How to get AMAZING senior Portraits

Top Ten Things to Remember

How to get portraits you (and your mom) will love

The senior year is an emotional roller coaster of “lasts”, senior nights, milestones and graduations. Senior portraits have been growing in popularity over the last few years. But why? You have loads of photos on your phone right? But how many portraits do you have on your walls? On your desk at work or framed on your Grandparents bookshelf? The graduating seniors of today are probably the most photographed generation ever but how many of those images have ever been printed? Displayed? Loved and appreciated on a daily basis?

You should choose a senior portrait photographer the same way you would choose a photographer for any other type of life event, i.e. newborn, family, or for a wedding.  Not all photographers shoot all genres of photography. Some specialize in commercial or food photography, newborns, wedding and some are senior portrait photographers.

It’s important that the style of the photographer, their personality AND what they offer be good fit for you and your family. One of the biggest mistakes people make is simply comparing photographer’s prices on paper.  There are a lot of things that determine what a photographer charges, and so simply comparing pricing doesn’t help you understand that.  Remember you are not just paying for the paper the portrait is printed on.

So how do you choose your photographer? Here is a list to guide you:

1.  Style – view their portfolios, either online or in person to get a feel for the style of photography you want. Two photographs can both be technically correct but both may convey a completely different style. Do you like the majority of images on their website?

2. Styling assistance for the shoot. An experienced senior portrait photographer knows what looks good in portraits and what will be problematic. Some recommend professional make up. Draw on their experience and knowledge in this area.

3.  Read their bio’s – learn a little bit about them and why they do what they do, and what their approach to their business is like. 

4. Understand their experience – a photographer with years of experience is often more expensive than someone just starting out.  That makes sense, right?  It should show in their work as well.  While many people think that because they have a great camera they can take great pictures, there is so much more to professional photography than that, and your photographer should have credentials they can share with you as well. Ask to see a full gallery from one shoot. Most people can show you the one standout portrait from a variety of shoots but will you have a broad selection of images to choose from?

5.  Word of mouth – word of mouth is a great way to find potential photographers in your area.  Happy clients like to share their experiences, and unhappy ones even more so. Look for testimonials from real clients though and beware of popularity contests on social media!

6.  Products – look at what is offered by the photographer / studio, and make a list of what is most important to you.  Professional photographers do the research on albums, canvases, print labs etc. so that they can stand behind the quality and longevity of the product. It might save you from an expensive mistake.

7.  Set a budget – like anything else, know what you can and are willing to spend. You can find a photographer in every price category but as with many things in life you get what you pay for. Experience, quality and originality are usually worth a little extra.

8.  Availability – if you want to shoot at a certain time of year. For example, in the milder temperatures of fall in New England, then a good photographer is going to be busy. Book early and make sure you have a contingency plan for bad weather.

9. On location or in a studio – some photographers only shoot on location and spend lots of time scouting for the perfect locations. Some prefer to shoot in a studio – some of the best editorial magazine images are shot in the studio and they do not have to be boring! Ask to see a photographers examples of both. Maybe you can combine both in your session?

10. Light. One of the most important factors in creating a successful portrait is being creative with light. Full sun, golden hour, back light, OCF (off camera flash) you will see and hear a lot of terms thrown around but a good portrait photographer can use light to create dynamic and interesting portraits in almost all situations. Remember senior portraits are supposed to show who you are at this most incredible time of your life – they are not supposed to look like the school portraits you have every year. Have fun being creative!

The Final Selection

Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three potential photographers, it is probably a good idea to meet them in person. You are going to be spending a few hours with them before, during and after your shoot, so make sure you get along. A good senior photographer realizes that they need to provide results for the parents and the senior so there will be a selection of formal, casual, edgy, and “safe” portraits.

Remember to enjoy every minute of senior year. All the “lasts” will be over before you know it and then you move onto the next set of “firsts”. Don’t worry I’ll have a box of tissues ready for mom and dad and they’ll have portraits on their wall.

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