Senior pictures are one of the few times that kids get to show off their creativity, originality, and personality to their high school classmates. If you’re a photographer who wants to help a client make their senior pictures stand out, this collection of senior pic tips will help everyone involved leave a great impression.

man holding camera

Photo by JESHOOTS-com Licensed Under CC0

Our Best Senior Pictures Tips and Tricks 

The key to taking great senior portraits is to work closely with your subject so that you can place them in situations and environments that fit their personality. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this goal in your senior portraits before, during, and after the senior portrait shoot.

How to Prepare Before a Session

Communicate –When it comes to senior portraits, there will be those who’ve thought through every angle and those who simply shrug their shoulders you ask them what they want. Keep at it, and – if necessary – ask their parents for ideas as well.

Have Your Seniors Fill Out a Questionnaire – One of the most efficient ways that you can prepare for a senior portrait photo shoot is to have the kids fill out and submit a questionnaire. With this information, you can suggest props, locations, and outfits for your senior portraits that fit their answers.

Sprinkle in Some Friends – If your senior has a best friend, they might like to do a tandem senior photoshoot. Suggest this and offer to do the friend’s senior photos as well! 

Help Them Chill Out – Take a break from asking your senior questions and talk about yourself a little bit. Be fun, engaging, and friendly so that your senior can relax. Their senior pictures will come out much better if they do. 

Prop ‘Til You DropProps are a great way to make senior pictures stand out. You’ll want to discuss any props the senior might want to use in a senior portrait ahead of time so you can prepare locations to match.

Learn About Their Heritage or Traditions – Ask the senior if they have something about their family or heritage that they want to be represented in their photos. If they do, plan a shoot and outfit that will respectfully fit that heritage or ethnic background.

What Can Help During the Photo Session 

Tap Into Their Personality – Identify the subject’s distinct personality traits so that you can make their senior pictures unique. Suggest poses and environments that suit who they are, and encourage them to improvise!

Excel in Their Environment– As a great photographer, you wouldn’t photograph a boy from the country in the concrete jungle, nor would you ask a cheerleader to pose with a horse. You’ll want to put your subject in an environment that suits their hobbies and personality. 

Keep it Light and Fun – Some of the best senior portraits are born out of fun, playful photo sessions. If they have a habit or a certain thing they’re known for, see if you can capture that in a shot as well. 

Add Some Special Effects – Glitter, confetti, makeup, and paint can instantly bring senior pictures to the next level. Be spontaneous! If you see an interesting place or prop, see if they want to use it in their photos! 

Crank the Tunes –Ask your subject to bring some of their favorite songs to their session so that you can really pump them up. This will make them more comfortable with the experience, and give you more clues as to how to bring their personality out. 

Compliments Tend to Equal Confidence – Many high school kids hate getting their photos taken for one reason or another. To get them to open up for their senior pictures, you’ll need to be generous with the compliments. You’ll also capture some genuine smiles this way.

Planning for After the Session 

Choose the Best Images (But Keep Them All) – Your definition of what makes for a perfect senior portrait photo might not be the same as your subject’s. You can pick the good shots as you see them, but you might also want to let them choose a few that they like. 

What Seniors Should Wear to Their Session 

girl in woods with backpack

Photo by jonas-svidras Licensed Under CC0

To get the best possible senior pictures, you’ll want to advise your senior of a few guidelines regarding their clothing. Below, we’ve listed a few points you might want to suggest to your clients, as well as a few tips on how to get a little bit more creativity out of the session. 

1. Avoid Bright or Neon Colors 

Bright colors, especially the colors red, yellow, and orange, can distract from the environment in most shots, particularly if those shots are outdoors. Students should instead stick to grays, whites, and other solid tones when dressing for senior pictures. All colors have different effects, and they should be considered. 

2. Keep it Real

You’re trying to photograph these people in a recognizable way. For this reason, you should encourage the seniors to wear clothes they already own and like. Wearing familiar clothes will also ensure they’re comfortable and avoid any last-minute wardrobe changes. 

3. Frames Only for Glasses-Wearers 

Students should consider removing the lenses of their glasses and only wearing the frames to avoid glare. You don’t want the spectacles to keep the photos from looking spectacular. 

4. Dress for the Vision 

Sure, that dress might look great when they’re standing, but what about when they’re sitting or kneeling? Subjects should choose outfits that will work in a variety of poses, not just one. 

5. Avoid Any Dress Straps 

Spaghetti straps and strapless dresses are usually not ideal for photo sessions. They simply end up widening shoulders and making the subject look like they are larger than they are. Ensure the girls understand this ahead of time, or you might be in for some unhappy customers. 

6. Several Styles 

We all have different aspects to our personality, and so will your subjects. Ask them to consider several good outfits that highlight different things about them. You might suggest one formal wear outfit, one fun outfit, and one casual or sports-themed outfit. 

7. Keep it Classic

T-shirts, in general, are to be avoided unless they are a huge part of the subject’s style or personality. Keep in mind, however, that senior pictures are keepsakes. They will want to ensure their graphic t-shirt will be just as hilarious a decade from now. 

8.  Watch for Underwear

You should encourage your subjects to think about what’s under their clothes as well. As a rule, you won’t want any bra straps or boxer shorts showing up in the photos. 

9. Spice it Up with Sports

If your subject wants to wear a uniform or a cheerleading outfit, make sure they bring props, cleats, pom poms, and other essentials as well. These shots work really well with the subject immersed in a scene. 

10. Season and Style 

You should be sure to encourage your subjects to consider the season before picking their outfits. After all, a summer outfit in a fall photoshoot will look out of place. They also need to pick outfits that are more timeless and less about what’s in style at the moment. 

11. Try to Avoid Tan Lines 

Nothing ruins a shot like some unsightly tan lines creeping into the photo. Make sure students are aware of this (this goes for both boys and girls). 

12. Consider the Clock 

The chances are that your photo session will have a time limit. In most cases, this will include clothing changes. You’ll want to make sure your subject is aware of this and that they plan their outfits accordingly. Girls should wear makeup that fits with all the outfits and consider wearing a tank top to speed up changing times. 

The Best Ways to Prepare for a Senior Photo Session

girl sitting with a basketball

Photo by GORBACHEVSERGEYFOTO Licensed Under CC0

Students should have a sense of responsibility for how their senior pictures turn out. Of course, they should start preparing long before the actual session takes place. As the photographer, you need to make sure they have a timeline to follow.

Always Make Sure to Think Ahead 

Depending on how far out they book the session, students should spend several months (or at least a few weeks) brainstorming for good ideas for their senior pictures.

They can use Google, search Pinterest, or look at other senior pictures from your portfolio for something that inspires them. The sooner they get senior pictures ideas to you, the happier you will both be with the session and result. 

In the few weeks leading up to the session, students should use chapstick every day. Those who want a glowing smile should also begin a teeth-whitening regimen.  The same goes for those who want a special haircut or to dye their hair a certain color. This part is as much about leaving room for mistakes as it is about getting everything right. 

In the few days before the session, the seniors should start gathering and cleaning any props they want to use in their senior pictures. They’ll also want to try on and iron their outfits to make sure they fit the way they want and look suitable for the shoot. Students should shave and paint their nails the night before their senior pictures. 

After a good night’s sleep, students should gather their things, take a shower, and make sure they’re hydrated, so their skin looks its best. They should arrive in at least one of the outfits they plan to be photographed in. 

What to Bring to A Session

young woman holding hands up framing her eyes

Photo by Berzin Licensed Under CC0

It’s always helpful to provide your clients with a checklist of things to bring to their senior portraits, particularly if you’re going to be traveling to any off-site locations. You can also do a checklist for the “Thinking Ahead” section above. Most clients will appreciate you helping them out, especially the parents of the seniors.

  • Wardrobe – The outfits the kids are going to wear and any specific accessories that go with each one.
  • Makeup – Girls should be sure to have the correct makeup with them in case they need touchups at any point during the shoot.
  • Jewelry – Girls should plan any jewelry they want to wear with each outfit carefully and make certain they bring everything they want.
  • Props – Props should be clean and ready to go. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s your job as a photographer to do what’s necessary to make your client’s senior portraits look great. That said, there are a lot of things you can do before the session to prepare your clients and ensure they are making your job as easy as possible. In the end, there’s nothing either of you can offer to the session that’s more important than a positive, fun attitude.