The portrait industry has definitely realized that “senior portraits” are a perfect money-making opportunity. With prices ranging from anywhere in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, quality photography companies are selling their services to high school seniors’ parents, giving them the “golden opportunity” to capture their child’s last moment of adolescence in model-like portraits. These photography agencies typically offer very “personalized” services, with make-up and hair sessions for girls, photographs that are advertised to capture the unique personality of each customer, and even a photo viewing session complete with the student’s favorite music as a soundtrack. Not surprisingly, many parents are buying in to the senior portrait faze, but many other parents are trying to please their children (and save hundreds of dollars) by taking their own senior photos. Other families may opt to have another family member or friend who is “good at taking pictures” do the duties of taking a teen’s senior portraits. Either way, although much cheaper, this method often looks less stunning than the professionally done senior photographs. For anyone who is considering taking their own child’s photographs, here are a few general guidelines to help your photos look just as good as the professional ones.
1) Take a large variety of photographs, in different poses and in different places. One of the appeals of a professional agency is the variety of backdrop options that add to the uniqueness of a shot. Taking a huge amount of photographs will also give you a greater selection to choose from. When taking photos, do not delete any during the photo shoot. While it is fine to review them on the spot in order to get an idea as to whether you like you a particular angle/position/expression or not, always keep all the photos that you shoot even if you don’t like them right then; you might change your mind on a photograph at a later time.
2) Avoid the “tree shot.” The stereotypical “senior picture” taken at home shot is usually one of a smiling individual leaning against a large tree in his or her backyard. Try to avoid this shot, as it tends to look rather tacky and “home grown.” (If you really, really happen to like leaning against trees on a regular basis, however, then this shot could be perfect for you.) In general, however, I would suggest other options for backdrops. Old sheds, fields of grass, and even industrial brick buildings in a downtown setting typically offer better backgrounds for a senior photo. You may even want to try to shoot a few photos with a plain black sheet as a backdrop, as this can look especially classy for guys (if you use proper lighting/flash techniques).
3) Use several different outfits throughout your pictures. Typically go for a more formal look (long sleeved collared shirts for guys or a dress for girls), and a couple of more relaxed outfits (perhaps your teen’s favorite shirts). Switching up outfits will give you a greater amount of options to work with and will add fun personality to your photographs.
4) Edit, edit, edit! While some people are opposed to editing photographs, the truth remains that almost all portraits tend to look better when edited. If you don’t already have your own digital editing program, I would suggest downloading a free one such as GIMP or Picasa. Simply increasing the contrast, strengthening the black tones, or altering the color scheme to sepia or black and white can really make a photograph look much cleaner.