Summer VILLAGE: Say cheese! How to get the senior portrait you really want

Photo: Aaron Watson Photo: Aaron Watson

Gone are the days of a simple cap-and-gown shot. A senior portrait in 2017 means a photo that’s personal, creative and authentic. “The senior portrait is one of those historical visual documents that we come to treasure later in life,” says photographer Jen Fariello. “[It’s] become so much more real and I think that really adds to its value for both the senior and the parents.” And, it’s a confidence-booster.

“I photograph mostly high school girls and, at that time in their lives, often they are in a season of not feeling good enough or beautiful enough,” says photographer Meredith Sledge. “I love to make them feel gorgeous through my lens.”

We asked Sledge, Fariello and a couple other local photogs what makes for a good senior portrait. Here are a few of their tips to get the most from a session.

Photo: Jen Fariello
Photo: Jen Fariello

Keep it simple. While it might be tempting to go super glam or full-on fashion model, in the long run, it’s best to be authentically you. “I am always eager to create something classic and real,” Fariello says. In other words, go easy on the makeup and hair gel.

Less is more. Props can add visual interest to a photo, but can also veer a little cheesy, so only choose ones that are personal to you and incorporate them in a subtle way. Things like furniture and balloons are usually just a distraction. “Often times my seniors will wear a jersey from their sports team or bring a soccer ball to kick around,” says Sledge. “I go for a more natural feel in my photos, so more often than not, my clients are focused on fun outfits rather than props.” Speaking of which…

Photo: Cramer Photo
Photo: Cramer Photo

Look your best. Choose two outfits (one casual, one dressier) that won’t be regrettable years from now. “You don’t want to look back at the picture in 10 or 20 years, and ask ‘Why did I wear that?’” says photographer Aaron Watson. Ditto something comfy. Says Fariello, “If you are even remotely uncomfortable in your outfit, it will show.”

Location, location, location. When it comes to the setting, choose a spot that feels personal but not over-styled. Says Watson, “If they live on a farm, I go to the farm. If they love being downtown, we’ll go downtown!” If you’re having trouble deciding, your photographer can make suggestions. Sarah Cramer Shields, for instance, recommends the Downtown Mall, Saunders-Monticello Trail and even local vineyards.

Photo: Meredith Sledge
Photo: Meredith Sledge

Book early. The best time of year for senior portraits is late summer or early fall and the most popular photographers book weeks (or even months!) in advance, so plan ahead. Sledge recommends scheduling three to six months out.

Double book. To get the most bang for your buck (expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars for a photo sesh), bring the family along and have the photographer snap a few photos of everyone together. “It can make the investment in hiring a professional feel even more valuable,” Fariello says.

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