While most high schools require some sort of senior portrait for the yearbook, those types of photos are usually plain and vanilla — one where everyone looks kind of the same. These days, “senior portraits” really refer to a creative photography session for students. These images show off their personality, hobbies, and interests, making them a lot of the fun for both photographer and subject.
1. Get to know your subject
Like all other portrait photography, getting to know your subject can make a difference in your ability to make a great photograph. Ahead of the session, find out a few things about the senior, like:
- What they like to do for fun
- The clubs or sports they are involved in
- Some information on their personal style
- Their favorite bands or kind of music
- Their favorite places to be
Use this information to plan your session and to bring out some personality. Use it to plan your location, the outfits, the props or just to start a conversation that helps you make a connection.
2. Inspire confidence
High school seniors are at a great age to be the star of a portrait session. They have grown out of many of the insecurities of middle school, they’re at the top of the pack in high school and they’re starting to understand and become comfortable with who they are.
Of course, they’re often still conscious of what their peers think of them — everything they do is run through the filter of what their friends might think. Give them the confidence that you’re making them look cool, beautiful and grown-up. Praise their good features, talk with them like adults, and take interest in them. Offer positive feedback on their posing. Give them reasons to trust you by being prepared, professional and relaxed.
3. Plan for props
Props can be really helpful with senior portraits. It gives them something extra to do with their hands, and props can help you make more creative photos — ones that really speak to the interests of the subject. For the athletes, a ball, bat, racquet, or jersey is a good starting point. Musicians can bring their instrument. Artists can bring tools of the trade. Dancers can bring their shoes or appropriate outfits. You get the idea.
4. Pick the right location, unique
Just like props, the right location can go a long way in helping to showcase the personality and interests of the subject. Many seniors are most interested in finding something out of the ordinary — they typically don’t want photos in the same locations as every other senior at school. Searching for a unique place may also help you find a more secluded spot. Less crowded places tend to be better for people who become self-conscious in a crowd.
5. Choose timelessness
A great way to set yourself apart and to create a long-term senior portrait business is to create portraits that are timeless. This means to always get at least a few classic poses, avoid trendy editing techniques (they’ll look dated in no time) and have your clients avoid wearing logos or graphics that no one will understand in a decade.
6. Shoot for the parents, too
Keep in mind who pays for the session. Of course, you want your seniors to be happy and to tell all of their friends what a good job you did. But you also want the people holding the purse strings to be pleased — and for them to buy prints afterward. Always get a few classic shots that you know the parents are going to love, even if the seniors are not as excited about taking them.