Oh how I love working with senior girls! The clothes, the make-up, the fact that they actually WANT to have their photos taken… in my book, spending time with a senior and her mom for her portrait session is like a fun filled 2 hour playdate.
Of course these teens want to have amazing photos, so they’ll do pretty much anything you ask of them. But even though they’re excited and will totally cooperate for you, sometimes they cooperate just a little too much and are so worried about doing it “right.” The result of this silly self-imposed pressure is that they wind up being a little stiff and overly posed in their photos… obviously completely opposite from the look we’re going for. To combat that, here are 5 things I keep in mind to achieve natural looking poses from my senior clients.
1. Have them bend back.
Believe it or not, I have this senior leaning back slightly from her waist. It’s an ever so slight lean, and the result is subtle. But what this little action does is work against the propensity to keep a stiff torso which looks so unnatural. Also, it often makes them giggle because they’re not exactly sure how to do what I’m asking, and they wonder how far to go before they’ll fall over. In the moment of laughter, that’s when I press the shutter.
2. Have them lean forward.
I like to tell my girls to lean in towards me like I’m telling the most intriguing story that they just can’t get enough of. Leaning into the frame helps the viewer engage with the subject… she feels like she’s taking the initiative to connect with you.
3. Talk a lot and don’t be afraid to be silly.
My senior sessions are typically like a 2 hour gab fest. We talk prom, we talk boys, we talk college. The more we’re genuinely engaged with one another, the more authentic the senior’s expressions will be. And it will be easier for me to say something that gets a laugh and a relaxed body position when we’ve already been chatting away. At the end of the session, my girls usually give me a great big hug before getting in their cars to leave. I know they’ve genuinely had a great time, and the images with their face lit up in a real smile confirm that for me.
4. Give those hands something to do.
One of the things senior clients worry about is what to do with their arms. Without direction, they’ll very often just stand there flapping their limbs by their side wondering what they’re supposed to do. Give those arms and hands a place to go. She can slide her hands in her pockets, twirl her hair with her fingers, or casually play with her long, dangling necklace. Once she’s not preoccupied with what she’s supposed to be doing, her expression and posture will relax.
5. Create movement.
The photos where I’ve captured the senior doing something are almost always my favorite. Walking, spinning, laughing, etc, are great prompts to provide alternatives to a standard pose. If at first it seems forced, don’t be afraid to repeat the action over and over a few times until you get a more comfortable response. Images with movement are a fantastic complement to the more posed images in your gallery.
Do you have favorite tips for capturing natural expressions from your senior clients? Share them in the comments below.
Jodi Arego, Texas
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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Jodi Arego is a natural light photographer living in Houston, Texas with her husband and three children. All too aware that “the years are long, but the days are short,” she views photography as a way to celebrate life, connect with others and to express the stories of the heart. With camera in hand, she draws from her own deep sentimentality to show beauty in the simple, the ordinary, and the imperfect. She also enjoys working with high school senior clients as they celebrate the milestone of their graduation and is the instructor for one of CMU’s workshops, Photographing with Heart and Vision.