What To Wear: Senior Portraits

Spicing up Senior Portraits

By Kim Mitchell of Michelle Tiek Photography & Design

High School graduation may seem a long way off now that we are entering colder weather, but now is the time to start photographing high school students for their senior portraits.  A lot of parents ask us what their seniors should wear for their portrait sessions and the best tip we can give is for them to simply dress as themselves.  At this age, most teens dress in a way that expresses their personality and this is exactly how we want to capture them!  Of course we do recommend that they also add some fun accessories to spice up the photos.

We also like to use the environment of the location to either pull the colors from their outfits or to provide a stark contrast so that they really stand out.  Sometimes, we match the environment to the style of the outfit and sometimes we like to use an environment that is opposite of the style they are wearing to make the photo more interesting.  For example, if the client is dressed in a really hip or urban outfit, we may photograph them in an urban setting, but a photo in front of a barn or in a field is unexpected and fun.

We have had some fantastic senior portrait sessions over the past few years!  The clients picked great outfits and accessories and had a good time just being themselves for the photos.

In the photos below, our clients were dressed in fun, urban style outfits so we played this up by photographing them in front of brick walls and in alleys to give the pictures a more “downtown” feel.  They did a great job with accessories: hats, shoes, and a tie really added the wow factor.

In these next two photos, we used an environment that was opposite to the hip style that the clients were wearing.  Megan looks like she could be downtown with her hat, scarf and fun print jacket, but is in the woods instead.  Stefan looks like he should be chillin’ in California, but we photographed him on a covered bridge.

We have found that photographing in the snow can make for a fantastic photo!  The colors that the client is wearing really pop against the stark, white snow.  Delanie’s green coat and blue jeans really stand out in the photo below.

Capturing the client in an environment that they love helps connect them to the photo.  In this photo below, It is obvious that Jon loves the water and we get a sense of his laid back personality.

Another way to let the client express themselves is by having them showcase a sport or hobby in their portrait.  In these photos, Delanie is wearing her cheerleading uniform and the colors jump out at you against the wintery background.  Stefan’s love of soccer shows in this photo against an unexpected stone wall.  These give the client an interesting way to capture their sport off the field or court.


For Jon’s photos, we went to the baseball field but made it interesting by having him write his name and graduation date in the dirt and by standing behind the chain link fence in the second photo.  We also captured a causal pose of him in the dugout holding his glove. We love that he just wore his team shirt and paired it with jeans instead of the whole uniform.  This combines his love for baseball and his laid back vibe.

We also love to pick a variety of fun and interesting spots that you might not normally think about for a photo shoot.  Below is a photo of Delanie on a tractor and a photo of Megan in front of a train.  Using big props like this in the background add color and creativity to the photo.

In the photos of Stefan below, we chose train tracks and a stairway to add a gritty, cool vibe.

There are so many ways to make your senior portraits fun and unique, and we suggest that you have clients wear what makes them comfortable and defines who they are.  Try more than one outfit change and mix and match shoot locations with different styles. Photograph them in their sports uniform or part of their uniform in a fun location.  Use lots of accessories and most of all, have fun!

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Nora - March 28, 2012 - 8:31 pm

My daughter is going to be a senior in the fall of 2012, graduating in 2013. I would love some ideas for her portraits!!!!!

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