How to Take Stunning Senior Pictures Everyone Will Love

by David Em

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Graduation is around the corner. It’s a special time for students. Learn how to take amazing senior pictures that everyone will love.

Backlit portrait of a person looking down.
Photo by David Em/Portraits Refined.

Senior pictures are an excellent way to celebrate and document accomplishments and transitions.

The countdown to graduation begins. Students are preparing for the next chapter of their lives.

As the photographer, your role is to capture photos that represent the student well.

You can showcase their extracurricular passions, style, or future endeavors.

The pictures are for yearbooks, graduation invitations, and memories of the time.

The following is your guide to capturing amazing senior pictures.

Ask for a pre-session questionnaire

Teenager leaning against a wall for senior pictures.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

A pre-session questionnaire is an excellent way to get to know your subject. It allows you to prepare poses and ideas for the senior pictures.

The following are questions you can include:

  • What are your interests and hobbies?
  • What’s your best feature?
  • Do you like candid or posed photos?
  • What are your favorite TV shows and movies?
  • What are your plans after high school?
  • What are your favorite foods and drinks?
  • Where do you like to shop?
  • How many outfit changes do you need?
  • What’s your budget?

A pre-session questionnaire allows you to tailor the session for your client. It leads to an exceptional experience.

What to wear for senior pictures

Person in dress looking back.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Clothes are one of the most impactful aspects of a portrait.

The focus of a senior picture is your client. So, ensure you tell them to keep clothes simple and clean.

Their clothes must also match their style and personality.

You can shoot more than one outfit. But, discuss the outfits and changing locations before the session.

If your client is unsure about what to wear, suggest smart casual or dressy outfits.

It’s also essential to remove wrinkles from clothing. So, recommend steaming or ironing clothes before the session.

A minimal style without too many layers or accessories is the goal. It leads to the best-looking senior pictures.

Check for guidelines

Person in green graduation gown and cap.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Schools have guidelines for senior pictures. So, you need to understand what they are before the session.

The rules may cover poses, backgrounds, props, and file sizes or types. That doesn’t mean you need to limit the session.

Your photoshoot can cover many other poses, outfits, and settings. But, you must take at least one shot for your client to use for the yearbook.

The other pictures can be for social media, graduation invitations, and memories.

Review posing before the session

Person sitting with balloons around them.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

A common vision is essential. So, review posing, locations, and outfits before the session.

It ensures your client knows what to expect. Also, it allows you to be on the same page.

Talk about the vibe your client wants, and you can create a mood board. It provides inspiration and direction for the session.

By reviewing posing before the session, your client can practice and prepare. It leads to a smooth photoshoot and authentic pictures.

Bring a friend

Person laughing.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Friends are an excellent addition to a senior photography session. A friend can also be better than having parents or being alone.

It’s an ideal way to help your client feel comfortable, laugh, and get positive feedback.

The result is genuine and stunning senior pictures.

You can also capture images of the friends together. Your client will appreciate and cherish the photos.

Create a positive environment

Person smiling with their hands up.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

A positive environment is essential for amazing senior pictures.

Always pose your client with clear and straightforward directions.

Also, use positive language and a lot of compliments. A comfortable client leads to stunning images.

During the session, show that you care by talking about their future. It helps you build rapport and share excitement.

Another way to create a positive environment is to enjoy the moment and have fun.

Your passion will be contagious. So, play music, keep it light, and capture the best senior pictures.

Pick beautiful and meaningful locations

Person in forest with snow.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

The setting determines the look and feel of a senior photo. So, choose a beautiful and meaningful one.

Nature, stairs, and architecture are excellent choices.

You can also get specific with a location that relates to your client. Consider their hobbies, aspirations, and passions.

If your client likes hiking, take pictures on a trail. If your client plays an instrument, take pictures of them playing.

A meaningful location leads to compelling photos that tell a story.

Use composition techniques

Person with hand in pocket.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Compositional techniques will help you capture beautiful photos.

The composition of an image is the arrangement of elements in the frame.

You can use techniques like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing.

Composition techniques allow you to direct a viewer to the focal point and add interest. It gives structure to a photograph.

Good composition is pleasing to the eye. So, use it to take incredible senior pictures.

Use a longer lens to avoid distortion

Photographer taking a picture outdoors.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

The lens you use affects how your client looks. The ideal lens for senior pictures has a focal length of at least 50mm.

A long focal length is crucial for avoiding distortion and offers background separation.

One of the best lenses is the 85mm f/1.8 or f/1.4. It captures beautiful portraits, and the wide aperture is superb.

You can use it in low light conditions and capture beautiful blur and bokeh.

A longer lens also allows you to isolate your subject, keeping the focus on your client.

Take and edit timeless photos

Person in suit looking to the side.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

A classic style is essential for senior pictures. So, keep your shooting and editing style timeless.

Trends will pass, and your photos must stand the test of time.

When editing, keep the colors realistic. Avoid changing the hue or making it look unreal.

Also, give your client black-and-white versions of some of the photos. A mix of color and grayscale is timeless.

Frequently asked questions about senior pictures

When’s the best time for senior pictures?

The best time to take senior pictures is between March and May. The weather is more comfortable and days are longer, giving you more time and light. But you can take them any time before the deadline for the yearbook. Fall can offer beautiful backgrounds and colors.

How do you make senior pictures not awkward?

Avoid awkward senior pictures by building rapport with the student and being positive. As a photographer, you must lead the session and conversation. Also, you can encourage the student to bring a friend who can make them feel more comfortable.

What colors are best for senior pictures?

Neutral and solid colors are best for senior pictures. It’s timeless and keeps the focus on the subject. The student can wear other colors and patterns if it aligns better with their style.

Do parents go to senior pictures?

Parents can go to the senior pictures session. Many students are more comfortable when their parents attend. Also, they can offer encouragement and carry a change of clothes.


As a photographer, your role is to capture flattering pictures of your subject.

Have a positive attitude and get to know the student. It ensures they look authentic and natural in the pictures.

Capturing images that align with their personality is essential.

Use the tips and techniques to take amazing senior photos.

Related: The Complete Runner Photography Guide

Featured photo by David Em/Portraits Refined.

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