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My First Senior Photo Shoot...and the Lessons I Learned
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Senior photo shoots.  Hmmm…just what is a Senior Photo Shoot?  Where should you go to have these photos taken?  And…should you take them at all?

I say absolutely.  You should take them.  In my opinion, you should always take any opportunity to get some cute pictures of your kiddos! Because in the blink of an eye, they will be out the door headed to college, and your opportunities for taking photos will be very slim.

I recently had the opportunity to take pictures of my niece, who just so happens to be a senior.  These weren’t going to be  “senior pictures according to my sister, but rather just some pictures of her daughter who happens to be a senior.

So…senior pictures, right?  I guess I should find out what a Senior Photo Shoot actually is, huh?

I kept asking her what type of poses she wanted, what backgrounds did she want (trees, water, city scapes), what outfits she was planning to wear, etc…  Well…my sister is sort of like a senior in that she is not very particular.  She told me that she was happy just to be getting some photos of her daughter during her senior year.

As a Mom who just likes taking pictures, I went with it too, and just kept thinking how easy this was going to be.  And it would be, because my subject for the photo shoot was super cute, calm, and seemed pretty comfortable with my camera in her face.

But…I was a bit lost as to how she should pose, how I should compose the shots, etc…  Since it was a family member, and I was doing this for free, it wasn’t that big a deal, but I did want to get some good pictures from this shoot!

So was this a Senior Photo Shoot, or me just taking some cute pictures of my niece who happens to be a senior?  My sister and I never did agree to what this actually was, but it was time to get started.  The fact is, I was ready to take some pictures of my niece who is a senior in high school, so for argument’s sake, I’ll call this  “My First Senior Photo Shoot”.

It’s easy to take a great picture with a subject like Logan! Happy girl whose smile shines right through her eyes!

I wanted to know a little bit about Senior Photo Shoots, so I checked out the Digital Photography School Website, and of course I found a great article giving me all sorts of tips about what to do during a Senior Photo Shoot.  The article is titled How to Take Senior Portraits That Kids and Their Parents Love.

I feel like most of it was common sense, but it was nice to have a few reminders before I set out with my niece to do this Senior Photo Shoot thing!  I was certain that my niece and her mom knew even less than I did, so at least I had a bit of a head start…

The part that I was most concerned about, believe it or not, was the posing!  Not the lighting, not the lenses, not the aperture setting on my camera.  I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of all that, but I had no idea how to tell her to pose!

She is very low maintenance, and being out in front of a camera striking a pose is not her thing, so I had to make sure I had some poses in mind that kept her feeling comfortable.

Now, when I take my daughter, Morgan’s senior photos, striking a pose will not be hard or awkward for her at all.  The girl loves to be in front of my camera (most days).  She’s my most willing model when I’m working on different shots with my camera.

We took a few silly pictures to lighten things up and make it seem less awkward! Right after this photo, we all went in to laughing fits. It was perfect. Then we were all relaxed and ready to go.

My sisters and I (and my niece) headed out to a spot near my house to take these photos.  We had the perfect set up. Our location was ideal – it was very close to my house, with lots of trees and greenery.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, and everyone was in a good mood.  We were set.

Well…except for the wind.  There’s not a lot you can do about the wind, except pick spots to shoot in that might have a natural sort of wind screen.

We were back in a woodsy area, so it wasn’t too bad.  But you know how the Texas weather can be…

Here are some things I learned after spending an hour shooting senior photos with my niece…

1. Find a nice spot right before sunset so you get some good lighting.
2. Take lots of pictures.
3. Choose many different poses, because the ones that you think are cute might not be as cute once the pics are loaded onto your computer.
4. Don’t take too many “helpers,” because each helper will have their own opinion (and will share it).
5. Take a hair brush.
6. Take a couple of lenses – a prime lens and a zoom would be good. Sometimes it’s better to be father from your subject, and sometimes it’s better to be close up!
7. Take something to drink – for yourself and the person you’re taking pictures of! Especially if you live in Texas (it was 85 degrees) on the day we were doing this shoot (and it was February)!
8. Don’t bring your own kids – unless they are the ones you’re taking pictures of.  Trying to be a mom and a photographer all at the same time is pretty difficult!
9. Bring a friend (or fun relative).  Someone the senior knows well – someone who can lighten things up a bit, or make your subject laugh.
10. Have fun! Don’t make all the pictures so serious!

I checked the photos on my preview screen on the back of my camera every few minutes just to make sure I hadn’t clicked something on my camera to ruin the shots – like crank up the ISO by mistake, or move the focus points unknowingly.  Everything seemed okay.

I couldn’t resist getting an action shot of her on the swings. I mean, who doesn’t love to swing?

However, as we all know, what you see on your tiny preview screen on the back of your camera isn’t always what you see when you get home.  Luckily, my previews weren’t too far off from what I was actually getting.

Things I wish I had done for my first Senior Photo Shoot:

1. I wish I had started earlier. We quickly ran out of daylight.
2. I wish I had taken an iPad or laptop to quickly preview pictures. There were a few blurry ones that looked fine on my preview screen, but once they were on my desktop they didn’t look so good.
3. I wish I had taken more photos with different poses.
4. I wish I had insisted that she bring a change of clothes just for more variety.  The dress she wore was precious (and perfect for pictures), but a few photos in a different outfit would’ve been nice too.
5. I wish I had allowed time to travel to a different location for a variety of picture styles instead of them all being in the same area.

But now we are done.  First Senior Photo Shoot complete.  Was it a success?  Well…my sister will have some wonderful pictures of her daughter as a Senior in high school!  Definitely frame-worthy.  And she will for sure have a perfect wallet sized picture to print out and put in her graduation announcements.

But was it a success?  I would say yes.  Now…if it were for anyone other than my sister, I might feel differently, but I think my sister (and my niece) are very happy with the pictures we ended up with.

As we all know though, we are our own toughest critics, and there are so many things I should’ve paid attention to – but didn’t.  No one but me will ever be this picky, so we’ll consider this one a success.  A great start anyway!

This is one of my favorites from Logan’s Senior Photo Shoot. She seemed to like this pose the best. I think this keeps your arms from feeling awkward! I know this is my preferred pose too.

Now, after I took all of these photos, I decided to look around on YouTube and other websites for tips to take great Senior photos.  Below is a YouTube video that I thought you might like.  However, I’m glad I didn’t see this before I took Logan’s photos – I think I would’ve felt like I needed to go out and buy some light sources!

At this point, I’m not ready to invest in a light set up like this guy has, but it sure would be fun for future Senior Photo Sessions.  I’ll keep it in mind for purchase at another time…

Another thing I found (after the fact) was a link on Pinterest with lots of suggestions for poses.  If you are interested, you can find it here:  Senior Photo Shoot Poses.  There are lots of pictures on this board with some great ideas.  But again, I’m glad I didn’t see these before-hand, or I would’ve been so stressed out trying to find the perfect location for these perfect poses.

Now that I’ve got my first Senior Photo Shoot under my belt, I’ll be much better prepared for next time.  And who know…maybe I’ll buy some light sources just like the photographer in the YouTube video!

All of the the pictures I took of my niece were taken with Midnight, my Canon 5D Mark IV.  I used two lenses for this shoot – my Canon 24-70 lens and my Canon 50 Prime lens.  See below for more information on all of this equipment.

I would love to hear about your experience either taking Senior photos, or having them taken for your child.  What worked?  What didn’t.  Was there something your photographer did that you liked?  Let me know!  Until next time…

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