School is right around the corner which means senior season is in full swing! I absolutely LOVE shooting seniors, and specifically senior girls as they are caught in that in-between stage of wanting to be an adult but they are still just a kid. It’s an exciting time in their lives as they begin to venture away from the home! I want to capture those moments in their lives which is why I’ve built my business around seniors.
My favorite part of a senior session is that moment right after the mom and dad have viewed their daughter’s images and they say to me “You captured her personality perfectly!” Nothing means more to me than hearing that since THAT is my goal. So how do you go about capturing the essence of a senior’s personality? For me, it’s a multitude of factors that help me at a shoot. For those that are members of ClickinMoms, it’s no secret that I shoot only senior girls and I strictly deal with all client interactions in person…from meeting them prior to the shoot to sitting down with them for their ordering session. With that said, one of my goals at the in-person consultation is to get to know the needs/wants of the parents and get to know the senior. I like to know how her friends would describe her personality, what’s her personal style, the kind of music she listens to, what she likes to do during her school breaks, etc. This allows me to formulate a plan as to what location would work best, give the senior tips on styling, hair and make-up. And on top of that, I have to stay true to who I am as a photographer.
Each and every one of my seniors have my phone number, are a Facebook friend of mine and have my email address. I want to be accessible to them in every way possible! I will say that Facebook is my biggest form of communication with the senior prior to the shoot. We are able to communicate quickly about the upcoming session, which comes in really handy since most seniors use their phone as their main access to Facebook (this means faster replies!). Also, it’s through these forms of communication that my senior client can send me pictures of what they have planned for their wardrobe for their shoot.
Why do I find it necessary to know what they are wearing? Well, for one, it allows me to get to know them even better through their clothing choices. I can quickly tell if they are a casual, girl-next-door type or if they are a trendy uptown kind of girl. It also allows me to give them feedback on whether I believe an outfit will be flattering on them, if they need to add/change any accessories or even whether the location we have tentatively chosen will work. My senior girls LOVE that they can get my input…they trust that I truly want their senior pictures to be the best they can be!
All of my senior girls get their make-up professionally done by a make-up artist as part of their session fee that they have paid. I really like my girls to be on the natural side and my make-up artist does a brilliant job making the girls look amazing. The make-up is my secret weapon when it comes to editing the images. Not only do the girls look beautiful but usually their skin also looks radiant and smooth. Since make-up for camera usually needs to be heavily applied, I have had some hesitant seniors that felt the make-up artist went overboard but I tell them to trust me that they won’t look so “done up” when they view their images….and they are shocked at how right I was! I’m not a fan of the magazine air-brushed look for my work. I don’t ever want my impressionable clients to think that I thought of them as “flawed” and required extensive editing on my part. With make-up, lighting and posing, you can achieve beautiful images of your clients without a lot of work on the back end.
That leads me to posing! Honestly, when I first started out with seniors, I thought they would be SOOOO easy. While I loved every single minute of my first and subsequent senior sessions, I certainly saw how I needed to work on posing. Many of my seniors would look at me like “So, what do you want me to do?” and I would be like “Uh…just do something!” Obviously, that did NOT make me look professional and there was a lot missing out of those first few shoots due to poor posing. Well lack of posing, really. I decided I needed to educate myself on posing and started with whatever magazine/catalog I had lying around. I looked at everything from body position, how the legs were crossed, where the hands were, the angle of the face, etc. I even took a mental note of the various outfits that were on these catalog models…I saw that particular poses were used with dresses and then that other poses were better suited to long-sleeve/pants outfits. I paid attention to how the hair fell across the shoulders since hair could really make or break the composition. Armed with all of that knowledge, I worked hard at each and every one of my senior sessions to create “perfect” posed shots. While that was okay, I eventually settled on a more relaxed posed style.
What is a relaxed posing style? For me, it’s about setting up a pose and then getting the senior to relax into it. I don’t want it to look posed or unnatural for the senior and her surroundings. I really want to make it look like I just happened to snap the picture at the right time without her knowing it. And interestingly enough, those tend to be the shots that the parents want!
I think many photographers would be shocked to know that I really don’t move my seniors around that much. You can set up your senior and then shoot around her, getting closer to or farther from her, shooting from the side, from above, etc. You will get a variety of unique shots when you may have originally thought there was only ONE pose/shot available. This is one reason why I end up with so many unique images for each senior session.
But how do you get relaxed poses AND incorporate their personality into a shot? Well, having had the opportunity to get to know the senior on various levels prior to the shoot when we meeting up at the shoot it’s like we’re old friends. We talk A LOT during the shoot while I’m setting them up into their poses and then, all of a sudden, I’ll back up (still chatting) and BAM, I click the shutter and I’ve got them in mid-laugh!
My seniors are pretty vocal about how they envision their pictures. I’ve been told “I don’t make a good serious face so don’t ask me to” or “I’m not a ‘hold my arm over my head’ kind of girl so I don’t want those poses”. I fully respect that the seniors know what they like or don’t like and make sure to listen to them. I think allowing them to be “grown up” and talk to me in that manner allows them to truly feel confident and at ease both in front of the camera and also with me as the photographer.
Hopefully this has helped give you some helpful tips the next time you try your hand at senior photography!