Memorable High School Senior Portraits Tips
Tips & Tutorials

10 Tips for Taking Memorable High School Senior Portraits

High School senior photographs are the most creative portraits of them all. They are quite versatile, come with varying depths and meanings, and also reflect a person’s personality. This is the reason why you must especially be paying attention to making all your high school senior portraits.

Back in the old days, we used to see mug shots of students who were all dressed alike. These days, the high school senior portraits are much different. A precious memory as they are, these portraits need to be beautiful, attractive, and highly subjected oriented in order to get the best results.

As a photographer, it often becomes challenging to handle such a task. However, there are good sides to the task too. The seniors are generally more supportive and quite enthusiastic about their portraits. Therefore, they take greater interest in their pictures and are ready to take different stances and poses. Still, you need to be prepared on your end to take great pictures. Follow these great tips in order to get the best results.

1. Focus on the Personality

Senior Portrait - Persona
Photo by: Jessica Uhler Photography

You need to pay a lot of attention to the personality of the student. Let them appear just the way they are. This would help you in creating more memorable senior pictures. They might be bossy, shy, happy-go-lucky or beautiful nerds. Let them stick to their persona. Let them choose their clothes that match their most realistic image and then go ahead with the picture. Remember, the background, props, and composition of the picture would depend on their personalities only.

2. The Head and Shoulders pose

Senior Portrait - Head & Soulder
Photo by: Anita Brenchley Photography

Head and shoulders pose is probably the most popular picture composition for every senior. It works because they are to focus more on their faces, are able to draw attention away from the problem areas of their body, and also feel more comfortable while posing. Even the shiest of all teenagers would be able to give a nicer click with this pose.

3. Location of the picture

Photo by: Miguel Pola Photographers

Do they have a favorite place? If yes, then take a picture at that place. This can be their favorite hangout space, their favorite restaurant, or even their school drawer. Some people are really attached to their closets more than anything else. Focus on this location. If you are taking a head to toe shot, you would be able to keep the place in perspective. Taking full shots to capture the location at its best would be a great idea as a photographer.

4. The Posture

Photo by: Jordyn Willey Photography

Arms resting on the sides or a slouch are the last things on the list when it comes to the posture of the subject. It gives them a very inactive look and makes them look like they are in a constant ‘attention’ or ‘halt’ position. This is not the military. So be creative :). Make them keep their hands on their hips, on a wall, holding a scarf or a book or anything similar. This helps them in looking more active and attractive as well. The posture should be straight and very natural too.

5. Fluidity is ‘in’

You must make sure that you show fluid and smooth motion in your pictures, especially when the limbs of the subject are visible. Don’t make them sit or stand with their legs stuck together. This makes them look very inanimate. Instead, play with motion. Make them stand with their legs apart or slightly bent. This would help in keeping the element of fluidity in the pictures and make them look close to perfect.

6. No straight poses

Senior-Portrait-No Straight Pose
Photo by: Rachel Moore Photo

Don’t try to take a mugshot for people. People, no matter how thin, appear excessively large because of the straight poses. It is because of this that a slight turn, twist, or movement would be good for the portraits.

7. Avoid irrelevant props

If someone doesn’t know how to play the guitar, you should not make them hold one. This is one of the most irrelevant props that are seen in hundreds of high school senior portraits. Though it seems cool for many of the teens to hold a guitar and feel like Jimi Hendrix, it would not do them any good after a couple of years. So don’t use such props. Things that are natives to their personality and hobbies must be selected instead. Some seniors are avid readers. Pose them with their favorite books or near their bookshelf.

8. Focus on the guy portraits

Senior-Portrait- Guys
Photo by: Angela Wynn Photography

It is somewhat easier to click girl portraits. However, you need to be extra careful with the guy portraits. One of the most common and successful formulas is to focus on their habits and hobbies. If they are sportspersons or play some instrument, ask them to bring it along. If not, then look into their choices in music, books and even their prospective career. This would help you a lot in creating cool, but confident high school senior portraits for boys.

9. Choice of lens

Senior-Portrait- Fish Eye
Photo by: Fallow Garden

A standard 24-70mm lens would be just fine for a senior portrait. However, the demands from the clients would be more dominant in this case. However, you can choose medium telephoto from 70-105mm in order to create sharper foregrounds and backgrounds in your pictures. Some teens are really inspired by social media, especially sites like Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Therefore, they may demand more creative (sometimes even unusual) portraits for themselves. One of these examples can be a fisheye lens. Keep the aperture wide if you want a natural blurred background in the pictures.

10. Focus on the light

Senior-Portrait- Natural Light
Photo by: ED McGowan

Try to focus on natural light as possible. Make sure that you don’t shoot in harsh mid-afternoons. The shadows created in these pictures are usually very hard and difficult to remove even during post-processing. Even slightly cloudy days or evening times would work well with this kind of portraits. Focus more on angled light. You can experiment with different light sources as well. A senior portrait clicked with a few bright candles can look both dramatic and beautiful. The key is to be creative and make something that your client demands.

One tip that you must always remember is that high school senior portraits are cherished memories. Therefore, you must take your time in deciding the composition of the frame as well as its processing. The best way to do this is to ask your clients a few questions about their likes, dislikes, their favorite places, and more. This would have a better impact on the pictures and you would be able to make the right distinction between the ‘real personality’ of the senior and his ‘current likes’.

One Comment

  • Steele Honda

    Thanks for the tips for taking memorable high school senior portraits. I appreciate that you mentioned that you should avoid irrelevant props. My son needs to get his senior photos taken soon so I think it would be smart to hire a professional so we can avoid any unnecessary props.

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