© Carl Caylor

How to Choose a Photographer for Senior Pictures

Once upon a time, a high school senior could look forward to a traditional portrait—girls wearing a black drape, guys in a classic tuxedo. But times have changed, and this ain’t your mama’s senior portrait anymore!

A professional senior portrait is an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, personality, and good looks. Given the importance of the occasion, choosing a photographer is no easy decision. To help you in the selection process, we’ve compiled 10 tips to help you find the right photographer for you. 

1. Find your photography style.

At such a busy time in your life, it’s easy to choose a photographer based on what a BFF or classmate recommends. But your senior portrait is about YOU! That means you need to find a photographer whose style matches you. To do this, search for and view a variety of portfolios and images to determine what you like—and just as important, what you don’t like. While someone parasailing or taking a reflective walk through the woods may make a great photo, would you want that to be YOUR image? Does that tell YOUR story? As you peruse images, don’t stop until you find something that speaks to you.

2. Make a connection.

The connection you feel with your photographer is just as important as your style. You want a photographer that you feel comfortable around, someone who is going to take the time to get to know you and ask you what you want out of your session. This doesn’t happen in five minutes, so spend some time seeking out and establishing the right connection.

3. Check credentials.

It’s your time to shine, so why not hire the best? Professional photographers have unique skills and training in artistry and technology, so they know how to capture your unique personality and interests in images. The pros have standards to uphold and membership in professional associations like PPA (Professional Photographers of America). Consider going a step further and looking for a Certified Professional Photographer. 

4. To Photoshop or not?

Ask a photographer about retouching, what they typically do and don’t do, when, and why. After all, no one is perfect, so it may take just a quick computer brush stroke to make your photos look amazing! On the other hand, you don’t want images so retouched that you no longer recognize yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer about what happens behind the scenes.

5. Check their reviews.

As you look for your photographer, good customer service should be high on your list. This is when references, reviews, and testimonials can help you find a photographer that will deliver the customer experience you want.

6. Notice how they use light.

Any good photographer knows that the key to great images comes from having the right lighting. As a customer, it’s not your job to know F-stop from aperture, but as you review portfolios and websites, pay special attention to the photographer’s use of light. You’ll see how an expert can use light to take an image from OK to amazing! Details like this truly set professionals apart from less experienced photographers. 

7. Tuck your chin and throw your shoulder:

You’ve probably been there: a photographer asks you to position your head “here” and your shoulder “here,” and suddenly, you feel like you’re in a bad game of Twister. A good photographer shouldn’t manhandle you, but gently guide you through a series of poses. As Kent Smith of Kent Smith Photography says, “Seniors want to look ‘natural,’ but natural does not mean posed.” Smith goes on to say that it’s the photographer’s knowledge of lighting and how to flatter a figure that makes all the difference in posing.

8. Make sure they offer options.

As you shop for the right senior photographer, look for someone who can offer multiple options. Look at albums, collages, wall frames and any other products they offer. Discover what you like such as informal, casual, fun and/or serious shots. A good photographer will take your ideas, show you what will work, what may not, and why. Also, don’t be afraid to ask to see images from an entire photo shoot. This gives you greater insight as to the photographer’s whole body of work, not just selected images.

9. Make mom happy!

Yes, a senior session is all about you. But parents (and their wallets) typically have a vested interest in this experience. Both parent and teen should be involved in the process and the decision. As a senior celebrates this milestone, it’s also about the people and support systems that helped you achieve it.

10. Set a budget.

While it may seem like you can’t put a price tag on the experience, in reality, your photographer will. Again, this is where parents most likely come into play. But understand that everything has a budget and a cost. Often things are flexible, and you can probably switch out and substitute options that are really important to you.