How to have a great Senior Portrait Session
by Lisa Miller, Studio di Luce
Summer time is Senior Portrait time for professional photographers. With the beautiful scenery as a backdrop, and a warm summertime glow, students entering their senior year of High School love to wait until late summer to schedule this important photo session. But even with a golden tan and a dreamy back drop, you still need to prepare to make it a successful shoot. Here are my suggestions on how to have a great Senior Portrait Session:
What do I wear?
Since I shoot in the studio as well as outside in my "outdoor studio," I tell my clients to bring a couple of different outfits for variety. I like to suggest a classic look for the in-studio head shot which is the close-up shot commonly used for the yearbook. For the girls I offer the time-honored formal black drape as an option. This black velvet v-neck fabric is draped around the shoulders, and is a traditional look that parents and grandparents love. In some High Schools, it is a required shot for the yearbook, so check with your schools instructions just to be sure. For guys, the typical yearbook shot is shirt and tie, with or without a jacket. If you are not a tie guy, then at least wear a collared shirt for this shot.
The outdoor or location shot is more casual, so all you need to remember is to keep it simple. Jeans and a solid t-shirt, polo or dress shirt for the guys is a great look. Avoid stripes or patterns and yes, a black or white t-shirt is fine, if that's your go-to look. For girls, you can't go wrong with a simple top and jeans, a pretty dress, or anything that reflects your sense of style. Remember girls, to give some thought to your undergarments to avoid the dreaded bra strap or panty lines showing. Shoes are also important and girls should always bring a few pairs of heels along with flats depending on your outfit choices. Guys should make sure dress shoes are scuff free and sneakers are fresh. Picking your outfits shouldn't be a big project, but if you are struggling just ask someone for suggestions. Try to avoid anything too trendy, and make sure everything is wrinkle free and brought in on hangers, not thrown into a duffle bag!
How do I look?
Hair, makeup and general hygiene is important. Guys should get a fresh haircut and should shave and wash their face about an hour before the shoot. Oily skin is always a problem this time of year so I always keep blotters on hand. Girls, if you are planning on a new cut, be sure to do it at least a week before. For your makeup, if you aren't sure of how to apply correctly, spend a few dollars to have it professionally done that day. Don't try any new looks or crazy makeup colors, and save the shimmer for prom night. Pressed powder is important for a matte finish and there is always a compact or two in the studio if you need to freshen up. If you plan to tan before your shoot, do so at least a week beforehand and don’t get burned. Be mindful of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, etc. For both guys and girls, don't forget to have clean or freshly manicured nails because dirty nails or chipped nail polish will show!
Regarding eyeglasses in photos… If your friends wouldn’t recognize you without your glasses, you should wear them for your shoot. However, the glare from the glasses may detract from your eyes, so I suggest having your lenses removed from your frames or ask your eye doctor to loan you a pair of similar frames for the day. And remember, Visine is your friend so please use it if you have any redness!
Funny that I need to mention this here, but I can't tell you how hard it is to Photoshop food out from between teeth, and how many hours I actually spend doing just that! Yes, please brush and floss right before your session, and if your teeth are yellow, white strips a week before can really make a difference. Also, practice smiling in the mirror so you can see what looks real and what looks fake. The best way to achieve a natural smile is to simply think about something that makes you happy! Visualization of a joyful time in your life is the easiest way to evoke a smile so real that your eyes will twinkle in delight. It's also a good way to calm yourself if you are a little nervous in front of the camera. Props, like a guitar if you play, or your football or cheerleading uniform, not only showcase your individuality, but having them there will also help you relax during the shoot. Just take a deep breath, smile with your eyes, be yourself and let the photographer do the rest.
The Senior Portrait session shouldn't be stressful if you are prepared, well rested, and not rushed or stressed out. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the studio, have fun, and go with the flow. Some of the best shots come from an easygoing collaborative relationship between the High School Senior and the Photographer. Just be yourself, think of things that bring you joy, and I promise you'll be thrilled with the results!