Top Ten Tips for Shooting High School Senior Portraits

High School Seniors have HUGE expectations

They want to look stunning (read: like a model), they want a fresh and trendy portrait, and they want their friends to be envious of their photos. And maybe one or two of them has an attitude problem. Scared yet?

Senior Portrait Photography

The good news about teens…

You don’t have to bribe them, chase them, or put something on your head to make them look at the camera. So, they aren’t your most difficult client you will ever have (Hint: Toddlers will probably be yours. See our tips on how to photograph children).

In fact, Seniors really are great models when you want to practice great portrait techniques.

Here’s how to give Seniors the photos they really want:


  1. Have an interview with the client first. Get to know her (or him) so that you can help truly reflect who they are.
  2. Make your client look awesome. Seniors generally want to look WAY better in a picture than they do in real life (none of this capturing reality stuff). Follow rules for flattering light and posing. Watch for flyaway hairs or smudged make-up.
  3. Let her see the first few pictures on your LCD screen. Then if there’s something she doesn’t like about her looks or how she’s holding herself, she can change it.
  4. Use a low aperture and zoom in. This will give you the beautiful bokeh that people want in portraits.
  5. Have something to pose with or against. This will help the pose look more natural and relaxed. Examples are a wall, fence, rock, steps, posing stool, bench, etc.
  6. Talk. If you are just silently taking pictures, your subject will feel awkward and look awkward too.
  7. Recommend dressing simply but in something she feels pretty in – or something he feels stylish in. Clothing that is too loud or busy detracts from the subject. The most important thing is for the subject to FEEL like she looks good so she’ll relax.
  8. Photograph two friends in the same session. It’s amazing how much more relaxed teens are with friends having to do the same “awkward” thing as them.
  9. Experiment. Teenagers are usually more adventurous and willing to try your new ideas. They also like the idea of being in a more unique photo than any of their friends have.
  10. Make sure you get one for Grandma to hang on her wall. I’ve seen shoots where every pose is a little too flirty. Who wants to send a shot of a derriere or pouty lips to Grandma? And she’ll want a picture. In fact, Grandma and Mom are the ones that are going to be buying the prints and forking over the cash. So make them happy.

If you do nothing else, relax and have fun. Teenagers will respond better and end up with better portraits if they feel like they are having a good time!

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