10 Things: Senior Portrait Edition ~ Wisconsin Senior Portrait Photographer

It’s senior portrait season….which means lots of walking through the woods, quick changes in the back of the car, and explaining the difference between a package and ala carte.

I thought a little list of helpful hints was in order. So here I give you 10 Things We’d Like to Tell You = Senior Portrait Edition.

1. Iron Your Clothes

This is a big one….and maybe it’s my old school mentality (my mother used to iron EVERYTHING…jeans….sheets….everything). But dude, if you’re going to bring a bunch of outfits to wear for your portraits, at the very least make sure they’re ironed. If you don’t know how to use an iron…..maybe slip your mom a fiver and have her help you out. : )

2. Comfort is as Important as Style

Now, again….I’m showing my age here (my advanced, AARP ready age of 34, apparently) but sometimes the current fashions scare me. Short….tight….revealing…itty bitty…skinny jeans on dudes (how can you SKATE in those?!? That just baffles me!). But hey, who am I to judge.? My generation wore shower sandals with socks and called that fashion.

But, just because it’s FASHIONABLE doesn’t mean it looks good on your body type. Your pictures are going to turn out 1000 times better if you’re comfortable.

When I had mine done I agreed to wear this little flowery dress that my mom picked out. She loved it. It was the LAST thing I would ever wear…ever ever. That picture is the one that still hangs in their living room, but I tell ya….I think I looked so much better in the one where I was wearing ripped jeans and my Nirvana t-shirt. Because that was ME.

It’s the art of the compromise.
3. It’s Not 1992 Anymore.

Ok, tastes change. People change. Trends change. Sometimes it requires a bit of a come-to-Jesus talk with mom or dad to explain that soft-focus images of their baby girl hugging a tree aren’t really the way portraits are done anymore (at least not when I do them).

Same goes for props like giant numbers proclaiming your graduation year (remember those?!?), fake hay bales or a fake chain link fence, fake…well…fake stuff……crimes against portrait art everywhere and it runs the gamut.

Like wedding photography, every senior portrait artist is different and you have your choice when it comes to the look you’re going for. Just know that it CAN be done differently. You don’t need to have what people have had for years or what your parents had.


4. Hair-Do and Makeup and Stuff

Now, as I’ve mentioned before numerous times…hair and makeup are really not my forte’. It’s why I hire professionals for this stuff. I’m lucky if I leave the house wearing cover-up and a ponytail on most days.

A lot CAN be accomplished with modern editing software, yes, but consider having your roots done, a nice clean trim, or a professional makeup job for your portraits. It really can make the difference. Type A has a makeup artist on call (Holla at Stephanie!) that can work miracles, no joke.

Don’t laugh, even GUYS can benefit from a bit of blending and smoothing and what have you.

I guess the rule is, don’t just assume that computerized magic can fix all skin imperfections or hair issues.

5. Be On TIME!

Dude, I’m a stickler for this. Don’t be late for your appointment. Especially if the makeup artist is waiting for you. If you tend to run late for things, leave 15 minutes earlier than you thought you should. Also, come prepared. Bring your outfits and your props and what have you and have it ready to go : )

That being said, if you are sick the day of your appointment please reschedule. You’re not going to look your best if you’re running to the bathroom to ralph every 5 minutes.

6. Location, Location, Location

In every city there’s always the “go-to” portrait place. The place where everyone and their mother’s brother’s cousin’s friend wants their portraits taken. Mostly because all their friends did….or they’re unaware that there are other options.

In Milwaukee, that place is the Art Museum. In Madison, it’s the Capitol.

In Beloit, it’s Beckman Mill. God love it, but man…..on any given afternoon in the summer you’re going to see a handful of senior portrait sessions going on at Beckman Mill. It’s pretty and all, but there are plenty of other fabulous options in the area that can lend themselves to creative on-location portraits.

I always suggest to folks that they think of places that MEAN something to them. Not just a pretty background, but something that speaks to who they are: the theater at the high school, their grandma’s house where they spent every summer, their elementary school playground, the campus of their chosen college….

This is why I don’t limit locations….I want to allow the senior to really play with options and get creative along WITH me. If that means they want to hit three different places, hey…I’m game! You only get to do this once….go nuts!

(And if you really really want to hit up Beckman Mill, I ain’t gonna stop you! Trust me!)

7. Ma and Pa, Can I Have a Word?

Now, I get that you’re holding the checkbook. I TOTALLY get that. But sometimes it can really mess with a kid’s head if you’re sitting there picking them apart WHILE they’re being photographed….or if you’re hanging over the shooter’s shoulder questioning their every move.

I totally get that you want that beautiful, smiling, perfectly posed image of your baby….but going all Joan Crawford on them isn’t going to achieve that. If you TRUST your chosen portrait artist, let them work their magic.

One way to feel comfortable is to schedule a consult with your chosen shooter to go over your wishes and concerns BEFORE the big day. Then, you can just come and ENJOY the moment instead of being all worried that Junior’s smile isn’t smile-y enough.

Also, it MAY go without saying, but leave your camera at home. : )

8. Digital Vs. Print

Ahhh, that age old debate. Senior Portraits are kind of the last hold out in the digital vs. print war. Seniors and their parents still want prints. They want that big old portrait to hang in their foyer and have people marvel at the beauty of their child for years to come. It’s WHY you do senior portraits. So, I offer a bevvy of print options: metal, canvas, framed art prints, wallets, rep cards, albums, etc.

I ALSO offer digital images. Because this makes archiving and backing up at home possible…and whether we want to admit it or not, we are living in a digital world. People WANT to share those images on social media and send them off quickly to friends and family.

Remember that episode of Saved by the Bell where they made a video yearbook. Where the heck do you think Zack Morris’ video yearbook is NOW? On a VHS tape at the bottom of a box somewhere, that’s where. Probably has to go over to the house of the last relative that he knows has a VCR to watch it.

I am always going to stress the importance of printed images. Think of it this way, what if your grandparent’s images could only be retrieved through an outdated “digital” medium? They would be gone.  Prints are forever. I just can’t see a DVD or a digital download link becoming a family heirloom, especially as quickly as that technology shifts. Computers are already being built without DVD drives….I think in 10 years or so we are gonna have a bunch of folks with a bunch of useless DVDs. This makes me sad. PRINT YOUR STUFF!

9. Just Say No to Selfies and Cellphones

Someone told me recently that people were submitting selfies for their senior portraits (and may the Little Baby Jesus help you if you’re giving duckface and throwing up a peace sign as well).

No. Just…..no. Let’s just resist the urge to go there for a FEW more years, at least.

If you’re really hard up, everyone has someone in their family with a DSLR and a Facebook photography page. Hit them up. It’s better than a selfie.

Sometimes.  ; ) (Down, Snark-a-saurus! Down!)


I know, this is a big fat Duh! but it really is supposed to be FUN. Come on in, bring some music with you if you want (unless you want to listen to whatever I have on, which could be Joe Cocker one day and Broadway the next, depending on my mood). Maybe we’ll order a pizza or something…or maybe not. Pizza sauce in teeth? Hmmm…..scratch that thought.

But, this is not the uptight, pose and prop your head on your hand and smile senior portrait situation. Just relax. You’re going to look so much better (and cooler and more fun…) if you chill out and not worry so much. I’ll help you along. : )

Just be prepared to work it out!

At the end of the day, if you work together with your chosen portrait photographer, you can both create a collection of senior portrait images that you’ll be proud to show everyone (as opposed to hide in the back of your family’s cedar chest or only give away to Grandma and distant relatives).

Amanda ReseburgComment