11 Tips to Plan Your Senior Photo Session

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! The time has finally come! Freedom awaits….just some finals, graduation, and of course….your senior photo session. Senior portraits can be an incredibly fun experience and are not one to be missed. As much as some of us hate getting our picture taken, it’s important to capture this special time in your life. A senior portrait session isn’t complete without some laughter, getting to know each other, silly banter, and a bit of traditional senior portrait posing mockery. ;)

Below I’ve compiled a list of tips and advice for you to help make your senior portraits as fun and stress-free as possible, but first, why should you schedule a senior portrait session, and are they even necessary?
Seattle Graduation Photoshoot

Why Schedule a Senior Photo Session

Your senior year is one of the most exciting of all your school years. Maybe you’ve been in clubs, traveled for sports, or played in a band, or maybe you’ve gone through 13+ years of school with the same group of friends and made loads of memories. Either way, your senior year marks the end of an exciting era and the beginning of a new one and warrants some photos to capture all the memories. Whether you are headed off to college or getting ready to start a new job or career, taking graduation photos is a great way to mark this milestone in your life.

Your senior photos are also a chance to capture memories and express yourself just as you are. They also make great gifts to pass out to friends or loved ones. And, in case you needed one more reason to schedule a graduation photoshoot, getting your senior photos taken is FUN! Whether you do it alone, or with friends, I promise you will have a blast and will look back on these photos and remember the good times! So let’s dive in!

11 Tips for Planning Your Graduation Photos

1. Bring Multiple Outfit Changes

Outfit changes are one of the best and easiest ways to bring variety to your photo session. One-hour senior portrait sessions with me allow for 2 outfits while 90-minute sessions allow for 3-4 outfits. Feel free to text me your outfit ideas ahead of time if you want my two cents or bring a few extra options with you to the shoot so we can pick out the best looks that will make the most sense for your session location. A few additional tips to keep in mind when picking out which options to wear.

Keep it simple

Avoid clothing with large pints, logos, wording, or pictures as they can distract from your face and will date quicker than solid, neutral clothing.

Color counts

With most portrait photos, choosing solid colors and minimal patterns will ensure you are looking your best and your clothing isn’t too distracting. Avoid wearing flesh-tone or neutral colors such as beige or tan as they tend to make you look washed out.

Consider your photo location(s)

Choose outfits that make sense for the location where we will be shooting. You want to feel comfortable as well as look cohesive. Also consider choosing colors that will complement the location you choose, not ones that will blend or clash. For outdoor shoots in nature locations textured fabrics and seasonal colors work well. For urban / city locations, feel free to dress up a bit and choose colors that will pop against the city scene.

Accentuate your best features

Use your clothing to your advantage. Do you have an outfit that makes you feel great? Maybe it brings out the color in your eyes or flatters your body shape just right. Whatever it is, choose outfits that make you look and feel your best. This will help you feel more confident on the day of your photoshoot and rock your photos!

Layering is always a good idea

Layering adds dimension and interest and creates a more put-together look. It also allows you to have more creativity around the colors and textures you choose.
If you’re still feeling stuck on what outfits to wear for your senior photo session, browse Instagram or Pinterest for outfit inspiration. P.S. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to senior portraits inspiration, so feel free to start there!

2. With jewelry, less is more

Not only does trendy or large jewelry date your photos very quickly, but it also takes away the focus from your face. Classic jewelry is always flattering and timeless, so if you plan on wearing jewelry in your photos, try to pick simple pieces.
Washington Senior Portrait Photographer

3. Go au-naturale with your makeup

While you may want to amp up the coverage a little bit for your senior photos, it’s best to apply your makeup as you would any other day. This will allow you to look natural in your photos. You should also avoid glitter and sparkles as they do not photograph well. If you are wearing makeup, feel free to bring it with you to the shoot to touch up as needed.

Side note – Please don’t be concerned about minor breakouts. If your acne is more severe, that’s ok too. I will help with the retouching during post-editing to ensure you have the best portraits possible.

4. Stick to your natural hair style

Have you always wanted to try that crazy braided hairstyle you saw on Pinterest? Well, your senior portraits are not the time to try it out. Instead, stick to your normal hairstyle or amp it up a little, but try to avoid experimental hairstyles. You want your senior portraits to be a reflection of you during your senior year so you and your loved ones can look back on these photos and see a true representation of you. If you are planning on getting a haircut before the session, it’s best to schedule it at least a week in advance to allow yourself time to adjust and make any changes if necessary.

Final Tip – Bring extra hair ties, bobby pins, mirror, brush, or anything else you think you might need to freshen up during the shoot.

5. Avoid heavy or spray tanning before the shoot

Listen y’all, there’s only so much we can do with post-editing if you look like an orange the day of the shoot. Tanning in excess can look unnatural and can throw your skin tone off, so it’s best to avoid any tanning before the shoot to ensure you look as natural as possible.

6. Get rid of glare from your glasses

For those of us who wear glasses, we know how pesky the glare and reflections in photos can be. A couple of options to remove the glare going into the photoshoot are to either buy or borrow a pair of frames without lenses or ask your optician to remove your lenses from their frames. This will help ensure there is no glare in any of your photos, however, I can also help remove some of the glare during the editing process as well.

7. Make sure your hands are presentable

Your hands will end up in some of your favorite poses, so be sure to take the time to make them presentable. Nails should be neat and trimmed and if you want to go the extra mile, you can get a manicure ahead of the shoot.Seattle Senior Pictures

8. Practice posing and your facial expressions

Don’t worry! I will be there every step of the way and give you direction with posing, but it can be helpful to try out different stances and poses at home either in front of a mirror or with family or friends. Practice your facial expressions and figure out what you like or what you don’t like and what feels most like you. This will help you feel more comfortable when you’re in front of the camera. The overall goal is to feel like yourself and not make anything feel forced, so practice ahead of time.

Pro Tip – You can even try practicing your poses in the outfits you plan to wear. This will help you get comfortable in your outfits and figure out which poses might or might not work.

9. Personalize your photos with props

Props are an awesome way to bring your personal style and interests into your shoot. Think sports equipment, musical instruments, or hobby items. Bring different outfits that you wear while doing those hobbies such as ballet shoes, yoga gear, football jerseys, baseball hats, etc. Think outside the box and bring sheets of music, your favorite book, or even your dog! The sky’s the limit, so get creative and make your senior portraits stand out!

Check out my Pinterest board on senior portraits inspiration to get an idea of what props you can bring.

10. Bring a friend

Yes, you can absolutely bring a friend with you to your photoshoot if you’d like. Having a friend at your graduation photoshoot can sometimes help you relax and they can also help with clothing changes and be an extra set of eyes to help “double-check” while you are getting photos taken. Friends can also bring up those funny inside joke moments and get you laughing which is always a great shot. Plus, who doesn’t want a few photos with their high school BFF?

11. Speak up!

Communication is key! If you really don’t like a certain setting or pose, say so! I want you to be 100% satisfied with your photos, so speak up if you have an idea or don’t want to try something I suggest. My number one goal is for you to feel comfortable, and to have fun!

While your senior photos are meant to be fun, it’s normal to be a little nervous. Talk to friends or other students who have had their pictures taken already. They may be able to offer some additional tips from their experience and, as always, feel free to ask me anything and everything. The bottom line is that planning ahead will make you more relaxed and confident walking into your graduation photo session.

For some senior photo inspiration, check out these blog posts.