High school senior pictures are an American tradition that has been around at least since World War II. These treasured photos taken by a professional photographer during the high school senior year capture teenage freshness as it’s poised on the brink of adulthood, ready to begin a career or enter college.
Because senior portraits are so meaningful and last a lifetime, seniors will want to prepare for the big day by getting suggestions for poses and clothing from friends, parents and the photographer.
Below are the top 20 portrait tips to help you plan for a photo session of senior pictures.
1. Plan several outfits to bring.
You should arrange to bring several outfits to your photo session in a variety of colors, not just your favorite hue. Remember to bring accessories for all outfits, from footwear to jewelry and hair accents. Since several full-body shots are also taken for purchase, check shoes to be sure they are clean and that both socks match – that full-body shot could end up being your favorite pose.
Check your clothing ahead of time to make sure it isn’t spotted or faded, and transport your outfits (you can wear one when you arrive) on hangers to prevent wrinkles.
2. Keep your clothing visually simple.
Don’t bring outfits with words or designs, stripes or pictures, except possibly your school logo. You want your face, eyes and expression to command attention, not the words on your shirt.
3. Give consideration to color.
Solid colors are recommended for most or all outfits. 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 shades tend to make people look slimmer. Try not to wear flesh-tone or neutral colors such as white, beige, tan, pale peach or pink, or gray, as these can dominate the picture and make you look washed out.
For outside pictures, Bluemoon Photography recommends spring and summer colors of sky blue, pale green, watermelon and dark peach to complement the outdoor setting. For fall, consider wearing red, gold, deep orange, emerald green and dark green.
4. Use clothing to accentuate your best features.
Girls may want to forego short sleeves or spaghetti straps if their arms are heavy, since these styles will only accentuate that feature.
Turtleneck tops look best on people with long necks. Round and square faces look good in a square-neck top, while thin faces or pointed chins are attractive with rounded-neck tops.
5. Go easy on the jewelry.
Avoid wearing attention-grabbing jewelry. Again, the photograph should accentuate your face, eyes and personality, not draw unwarranted attention to your jewelry.
Also, jewelry can date a photograph very quickly. Classic jewelry pieces are best.
6. Apply makeup normally.
It’s tempting to get very “glam” when having pictures taken, but this could very well make you look like a stranger in your senior portrait.
Apply your makeup as you normally look on a day-to-day basis, but bring your makeup with you and let the photographer know you have it.
If the photographer feels you need a touch more blush or eyeshadow, he or she will let you know.
Avoid glitter or sparkly anything (powder, eye shadow, blush) – it tends to reflect the flash and leaves white spots.
Also avoid too much lip gloss. It can also leave white spots from the flash or make you look like you’re drooling.
7. Bring powder.
If you have it, bring along some translucent powder. While in real life, a bit of shine to the face gives you that “dewy glow,” it unfortunately can look like “too much glow” in photos.
Your photographer can direct you if you need to dab some powder on your forehead or nose.
8. Go with practiced hair styles.
Getting senior portraits done is not the time to leave your hair uncombed for that “natural” look. Also, avoid experimental hairstyles.
In general, friends and family prefer to remember you as you looked most of your senior year, not just during the period when you had your pictures taken.
Photographer Randy Santee suggests working with your desired hairstyles a few days before the photo shoot to get the look you want in advance.
Get a haircut at least a week in advance to give your hair a chance to adjust and look natural. Girls having their hair styled for a formal picture can, of course, wait until the photo session day to get their hair done, but they should practice with their hair stylist beforehand so there are no surprises on picture day.
9. Guys need a fresh shave.
A fresh shave for guys is recommended, and moustaches or beards should be neatly trimmed.
10. Don’t worry about blemishes.
Don’t worry about a blemish or bruise. Ask your photographer about retouching options to get the most attractive portrait possible. Keep in mind that digital retouching is expensive, however.
11. Don’t worry about braces.
Your braces are a part of the high-school “you” and shouldn’t be avoided or hidden. However, if they really bother you, or you only wore them a short time, most photographers can digitally “erase” them for a fee.
Ask your photographer ahead of time about this option.
12. Stay away from tans.
Don’t overdo the tanned look. For one thing, it looks unnatural. For another, your pictures could reveal peeling skin or a cherry-red nose.
13. Help your glasses avoid glare.
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.
14. Make sure your hands are presentable.
Like shoes, hands can show 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.
15. Practice your facial expressions.
Before you go to the photo shoot, practice your facial expressions in front of a mirror at home. You can try various smiles, serious but relaxed looks, and animated expressions for action shots (with sports gear, for example).
16. Work on your poses.
Although the photographer will arrange your standing and sitting positions for a variety of shots, you can 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 appear natural and upbeat.
Popular poses include a seated shot that highlights your face. A recent adaptation to this style is to depict the face as half in light and half in shadow.
Full body pictures are taken, as well, showing a person standing, sitting, or crouching in a relaxed manner. Outdoor shots typically make use of background fences, trees, and attractive or interesting doorways.
Black and white, color, and sepia are also traditional options for your pictures.
17. Personalize your photos with props.
Many photographers will invite you to bring favorite props to the shoot, such as 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.
Usually you can even bring your pet to appear in some of the shots with you.
18. Bring someone with you.
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.
19. Become comfortable with the photographer.
Visit several photography websites for ideas on how the studio operates. Look at posted images and imagine your picture included there.
If the pictures just don’t appeal to you, keep looking for the right studio. Some professional photographers will invite you to come in and discuss senior picture tips before scheduling a shoot.
This will give you a chance to hear their ideas and suggestions as well as share yours, with the goal of working together to create beautiful photography that will please everyone.
Don’t be shy about asking questions, even during the actual shoot. If you don’t feel comfortable with a certain pose, say so.
20. Only take the photo if you’re feeling your best.
When the big day comes, if you’re not feeling your best due to a bad cold or too little sleep, call and cancel your photo appointment. The photographer will surely understand how important it is to look your best and will simply set up a follow-up time.