20 tips and ideas for your senior photos!
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Welcome back, my friend! I hope you've had a great day!
Today, we will talk about something a bit more niche. In fact, we are approaching that time of the year when thousands of students can finally walk out of one of the most exciting (or terrible) phases of their lives: I'm talking about graduation! It's a big deal.
Many of the students that reach out to me to get their senior photoshoot done are very nervous about their session. Their expectations are very high, and they do not want to mess it up. Completely understandable. If you're in the same boat, do not worry. I get it, a senior session can be quite intimidating. I've done one myself, and I was not ready for it whatsoever.
While I can't physically calm you down and tell you that everything will be alright, I can give you some tips to be the most prepared senior in the history of photoshoots. I've gathered all the tips and tricks I give to my clients before their session, so that you do not have to stress out!
Let's dive in!
1. Book your session in advance
This might not come as a shocker, but I felt like it's important to mention it. You have no idea of how many last-minute sessions I get. Even if it's not a big deal to be a procrastinator (I'm right there with you), if you book your photoshoot months in advance, you give your photographer enough time to prepare everything and talk to you. Also, if you book last-minute, you might not be able to get the best time of the day, ending up with an unflattering light. So many things could be pre-arranged if you let your photographer have enough time.
A bit of pre-planning goes a long way!
If you'd like to book with me, don't hesitate to contact me!
2. Pick a location
This will influence a lot in your shoot.
Are you looking for a city vibe, or more like a nature aesthetic? Do you want to shoot at a special place that is characteristic to you? Would you like to do it indoors or outdoors? Also, would you want to do it in spring, and take advantage of the new-born flowers, or would you rather have a snowy photoshoot in winter? Do you want to do something very unique, like a record shop, a plant nursery, a skatepark, or your favorite gym? Instead, would you prefer being traditional and shoot it on your school's campus?
These are all questions that you should take into consideration when you pick your location. If you have no idea, your photographer will certainly know a lot of hidden gems where you can shoot.
If you're in Logan, Utah, or around here, I personally know some interesting locations. While many college students like to shoot on USU (Utah State University) campus, others are always open to unique ideas. There are many gorgeous spots hidden in Logan Canyon and Green Canyon. Some of my favorites are Tony Grove Lake, the beginning of Crimson Trail, or, if you are a passionate hiker, the Wind Caves. I also shot downtown, at a record shop, at Freckle Farm, on Centre Street, and in front of Cafe Ibis. If you'd like to stir a bit away from Logan, there are also beautiful spots in Mendon, Smithfield, Bear Lake, or the beautiful reservoir in Providence. Or, if you are really going big, Salt Lake has so many wonderful spots, like the Capitol!
3. Talk with your photographer about your ideas
Seems obvious, but it's not! Before your shoot, make sure to set a bit of time to tell your photographer what you're looking for. What style are you leaning towards, and is there a theme in your shoot? What clothes are you thinking of wearing, and which overall vibe are you trying to achieve?
This will incredibly help your photographer to have a good idea of what your expectations are. If you're going for a specific style, they might need to bring along some filters or interesting lighting. If they know your ideas, they will have a much easier time to plan and organize the shoot for you. You need to be on the same page!
I personally like to set up a 30 minute meeting at least 3 weeks before the shoot with my clients. Not only do I get to know their vision, but it helps me getting to know their personality! You do not want to show up to a photoshoot without knowing your photographer at all. If you set up some time before the big day, everyone will be way less awkward.
4. Ask your photographer for suggestions
Another very important thing! Listen to your photographer because... chances are that they've done more sessions than you have.
They will know all the best spots, and they can suggest you which time of the day will work best with you idea. While for most shoots, golden and pink hour are the best (sunrise and sunset), if you're going for an indie shoot, for example, you might want to shoot at dusk.
Also, if you ask them, they will let you know which colors you should wear based on the location/style you're going for. I personally let them know anyway, but many photographers prefer not saying anything if their clients do not ask.
Ask away, we're here for you!
5. Make a shot list or pinboard
This is completely up to you, but I always encourage my clients to do this. Since we're doing a photoshoot, the best way to communicate your ideas are... photos! While you might have already told them everything you'd like to do at your shoot, words can lead very often to miscommunication or misunderstanding, when it's about photography. "Moody" or "Airy" for you could mean a very different thing to me.
Show your photographer what shots inspired you. Make a Pinterest board with some types of photos or poses you really like. Or make a shot list with all the pictures you want to have by the end of the shoot. For example, while having a picture while you throw your cap in the air is very traditional and you expect it, if you do not tell your photographer they might as well forget about it. With a shot list, everything is written down and it's impossible not to remember!
6. Pick your favorite outfits and style
Most photographers will include at least a change of outfits in your shoot. Set some time aside to try on your favorite clothes at home and figure out which ones represent you the best! Pick something that screams your personality and is flattering on you.
There are so many styles you could go for, and honestly, there is not a wrong choice. Some things are a bit more eye-catching and distracting than others (like neon colors or complicated patterns), but if you feel good in them, you should not let me limit you. As I mentioned before, try to check in with your photographer to know if they think that your choice fits your location.
Try to mix different styles, so you can have a better three-dimensional representation of yourself. For example, a good bet is always having one outfit that your parents will like (normal t-shirt and jeans), a classy one, one that you'd go out with your friends with, and one that shows what you're passionate about (a sport or a hobby). Of course, do not forget your cap and gown!
Here's more styles you could go for:
Classic formal (rock a suit or a bougie dress)
Statement piece (add a pop of color)
Casual (a minimalistic and neutral style never fails)
Outdoor chick (a good flannel or hiking boots are honestly underrated)
Athletic (your favorite sports team merchandise or your own sporty clothes say a lot about you!)
Cozy (a comfy sweater is always a good idea)
Retroglam or Vintage (oldies are always the best)
City Chic (some nice jeans and a good blouse can not go wrong)
Hippie, Bohemian or Indie (show off your positive soul)
Artsy (be proud of your creative and colorful side)
Grudge, Punk, or Emo (leather and jeans jackets will never be old)
Preppy (rock that button-down Oxford or your favorite mini skirt)
These are just some styles on the top of my mind. Literally, wear anything you want! The world is your oyster.
7. Pick some accessories
After picking your outfit, think about if you'd like to add any accessories.
Are you a minimalist and only want a very fine necklace? Are you a ring person? Is there a bracelet or anklet that holds an important memory for you? Or do you simply want to be a bit extra and throw in an eccentric scarf, some cool sunglasses, or a colorful bag?
Even if some photographers say not to go too crazy with the accessories, I say: bring whatever you love!
8. Think about props
Props are such a unique detail to add to your session. Is there an object that can tell your story? For example, if you're in a soccer team, why not bringing your favorite soccer ball? Or, if you're in a band, bring your instrument. Some clients of mine brought their favorite books, or even flowers are a really nice touch.
Props can make your photos very distinctive and unique! Also, it's almost impossible to run out of posing ideas if you have props with you.
9. Special Effects
Do you want something special in your final photographs? Special effects can be physically present at your session, or they can be edited in. Make sure to talk about it with your photographer in advance so that they can prepare.
For example, sparkles, confetti, poster boards, light filters, and colored lights are some of the few special effects I have personally used in my sessions!
10. Hate being by yourself? No problem!
A lot of photographers will not have any problems with you bringing your bestie at your session, you just need to let them know.
Having your friends, a significant other, or your pet to your session can make it extremely fun and help you being less shy.
Also, I should not tell you this but... it usually ends up being cheaper for everyone if there are more people to share the bill.
11. Check your hands!
Your hands are going to show in your pictures! While outfit and makeup are essential, if you'd like to have your nails looking fabulous for your session, you need to think about it beforehand. Just a thought.
I honestly would not stress too much about it, but I'm also quite the tomboy, so you might not want to listen to me.
12. Stay away from tan beds
I honestly think that everyone's skin color is just beautiful as it is, but if you were planning to get in a tan bed, listen up. If you really want to look tan in your pictures, make sure to take care of it minimum 2 weeks before your photoshoot. You do not want to be sunburn or look orange on your session.
Editing it out is a struggle, and you want your skin looking fantastic!
13. Iron your clothes
While I can edit the wrinkles on your clothes out, it is just so much easier to think about it beforehand. You want your outfit to be as fresh and flattering as possible. I know the pain of ironing because I hate doing it, but for something like this, it is absolutely worth it.
14. Pack everything the day before
You have no idea of how many clients I had that forgot one outfit at home. Or someone did not bring their second pair of shoes. The list is infinite.
Make sure to write down a list and pack everything beforehand, so you will not run into this very frustrating problem. My memory is also a disaster, so I always do this as well.
15. Get a fresh shave or trim your beard
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you're a person with a beard, make sure to make it look as clean and classy as you can. Style it or just get a fresh shave to be sure to look your best.
16. Clean your glasses
I'm very guilty of this. Glasses-wearers, how many times did you clean your glasses today? If your answer is zero, welcome to the club.
You do not want to have weird smudges on your glasses during your photoshoot: we want to see your pretty eyes! I'd suggest either removing the lenses from the frame to avoid flares and smudges or, if you're as blind as I am, bringing 5-6 glass cleaning wipes.
17. Bring Makeup for retouch
A senior photoshoot can be as short as 15 minutes but as long as 3 hours. Chances are that, after a bit, your makeup will start getting ruined or it will fade a little. To avoid looking not as good as you want towards the end of your session, bring a little makeup bag with you to retouch your skin every now and then.
18. Bring a Water Bottle
Hydrate or die straight, they say.
Anyway, I promise you, it can get pretty hot in spring. Also, you do not want to go for two hours without water. Don't forget to pack your hydro flask!
19. Take a deep breath
You got this. You have everything ready, and your photographer will take care of the rest. Arrive 10 minutes early to your session, and take a deep breath. The only thing you need to do now is stand there and look pretty!
One thing I like to do if I see that my client is a bit nervous, I start the session with a good 5 minutes of breathing and relaxing. It really helps.
20. Check in
Your photographer will probably take care of this, but, make sure to check in with them during your photoshoot. Communicate how you're feeling, what you're liking, and what you'd like to change. If you feel uncomfortable, tell them.
We're here for you, and we want your senior session to be perfect just as much as you do. Talk about anything with us, we love to get to know you.
And, most importantly, have fun!
Aaaaand, thans a wrap!
These are some of my favorite senior photos I took! If you'd like to see more, you can take a look at my graduation portfolio.
I hope this was helpful, and please let me know if you have any other suggestions!
What did you do for your graduation photoshoot? Were you nervous? What was the best thing about it?
Let me know in the comments!
See you soon, guys!