{how to choose the best} senior portrait photographer


If this is your senior year, it is likely that you have already heard about senior portrait photography. Maybe you have been approached by a photographer who wants you to be a representative for their business, or who wants you to model for them as they build their portfolio, or maybe they have a sweet sale for you to consider. Whatever the case, I encourage you to treat your senior portrait experience as an opportunity for YOU to shop around and then select the right photographer for YOU.  The photographer you choose might not be the best fit for your friend, or your cousin.  And that’s okay.  If you know what you are looking for, you can be guaranteed to make the best choice for yourself. After all, these are once in a lifetime memories for you. So choose wisely and make sure they are worthy of YOU.

What is senior portrait photography? This industry has surpassed the traditional (now “old school”) factory-line yearbook photo experience that dad and mom remember. Today, seniors can expect a one-on-one photography session time, when the photographer captures images of the senior which best represent their personality, accomplishments, hobbies or sports. These pictures are shared with family and friends, as traditional prints, or on social media, like Instagram and Facebook. The portraits might even be added to the senior’s high school yearbook. In a nutshell, these portraits are meant to display and define each senior, in terms of their own individuality and beauty.

In April 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that most seniors and their families spend $600-1200 on a senior portrait package.  Why is it that expensive?  Why should you be cautious choosing an inexpensive photographer or one who is “free”? Hopefully, after you read this blog series you will understand that the old saying, “You get what you pay for” certainly applies to this industry, and to YOU.

I have put together six key factors to evaluate when entrusting your senior portraits to any particular photographer. Each factor falls under the acronym S-E-N-I-O-R.  I will be sharing each of these six criteria in their own “lesson” to help you understand how and why each one is so very important. So let’s get into your first lesson.

First, and by far one of the easiest aspects to consider is the SESSION.  How does the photographer plan or style your session? Do they spend time getting to know you? Do they ask for your input about locations or the style of pictures you want? Are they open to your ideas? And if so, are they comfortable with their own artistic style that they can either accommodate your vision or be honest with you that they might not be the best photographer for you?

Does your photographer “map” out your session ahead of time? Do they help you organize your outfits based on locations? Do they allow you to bring a friend or parent with you to help you? What is the photographer’s expectations of your friend or parent and have they shared this with you? During your session, will your photographer help you find flattering poses, and do they have a variety of poses (as you can see from prior sessions) in their arsenal?

As a senior portrait photographer, I think the most important way to ensure a successful session is to be overly ready for it. When seniors book with me, they have some homework to do… they have to complete an easy but detailed questionnaire about themselves. This helps me get to know them better and gives me information to build their session on.  My photography style tends to be urban, industrial, bright, colorful, formal yet relaxed, fashionable and unique. If a senior is looking for a style of portraits that I know I can’t deliver, I would encourage them to find a better suited photographer.

I like to “shop” with my clients, either in person or virtually by text messaging.  Reviewing outfits and accessories during their final consultation is the moment when anticipation for the session is about as high as it gets, for both the senior and me!  We choose at least 4-5 locations and 5-6 outfits, each which compliment my senior’s style and personality. Locations are selected carefully based on the time of day and the available natural light. I want my senior portrait experience to be just that… an unforgettable experience where each senior is prepared first, and then pampered! This year, my senior girls this year will be treated to professional hair and makeup before their session with my glam team.  My senior portrait sessions last 2-3 hours and are fun and exciting. I like to share glimpses of my camera photos with my seniors so they can see how amazing they look. I definitely help them with poses, but many times I catch them in their own natural movements.

Clearly, everything that leads up to a senior portrait session takes a lot of time. It is a priority for me to invest that time with my senior clients to ensure that their session is an experience that best captures and compliments them. As you interview senior portrait photographers, make sure they are willing to invest time with you before the session.

Tomorrow I will be discussing the second criteria E in choosing the best senior portrait photographer… any guesses what that topic will be?

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