Taking Senior Portraits To The Next Level

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is high school seniors.  In many ways, they are the perfect age.  They are still young enough to have a little of that childhood spirit left- but old enough that they can offer creative input.  By working with teens to plan the session, you can push the standards of senior portraits to the next level.

Now every senior session still needs to include the traditional stuff – like smiling head and shoulder shots.  The parents are still going to want these, so you can’t skip them.  However, once you get the traditional stuff out of the way, you are free to get a little more creative and artsy.  Push the limits of lighting and try things out.  The great thing about seniors is that they are generally up for whatever you want to try.  I’ll often tell them, “This is either going to be the best shot of the session or you will never see it again.”

For Dayton’s session, we played around with some very dramatic lighting, until we came up with this shot.

senior portrait

It created a striking silhouette that added a punch of drama to the portfolio.  Is mom going to send this shot out with the graduation announcements?  Probably not.  However, it has a great deal of mood and emotion to it-showing a little of his contemplative side.

At the end of the session, we went in an entirely different direction.  We didn’t have his letter jacket yet – he just had the “W” with him.  We decided to take a page out of the 40@Forty playbook and create a crazy variation on the traditional school letter shot.  We basically taped the W to his shirt and came up with this…

Dayton Super Senior Portrait

This shot captured his spirit and love for his school like no other portrait could.  It ended up being one of the favorite shots from the entire session.  It very easily could have been one of the worst shots of the session – but you don’t know until you try.  The key is to experiment.   Playing around with shots like this makes the session more enjoyable for you as an artist and for the senior as a model.  Give it a try during your next senior session and see what you come up with!


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