A formal and classy senior session

A formal and classy senior session

Feeling at ease with portraits

I was introduced to Sam last year in November when him and his mom approached me to take his high school senior pictures. Sam goes to school in the Milwaukee area and like a lot of people he was a little apprehensive to get his photos taken. Other than getting one great picture for the yearbook he was unsure how painful going through a whole photo session would be. His mom, made sure to let me know that he wasn’t a fan and to some extent, she was more worried than he was. 

For anyone, it can be a little intimidating to sign up for a photo session unless you already have an interest in photography and like taking or getting your photo taken. 

I’m pretty used to this. As a photographer I take it as a personal challenge to give even the most apprehensive clients such a fun and comfortable experience that their view of photography and photographers is completely changed. 

Finding a good repertoire with clients is super important and can be challenging when you meet them for the first time.

Some people really want to have fun, and they appreciate you bringing in a ton of energy. In this case, I’ll show a lot of excitement for the pictures we’re getting and try to find things that’ll make them laugh and smile. Other high schoolers just appreciate you talking to them like peers. People will usually open up when you ask them about their life and what they like to do or what they’re good at.

Even if they’re super high energy and laughing, we’ll get the best pictures when they’re more relaxed and calm. Posing and looking natural on camera involves mostly being still and being able to replicate the same looks and poses as I move around, try different lens and then ask you to do similar things in different locations.

Too much energy right at the beginning is an awesome way to break the ice and get great photos, but if we stay at that level we’re likely to burn out quickly on the pictures and the session may end earlier just because we’re both tired. Also, we may miss the opportunities to fine tune posture in different locations.

Either way, finding a relaxed and comfortable vibe is super important and I’m always proud when I see that I helped a high schooler come out of their shell.

Depending how extroverted the high schooler is, they may not come right out and tell you that they enjoyed the session. But in Sam’s case at the end he still was willing to say in an understated manner that the session “wasn’t as bad as he thought it was going to be.”

The other way to tell I did a good job is through the pictures themselves. The smiles of clients will grow wider and more confident as we take pictures. The tension in their postures will soften and suddenly you’ll see them standing or sitting in front of you as if you were a family member or close friend instead of a stranger with a camera.

I was proud to see that even though our session was only an hour, Sam grew so comfortable and at ease that he was willing to try a couple more out-of-the-box creative and even silly poses.

Shooting for your yearbook

Sam and his mom had one purpose during our senior session, which was to get a decent picture for the high school yearbook.

Normally, the school will have a hard deadline for the last day to submit the photo to the yearbook committee and it’s important to not procrastinate when you’re trying to meet this deadline.

Even if the date is the first week of November, you’ll want to schedule your session at least two months before then.

For me, it takes four to five weeks to post-process the photos unless we agree on a different timeline.

Also, Fall is the busiest time of the year for me with weddings and other family or engagement photo sessions. For those that don’t know, Fall in Wisconsin is such an incredibly beautiful time of year that it’s irresistible for people to not want to do their portrait session during this season.

So, with the demand of fall sessions and juggling around rainy weather days, it can take two to three weeks to even find an open day on my calendar.

Some high schools also have specific picture guidelines to follow and if as a parent you find it’s easier and more comfortable, you can tell me which photo you like and I’ll take care of submitting it for you. I’ll size it appropriately, put it in the right format and send it directly to the school. All you’ll need to do is give me a copy of the sheet with all the information that the school will eventually send home with your son or daughter. 

A more formal outfit

Sam and I met at one of my favorite spots in Milwaukee, which is the Third Ward neighborhood. It has a lot of small shops and wooden walkways next to the Milwaukee river and cream city brick is everywhere.

We met there and took pictures for about an hour as we walked a few different streets.

I actually offer two different senior session packages.

The first package is for one location and one outfit for 60-90 minutes. The second lasts two to three hours and can be in multiple locations and include multiple outfits.

If you do decide to go with the shorter time frame like Sam, I’d strongly suggest you follow his example with your outfit choice and dress more formally then you’d wear in normal life.

Clothing is the easiest and quickest way to make an occasion more special and that is true for portraits as well. Sam wore cream colored khaki pants, a dressy button down shirt and then added a tie to the ensemble. 

I thought the tie, especially, made the outfit look higher end. It really made the pictures stand out from the crowd. For girls, there would be no bigger statement than wearing a ball gown.

When in doubt, think of something you’d wear to a school formal or maybe to a wedding.

If you do want to schedule a senior portrait session or find out more info please reach out to me at matt@bigskyphoto.com and we’ll get you on the calendar!

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