High school senior photographed in Sun Prairie, WI

HOW TO ROCK YOUR HIGH-SCHOOL SENIOR PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION

Hey there, soon-to-be grads!

Senior year is the year, isn’t it? Full of “lasts” but also a lot of “firsts,” including your senior portrait session.

And with a fresh later summer and early fall weather rolling in (here in Madison, Wisconsin as well as the rest of Midwest), the pressure is on!

If you’re wondering how to make your senior photography session pleasant a memorable experience, keep reading.

I will quickly go over things to consider and how to prepare for the session easily.


THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BETTER HIGH-SCHOOL SENIOR PHOTOGRAPHY PREP


KNOW YOUR VIBE

1. WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?

The first thing you gotta ask yourself is, what vibe do you wanna give off?

Are you all about that laid-back, Midwest prairie in late summer look, or are you more of a ‘city chic’ kind of person?

Figuring this out beforehand helps to narrow down locations, outfits and time for the photoshoot.

2. KNOW WHO YOU ARE

This, again, is a good question to ask yourself, as it helps to plan locations, outfits, etc.

Senior photography is all about capturing you at this moment in time. Think about the traits that you wanna highlight.

Maybe you’re “Fun, Free-Spirited, and Friendly” or maybe you’re “Intelligent, Classy, and Cool.”

You can see how grownups do it here.

3. THINK ABOUT PHOTOSHOOT LOCATION

Is there all-time favorite location where you’d love to be photographed? Place you hang out with the friends? Or go after school?

Funky graffiti wall downtown? Midwest prairie land in late summer? Skatepark? Your own backyard? Burrito place 3 blocks away from your house?

You have any hobbies? Power lifting? Parkour? Hunting?

These are just few ideas I am tossing around to get your imagination going.

I love when location adds to the story and helps to emphasize who you are at this moment in your life.

If you’re not sure, not worries. We’ll figure it out together during our phone call.

High school senior portrait in Middleton WI park
High-school senior portrait in Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Middleton, Wisconsin

PLAN AHEAD FOR BETTER START

4. WHERE WILL THESE PHOTOS GO?

Are these photos going in the yearbook? Or maybe they’ll make a cameo on your Insta?

Knowing it will help us to make a better senior photography plan and decide on the best shots for different platforms.

5. BUILD A MOOD BOARD AND SHARE IT WITH ME.

Mood boards aren’t just for Pinterest weddings, y’all.

They’re a great way to gather all your inspo in one place. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece—just toss in some poses, locations, or lighting that you like.


GET THE LOOK GOING

6. PLAN ON WEARING COMFORTABLE CLOTHING

Outfit choices are big! You don’t wanna be adjusting your clothes every five seconds.

Wear something that also allows you to move freely yet makes you feel like a million bucks.

And that could be just your favorite t-shirt.

Also, always bring few outfits. Its nice to have options when needed.

7. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS

Check your outfits for things like missing buttons, stains, or other wardrobe malfunctions.

And as for colors, let’s try to avoid super loud patterns or logos.

If you’re stuck, bring a few options. We’ll sort it out together!

8. PRACTICE POSING

I will give you plenty of direction with posing during the session, but practicing ahead of time will help if you to try out different stances and positions at home.

Try variety of poses when standing, sitting down on the floor, or chair.

The overall goal is to feel like yourself, feel relaxed and not forced.

High school senior photographed in Governor Nelson State Park, Waunakee, WI
High-school senior portrait in Governor Nelson State Park, Middleton, Wisconsin

9. OBSERVE YOUR FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

Experiment with different facial expressions to find your go-to smiles, smirks, or whatever feels like “you.”

Give it a little squinch. Close your eyes. Make sure you are breathing evenly.

Knowing what you like and don’t like in advance can take off some pressure and give us better staring point when it’s camera time.

10. HAIR AND MAKEUP: DO YOU, BOO

You know your hair and skin way better than I do. If you’re comfortable doing your own styling, go for it!

If you’re clueless about contouring or making your hair do that cool wavy thing, you might wanna see a pro beforehand.

11. DUDES AND HAIRCUTS

Getting a fresh cut before your session? Great!

However, I say get it done at at least a week before the shoot.

This gives your new ‘do some time to settle in and look more like your everyday self. Trust me, you’ll appreciate the buffer.

12. IF YOU WEAR GLASSES

Some have more flare than the others, but in general, for outdoorsy environments, where it is difficult to control light backgrounds (that what causes flaring in glasses) I recommend either not wearing them at all or switching to contact lenses if possible.

Wearing glasses in studio photography is fine 95% of the time.

13. PACK YOUR OWN BEAUTY ESSENTIALS

Heading to a studio for your shoot?

Don’t forget to bring your own go-to beauty products and accessories.

While the studio might have some basics like lint rollers or hairspray, it’s always better to be prepared with your own trusted items. This ensures you have everything you need to look your absolute best.

portrait of a high school senior student in urban setting
Urban high-school senior portrait near James Madison Park, Madison, Wisconsin

DAY OF THE SESSION

14. FEELING YOUR BEST

You want to look your best, so go ahead and take steps to feel your best on the day of.

Health is wealth. It is important for everyone involved to stay safe and healthy. If you’re feeling sick, let’s reschedule. Rescheduling will give you time to recover and keep you from passing the illness on to someone else.

It’s important to be at your 100% during the shoot.

Also, taking care of yourself beforehand, by getting plenty of rest, hydration, nutrition and exercise. This self-care helps not only improves your complexion, but also will help you keep your confidence and good mood. As well as easier and more productive session.

15. TIME OF THE SESSION IS IMPORTANT

If you are coming in for studio high-school senior portraits, consider scheduling your session for when you’re most alive and kicking.

For many, that time is in the mid morning.

Same could apply for urban outdoors session.

When planning rural and outdoorsy senior photography, I work around lighting. I usually recommend scheduling hour or so before the sun sets, since weather/lighting conditions in the open field in the midway might be rough.

High school senior photographed in Middleton WI park
Studio photo of a high-school senior.
High school senior photographed in Madison WI park
Studio portrait of a high-school senior.

DURING THE SENIOR PHOTO SESSION

16. COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Speak up, yo! If something doesn’t feel right, say it! Whether it’s a pose or a backdrop, your comfort is key to getting photos you’ll love.

Lots of people got that one angle they love—or hate. I will need your input to make the magic happen.

Speak up and help me help you!

17. TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK

These sessions usually last about an 1.5 hour, giving us plenty of time to get creative.

But good communication and teamwork will increase the quality of the output tenfold.

The best pics come when we work together, so don’t hesitate to give me your feedback as we go along.

18. TO SMILE OR NOT TO SMILE?

Smiles are overrated. Don’t stress about them too much.

If you are smily person, go ahead and smile.

Are you the one who smiles less? I’ll take that. All I care about is you looking engaged, present, and friendly.

All I care about is you looking like you.

19. WANT TO BRING A FRIEND?

I say do it!

I’m all for it if your bestie can help make you relax and be at your best.

Your friend can also help with clothing changes as well as keep an eye on your clothing or hair.

When it comes to parents, I prefer to keep parents away as they tend top create more distractions.

portrait of a high school senior student in Madison Wisconsin
Outdoorsy high-school senior portrait in Madison, Wisconsin

And that’s the lowdown on making your senior portrait session a hit. I’m looking forward to meeting you person and can’t wait to do some epic senior photography of amazing you!
I am Madison, Wisconsin based. I do senior photography in Middleton, Sun Prairie, Sauk City, Waunakee, Oregon and other surrounding areas near Madison, WI.

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