Senior Session at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Senior Session at the Milwaukee Art Museum

When Matthew reached out to me to get his high school senior portraits it was obvious from the very beginning that Matthew had a big personality and that his session was going to be unique with a lot of goofy and creative photos.

He told me that he himself had a passion for photography and was asking me for pointers on how to get started in the business of photography during our session. It was a lot of fun sharing with him some of my own photography journey: starting out as a high school sports photographer and then eventually transitioning full time to portraiture. 

Matthew was a swimmer on the high school swimming team at Greendale High School, which is a suburb south of Milwaukee. 

Naturally, we started our photo session at the water. In our consultation phone call he had told me that he wanted somewhere where there was water, but also someplace that had a woodsy background as well.

Grant Park Beach in South Milwaukee fits that to a tee. There are some beaches that are very manicured where the beach runs directly into a parking lot or other manicured lawns and grassy fields. Grant Park Beach definitely has some of that, but it also runs along so much shoreline of Lake Michigan that the northern edge of it gets pretty rustic and runs directly into the woods of Grant Park.

This is my preferred spot for portraits anyway. Since it’s less built up on the northern section and has less tourists there, you can have the beach to yourself without having to dance around beach goers.


The main reason why we wanted that transition of woods and beach is because it was really important to Matthew’s mom that we get a couple portraits of him in his Scouts’ uniform. Matthew is an Eagle Scout. I don’t know much about the Boy Scouts, but from what I know that’s the highest rank that people can achieve in the Scouts. 

When he mentioned this over the phone, I suggested a woodsy background, because to me when I think of the Boy Scouts I think of them camping and doing all sorts of activities in the woods.

Matthew had signed up for my two to three hour photo session in multiple locations. With this portrait package there is plenty of time for wardrobe changes. Matthew kept things super simple and easy by bringing three different shirts including his Boy Scouts uniform. 

By just changing the shirts and not the pants he was able to switch back and forth within a couple minutes at a time. 

The other shirts he had included a classy blue button up shirt that made him look more dressy. The third was a white short sleeve button up shirt with tiny pink flamingos all over it. I loved this shirt, because it still had a look of dressy casual or smart casual. In other words, he looked relaxed but sharp, stylish and put together.

The flamingos also made it fun and very much resembled Matthew’s personality of being light, goofy and stylish with a touch of nerdiness.

Just for fun I’m including a link of a different version of a button up flamingo shirt that I found from one of my favorite places for clothing, J. Crew. If seniors are in the Milwaukee area and planning for their portrait session they can always go to J.Crew Factory over in Wauwatosa. J.Crew Factory’s have even better prices, but still great clothes if you want to buy a new outfit for your photography session.

Flamingo Shirt

In the city

A favorite spot for portraits in Milwaukee is in front of the most iconic building in the Cream City and that is the Milwaukee Art Museum. It’s so iconic, because it’s designed to resemble a ship and it has large wings that can expand and resemble sails. Other days the wings will wrap up around a center point just like the mast of a ship.

To get the best photo of the sails I meet clients at the eastern edge of Mason Street before it curves north. 

This is where the street will meet a walking bridge that crosses over North Lincoln Memorial Drive and connects the top floor of the Milwaukee Art Museum to Mason Street.

This is where I met up with Matthew for the second portion of our senior session. It was going to give us some great variety to have an urban setting after all the photos we got on the beach and the woods. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Grant Park Beach.

When we arrived I knew I wouldn’t be able to do my usual routine. The wind was absolutely whipping across the Lakefront and it was making our October date absolutely freezing. So, even though it wasn’t yet golden hour I knew we’d need to figure out a way to shoot with Matthew in direct sunlight, otherwise it’d be too cold to continue on.

This was actually a blessing. 

We walked along the sidewalk and stopped where I had the sun behind him. I shot from a lower angle, so I could get the sun in the photo. This actually let the sun flare obscure a lot of the background detail and make the photos look great. 

I also put a light post directly in between the sun and my camera and this created flares that I could control and didn’t create the multi-colored flares that come straight out of my lens.

My other favorite creative idea for city photos is to take portraits with a client directly in the middle of the street where the cars drive. 

To achieve this, I’ll direct them to walk across the crosswalk when the walking signal comes on. I’ll cross on the opposing crosswalk directly parallel to them. 

You can’t do this with every client, since it takes a certain willingness to put yourself out there in front of a bunch of cars and strangers, but Matthew was super extroverted so I could tell that he would be up for putting on a show to the drivers all around him.

After these pictures we took a couple more unique portraits with the glass exterior of the Milwaukee Art Museum and then called it a day after taking nighttime portraits in the courtyard of the Milwaukee Art Museum. 

If you’re looking to bring a lot of personality to your senior portraits, let me know in our consultation and we’ll start brainstorming some fun poses and locations. 

To see more of my featured senior portrait galleries check out my gallery page.

Also, check out Ethan’s session if you want to see more portraits in downtown Milwaukee.

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