Photographing teens who are about to embark on a new phase of life is an honor as a photographer. However, it can be tricky to photograph teens who are both very self-aware and yet not a full adult yet. Read the following tips to get the most out of a senior photography session.
1. Pre-Consultation with both the teen and parent
It’s essential to schedule a pre-consultation with both the teen and the parent. This way, you can interview the teen and get a better idea of what they envision for their session. Senior portraits that include the input and ideas of the teen tend to go smoother as the teen is more excited to participate.
Having the parent at the pre-consultation can also help to get an idea of what he or she is looking for as far as wall prints, invitations, graduation announcements, etc. As they are the one paying, they can also choose which options best suit their needs and budget.
Sit down in a casual and comfortable setting so that you can develop a natural conversation with the teen. Bring samples to show them so that they can see and touch the products.
Giving them printed pricing sheets printed to take home. Doing so helps them to keep in mind the products they may want after they view the photos. In turn, helping you make a more significant sale after the session is complete.
Make and print out a small questionnaire for both the teen and parent to fill out. Ask questions like, ‘what background do you envision for your session: natural, urban, mixture?’ Or, ‘do you play any sports? If so, would you like to be photographed in your uniform?’
These questions help you to get a better understanding of what the senior photos represent for the family. Being able to see their likes, dislikes and hobbies narrows down the location, time of day, type of lighting, and even posing.
Some seniors may already have a clear idea as to what they are looking for as far as their photo session goes, making things easier. However, you may encounter many teens that don’t have a clue. This is where you can guide them. Show the teens previous senior sessions that you’ve photographed in different locations and styles. You’ll probably get an excellent idea as to what they don’t like, helping narrow down what they do want.
2. Play music during the session
Music can help the teen relax and feel less nervous during the session. Have them choose a playlist of music they like before or during the session.
Music can also fill in gaps while you are photographing them and can’t focus on a conversation.
Music can be a small detail that can easily get overlooked. However, music can be a game changer when you have a particularly shy teen who isn’t talkative. It can set the tone for the session and motivate the senior to pose a certain way and make particular expressions.
The client experience is what drives word of mouth and referrals from current clients. When you give the teen some control of their senior session, they feel heard and seen. A small decision in choosing which music to listen to can make the whole experience positive.
3. Props and accessories
Props can be a big help during sessions with a senior. There are many props you can use, however, the following are the most popular and specific to senior portraits:
- Musical instruments
- Sports props like balls, uniforms, backgrounds
- The teen’s car
- Their hobbies, like a camera for photography, art supplies or an easel for painting
- A prop that is descriptive of the teen’s personality
- The cap and gown for their school
- Ballons with the graduation year
- A sign
Props also help the teen to be more relaxed posing with something that they like. It also gives the session a fun, playful feel while providing the senior with a better overall experience. For example, if the senior loves to ride horses, you can go where they keep their horse and take a few photos.
Or if a teen is really into djing, they can bring their favorite vinyl records to the shoot. Props help to give the session a little more personality.
Posing can be tricky with senior photography. You have to keep poses teenage appropriate while also being mindful that they are young adults on the verge of entering the real world.
Choose poses that offer variety. For girls, this can mean crossing their feet as they stand with their arms at their hips or interlocked hanging freely. For boys, have them stand against a column or wall and prop up a leg or keep it casual with both feet relaxed.
Sitting on steps also creates nice solid portraits. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different lenses to get different looks during the session.
For example, a lens at 35mm may be an interesting shot in an urban area, giving the portrait more space around the senior. A more compressed, longer lens can give beautiful bokeh and isolate the teen’s face for a beautiful mid-length portrait.
Playing with props and giving their hands an action to do can help calm nerves. Be mindful of idol hands because they can look out of place within the portrait if they are hanging at the sides.
Use their hands to hold jackets, give the elbow a bit of bend to create more shape, put them in pockets, play with hair or props, have them fix their shirt or dress. Giving their hands something to do can also help relax the teen while they are in front of the camera.
Check out some inspirational photos and save them to your phone. Sometimes a little inspiration can help you create something different when the session feels a bit stagnant.
The great thing about teen and senior photography is that they are perfect opportunities for you to experiment. After you’ve achieved the sure photographs that both they and their parents will love, offer to do something more experimental. Go for different lighting if that is something you’ve wanted to try. Doing this can help you offer a different feel to the session and final images.
5. Inviting more seniors to the session
Having the opportunity to photograph more than one senior at the same session can be a fun experience for all involved. If this is the case, ensure you are charging per person, or you have given the main client a group quote. Also, determine how many seniors you can photograph effectively in the amount of time you have for the session.
Photograph the group together in three to four setups. Then take turns taking 5 or more solid portraits of each senior. If they are all members of the same sports team or club, ask them to bring props. Props could include their uniform or other items that represent the activity in which they participate.
Give each teen time to change out of the group photo wardrobe so that they can also experience their own time with you. This makes them feel like they have their own mini-session within the big group photos. The more photos you include of each teen, the more opportunities you have to sell prints and products as well.
Try and take candid photos of the group too. Getting natural reactions while they are just hanging out and talking can also be as meaningful as the posed photos.
Senior photography is much more than the classic graduation portrait that parents used to look for. They are about inclusion and having the teen actively participate in order to capture their true personality before embarking on their next adventure in life.
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