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Bringing Happiness Back to Senior Portraits

January 24, 2019

It’s been years (don’t worry about how many exactly) since I was a teenager, but I still vividly remember the feelings of possibility and hope that came with senior year of high school. Every emotion felt bigger and, even in the swirling craziness of uncertainty, I felt like all the best things the world had to offer were finally just within reach.

Now as a photographer working with the teens to capture their personalities in a single portrait session, I can’t help looking back on my senior year and wanting to create not just a gallery – but a complete experience – that I would still look back on with joy today. Every single opportunity we get to snap a fancy-shmancy professional image of someone is a treat, but there’s something special about truly capturing the radiant personality of a teenager preparing to spread her wings and fly for the very first time!

These teens are brilliant, interesting, mind-blowingly unique people…so why do so many of their senior portraits come out looking like they are sad, blah clones of someone else? Let’s get back to the things that really matter, and make senior portrait sessions a blast for these incredible women!

  1. Get to know them!

It’s no secret that teenagers are usually a little more self-conscious than the average bear, so it’s ridiculously important to earn their trust by getting to know them. Find out what they like and what they hate. Earnestly ask what makes them comfortable and what puts them off. If you want to capture a genuine personality, you have to get to know it first. Unlike many styles of photography – like weddings, engagements, or family sessions – these teens have no one else in the photos to interact with, so it’s all about building a relationship between the subject and the person behind the camera: YOU!

2. Encourage them to look like themselves!

Senior year is absolutely a time to try out new things…but if they aren’t down with a bright red lip and smoky eye in every day life, this might not be the time to try it out. Senior portraits should scream, “This is meeeee!” from the mountaintops, not “I’ve never seen this outfit until this exact moment, and P.S. I’ve never worn this much makeup before in my liiiiife!” One of the best gifts you can give to a high school senior is the opportunity to scroll through a gallery of images, looking at a face that is a reflection of their own, and giving them the moment of realization that yeah, they really are that beautiful.

3. Make them laugh!

Nothing is more beautiful than a genuine burst of laughter. Make your seniors look their best – and flood your photoshoot with fun – by finding ways to make your subjects laugh. I’ve made THE MOST ridiculous faces, spoken in just about every weird voice you can imagine and burst into spur of the moment dance parties to make a subject crack a smile. Be silly, and they will follow your lead. Let’s encourage them to embrace that mile-wide smile and teach them that joy is beautiful.

When we refocus on the heart of senior portraiture – when we focus less on making the picture we want to see and more on creating an image for them – we are encouraging each of our subjects to embody, embrace and truly celebrate everything they are. And isn’t that what senior portraits are really all about?

Elisabeth is a Photographer specializes in Senior Portraiture in the North Canton and surrounding areas. To learn more about her, click below:

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