Yearbook photos… it’s one more thing on the To-Do list along with SAT prep and college campus visits. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed at this time of year. Adding in a search for a senior portrait photographer might just be your last straw.
Because of the choices available to you, finding a photographer that fits your vision can be hard. Not only are there lots of different portrait styles — think: inside or outside, creative or traditional, photojournalistic or artistic, etc. — there’s even more photographers to choose from!
With high-tech phone cameras and low-cost DSLRs (those professional cameras you fool around with at Best Buy) widely available, anyone’s photos can look good. But there’s a difference between snapping Instagram-able pictures and knowing the ins-and-outs of photography.
If you want high-quality photos that highlight not just your features but also your personality and signature style, you should consider hiring a professional photographer.
Getting your senior pictures taken is about so much more than the pictures. It’s about creating an experience that you’ll remember forever, and not in a “I wish I hadn’t done that” way. You want to remember your photoshoot as a day when you felt totally comfortable and 100% yourself, and you want the photos to reflect those memories, especially since they’ll be used for your graduation announcements or the local newspaper (and, probably more importantly, your profile photo).
TLDR? Look for a professional high school senior photographer who will make your yearbook photo session fun. You’ll end up with beautiful photos AND a memorable experience.
New studio. New client. I am so excited! While setting up for our first in-person meeting I am reminded of what people often think of when being photographed for their high school pictures. My model is supposed to pose. I, the Photographer, hold a black camera to my face and say “great” a lot while my camera makes shutter noises. She poses. I crouch. We know the routine: “Can you move a little to the left?” “Take a deep breath then smile again.” “Sit a little straighter and throw those shoulders back and relax.”
That is the expectation (or lack of it) for senior photos. Really, any “passing on to the next phase” type of photography runs the same way. A tried and true formula: pose, smile, shoot, correct, repeat as necessary. We have all been there more than once as models.
That “shoot and burn” type of photography is not for me. I do not want to just make photocopies of a person’s face and hand over a flash drive of images. When I show the end result of the process, I want my client, my model, to see themselves, their real selves: vibrant, exciting, full of life! Seeing themselves in a beautiful wall portrait I created for them is what I do. For the high school seniors, we capture the moment with an eye into the future. Who will you be? It is very exciting.
For me, as a photographer, the moment of connection is really palpable. The camera is a mediator, it is a crystal ball of sorts. It captures things our eyes usually cannot. Magic happens right there. On my end, I know I have the right camera, the right settings, the right light, and I feel comfortable talking with the model and can tell that me getting into “the zone” is working both ways. We connect, and the real person is emerging in between us.
My collaborative work with a recent client, Ellie, was amazing. At the pre-shooting consultation, she was a confident, quirky, and fun type of girl. She smiles all the time and has a really cool vibe. The clothing she brought for us to look at was a wonderful melange of thrift store finds and contemporary pieces, all in throwback styles–1960’s, 70’s, 80’s–you name it! I could immediately see that working with this multifaceted young woman was going to be exciting, fun, creative, and real.
As I explained my process to Ellie, mentioning that she would be getting her hair and makeup professionally done right before the photo shoot, I could see the excitement building in her. This was going to be a special day, just for her. I wanted to make sure of it.
I knew with certainty: That’s It! That was the beginning of a magical moment.
We were chatting about things she liked to do, her friends, places she likes to go, the usual–but in the back of my mind, I was already thinking about context. How do I help set up the context for this beautiful and expressive young woman, Ellie, to be her true self in front of a camera-wielding audience? How can I help express with my own personality, camera, and skills so that she can remember this moment forever? How?
Then she said “Skating. I love roller skating.”
Oh my! “Let’s do that! We have to totally do that!”
I knew with certainty: That’s It! That was the beginning of a magical moment. We talked more and discussed ideas for getting a time and location that would work, what to wear, and on and on. But from that moment we were in a collaboration. We had bridged the gap between the photographer and model using the camera as a bridge. The three of us would do this.
On the day of the shoot, Ellie was really enthusiastic. That sort of thing is hard to describe. She was actually looking forward to doing the shoot and not worried about the end result. But first, we had makeup and hair to get done.
Check back next week for more about Ellie and the wondrous magic of senior photography!
Last summer, I met Lizzy, a Class of 2017 senior. I remember that she was so excited for her portrait session that she hopped out of the make-up chair to get started right away! She was a blast to photograph because she followed my (sometimes silly) prompts to help leave the nerves behind. Lizzy quickly got the hang of it and soon started creating new poses that were unique and totally Lizzy. I couldn’t photograph fast enough!
In the end, we ended up with a variety of sweet photos that showcase her happy energy and quite a few fun “bloopers”, too.
1. What was your biggest fear about your senior photos before hiring Pattie? (Did it come true?)
When I was picking a photographer, my biggest fear was that the pictures would not turn out the way I wanted them to. The first time I met Pattie was at the shoot, and it was a little scary not knowing her but Pattie immediately took those fears away. The makeup artist she uses is fabulous and really knows how to transform your face so it’s camera ready.
2. What was the best part about the entire experience, and why?
The photo shoot was a lot of fun, but the most fun was getting to see the photos after they were edited. Pattie had done such a good job that it was hard to pick which ones we wanted.
3. If you were recommending Pattie to your BFF, what would you say?
I would totally recommend Pattie to any of my friends. Pattie is such a fun and lively person who makes the whole senior picture process so much fun. She truly makes you feel like you’re a model ready for the runway.
4. What are your plans after graduation?!
I don’t have any plans of becoming a model, even though I felt like one! After graduation, I plan to attend St. Thomas University in Canada to study International Relations.
June is here and I’m booking Senior Portrait Sessions for the Class of 2018! Click here to save your seat on my schedule.
Every year, my calendar fills up and a few families that are interested in senior portraits miss out because they were too late to book.
The tricky thing about scheduling your senior portraits is that summer in Maine is super short! Many families wait until midsummer before they even think about senior photos. Big mistake! For example, if you’re trying to book in July, I’ve probably already filled my schedule. You’ll be left with a handful of choices in late August or early September… which means you’re likely to already have conflicts.
My advice? Aim to find your photographer and book your senior photo session in May of your junior year. I do my best work when I can focus my efforts on one project, so I only work with one family at a time. That means my summer schedule fills up quickly.
Booking far in advance will guarantee yourself a spot in my calendar, and you’ll have a wider variety of dates to choose from. You’ll also have the chance to do your photoshoot earlier in the summer, when it’s not humid, hot, and sticky.
Though many families request August dates, I actually prefer to do the shoots in June or July. In my experience, families who schedule photoshoots earlier in the summer enjoy the process more because they give themselves the time to fully experience it.
Booking early gives you a chance to brainstorm ideas for the photoshoot and allows you to work through the process long before the end-of-summer stress hits. (Pre-season sports, double shifts at work, and out-of-town family visits ringing a bell?) That means your photoshoot will be more unique, and it’ll be more relaxing than if you waited until the the last minute, when you have #allthethings going on.
Finally, if your session includes hair and makeup, it is essential to book at least two months in advance to assure a spot on Elise’s calendar. When you give us lots of lead time, it increases our chances of getting on her schedule at the right time (a few hours before sunset!) on the right day.
It only takes a little planning ahead to get the process done early, and it can be the difference between rushing the photoshoot process to meet your deadline (most schools require senior portraits submissions by the end of September) or taking your time and enjoying it.
Booking early also gives you the opportunity to turn your senior portraits into a family photo session! After we wrap up your pictures, your mom, dad, and siblings (both the two-legged and four-legged kind) can join in for a wonderful “my last summer” memory.
So, to recap:
1. Book early (think: May) to have your choice of dates.
2. Schedule a June or July session, so you’re not overwhelmed with summer plans on photo day.
3. Enjoy your summer, knowing you’ve checked one major to-do off the list.
You’ve made the commitment. You’ve booked your senior portraits, we’ve met at the pre-shoot consultation, and the photo session is right around the corner.
Of course you want your shoot to be perfect, so you’ve prepared everything to make that happen. Outfit? Check. Backup outfit? Check. Makeup? We’ve got that covered.
The only thing left is to prepare yourself.
It all comes down to this: If you’re comfortable with yourself, it will show in your photos. For some specific tips on connecting with your inner confidence, here’s my list of five steps to nailing your yearbook photos.
1. Have faith in your natural smile. It can be tempting to force a overzealous smile for a photo shoot (especially if you’re nervous) but your natural smile will really make the photos shine. When the smile isn’t genuine, it shows—and when it is genuine, it lights up the photo.
2. Laugh. No, really… just try it. You might want to practice laughing out loud at nothing. Laughing for no reason will definitely feel awkward, but once you get going, the natural laughter will follow. Laughter will brighten up your photo, and it’s amazing how much it can transform your eyes!
3. Bring props. The best prop available to you is your outfit. It can be wacky, urban, high glam, whatever you feel comfortable with! If you’re thinking about bringing a prop to your portrait session, we should talk about it during our pre-shoot consult. I love hearing the story behind why a particular item means so much to you and using my creative expertise to find a non-gimmicky way of showing off who you are. (Did you notice the ballet points in the photo above?)
4. Get up and move! Don’t be afraid to move your body! Walk around, jump up and down, and literally shake off your nerves. When you’re nervous, chances are your body language shows it. Getting up and moving around before (and during) a shoot will help you look and feel more relaxed. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through a series of movements so you’re not standing still like a statue, and we’ll get some fun in-between shots, too!
5. Finally, just breathe. This is your photoshoot. There’s no reason for you to hold a pose for uncomfortable periods of time or work hard to force a look. The best photos are the ones that look natural. Take a deep breath, be yourself, enjoy the process, and trust me to guide you.
It sounds simple, but the truth is that all you need to get amazing senior photos is comfort and confidence. Just relax, be yourself, and have fun with it. Your natural personality will show and that will make for some killer photos.
I’m asked all the time if the pre-shoot consult is necessary. I get it… beaches are calling your name, you have friends to hang out with and colleges to tour, and your family wants to squeeze in a vacation before your last year of high school. There’s so many “must do” ways to spend your summer. Two hours with a photographer might be at the very bottom of your list.
The days leading up to your senior photos can be stressful! Almost all of my clients admit that they’re anxious before portrait day. Many have never been on the other side of a professional lens. This is the major reason why I started having pre-shoot consults years ago! Not only does it give me a chance to get to know you and your vision, I also get the opportunity to prepare you for the session, easing everyone’s nerves.
This initial meeting is usually only an hour of your time, and it can be the difference between a shoot that’s entirely you or one that doesn’t measure up to any of your expectations.
If you’re looking for a photoshoot that is personalized to you (and of course you are — that’s why you’re here!), the pre-shoot consult is a can’t-miss part of the process. It will help you get more familiar with your photographer, clarify your vision for the shoot, and turn your expectations into reality.
Convinced? Book a pre-shoot consultation with me here.