Senior Portraits: The Basics
Senior portraits have become a rite of passage. More and more students are branching out beyond the traditional studio headshots to include senior portrait ideas, poses and locations that are more suited to their own preferences. As a photographer, you’ll need to be flexible when shooting senior portraits; students may have plenty of their own ideas. Satisfy your subjects by asking them to suggest their own ideas for poses, lighting, clothing and location. However, it’s helpful to keep in mind the big picture as well; you’ll want your subjects to like their photos as much 10 or 20 years from now as they do today.
Among senior portrait ideas, poses tend to be overlooked in favor of clothes and location. However, it can make a huge difference in the resulting photo. When you subject is posing, have them sit or stand at a slight angle to the camera. Their head, however, should be turned toward your lens. The result is a body that looks slimmer and a more natural pose.
If the subject is sitting make sure to have their back resting against something or have them lean forward on their knees. If you have them sit up too straight it looks far too tense. Sitting with the legs crossed or straight out in front of them also creates an awkward look. Also, shoot them from the side to avoid unusual body proportions that result from the legs being closer to the camera than the face.
Laying down can also be done gracefully in a senior portrait. The subject can prop their head up by placing their fists under their chin while lying on their stomach. The subject can also prop up their body with an elbow while lying on their side. These senior portrait ideas poses can appear very natural when you encourage your subject to relax and breathe out as the photo is taken. Also, give them time to take a break from smiling in between every few shots.
Use location to your advantage when taking senior portraits. Incorporate the colors of nature into the photo by using interesting backgrounds. If your background involves a lot of colors or textures, encourage the subject to wear a black, white or other neutral-colored shirt to allow them to be a simple center of focus in the photo.
Try all types of locations when it comes to senior photos. The locations can be indoors or outdoors; just make sure you use the correct lighting. Ask the subject about some of their favorite places and use that as inspiration. Everything from a beach to a brick wall to tree can make for a great senior portrait location.
Clothes may be one of the biggest concerns for students getting their senior portraits taken. They want to look good and feel good in the clothes they wear. Remind your subjects that it’s best to wear classic styles and colors; this prevents an outdated look later on in life. Also, neutral colors look best and don’t detract from the subject’s face.
Also consider your senior portrait ideas for poses when recommending clothing. If the subject will be laying down or sitting, you don’t want skin to show from a short shirt or low-waisted pants. Ask that they think of whether the shirt lies nicely on their body. Ideally, shirts and pants should be wrinkle-free and not too tight. Something may look nice while standing, but if it doesn’t sit well on the body when sitting or laying down, it won’t look good for all the senior portrait ideas poses.
While it’s important to remind your subjects about using the right locations, poses and clothes, it’s also important to let them express themselves. If you’re worried they are too constrained by your ideas, ask that they take one "traditional" shot with a classic pose and clothing. Then, let them control the next shot completely, including what they wear, how they pose and where the photo is taken. It’s a nice trade-off that pleases everyone in the end.