How I Shoot Senior Portraits

Senior Portraits are some of my favorite photo shoots.  I never had senior portraits done for me and I kind of regret that.  But even back then, I was not interested in getting my picture made in front of some large numbers, or standing there in a studio with a cap and gown.  I hate that kind of stuff.  So as an adult and a photographer, I have zero interest in photographing people in those cliche ways.  Tiffany asked me to take her senior portraits and I immediately knew I’d do it, because I knew that she had a strong sense of style and an engaging personality.  A lot of teens are incredibly awkward and self-conscious, so it can be quite challenging to get them to open up and put themselves out there.

When I approach a senior portrait, my philosophy is that you are freezing in time a moment when a girl or guy is just becoming an adult.  They have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood.  It’s a wonderful time in their lives, full of hope and promise of things to come.  Your images should reflect that unique moment in their lives.

Here are some tips for senior portrait photography :

1) Ask the senior to do a lot of research and give you links and photos of what they perceive as stylish.

2) Pick a location that stimulates creativity, i.e. downtown with lots of different walls and alleys.

3) Over-communicate.  The longer you sit there and fidget with the back of your camera and leave the teen in silence, the more paranoid they’ll be when you start shooting again.

4) Keep moving.  A young person’s attention span is kind of short and they can lose interest fairly quickly, so be prepared to take a few and move along.

5) Make it fun.  Your connection is everything if you want them to come alive in front of the camera.  Trust is vital.  So, tell jokes, make a fool of yourself, etc.

Our senior, Tiffany, was such a pro.  She was fully prepared for the shoot and had great patience.  She told me she wanted images in the style of the store, Anthropologie, and that she wanted to have a vintage feel to them.  A lot of the vintage style is accomplished in post-processing, but her clothing was timeless and that made a huge difference.  She did a great job setting us up for success. It was a joy to work with Tiffany and we’re proud of her upcoming graduation. She’s got a bright future ahead of her.

Thorpe - March 8, 2011 - 10:12 am

Great tips to think about. And man… really nice pics from that session. Im sure she’s thrilled!

admin - March 8, 2011 - 11:29 am

Thanks, Thorpe. Any tips you’d like to share about nailing good portraits? You’re a great photog.

Deb Osorio - October 1, 2012 - 9:59 pm

your thoughts?

Michae Michael - December 5, 2013 - 6:05 am

nice shots…. i really love the concepts of your photos… 🙂

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