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High School Senior Portrait 101 for Parents: Momma's Tips
To begin with; there is a great deal of confusion regarding High School Senior Pictures. Hopefully; I can clear this up for you. Are “Senior Pictures” the same as “Senior Portraits”? Well, not exactly…..
The quick and easy explanation is that the High School Picture is what, most often, ends up in the Yearbook. That picture is only there to show what you “look like”. Where; on the other hand (when done correctly) your Senior Portraits are a creative, unique and clear representation of “who you are”.
More often than not; the Yearbook picture is taken by a photographer that works directly with your school (this is called a “contract photographer”). Sometimes; the photographer comes directly to your school and takes your picture. Other times; they will have you go to their studio to get this done. In either case; you will, most likely, be placed in front of a background and photographed.
You should be aware that; anything more than the (initial head shot) is, purely, for the benefit of the photographer & studio. FYI: After the “obligatory” Yearbook Picture has been taken; you are under no obligation to take the other photos. At that point; they have what they need for the Yearbook.
You Do Have Choices:
Some schools may allow you to have your Yearbook Picture taken by an outside photographer of your choosing. In this event; you would have a Professional Senior Portrait Photographer (of your choice) take a photo of you specifically for the Yearbook. This can be done during your Senior Portrait Session. To avoid any confusion; you should check with your school to see if you are allowed to submit your own picture for the yearbook. If not; just go to the studio and get that part done. Just tell them that you want to book a “Yearbook Only” Session. Remember; you are under NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANYTHING.
This Is Your ONLY High School Senior Year
Having your Senior Portraits taken is a rite of passage and time to celebrate. The best way to document your own personality, likes, hobbies, pets, etc. is to have your Senior Portraits taken by a Professional Senior Portrait Photographer that specializes in capturing “Who You Are” and “What You Are All About” at this special moment in your life.
To show you an example of how different a High School Senior Picture is from a Senior Portrait; I have been brave enough to submit my own High School I.D. Don’t laugh; this was the best picture that was taken of me during that brief sitting. Although (I think) that I was quite “pretty” back then; in my opinion I look like a “deer in the headlights”. This picture is, just that, a picture. It does in no way represent anything about my great, witty personality; nor establish “who I was” at that time in my life.
Unfortunately for me; my Mom didn’t know the difference between a High School Picture and a Senior Portrait. This has resulted in my, subsequent, torment. That darn picture has been hanging as a 16” x 20” Print on my Mom’s wall (and haunting me) for well over 30 years! Hint: Just because it is a “picture” doesn’t mean it should become a “Portrait”!
To the right of my I.D, you can see one of “Miss Jessica’s” wonderful Senior Portraits. This photo was taken during a “Location Session” by a Professional Senior Portrait Photographer. First; she was photographed holding a color chart (see the photo at the top of this post). It clearly shows that she was having FUN during her “Senior Portrait Experience”. The photo which is shown to the right of my Senior I.D. is the actual Portrait that was shot a moment after Jessica put the color chart down. You can clearly see the difference between Jessica’s smile and my forced expression.
What is a (Location) Senior Portrait Session?
During Jessica’s Senior Portrait Session; the Professional Photographer took several, different poses. Her portraits were taken in her home, while playfully lying amongst that hill of yellow flowers, in front of an amazing “graffiti” wall downtown, and in the middle of a beautiful town square (surrounded by old architecture and brilliant potted floral arrangements). All in all; she spent about 2 hours (having a great time). She had 4 different clothing changes and ended up with a CD full of high quality Senior Portraits capturing the essence of her fun-loving and adventurous personality.
I am so jealous of Miss Jessica!
Here are two more photographic examples of what it is like to have a (Location) High School Senior Portrait Experience. The main difference between this and a Studio Portrait Sitting is that all of the Portraits are taken “on location” and not in a stuffy studio, somewhere. Note: Some studios will walk you right across the street to take your “location” pictures.
First; you will probably head for a picture against the tree, then over to the brick wall next door (for your “urban” location shoot). If there is time; you might be able to get a 3rd shot (for variety). Remember; the clock is running…….you will have to get all of this done in just 20 minutes because the photographer has his sessions stacked back-to-back. If that’s what you want; I’m guessing that the photographer is most likely very good at taking those pictures. After all; he’s done it for a 1,000 other Seniors.
What Happens First?
Prior to your Location Portrait Session; the Professional Senior Portrait Photographer will, usually, meet with the family (during a brief Consult). The primary purpose of this short meeting is to get to know one another. In addition, the Photographer will, thoroughly, explain exactly what to expect during the Portrait Session. At this point; the Photographer will take the opportunity to find out about the Senior’s personality, hobbies, etc. This is a very important step in the overall process. After all; how can someone capture you in a Portrait, if they have no clue “who you are”?
What Can You Expect On The Day Of Your Location Session?
When the day arrives for your Senior Portraits to be taken; you should plan on spending about 1-1/2 to 2 hours with your Photographer. While you are getting ready; the Photographer will “scout out” each area to ascertain the best locations for your photos; taking into account availability of natural lighting, shadows, etc. Don’t worry about all of that; he’s the professional. You are encouraged to participate in the selection of props (your car, dog, musical instrument, etc.) and backgrounds. Make sure that he/she understands, exactly, what you want to get from these Portraits. If you want a picture with your Letterman’s Jacket; just let him know. He’ll be more than happy to take it.
I have provided an illustration of (5) Portraits from a real Location Senior Portrait Session (above). As Moms, generally are, during the Portrait process; this young lady’s Mom was with her throughout the entire Portrait Session providing support, collaborating on clothing changes (sometimes holding the reflector to assist the photographer) but for the most part; just having fun and bonding with her daughter during this, once in a lifetime, event. Remember; you’re not only taking your Senior Portraits; you are building memories.
The young lady (shown directly above) not only had (5) different clothing changes during her session; but her Grandmother’s home featured this spectacular garden and boat dock. It was unanimous that this was to be the backdrop.
During the initial Consult; Mom had made it clear that she really loved the pink Prom Dress. Aware of this; the photographer took a moment to capture that elegant shot of her in the pink gown. Mom bought this Portrait of her daughter to hang above the mantel in their home. On the other hand; Grandma decided that she was partial to the 2nd shot; so she purchased that Portrait as a 16” x 20” to commemorate the special occasion.
This young lady's Grandfather owned a yacht moored, just below, the home and gardens. Again; they moved to that location and took photos down on the dock. That last portrait was taken just for Grandpa. Did you notice; every one of these Portraits were relevant to this, particular, Senior?
Are you starting to see the difference between a simple “Senior Picture” and a “Senior Portrait”?
Let’s Talk Cost:
The “Package” that the contract studio wants to sell you can sometimes cost the same as, or more, than a Complete Location Senior Portrait Experience. Commonly nowadays; a lot of Professionals are offering all of your images on a CD to do with, whatever you wish. With this option; you have all of the control. This is a very popular way to go. It’s economical and just makes good sense.
Now; that I have completely explained what it is like to experience a Professional (Location) Senior Portrait Session, I have decided to show you one more example. I didn’t want to leave the boys out. After all; everyone should take advantage of this chance to capture a moment that is gone to soon.
As you can see in the Portraits of our Senior Boy (above) the Photographer totally captured this young man’s propensity for extracurricular activities such as skateboarding and his love of paintball. Of course; he wanted those two photos and Mom wanted the more formal Portraits that are shown in the middle. Just as with everything in life; compromises were made. In the end; everyone received the “Senior Portraits” they had wanted.
The above Portrait (examples) encompass the broad and diverse spectrum that can only be achieved by spending the time, and getting to “know”, all of the complexities of what it is to be a High School Senior. Why would you want to just have your Senior Pictures taken; when for the same amount of money you can have a memorable, once in a lifetime experience taking Professional Location Senior Portraits like those shown in this article? The difference in price is negligible in comparison to the rewards.
The choice is yours……. Do you want the “Senior Portrait Experience” or just a “Senior Picture”? Whatever you choose; remember – these images will be around a very long time.