16 Tips for Senior Portraits

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! The time has finally come! Freedom awaits….just some finals, graduation, and of course….your senior portraits.

Senior portraits can be an incredibly fun experience and 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. ;)

I’ve compiled a list of tips and advice for you to help make your session as fun and stress free as possible.

  1. Bring all the things!

You should plan on bringing several outfits to your session. An hour session allows for around 2 outfit changes depending on the shoot location and time frame. Be sure to bring a good variety of outfits that make sense for your session location. Your photographer can go through the options with you at the beginning of the session and help you coordinate what you’re wearing with the location and your desired ‘look’ for the shoot! 

Check out my Pinterest board on senior portraits inspiration to get an idea of what to wear.

  1. Keep your clothing visually simple.

Don’t bring outfits with logos, crazy prints, words, stripes, or pictures. We want your face, eyes and expression to be the focus, not the logo on your shirt! 

Also make sure the color of your undershirt coordinate well with your outfits and don’t show through your clothing. If you need a strapless, please bring one to your session. Tucking or moving straps will not always work, you probably don’t want a hot pink bra strap showing. :)

  1. Color counts!

Solid colors or mellow patterns look great and are not too distracting. Colors that go well with a medium or dark background for close-ups include medium or dark tones of green, brown, rust, wine or blue. Darker colors tend to make people look slimmer. Try not to wear flesh-tone or neutral colors such as beige, or tan as these can dominate the picture and make you look washed out.

For outdoor shoots, you want to dress based on where you’re shooting. For nature locations textured fabrics and seasonal colors work well. For urban/city locations, feel free to dress up a bit, layering always looks great and adds depth. Try to choose colors that will pop against the city scene.

  1. Use clothing to your advantage, bring out your best features.

Girls, we all have features we either love or dislike about ourselves. Be careful of the clothing styles and how they will make you look and feel. You might consider avoiding sleeveless tops if you have bigger arms, wear a dress if you have long legs, heals/wedges if you’re on the shorter side, high necklines to hide cleavage, empire waisted tops for bigger middles, high waisted pants for smooth lines, etc. You get the idea. ;)

  1. Less is more with jewelry.

Avoid wearing big and chunky jewelry. Again, we want the focus on your face, eyes and personality, not on your crazy long dangling earrings.

Also, jewelry can date a photograph very quickly. Stay away from trendy pieces, classic jewelry is best.

  1. Go au-naturale with your makeup.

While you want to amp up the coverage a little bit, you want your makeup to look like it normally does day to day. Bring your makeup with you on the shoot and let your photographer know you have it just in case. Avoid glitter or sparkly anything (powder, eye shadow, blush) – it doesn’t photograph well and makes your skin seem splotchy and uneven. Natural lips tend to look the best, avoid crazy glossy coverage and deep or bright pinks and reds. Lastly, Bring Powder – You can get warm during your shoot changing and posing, you don’t want a shiny forehead in your final images!

Side note – Please don’t be concerned about minor breakouts. If your acne is more severe, you’re okay. Your photographer can take care of all of that during post editing.

  1. Your hair knows best.

Have you always wanted to try that crazy braided hairstyle you saw in Pinterest? Well your senior portraits are not the time to try one out. Avoid experimental hairstyles, amp up the styles you wear on a regular basis for a natural look that represents you and how people remember you. Play with your hairstyles a few days before the photoshoot to get the look you want in advance. Make sure to get that haircut no less than a week in advance to give your hair a chance to adjust and look natural.

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

  1. Guys and the hair cuts…

If you want to get a hair cut before the session, make sure to do it at last a week in advance. Give your new hair cut some time to relax a bit and look a bit more like you do on the day to day. 

  1. No heavy tanning or spray tanning before the shoot!

Listen ya’ll, there’s only so much we can do with post editing if you look like a orange the day of the shoot. Tanning in excess can look unnatural and can throw your skin tone off.

  1. Get rid of glare from your glasses.

Either buy or borrow a pair of suitable frames without lenses to prevent glare and reflections from the glass. Or you can ask your optician to remove the lenses from your frames for the photo session. Most will do this for you at no charge, but give them plenty of notice so there is no rush.

  1. Your hands will be in those close ups.

Your hands will end up in some of your favorite poses, so be sure to take the time to make them presentable – guys should trim their nails, and girls might need to touch up their manicure.

  1. Go to the mirror and practice those facial expressions.

YES. Seriously! Before you go to the photo shoot, practice your facial expressions in front of a mirror at home. Try a variety of expressions to see what you like and don’t like. Figure out what expressions you like and don’t like so you feel more comfortable when you’re in front of the camera. 

  1. Practice Posing.

Your photographer will give you plenty of direction with posing, but it will help if you to try out different stances and positions at home, in front of a mirror, or by asking for feedback from a friend or family member. The overall goal is to feel like yourself and not forced.

  1. Personalize your photos with props.

Props are an awesome way to bring your personal style and interests into your shoot. Think sports equipment if you are a team player or fan, musical instruments, or hobby items. You can even bring a favorite portable piece of furniture, such as a lightweight chair or stool. 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 dog!, your favorite book, the sky’s the limit!

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

  1. Bring a friend!

Most photographers welcome you to bring a friend if that person can help make you relax and take a natural picture. That person can also help with clothing changes and “double check” you while you’re being photographed to make sure your clothing hasn’t taken a turn for the worse or that your hair hasn’t come all undone. Friends can also bring up those funny inside joke moments and get you laughing with is always a great shot.

  1. Speak up!

Communication is key! If you really don’t like a certain setting or pose, say so!  You should be 100% satisfied with your photos, and photographers are not mind readers, we need you to communicate with us. Help us help you! ;)

Some last words:

Other students who have had their pictures taken already can offer tips from their experience. The bottom line is that planning ahead will make you more relaxed and confident walking into your session.

Try on different  outfits at home before deciding which ones to take and do it ahead of time. Feel free to ask your photographer anything and everything, their number one goal is for you to feel prepared, comfortable, and have fun!

  1. Melody Brown says:

    I like what you said about using clothing to your advantage. I have light blue eyes, so when I wear dark colors there is a contrast that people seem to notice. I’m definitely going to wear darker colors for my senior pictures, because they bring out my eyes.