The year is 2008.
I've just arrived at the photo studio. I'm wearing a pleated white dress shirt and tuxedo jacket with coattails. I always loved coattails. As a kid who loved Theatre, performing, James Bond, and all things history...coattails always seemed like the appropriate choice. I meet the photographer, we exchange pleasantries, and begin shooting.
I take my place in front of the backdrop, half-seated/half-standing on the tall, thin stool in front of it. The photographer tells me to cross my arms and smile. I do just that.
The flashes pop and the photographer takes a look at the digital image he just shot of me.
"Ew. Okay. Well that's not a good look for you."
Those were the first things my high school senior portrait photographer said to me, after looking at the very first image of me he took. The rest of the session went just about as well as that first shot.
At that point in my life, I didn't yet know that I would end up as a photographer.
However, that photo session was forever etched into the vaults of my memory. I didn't feel good, and therefore, I didn't look good. My shots came out stilted, forced, and fake. You can always tell a fake smile when you see one (*hint: look at the eyes, not the lips*).
Fast-forward to 2020 and I'm on the other side of the camera. But do I ever begin a senior session with "that's not a good look for you,"? Absolutely not. I believe it's my job, as a portrait photographer, to capture clients at their best; when they're the most put together and feeling like a million bucks. That's the version of themselves they (typically) want to see and preserve via photograph. So why would I *ever* tell someone something so destructive to one's self-image and confidence? I wouldn't. That's 100% not my place. My job is to make you, the model, feel at ease, comfortable, and like the camera isn't there. My job is to help you let your guard down so your images don't look like my senior portraits did. I actually looked for copies to post and show, but think I ended up throwing all the extras away.
Senior Sessions should be fun.
There's plenty to worry about as a senior; grades, friends, family, significant others, tests, acne...the list goes on and on. So a senior portrait session shouldn't be an additional stressor. It should be an escape, a short break from reality, in which you're a star and are treated like you're the only thing that matters. You deserve to be celebrated.
Aili (right) wanted to wear a Sprite dress because she had an epic plan for her yearbook quote (seen in the caption below the photo). It was an awesome idea and we ran with it. The results we super fun, original, and something she'll never forget.
That's how a senior session is supposed to feel.
Senior Sessions are about YOU.
Yes, that is a loaf of French bread Stephen is holding in that photo. We met for his session outside of a Jimmy John's restaurant and, as soon as he arrived, he said "Uh, hold on a sec," and ran inside. A few minutes later, he emerged from the establishment with said bread loaf and uttered "I need to take some photos with this baguette, is that cool?"
"Absolutely, it is," I replied. It was *his* session. So we were going to shoot what he wanted. I think the bread had something to do with a bet he had made at the beginning of high school, but in any case, he and that baguette got some fantastic images. And again, he (nor I) will ever forget that photoshoot.
Senior Sessions aren't just for high school.
All of the above points apply to pretty much any portrait session, but college graduation is a huge accomplishment, too. It (and you) deserves to be celebrated just as much. A session with a cap & gown, or just around campus near the buildings you've spent so much time in are great ways to remember and feel great about what you've accomplished. Annika, above, graduated with a BA in Communications, a minor in Business Administration & Dance Education, plus she got her specialized certification in Entertainment Management. She wanted to put a bow on all of that with an on-campus senior session and BOY, did it turn out well.
I guess what I'm trying to say is:
You don't have to have the same experience I had. Your senior portrait session should be fun, relaxed, and all about YOU. So make sure your photographer is willing to go the extra mile for you, willing to shoot what you want to shoot, wanting to make jokes and have fun. Photography is about capturing moments in time, so make sure your senior photographer captures your best moments!
And for 2020 seniors especially,
You guys have been dealt the worst hand. With proms, spring sports, senior trips, and graduation ceremonies cancelled all over the country, it may feel like you have nothing to celebrate. But that's where you're wrong! You have all the more reason to shoot and create the best senior portraits EVER. So with you, I want to create and shoot the most awesome and original senior shots we can think of. Want to go to the top of a mountain? Done. Want to shoot in a cap & gown on water skis? Let's do it. Want smoke bombs in an abandoned building? Sign me up.
I want you to think up the coolest way to visually celebrate your graduation and tell me about it. Then we'll make it happen!
Just for this year, I've put together the $80 Graduation/Senior Special. You get a custom photoshoot, designed to celebrate you and your accomplishments. So when you're ready to make 2020 a year to remember, rather than a year to forget, click here and enter the promo code "GRADPIX", and we'll get started creating your custom photoshoot experience!