INTERVIEW BY REBECCA TOMPKINS - REBECCA TOMPKINS PHOTOGRAPHY
My first assignment was to interview Selessa Holmberg of Selessa Studio. She was one of the first senior photographers I started to follow when I made my decision to specialize in Senior Photography. If you all have not checked out her work take a moment to look her up! Her bold style and wonderful images never disappoint. She is off to an incredible start this year as well. She was given Gold Elite status at Senior Year Magazine for having multiple images published in the first print edition ever!
When I first contacted her to do this interview, her schedule overwhelmed me just by looking at it. I am honored to have had the opportunity to connect with her and that she was able to find a few minutes to answer my questions. It was so hard not to ask over 100 questions but here is what we chatted about:
Rebecca: Hello! First of all I want to say I am a huge fan of your work. I love your bold, bright color choices.
Selessa: Thank you so much! You also have a fantastic style of your own.
Rebecca: So, to start off with, give me your elevator pitch - A quick little bio of who you are and how you got started in photography.
Selessa: Sure! I graduated from college with a BFA in Advertising, and ran my own small advertising design studio for fifteen years. We had about ten employees plus freelancers. After having two young children, we made the challenging decision to close the business. It was too hard to actually be part of my children’s everyday life, so I took a break for a short time.
My daughter was a dancer and she and her friends needed headshots one day and that was the beginning of my photography life.
Rebecca: When you decided to specialize in Teens/Seniors, what was the biggest learning experience you had? Did it come in the form of a mistake? Lack of information? How have you taken that learning experience and applied it to your business today?
Selessa :I always worked with a lot of seniors and I realized last year that I didn’t want to accept anymore weddings (even though many of my past senior clients are getting married now). I just love this age group! I work with families, help models build their portfolios, provide headshots for business, and I photograph dance studios.
In the beginning of my career, I really didn’t quite know how to pose young teenagers. I thought I would direct and they might do some of their own posing. Right away I realized I would have to study my favorite looks through magazines and other photographers. Luckily, I was able to practice on my daughter.
Rebecca: I noticed on your website you offer three location options for your clients. How do you create unique images when using the same locations on a regular basis?
Selessa: I actually offer more than three locations, but mention large city look, medium city looks, and nature looks. I try to shoot what people are drawn to, but try to make each shoot as individual as possible by highlighting their personality at these locations.
Rebecca: Do you believe it is important to keep up with teen trends in order to adequately connect with and market to teens? How do you keep up with it all and what are your favorite resources to use?
Selessa: Yes. Basically I am watching wha teens post, along with watching trends on social media. We also talk to my model team and clients about what types of things they love.
Rebecca: How do you handle difficult clients/parents? Have you had any difficult situations that have taught you something specific in working with teens and their parents?
Selessa: Luckily, I have had very, few really difficult parents, even though I was concerned about that when I first began this journey. We are taking photos and making memories of the most important special thing in their life, their children!
I did have a client years ago, that was extremely difficult. It seemed as if she really wanted to have me photograph her son, but as it turned out, she had planned from the beginning to stop payment on her check and did so right after she picked up her order. She told me that she was a stay at home mom and if I pursued her she would make my life miserable. In the end it didn’t effect my business at all. Since this client, I make sure that I collect either the total amount or most of the total, before delivering the order.
Rebecca: When you are working with teens, what is your personal style of dress? Do you dress to impress the teens or do you wear what is comfortable to you?
Selessa: Since most of the time it is so hot, I dress casually. I need to feel comfortable. Since I am about 5’ 3” I try to wear some kind of wedge to get more height, instead of flats so that my shots are not looking up at them the entire session.
Rebecca: What do you believe is the one trait you have that not only attracts teen clients to your studio but also allows them to resonate and build a rapport during the session? Do you have meetings with them prior to the shoot?
Selessa: I meet with most of my clients before the shoot, if I can, but in the busiest times, I can’t always meet with them in person. I try to find out what they like most about my photos and which are their favorites, along with other photographs they love. It is important to find out who they really are, have fun with them, and make them feel comfortable the day of the shoot.
Rebecca: What has been a crowning achievement in your professional career?
Selessa: Recognition from clients when they sing my praises to all of their friends online is always so rewarding. I truly have such a blast with so many of them. Also, recognition from my peers is very appreciated and gratifying. I appreciate Senior Year Magazine and all Beverly and staff do for the industry. I am so honored to be on the list of Gold Elite - this was amazing to me, especially when I see so many incredible photographers with so much talent.
Rebecca: Lastly, as artists are always looking for guidance, reassurance and ways to make what we do more easy. What would be your best advice for me if you and I were sitting on the couch drinking coffee and chatting about our work as a whole.
Selessa: Never stop learning! Continue updating your look, editing and pricing. Keep up with what the seniors are doing and loving. Enter competitions, and put yourself out there. This can up your game as well. I am constantly trying to learn how to edit faster, and shoot in a more concise way. I know I have a lot to learn. No matter what stage of the game I am at, I am constantly keeping up with the photography world and updating. If it is required, change your way of working and never forget how important marketing is!
Rebecca: What wonderful advice!! I want to say thank you so very much to Selessa for her time and inspiring responses and to each of you for reading.
Now, go out and make something beautiful!