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11 Tips for Photographing High School Senior Portraits

A Guest Contribution by Meghan Newsom.

When it comes to planning for sessions, seniors are some of my favorite people to work with. Don’t get me wrong, I love families, children, engaged couples and wedding ceremonies.. but seniors are close to the top of my list.


Why, you may ask? It’s simple: seniors are excited to model, seniors are some of my best marketing tools, and seniors know what they want. They also have a great sense of style, which translates well in their photographs.

When a high school senior books a session with me, I do several things right from the start to help them know I am excited about working with them. I also do my best to get to know them so I can tailor their shoot to fit them perfectly. I find that if you do these things, your session will not only run smoothly, but you will have a client who LOVES to refer you to their friends.


Before the Shoot

1. First things first, let them know how excited you are to work with them. Since seniors are all about social media, I tweet about how excited I am to work with them and plan their session a few days after they book with me.

2. Next, I send each senior I book a tailored questionnaire so I can get to know them better. Some of these questions found in their questionnaire include:

  • What are some of your favorite features about yourself?
  • What do you want to remember most about this time in your life?
  • Are there any specific locations you have in mind for your shoot?
  • How would you spend your ideal Saturday?
  • How would you describe your personal style?

3. Even though seniors are on top of the latest styles, they often need help when it comes to deciding what to wear to their session. So, a week before their session I send them a link to a pinterest board I have created to help give them specific ideas of what to bring with them. This small act not only helps your client, but it will also help you achieve the look you want in your own portfolio.



At the Shoot

The morning of the session, I contact my client to make sure they know what time and where we are meeting up. I make sure they have their outfits picked out, and give them one more opportunity to ask me any questions they see fit.

During the session I do several things to make the couple of hours I have with them memorable and stress free (and fun!!) for my senior client. You can do this too by doing the following things:

1. Seniors are at an awesome stage in their lives, they have their whole future ahead of them. Talk with them, ask them questions, find out what their plans for the future are. Encourage them and invest in them while you are with them. They will feel appreciated, valued, and will feel confident hearing assuring words from an adult that isn’t their parent.

2. Most seniors have never been in front of a professional photographer other than the cheesy pictures their parents had them take when they were younger. Make them feel comfortable. Praise them when they look good in front of the camera. I love to turn my camera around and show them some little peaks of how well they are doing. THEY LOVE THIS! It will encourage them to keep up the good work, and will give them confidence in their appearance.

3. Posing. You may have some go-to poses you use for your seniors. But since each person is uniquely different, you need to have several tricks up your sleeve. Enter my i-phone. Recently I have been taking screen shots of poses I am inspired them and putting them into albums on my i phone. When I hit a rut, I whip out my phone and look at my posing guides. At first I thought this was like “cheating” during a shoot, but my seniors LOVE IT! They think it is so cool that I thought of them enough before hand to plan for their poses during their session. Again, this makes them feel valued. I have a great Pinterest board to help you out if your stuck in a rut.

4. Props. I love to bring small props for my seniors to hold or sit on during their session. This could mean an old folding chair, a cute beach hat, an old quilt.. or even some books. Some people feel really awkward in front of the camera at first, so these little props give them something to do with their hands while they are adjusting to your presence.


After the Shoot

After their session, you can keep up the “hype” by doing several things:

1. The following day post a “teaser” or “sneak peak” photo from their session onto facebook. This is another reason why I love seniors. They will share that teaser with all of their friends through social media, which means more publicity for you and your business!

2. The following week, after I have edited all of their images, I will send ten images to them through PASS. They will also share these images through facebook, and it will give them a great idea of why they should purchase a disc with ALL of their high-resolution images from me.

3. As soon as I have all of their images edited, I will order a custom book for my seniors and send it to them along with a really appealing package. The package includes a hand written note, business cards, and other little goodies I sneak in for them. They always love how personal I make these for each of them (another great reason so send them a questionnaire and get to know them well during the session!)

4. After they have their images, blog all about their session, including images they haven’t seen in the ten I sent them. This blog post will also be shared through social medial to their friends and family (more free advertising!).


In post processing senior photos, always remember that you are photographing for their parents as much as you are your senior client. I keep “fad” type editing out of the equation because I know ten years from now their parents will want a solid (not overly processed) image on their wall.

Instead of using “fad” editing techniques, I always let the style speak through the locations I choose. You can easily do this by choosing old brick buildings, abandoned farm houses, fields of cotton etc. The seniors love this, and their parents will appreciate the timelessness of the photographs they receive.


It is not hard to rock a session with your seniors, it just takes some extra things to go above and beyond so they know you appreciate them and want to know them. All of those extra things will make your client feel special, and will translate into those coveted word of mouth referrals for you and your growing business!

Meghan Newsom is a lifestyle and wedding photographer located in Northern Alabama. When she’s not writing for her lifestyle blog, cooking up gluten free recipes, or taking pictures, you can find her exploring outside with her husband and pup.

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