer Gary Box. He says there are three things that make up a portrait that may be viewed as too sexy.
3. Facial expression
His rule is that you can get away with using any two of the above three at one time. However, once you combine all three, you will have an image that has crossed the line and officially become too sexy. So if a senior brings in an outfit that will expose quite a bit of cleavage be careful with either the pose or expression (as well as being willing to talk with the parent and senior about the outfit chosen and how it may look).
Now, here may be the bigger and more important question – even though you've pleased the client how do you choose an image for your advertising? It was a question that was raised in the spa Talk membership forum just the other day – “Is this advertisement too sexy?”
I recently read a great article about branding and marketing about how a funny image or advertisement is good but it does not compete with an image that creates shock. Both engage emotion, but the one that shocks causes movement in the viewer more often than the one that is funny. In all honesty, if you aren't getting an email, phone call or letter every year or so that says you've crossed the line, you may not be close enough to the edge.
Again, it's a fine line. A really fine line. When working to attract clients and potential clients to your studio the reality is that sex sells, but at the same time too much sex repels. The same three rules apply in advertising, like they do in shooting an image for a client.
It's important to remember that in the end, high school seniors are kids. Many times they aren't even 18 years old. They aren't models, how you project them in your advertising can change the image they carry in their world (both for good or bad).
So, what do you think – have you been told that your work crosses that line? Do you agree that none of the images of high school seniors are “too sexy”, just right or completely inappropriate? Comment below. A dialogue is usually a spark for bigger ideas. Your voice is heard here!