I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used the pandemic as crutch to avoid doing some things. Whether it’s travel, upgrades to the home, what to make for dinner or a doctor’s appointment to treat an ailment, I’m reluctant to commit for fear that I’m making a rash or incorrect decision. The pandemic has only amplified my hesitations. But Madison is a senior and with that comes a slew of things that have to be done on a specific timeline so I’m only able to dodge the bullet for so long. Senior pictures were on my to-do list for several months, beginning with getting Madison some new outfits. I had been looking forward to spending a day shopping for some special clothes to mark this point in history, but the health and safety protocols meant dressing rooms were closed. Not being able to see her try them on really threw me out of sync.
I ended up doing some research to figure out who to hire for the photo shoot, but ultimately it came down to one important factor: referrals. When we got married, we were concerned about price so I took one person’s recommendation for a photographer and he did a lackluster job… on the most important day in my life. I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same mistake for Madison’s senior photos so I made sure I focused on photographers who had been recommended by friends. What I realized is we could have made it even easier by starting on this during Madison’s junior year. Below are some tips to help you prepare for that all important high school senior photo shoot!
Finding a Photographer
- Research: High school students have friends who are seniors either through sports, extra-curricular activities or because they are older siblings of friends. During junior year, pay attention to the photos that seniors are posting so you can get a feel for various photographer’s styles and quality. Start a list with the photographer’s name and contact information, who you knew that used them and make notes of what drew you to the photos. Parent and students post photos on social media and often tag the photographer. That’s one of your best resources!
- Referrals: Ask family and friends for referrals, preferably on social media so others can chime in. It’s important to remember that any business is going to put their best foot forward in advertisements, on social media and in media kits. Someone’s website may showcase a whole bunch of really awesome photographs, but those are likely the cream of the crop. Referrals let you hear what is real: The details about the behind-the-scenes process. How comfortable the photographer is to work with. Whether you get what you expected in terms of proofs, usage rights and prints.
- Timing: Decide on the time frame you want the photos taken. You may want bright summer greenery for nature shots, colorful leaves or even snow. You need to have a preference before you try to schedule because that’s the first thing the photographer will need to know.
- Budget: Request rate sheets. Each photographer offers their own package which may include different locations, clothing changes, a specified number of proofs and print releases to use when ordering graduation announcements.
- Select photographers: Yes, plural. Pick who is your preference, but have a backup plan. You may have fallen in love with a particular studio only to discover they aren’t available on your timeline. I mean, seniors are pretty busy both academically and socially. Add sports and extra-curricular on top of that, college tours, ACT testing, etc. into the schedule and finding an available time can be difficult. Oh yeah, you also have to worry about weather, but that’s not what I’m referring to. This selection and backup is solely for getting on the schedule in the first place.
Preparing Outfits and Props
- Legacies: As much as we think senior year is a one time thing, the reality for parents is that those images are the last connection to those last memories of kids living under their roof. My senior photo hung in my parents’ family room until a few years ago when they moved out of my childhood home. So plan outfits, including jewelry and props, that tell the story of who the senior is at that literal snapshot in time. Gone are the days of fake studio props and limited selection backdrops. Bring your sports uniform, trophies or medals, your own musical instrument, something from your robotics competitions, whatever.
- Outfits: Our photographer said everyday clothing, including T-shirts and jeans, were very common for senior photos. The most economical option is to go through the closet and find outfits. Depending on the number of clothing changes in your package, you can supplement those with a few new outfits. You don’t have to buy expensive dresses and suits, but clothing that speaks to you. (See prior note about legacies.) We spent about $70 at Kohl’s and were able to get three complete outfits plus a few extra shirts. Don’t forget to make sure you have coordinating shoes!
- Scene selection: You know what I said about backdrops being a thing of the past? It’s common for studios to use the world as their backdrop and photograph outside. A good photographer is going to select the best location(s) based on the person, their interest and the outfits. Take photos of your planned outfits and share them with the photographer ahead of time. If you have a preference for urban (brick walls, ironworks, stairwells) vs nature (flowers, trees, streams) or something sports-related then pass that information along as well. You may have a favorite place in mind, but leave it to the photographer to make the decisions based on your criteria.
- Salon Services: If you want hair, makeup and/or nails done for the pictures, be sure to schedule those, too! Let your salon know what time your photo shoot is as well as what services you want. They’ll be able to estimate how much time you need for all of it.
Getting ready for picture day
- Pre-Day Preparation: Make sure all your outfits are clean, ironed, tags removed and hung up for easy transport. If possible, put the pants and shirt on the same hanger. This makes it easy to grab while on-the-go during the photo shoot. Put any accessories and jewelry in Ziploc bags and attach to the same hanger. Set aside the first outfit the photographer plans on shooting then add put the rest in a garment bag. Don’t forget the shoes! Throw them in a tote bag along with makeup, a brush/comb and some kind of lint brush or roller. Make sure your props are ready to go as well.
- Salon Appointments: Hopefully you planned out the schedule with enough time to get whatever salon service completed while leaving enough time to change into your first outfit before heading off to the first location.
- Food and Beverages: Bring a reusable water bottle that has a straw so you don’t take any chances of spilling on the outfits.
Once you’re at the photo shoot, it’s time to relax and put your fate in the hands of the photographer. This is their business and it’s in their best interest to make their subjects look as awesome as possible. Not every shot needs to be filled with ear-to-ear grins. It’s all about being natural, having fun and capturing the moment.
What’s your favorite tip for preparing for a senior photo shoot?