Senior Photography: 10 Tips for Getting the Photos You Want

As a senior (or almost a senior), one of the traditions you may be looking forward to is taking your senior pictures. That’s probably why you’re reading this. But how do you ensure you get the photos you want, the ones that make you say, “Wow!” instead of, “Oh, I look okay”? It takes some investigation and preparation.

To help you get the senior pictures you want, we’ve put together a list of 10 tips from professional photographers themselves. From what to look for during your senior photographer search to preparing for your photo session, this time-tested advice is a great cheat sheet to getting those picture-perfect shots.

1. Shop Around – It’s important to at least have an idea of the photography style you like the best, and that comes from researching and looking at photos! Michelle Moore of Michelle Moore Photography in Seattle, Wash., says simply, “Look for images that speak to you.”

Find-a-PhotographerSome photographers’ styles are more retro, some may be more “sexy,” some edgy like in a magazine, some photojournalistic, some more classic and clean…which appeals to you? That is how Beth Forester, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, of Forester Photography in Madison, W.Va., says you should think as you research possible senior photographers. “Really look at the person in the photograph,” she adds. “You may think, ‘Oh, that’s a pretty good picture,’ but would you be happy if it was YOUR image?”

Looking at others’ senior photos will also help you notice the differences in photographers’ skills. “Quality is in the eye of the viewer,” says Eric Anundi of Eric John Photography in Salem, Ore. “You need to shop around so you can see the difference in quality…and you’ll appreciate your final decision much more.”

2. Ask to See It All – As you shop around, be sure and ask for samples of entire senior photography sessions (like an entire album). This will help you see if a photographer lacks consistency in the quality of the images…and if the images suddenly start to look alike.

“Photographers can shoot 150 images, but only display the three that are good,” explains Forester. You don’t want to be limited to just three choices, do you? That’s why you need to see an entire session, so you can tell if the photographer is consistently good…or just lucky every now and then.

In addition, seeing more image samples can show you how creative the photographer is. “You don’t want to see everybody standing by the same tree,” says Kent Smith, M.Photog.MEI.Cr., who runs Kent Smith Photography in Pickerington, Ohio, with his wife Sarah. “You want a uniqueness in the images so yours don’t look like everyone else’s.”

3. Look to Connect – Find a photographer you can connect and be yourself with. “Feeling comfortable during your photo session is the number-one most important thing if you want to have great, relaxed photographs,” says Moore. When you’re relaxed and comfortable around someone, you become more natural in front of the camera, allowing for even better pictures. So look for the photographer whom you click with as a person!

4. Seek Out Service – Yes, you want great photos, but don’t dismiss the importance of finding a photographer whose service is outstanding. Great customer service can include anything from emergency kits during the session (hairspray, water, pins, etc.) to making sure your hair and clothes are just right. It’s anything that helps you enjoy your session and not worry about it. As Moore says, “Your photographer is there to make it a fun experience.”

But it’s harder to learn about the quality of a photographer’s service than it is to learn about their photography. This is where testimonials and reviews come in handy. Ask your friends, browse photographers’ websites for testimonials, stalk their Facebook pages, and look on review websites like Kudzu.com.
 
You might even want to simply ask the photographer. For instance, ask what their policy is if you don’t feel well the day of your senior photo session. “If you don’t feel 100 percent, rebook your photo session. If you broke up or stayed up late studying, if you feel crappy on the day of your session…it will show. You won’t like your photos. So find a photographer willing to reschedule,” advises Anundi. “We’re here to make you happy. This is about service and experience.”

5. Take a Survey – This may seem like an odd tip, but the point is to look for photographers who want to know about YOU. Some may give you an actual survey to fill out, others may simply ask questions about your likes and dislikes. Their goal is the same, though: to make your photos reflect you.

For example, the Smiths have a survey for their senior clients to complete before their sessions. Once they have a sense of who you are, they adapt your photo session accordingly (like playing your favorite music). And while Forester doesn’t have her senior clients fill out a survey, she does ask questions…questions you may not expect. “If I’m thinking about doing a barefoot picture, I always ask, ‘Do you like your feet or not?’ If you don’t like your feet, that’s all you will focus on when you see the picture,” notes Forester.

These kinds of questions show that the photographer really cares about what you want, and that care will show in your senior pictures.

6. Get the Parentals Involved – No way, you may think—but hear us out. Your parents have different tastes, yet they do want what’s best for you, and they are paying for those pictures (usually)! Plus, they have the perspective of time, according to Smith. “You may want to wear every trendy outfit for your pictures, but parents know you’ll regret it in the future,” he says. “You need at least one outfit that will stand the test of time, one you can look back at and not be embarrassed!”

That may be hard to visualize as a senior, but your parents most likely have experienced it. What was trendy to wear in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s doesn’t always look so cool now…

7. Be Outfit-Savvy – This may seem like a simple task, and it is. The main thing you need to do is be yourself and try on your outfits ahead of time. Moore even suggests having a friend over to help you choose. “Layering your outfit is a good idea, too,” adds Forester. “It gives your photographer many options and gives you many different looks—taking off or putting on a scarf, jacket, hat, etc.”

And just say no if you are tempted to hit the stores and buy stuff you’ve never worn before. Why? “The main regret we see in our senior clients is someone who was talked into a new outfit, then looks at her images and says, ‘That’s not me,’” recalls Smith.

So instead of shopping, look in your closet. Consider outfits that you live in, things that people would recognize you in. Try it on and see if you feel good in it. “If you don’t feel good in that outfit, you will project it in the photos,” says Forester.

8. Pay Attention to the Details – You may be a procrastinator, but don’t try to rush through your senior portraits. Just as you need to try on your clothes before the session, you might want to test-run other things so the session goes as smoothly as possible.

For example, don’t over tan! If you tan before your portraits, don’t do it the day before. Build it up slowly, so the look is more natural…and you don’t burn. And thanks to his experience photographing seniors, Anundi knows that if you do your hair right before the session, you’ll be concerned about it the whole time (especially you girls). That’s why he suggests doing a test-run with your hair and makeup at least a week before the photos.

9. Think About the End Result – What do you want to take home with you? Part of your photographer search and planning should include what portrait products you want. Do you want something for Facebook? Ask the photographers what they have to offer for online use. And don’t forget about what you want in print. Do you want something a little different? Something more than the usual wallets?

“Digital images are great, but it’s best to go that route only if you have a plan on how to display them on your own,” cautions Moore. “And going through your photographer for products will ensure the highest-quality keepsake around.” After all, you don’t want your senior pictures online only…you’ll want to show them off in the house.

Some photo products that are hot right now are senior albums/storybooks and video slideshows. The slideshow of images (incorporated with video clips) is great for open houses, and don’t underestimate the custom-designed portrait album, which can contain quotes and other items to tell your story. “Albums are a great way to keep a collection of your favorite images without breaking the bank on piles of wallets you may end up shoving in a drawer,” Moore adds.

10. Compromise Smartly
– Remember that your senior photography choices don’t depend solely on your desires. Who is paying for the photography? If your parents are, you should definitely consider their thoughts, which may include a certain type of product they want, their favorite pose and, of course, the budget.

One of the best pieces of advice? Discuss a budget beforehand. Then gather information—based on the tips above—to support your best choice. When you look at the budget again, your research in quality and service may help sway your parents if needed.

“Budgets are important during your senior year, but if photography is really important to you, choosing a professional photographer who provides great customer service and an experience of a lifetime might be better than going to an amateur,” says Moore “You’ll want to find a compromise in terms of style and budget; but ultimately, it should be a decision that both you and your parents make.”

As you can see, it takes more than a nice camera to get those great senior shots you want. It takes finding a professional who’s invested in training and techniques, someone who knows how to hide your little flaws and bring out your best features. Someone who will go above and beyond to make you happy, comfortable and satisfied.

How do you find a photographer that makes the grade? To start your search for a professional senior photographer who can confidently meet all these challenges—and make your photos shine—just search the Find-a-Photographer database on this website.

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