10 Tips for Preparing for Your Senior Session

As I was in the midst of senior photo season this past spring semester (a.k.a. the most hectic time of the year), I thought back to my (high school) senior photos. While most of the girls I photograph around this time of year are 4 years older than I was back then and were graduating from college instead of high school, the process is still a pretty stressful one. How do you know what outfits to wear? What all do you need to bring with you? How do you communicate what you're wanting from your photographer?

There are so many questions that arise during a shoot; so in order to relieve some of that anxiety, here are 10 tips for preparing for your senior session!

1. Book early.

Lemme tell ya—photographers are BUSY people. For me, it's sometimes hard to juggle scheduled senior photo sessions, editing those photos, school, my sorority, other paid work... you get the picture. In order to keep myself sane this time of year, I have to limit the number of sessions I take on. But even when I'm running around like a crazy lady from one shoot to the next and I think I couldn't possibly fit anything else in my schedule, I'll get an email from someone still wanting to book a session, and it takes so much self-control to keep from saying yes!

In order to make sure you're not in that sort of situation, book early. I recommend emailing the photographer you want to hire in late January or February, since they will probably have a pretty good idea of what their availability will be for the next month or so. This also helps you snag the best dates and times, that way you're not sprinting to your photos straight from class because that was the only available time!

2. Show your personality.

Easily one of the most difficult parts of preparing for your senior session is deciding what to wear. When I got my high school senior photos done, I changed my mind about what outfits to bring literally the night before the shoot (don't do that haha). Really put some time and thought into deciding what to wear for your session.

While this topic could be an entire post on its own, one thing that I've seen people struggle with over the years is deciding whether they should dress trendy or classic for their photos (and there are pros and cons for both!). If you typically dress a little boho/hipster/granola/whatever other adjective you want to throw in, dressing "classic" in a nice dress and heels may not make you feel very comfortable during your session.

Keep in mind, though, trends change quickly. If you're wanting to use these photos for years to come, an outfit that's a little too trendy will show it's age (imagine if you wore gaucho pants in one of your middle school photos... super obvious what time period that was looking back!). Try to think of ways to keep it somewhat classic, while still showing your personality!

Additionally, don't wear something that highlights your insecurities. We all have something that we don't like about our bodies; if you know you hate your arms, avoid wearing a sleeveless dress. Ultimately, you won't be comfortable in front of the camera if you don't like what you're wearing. Getting photos taken is already nerve-wracking enough for most people, so make it easier on yourself by picking out outfits you love!

Bonus: Wear textures and layers!!! This adds so much dimension to your photos and makes your outfit more interesting. Don't be scared of experimenting a little bit, especially with the layers. We can always take layers off throughout the shoot, so it's better to bring some options! Remember that these photos are about you, and not your clothes.

For my Baylor gals: Avoid wearing a green dress underneath your cap and gown! It's very hard to match the green on the gown to your dress color, so it's best to avoid that all together. Try a neutral or coordinating color instead!

3. Keep your locations in mind.

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Shooting your photos in the middle of a forest? You might want to avoid wearing predominantly green or brown so you don't blend in with the trees! Try a bright color or neutral instead. Urban locations are a little more forgiving since there is typically more variety in backgrounds, but you should still try to match the mood of the location. 

For shoes, think about where you will be walking! Some locations can be a bit of a hike to get to, so trekking through the wilderness in heels isn't ideal. Either ditch the heels completely in situations like that, or bring along a second comfy pair of shoes that you can easily slide off when you arrive at the location.

4. Bring a friend.

The way my sessions are structured (and a lot of other photographers do this the same way), you have a certain amount of time allotted for the session, and driving to locations and changing outfits is included in there. Rather than waste precious time driving yourself to the next location, lugging your stuff out of the car, then hurriedly trying to change and fix your hair, bring a friend with you.

While your friend drives you to the next location, you can be in the backseat changing into your next outfit (in the air conditioning). When you need a spritz of hairspray, you don't have to run over to your bag during the middle of the shoot to do that—your friend can help ya out! And maybe most important of all, your friend can make you feel comfortable and get some genuine laughter out of you! Just be sure to say thank you and buy them some coffee when it's all done :)

5. Pack all the necessities.

Think through everything you would possibly need on your shoots and throw it into a duffle bag! Some suggestions are:

  • accessories (often overlooked, but they can really add dimension and interest to your outfits!)
  • hangers for your outfits to keep them wrinkle-free
  • hairbrush
  • hairspray
  • strapless bra
  • spandex
  • band-aids
  • water and snacks
  • bobby pins, elastics, headbands, etc.
  • handheld mirror
  • makeup to touch it up
  • oil-absorbing paper
  • fun props like flowers, balloons, books, vintage cameras, etc.
  • your dog ;)

I'll keep adding stuff to that list as I think of it in the future! Feel free to comment with suggestions as well :)

6. Do your homework.

Know your photographer's style. Sometimes it can be frustrating as a photographer when clients seem to have a photography preference that is vastly different from the work you consistently produce. If your photographer loves candid, lifestyle photography, you may not be happy with the results if you like a more polished and posed look. Neither is bad, but the photographer ultimately wants you to be happy with your images. 

Keep in mind their shooting, posing, and editing style, and make sure you like what you see on their portfolio and social media accounts!

7. Tell your photographer what you want (and don't want!).

So embarrassing fact about me: my eyebrows are usually different heights whenever I smile. I have no idea why (I wasn't always like this!!!), but one of my eyebrows just insists on rising up above the other in photos. Usually, I just need to relax my face a little bit, but I can't tell when it's happening unless someone tells me. And unfortunately, most people don't tell me, and I end up hating all the photos where my eyebrows are uneven and crooked.

Eventually, I just started telling people who took my photos about the eyebrow situation. While I still definitely get some raised eyebrow pictures every now and then, it's super helpful when the photographer points it out to me when it's happening so I can take care of it!

We all have that one thing that bothers us about ourselves in photos, so letting your photographer in on that helps them work with you to produce a greater number of images you will love!

8. Treat yourself.

Get your nails done or do a face mask the night before your shoot! Be sure to go to sleep early so you are well-rested the next day. Hydrate throughout the day (especially if you live in Texas and will probably be outside in the scorching heat/humidity).

For your nails, think about what color will work with all of your outfits. If you plan on showing off a class ring or engagement ring in your photos, make sure you get a manicure! If you're wearing open-toed shoes, treat yourself to a nice pedi (or at least paint on a fresh coat the morning of). 

9. Think about how you're going to use the photos.

If you're making a graduation announcement card, keep in mind that you may have several different photos right next to each other on the card, so make sure the colors of your outfits coordinate. Additionally, if you know you need one really good vertical image in your cap and gown, for example, communicate that to your photographer so they can be sure to get you what you need!

10. Have fun!

Self-explanatory, but the most important. Jam to some Taylor Swift in the car on the way to your session, and it's bascially a guaruntee for a great shoot.

Have some other tips I didn't mention? Leave a comment below!


10 tips for preparing for your senior session
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