When it comes to her senior year, few things excite a girl more than her official senior portraits. And nowadays, this is no joke. Gone are the days of “glamour shots” in the studio (oh the hair and makeup of the 80s and 90s!). They’ve been replaced by on location shoots, complete with professional hair and makeup, clothing changes, professional posing, and "magazine worthy" editing.
Add social media to the mix, and it’s a whole different world.
As moms begin to consider high school portraits, I thought it would be fun to share my professional expertise as an on location high school photographer, so today I’m doing just that.
Here are my TOP TEN TIPS to prepare any girl for her high school portraits.
1. FIND A PROFESSIONAL WHO SPECIALIZES
Now I’m not just starting this off this way because I happen to be one of these professionals. I do believe it’s important to find someone who knows what they’re doing here. Photographers are everywhere these days, and there are so many great ones out there! Some specialize in weddings, others in maternity and newborn portraits. Some shoot using gorgeous studio lighting and edgy editing, and others use the soft feel of natural lighting.
The key here is to find a photographer who specializes in high schoolers. Then find the one that is a good match for your daughter and her style. They’re out there. Take time to look for the right one.
2. START EARLY
If you’re thinking about your daughter’s senior portraits after she’s been a senior for a couple of months, you might be too late. Spring of junior year or summer before senior year is the ideal time to book portraits. Most high school photographers shoot the bulk of their senior sessions then, and often have special discounts or packages for those who book during those early seasons.
So do your homework and do it early. Start looking while your girl is still a junior. Better yet, ask your daughter- chances are, she knows who she wants to shoot her senior portraits by the time she’s a sophomore!
3. CONSIDER LOCATION
There are so many options out there- literally. You might want to predictability of a studio location, or the edge of an urban shoot, or the soft natural feel of a rustic location. Consider your daughter, her style, what she likes, and what might be a good fit for her.
And speaking of daughters…
4. ASK YOUR DAUGHTER FOR INPUT
Perhaps I should have led with this, but this is the perfect time to let your daughter lead the charge. As I mentioned earlier, many teens already have an idea of the photographers out there, and have a preference of who they want shooting their portraits. They may have a friend who has already had hers done, or follow a HS photographer on Instagram.
Ask her. This could save you a lot of time on the steps above, as she might have the location, the season, and the photographer already picked out!
5. DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL! CONSULT PINTEREST
Oh how I love Pinterest. And so do most professional photographers. In fact, many have endless boards of helpful tips on everything from location to poses to lighting to clothes. I even create custom Pinterest boards together with each of my high school clients. Those boards are out there for all to see and find their own inspiration.
So take a stroll through Pinterest and create a vision board with your daughter. Search “high school senior pictures” or similar topics. Then have fun together. Be careful though. You could fall down some wonderful rabbit holes on Pinterest.
Don’t ask me how I know.
6. CLOTHING IS KEY
There is no need to go crazy buying a new wardrobe, unless you want some new clothes to be part of the experience (and it should be that- an experience- not just an hour in the studio).
It is crucial, though, to know which clothes photograph well, and which don’t. This is another area where a professional can help you, as many teen photographers have guides or can speak to you personally about the topic.
And again, Pinterest is a great resource to learn about which clothes to wear to a high school portrait session and which to avoid. Learn about what flatters, then consider your daughter’s personal style and merge the two.
7. GO WITH HER TO THE SESSION
I would go so far as to say this is a must whether she wants you there or not. As a photographer, I try always to capture at least one image of mother and daughter before the session ends. I usually do this at the end, after the fun has been had and both ladies are relaxed. It’s a tender moment, a relaxed one, and moms love the keepsake.
But this is not the only reason why I encourage moms to be there. Perhaps even more important, moms serve as a true comfort zone throughout the session. Almost every girl is a bit nervous at the start of her portrait shoot. As the photographer, if I can work with mom to relax the environment and get daughter laughing and enjoying herself, I can capture the most genuine expressions, and create that “experience” I always set out to create.
Girls might not love the idea of their moms being present at first, but once that session begins, they always seem so relieved to have the support.
8. KEEP IT POSITIVE
It’s important to piggy back this notion to the last tip, because your daughter will be nervous, and she might be looking to you for comfort, support, encouragement, and help.
So the last thing you want to do is criticize her, coach her movements, or get frustrated with any nervousness.
Let the pro do the coaching. I have learned over years of working with teens how to pose them and how to relax them, and I NEVER tell them that they’re doing anything wrong. If they are posing in a way that's different from what I envision, I verbally accept the blame and show them. (“ugh- I’m so sorry, I’m not explaining this well- let me show you- just like this- GREAT!”) She’s nervous enough, and doesn’t need to be critiqued. So I am always encouraging, praising, and raving.
And moms need to do the same. Lots of laughter, lots of support, and if she’s open to it, lots of smiles and hugs. The more she relaxes, the more amazing the experience.
Mom is key.
9. CONSIDER A FRIEND SESSION
Another piggy back here! Along with mom, it can be really fun for a girl to have her best friend along for the ride. So consider doing a joint portrait session. Lots of photographers are not only open to this, but love it! Myself included!
When friends do their portraits together, they relax each other, they connect with each other, and the expressions, the posing, and the experience are that much more authentic and real.
Just make sure that the photographer shoots solo portraits and not just group portraits.
10. JUST DO IT
There are a few times in a girl’s life where portraits are essential. Her wedding day of course, but also during pregnancy, and after she has her babies. These are pretty much a given.
The culmination of her high school experience should be one of those times, too. She will soon be off to college and starting a whole new phase of her life. And not to invite any momma tears here, but this is essentially the last professional portraits you will have taken of your daughter while she is “your child” living under your roof.
This time of her life is memorable. So book the portraits.
If you live in Colorado, I know just the girl! (wink wink!)
But if you live anywhere else, use these simple tips and you’ll have no trouble finding a great photographer for your daughter.
And feel free to use my Senior Resource Packet to help you in the process.
March of her junior year is the very best time to start looking, and now you know how to get started!
Next week we’ll talk mom photos, for the other million moments in life when you want to capture her on film yourself!