Senior Portrait Tips

From start to finish, the senior portrait experience can seem overwhelming in all its details and choices and things like timing. We’re here with all the senior portrait tips to make this easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

How many of you parents reading this remember getting your senior portraits done back in the 90s or even the 80s? Did you even get senior portrait tips? Likely not. So many of us at that time would have simply been going to a portrait studio and having paper backgrounds changed a couple of times at the most ((ha!!)). Or maybe you got to sit on a stool or a different chair or a pile of pillows or bean bags. Or even ((gasp)) maybe you got to stand in front of a rattan screen! ((Your writer is snorting…)) These might bring back some memories.

Things have evolved. Thank goodness. Now your senior’s portraits will really show who they are in this moment in their lives. The memories will be unique to them and won’t just look like stock photos from a glamor shots store in the mall. ((another snort)) But this also means there’s more to think about and consider.

Senior Portrait Tips

Basic Tips


This is totally up to you. First, you’ll want to know when your senior’s portraits are needed by their school for the yearbook and any other special programs they might have on the schedule. Beyond that, what time of year do you want to do this? What time of year holds the most meaning for your senior? Figure that out and then back up to when you’ll have enough time to get it all done and meet deadlines.

That said, every season has its merits. If your senior was big into skiing, plan things so that their senior portraits are in the winter for those great snow shots. If they love the lake, then you’ll want to figure out at what point in the summer is the best time to get these done. Fall is awesome for that traditional “school” sort of nostalgia look to the photos, and spring can be so beautiful in our parks with all the flowering trees.

Again, what matters to your senior? What story do they want their senior portraits to tell when they look back on them years from now?

What to wear?

This is probably the biggest thing, right? The senior portrait tips that every senior needs but barely any of them want especially from anyone over the age of about 20. ((ha)) Picking out outfits for senior portraits is a huge deal… it was how many years ago (don’t ask!) and your writer is feeling the stress just writing this out!

There are, though, some basics that everyone would do well to keep in mind, whether your senior is a fashionista or acts like they could care less. (Emphasis on “acts like…”)

  1. Bring it all. Even if you think the outfits are perfection and will need no adjusting, bring more. Once you’re all “on set,” so to speak, all kinds of things can happen that can’t be anticipated. Sometimes an article of clothing that seemed perfect two days ago suddenly doesn’t feel quite right. Have backups.
  2. Keep things pretty simple. You don’t want so much going on that it takes away from the real focus of the photos — your senior’s face. So watch out for logos, crazy prints, pictures, words, and stripes.
  3. When it comes to color, wear what is most flattering and whatever is your favorite. Watch out for beige and creams and light tans. Anything that will blend in with your particular skin tone is not a great idea either.
  4. Emphasize your favorite parts of you! And wear things that make you feel both comfortable and confident.


  1. Keep your jewelry simple. Again, we don’t want to distract from the real point of these photos.
  2. Don’t try new makeup or a new haircut for your senior photos. Stick with what you know works and what you feel best in.
  3. As for makeup, wear what you would normally wear day to day. For the most part, if you want to take it up a notch, that’s fine, but not much more than that is best.
  4. And for girls and their hair, make sure to have extra of all the possible things — like ties and clips.
  5. Bring along a brush and a mirror and extra makeup and even lotion in case you realize you have chapped hands, for example.
  6. Take a look at your nails too. Do you need a manicure? Even if you don’t polish, a manicure is nice for neatening.

Senior Portrait Tips

Tips for Posing

We’ve written about how to look great in photos and a lot of those tips would be applicable here. So check that out.

But we want to emphasize:

  • To get the best smiles, think of something that makes you laugh, and, well, laugh. Then your smile reaches your eyes and that’s what we want.
  • Relax and just have fun. Have someone with you who puts you at ease. (Your photographer can be pretty funny so that will help.) You might consider bringing a good friend to help with the relaxing and laughing parts.

Miscellaneous Senior Portrait Tips

Bring snacks and water. You don’t want to get cranky or … hangry. And you don’t want to end up with a headache from being dehydrated. (Especially if you’re doing outdoor shots that are somewhat active.)

Communicate with your photographer. Really. They want to hear from you. If anything seems off or wrong or you just don’t like it, speak up.

Think about props that really represent your passions.

And yes, of course, bring along your dog. Your photographer would be sad if you didn’t.

Senior Portrait Tips