There are a lot of senior picture ideas online, and the variety offered is enough to fuel a photoshoot with any senior. The cost of a senior portrait can vary widely based on your geographical region and your experience as a photographer.

You can expect to charge anywhere between $100 and $250 for senior portraits, and a photo shoot can last anywhere from an hour to a few hours, depending on the locations, lighting, and number of senior picture poses. Great ideas for senior pictures include sitting, standing, leaning, and seeking out locations that provide exciting backdrops for great photos.

Keep in mind that creating these professional shots is time-consuming and challenging, all you’ll have many different variables to contend with at any given time. It’s also a good idea to have a consultation with your client prior to booking their session.

portrait of young man

Photo by mentatdgt Licensed Under CC0

Senior Picture Ideas and Tips for Posing

These ideas should make a senior feel like they look great, and they can be a great way to boost confidence. Make sure to choose a few portrait ideas in advance of your photoshoot, and put together a list of items that you might want in your senior’s photos.

Our list of photo ideas below include using props, locations, senior picture poses, groups, pets, and other accessories to make your senior photos unique and put-together looking.

artistic photo of woman in purple

Photo by 3Motional Studio Licensed Under CC0

Try Sitting Poses to Ease Awkwardness

Sitting is a great way to eliminate awkwardness at the beginning of a senior photo session, and many grad photo or senior portrait ideas include sitting on different objects or just the ground. Sitting on unique objects is one way to showcase a favorite hobby of your client.

When posing in a sitting position for a senior portrait, you’ll want to direct your senior to bend their arms and legs for a more natural look in their senior photo.

The Power Pose

Standing can feel very empowering for your senior, which is why it’s one of the top senior picture ideas after sitting. Grad pictures ideas that show standing next to attractive lighting or architectural features are popular and often easy locations to find.

It’s also important to get a real laugh when taking senior pictures, and using humor or distraction is an excellent method when your subject is in a standing pose.

man at store

Photo by David Florin Licensed Under CC0

Use Leaning as a Creative Pose

Leaning against a car, textured wall, or another surface can be very helpful for senior pictures. These flat surfaces add critical texture and interest in the shot, and the senior pictures look more refined as the subject appears relaxed.

Friend or Group Photos

Large groups of friends may seem like a daunting task, but it can make heartfelt images and great memories. One of the senior portrait ideas that are popular is to get pets into the mix, or to photograph siblings or best friends together in settings that have special meaning to them.

Organizing these shots can get tricky with lots of people involved, and the quest to get the perfect shot may take longer than usual, so plan extra time into the shoot.

Delicate Details And Closeup Shots

Not every picture of the senior needs to be of their face, and some of the worthwhile senior picture ideas that get overlooked include close up shots of items such as:

  • Sports gear like cleats or uniforms
  • Closeups of their class ring, or other meaningful jewelry
  • The subject’s hands as they hold a beloved object
portrait of woman

Photo by Engin Akyurt Licensed Under CC0

Consider Some Action Shots

Football shots are famous for senior pictures, and getting an action shot is one of the hardest picture ideas to make a reality. This style of picture poses may take several attempts, but the senior portrait you get is a great way to capture the senior and make them look talented.

Other action shots can include jumping, riding vehicles or motorbikes, or driving. Still, these may all require more planning for an excellent senior picture and may not be possible for a high school senior in all locations.

black and white image of young female dancer

Photo by Jansel Ferma Licensed Under CC0

Over-the-Shoulder Pose

The over-the-shoulder pose is a popular choice for a senior picture as it is appropriate yet adds an element of romance and creates a specific look. This pose is more popular with senior girls and can feature in combination with other portrait ideas and senior photography.

In this senior picture pose, you don’t want to bend the neck overly far as it will be unflattering, and this an ideal time to work in unique clothing or other senior portrait ideas such as props.

Feature the Class Year

Another of the senior portrait ideas that have gained popularity is adding the name of your subject, or their class year to an image in post-processing. This step may be more time consuming, but it offers a great custom effect. You can also make the name or year pop with a different colored font, or choose one that blends into the background.

Find Beauty in Nature

Leaving the high school campus and trying out new locations is an excellent senior picture idea, and you can try out athletic fields, nature areas, the steps of various buildings, and even attractive parts of downtown for your senior photography.

Senior photography ideas that make for great senior photos include areas with texture or an interesting look about them. Feature only one or two locations for a well-rounded shoot, and you can get a lot of mileage out of a few outfits.

woman in white dress standing in water

Photo by Snapwire Licensed Under CC0

Showcase the Graduation Cap and Gown

Bedazzled graduation caps are a popular accessory for high school seniors at graduation, and these can be another of those senior portrait ideas that add a customized touch to the senior photo. Senior portraits can also include the cap and gown without decoration, and customized text can be added later for a finished look.

Signboards and Scrabble Letters

Creating signs for your senior portraits can be a fun way to document the personality of your subject who has a sense of humor. This signage is one of the more popular senior portrait ideas that can customize to any hobby or style, and it can say whatever. These kinds of senior picture ideas do require some advanced planning, but some signboards can set up in moments.

Scrabble letters are useful for adding text to an image, and can work well with any of the senior picture poses on our list.

Capture The Vibe

Using lighting and props, you can get a completely unique image that portrays the authentic personality of your subject. You can also use nature, plants, water features, and other calming elements or, in contrast, use bright colors or lighting.

portrait of man in green shirt

Photo by Justin Shaifer Licensed Under CC0

Incorporate the School Uniform, Class Ring, or Jacket

Showcasing the high school uniform the senior wears, their class ring, or their high school class jacket is a great way to capture their personality and school spirit. These items make for a more traditional senior portrait that is timeless. It’s also one of the most popular senior portrait ideas as it documents their accomplishments.

Leaning on Cars

Leaning against a car is one of the top senior picture poses, particularly for guys, and they can wear just about anything when they use this pose. This option is an excellent senior photo for outside for those guys that like cars, or just want to have a fresh shot that makes them look great.

Photoshoots with Pets and Parents

Pets and parents can make for heartfelt images, but you may want to take these shots separately from the seniors. Seniors can choose if they want group shots with their parents or their pets, and you can combine this idea with other senior picture ideas such as custom messages or school gear.

Feature a Childhood Photo

Have your subject hold up a childhood photo of themselves and find a way to incorporate it into their session. The photo that they choose doesn’t matter as much as what they want to do with it, and you can find ways to create cute “then and now” style images that recreate the photo or compare to the senior photo to any degree desired.

Many individuals don’t want to recreate the photo exactly, and this idea is a popular option for group or sibling shots who may wish to recreate the image as closely as possible. The childhood photo likely won’t be high-resolution, so you’ll want to plan on getting kind of close up for this shot.

woman looking at a vintage marriage photo

Photo by Luizmedeirosph Licensed Under CC0

When working with pets, in particular, you’ll want to plan for extra time. Some animals will be more cooperative than others, and you don’t want your subjects to get stressed out if there’s a limited amount of time available.

Locate the Cool the Hangout Spots

Seniors tend to have several favorite hangout spots, and visiting one of them can be a great backdrop that you won’t want to miss. Group photos can also work in these locations and will provide added meaning to the shot.

If one area doesn’t work out, have a second one ready and some poses that might work for the individual senior or group that you’ll be working alongside.

Get Some Grunge Photos

Grunge photos are a trendy option lately that provides an outlet for those seniors that want pictures that are a touch less formal. These types of photos don’t require any unique props or lighting, but finding an appropriate location may take a little searching.

It’s easy to have a full list of ideas for beautiful locations, but grunge photos demand more industrial and rugged areas that are often abandoned or off the beaten path. Old factories, bridges, parts of downtown, and other types of city infrastructure can work, but farm equipment, barns, and forgotten tools can also serve as useful backgrounds.

Incorporate a Favorite Hobby

Whatever the favorite hobby is of your subject, you should try and incorporate it into their images along with their personality. Consider their accomplishments and find ways to get props into their session.

It’s also worth getting more information about their hobbies during your consultation so you can pick relevant locations, suggest accessories they should bring, and better prepare for the session.

man examining rocket

Photo by Jeswin Thomas Licensed Under CC0

Mix up the Settings

When in doubt, try settings that are unique and offer highly individualized backdrops. Many seniors want something different than what their peers will be getting, and finding those unlikely locations can ensure you get great photos.

It’s also a good idea to visit several locations to shoot or at least have a few in mind. Adding some supplementary lighting or other kinds of props can also transform a dull site into something much more exciting.

Candid Street Senior Photography

For those that live in the city, you can take advantage of the local surroundings and take candid photos of your subject wherever they feel most comfortable. This backdrop also has the added benefit of being familiar with your subject, which will put them at ease sooner and offer more authentic shots that are less stiff.

Post-Graduation Plans

Senior picture ideas would be incomplete if they didn’t include any hint of what the graduates’ plans were for the future. During your consultation, you may want to ask your subject about their future plans and how they may want to incorporate those ideas into their session. Many graduates will have a clear idea of what they want to do, but others will not, and this is ok too.

Bring on the Fun!

Fun shots can include confetti, balloons, decorative lighting, and props that speak to the hobbies or personality of the individual. These photos are often brightly colored or taken in locations that are lush and textured for added visual interest.

Taking photos of graduates as they swim or play in the water is a trending option for groups, and these candid shots are often more fun than traditional headshots.

For some of these shots, you’ll need to turn up the shutter speed to capture the movement appropriately, and you can experiment with using different colored objects as a set of uniform colors that can be just as interesting as a colorful one. This type of setting can work well for an art student or a performer.

girl looking at wall with taped photos

Photo by cottonbro Licensed Under CC0

Something To Lean On

Leaning on objects is something that both guys and girls can do to create a more relaxed appearance in their photos. Cars, walls, doorways, chairs, and other furniture are excellent options, and leaning can take place in virtually any setting. Outdoor objects such as trees and park benches are common, but retaining walls, and fences are also fair game.

Let the Seniors Choose

A senior photo doesn’t automatically go in the yearbook, but some schools do allow for more candid shots. Senior portraits should aim to document an individual during a time of transition in their lives and to celebrate the beautiful human being they have become.

Girls and guys can choose whether they want to wear any make-up, and it’s best to wear appropriate and comfortable clothing. Most people find that senior pictures are worth the trouble as they become treasured memories for both the subjects and their parents.

Let the seniors decide when they should get their pictures done during their senior year, and avoid trends that will go out of style quickly.

Wardrobe Tips and Tricks

To get the best possible shots, you’ll also need to discuss wardrobe choices for both guys and girls. Both guys and girls can wear whatever they’d like for their shoot, and casual clothes that are comfortable and not too tight are preferred. Solid colored clothing will provide a more timeless look overall, but a pattern is ok as long as it isn’t too overpowering.

Button-down shirts and t-shirts work well for guys, and any type of shirt and pants or dress can work for the girls. Trendy clothes that will go out of style quickly aren’t the best option, but they can get really original images with extra personality.

Coordinating clothing is often more important for group shots or for shots with pets. When taking photos with pets, you’ll want to avoid clothing that the pet will be distracted by, or that will show any pet hair.

Group shots often work better when the individuals are wearing similar colors, or at least colors in the same family. The type of clothing worn in group shots also matters as revealing hemlines or too much diversity can create an image that doesn’t look cohesive.

Top Tips For Picture Perfect Senior Portraits

To get the best possible senior portraits, you’ll want to have a sit-down consultation to ensure that you and the seniors are on the same page about what they want out of the session.

This meeting is also an excellent time to go over what to avoid in senior portraits so that they can better prepare themselves. You may also want to discuss wardrobe choices, adding movement to the shots, and other poses they are interested in trying.

Eye contact in all shots isn’t required anymore, and it’s perfectly ok for subjects to pose with a serious face these days. Many subjects will also ask what to do with their hands, and you can direct them to try different poses such as rubbing them together, holding them loosely, or putting their thumbs in their pockets.

Simple poses like standing are a good idea, and sitting with elbows on their knees is another classic pose for guys that makes them look appropriately masculine. These two poses are popular options for 2020 as they mimic professional photoshoots of celebrities of late. 

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