If you're a professional portrait photographer, there are a few key times of the year when you can boost your income by booking more gigs due to seasonal demand. One of these important times is grad season when high school seniors book photo sessions to commemorate the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of a new one.
The great thing about building a portfolio of graduation pictures that no matter where you live in the world, you can find a market for this type of photography. If you've never taken senior pictures before, you've come to the right place. By the end of this article, you'll have a ton of senior portrait ideas to draw from on your next shoot.
Even if you're an experienced senior pictures photographer, having some new picture ideas the next time you book a senior photo session will make for more excellent images that your clients will love and you'll be proud to share in your online portfolio.
Senior Picture Ideas by Extracurricular Activity
A great place to start when discussing your senior picture session with your client is to ask them what their hobbies are or if any activities characterized their high school years. Were they on a sports team, a member of the school band, or part of the drama club? This will help you generate ideas for the photoshoot, so you can make sure the pictures you create are ones they'll look back on with a smile for years to come.
1) Senior Pictures With Sports Equipment
If your subject is a basketball All Star, have them pose with the ball. You can have them all dressed up for grad for a fun contrast, or wearing their jersey for a complete basketball look. The same goes for any other sports equipment that is special to the person you're capturing. You can also bring out your inner sports photographer and capture them showing off their skills.
2) Senior Pictures With Instruments
Every school has its dedicated band kids, and for many of them, the band experience is a very special part of their high school experience. Snap some photos of them playing their instrument with their grad cap on if you want to drive home the graduation theme, or some may prefer a simpler portrait of them posing holding the instrument.
3) Senior Pictures in Uniform
You don't necessarily need a special prop to show the group or team that your subject belongs to. You can just have them wear their uniform or club t-shirt for a memorable shot.
4) Senior Picture With Artwork or Creation
Many students complete a special project of kind in their senior year, and their grad photo session might be a great time to show it off. If they made a piece of artwork or something they're particularly proud of, ask them if they'd like to immortalize their art in a senior portrait.
Senior Pictures for Camera-Shy Subjects
Sure, today's kids may have grown up with camera phones and be a lot more accustomed to being on camera than graduates of years past, but you'll still encounter some who feel awkward as soon as a camera is pointed at them. Often, you'll be able to tell from the way they stiffen up and suddenly look awkward rather than natural. Part of being a great portrait photographer is knowing how to coax great portraits out of even the least willing subjects, and these photo ideas will help you do just that!
5) Sitting Down
Your subject doesn't have to be sitting down for the entire session, but starting with some seated shots is a good way to help them relax. They don't have to think as much about what to do with their bodies, and they cross their arms over their laps or choose some other easy, no-fuss pose. To make this pose idea more special, have them seated on either the steps of their school, their childhood home, or some other meaningful location.
6) Car Mirror
This fun pose involves capturing your subject in the rearview or side-view mirror of a car. It's the perfect shot for a senior since it suggests them zooming off into their future, but it's also great for the camera-shy since the lens isn't pointing right at them and only their faces are in the picture.
7) Leaning Against a Wall
This is another great choice for a client who isn't comfortable posing, since it instantly puts them in a relaxed state. They can put their hands in their pockets or clasp them behind their backs, so they don't have to worry about what to do with them.
8) In-Action Senior Picture
Another useful tip for the camera-shy is to keep them moving. There's something about having to stay perfectly still that can make even the most experienced model feel a bit awkward. Staying in motion is much more natural. One way to do this is to capture your subject as they walk. You can maintain a casual conversation with them to help them feel more at ease.
9) From a Distance
It's easier to feel relaxed when the camera is at a distance, so why not plan a few wider landscape shots that capture the setting as well as the subject. This could be somewhere like the high school football field or somewhere else that is meaningful to the soon-to-be grad
10) Looking Up
Here's a portrait tip for shy subjects: by capturing the portrait from a higher elevation relative to your subject, they'll feel naturally more at ease since they won't feel their body is in the shot as much as if you were shooting them straight-on
11) With the Family
Some camera-shy seniors may feel more relaxed if they're not the only ones in the picture, so try starting your session by including some shots with their family members. Sharing the moment with people they love can help put them at ease and set the tone for a great photo session.
Outdoor Senior Picture Ideas
Leave the studio and take on the great outdoors in your next senior portrait photography session. We've already covered some outdoor images you can take around their school, but don't feel limited to that one location!
12) Breathtaking Views
The perfect location for your next outdoor portrait session will, of course, depend on where you live. If there's a lookout point in your area, or some other place with a beautiful view, what better way to capture the feeling of vast possibilities than somewhere with an expansive view of the graduate's hometown?
13) In the Woods
For the outdoorsy type, take your photography session to the forest. The possibilities for fun, enchanting images are endless.
14) Favorite Locations From Childhood
If your client is on the sentimental side, maybe they'd like to snap a few senior pictures at one of their favorite outdoor locations from their childhood. A park or playground might be just the thing.
15) Using Colored Smoke
This is a trendy photoshoot idea that is best done outdoors for safety, so find the nearest wide open space and get snapping.
16) In a Field
Whether it's a grass field or full of flowers, fields are an easy-to-access type of location that makes for truly beautiful photos. As a bonus, the natural environment will help your model feel more relaxed and comfortable. To turn up the natural beauty, try to schedule your shoot for golden hour.
Group Senior Picture Ideas
While most people will want at least a few solo pictures during their photoshoot, one of the most important parts of graduation is celebrating with the people who helped you get through it all. Group senior poses are a great way to commemorate this special time.
17) Looking Back
Have your subjects face away from you together, and then ask them all to look back at the same time. They're guaranteed to love these senior pictures, since whipping their heads around like models at the same time always guarantees some authentic giggles. Real smiles and laughs make a photo shine.
18) Arms Linked
This is one of the classic senior picture photo ideas for good reason. Linking arms or holding hands will help remind your client and their friends of the significance of their friendship and of all the times they've shared.
19) A Pop of Confetti or Glitter
If you want your portraits to convey some serious fun, head to the nearest party supply store and have your subjects (or someone just off-camera) launch some confetti into the shot. There's no better way to capture the celebratory mood of the moment.
While the graduating senior may be the star of the shoot, their siblings were probably a huge part of their school experience. If so, make sure you capture a few sweet family shots on shoot day
21) Best Friend
Have the besties hold up a chalkboard that says something about their friendship, or maybe a prop that represents one of their shared passions. If you're looking for ideas for guys, this can be a great approach. If they played football together, for example, you could capture the best friends tossing a ball back and forth or pretending to fight over it.
22) Throwing up Their Grad Caps
We know, this senior picture idea isn't exactly brand new, but it's a classic for a reason! You might need to try a few times to get everyone synchronized, but it's a fun shot that they'll love to look back on.
Senior Picture Ideas With Props
Props are an awesome way to introduce some unique senior picture ideas into your portfolio and delight your clients by letting them get creative or bring some of their personality into their senior portraits. Many of the best props are inexpensive and easy to transport, so you can keep some of them in a kit that you bring to all your senior picture gigs.
23) Scrabble Tiles
This popular prop choice can be used in many ways in your senior photo sessions. You could have the senior spell out the name of their school, the word "grad" or "senior", the name of their team or school mascot, or whatever else is meaningful to them on this occasion.
24) Their Favorite Childhood Toy
Create a unique senior picture that no one else will have by incorporating a favorite toy or object from childhood. That unique item will make the photos truly personal. This might be a favorite teddy bear, a worn-out ball, or anything else that reminds the grad-to-be of the happy days of their childhood as they take the first steps into adulthood.
25) Handwritten Sign
Bust out the chalkboard and hand letter skills to write a message with a personal touch. It could be the year of their graduating class, the name of the University they'll be off to in the fall, or something else that the senior wants to immortalize in their senior portraits.
26) The Cap and Gown
While many like to show off their style in their senior portraits, there's also something nice about the classic cap and gown. Many schools will have a tassel with the grad year on it, so you can have the grad pose holding up the tassel for a fun shot.
27) Social Media Picture Frame
If ever there was a photo prop made for kids who grew up with Instagram, this is it. You can have a few friends hold up the frame together, or it can be a solo shot. If you'd like, you can create a frame that you bring to shoots and have a few different captions that can be velcroed on.
28) Future Career-Related Props
Let your model show off their ambitions by incorporating some props having to do with the field they hope to work in someday. Do you have an aspiring doctor on your hands? A stethoscope would be a fun way to nod to their goals and dreams. Whatever it is they hope to do, have a chat with them before the shoot and see if there's a way to bring it into some of their pictures.
A popular senior picture prop is helium number balloons with their grad year, but you could also get balloons to spell out a word. This is a fun, personalizable idea that has been trending for so long at this point it's a classic.
Make sure the senior is of legal drinking age in your area (or use a non-alcoholic option), and have them pop the champagne on camera. There's no way you won't get a big, authentic grin out of this shot. Then, you can capture some pictures of them with their family cheering for a bright future.
31) Speech bubbles
Have a range of speech bubbles on sticks that the graduate’s can hold up saying things like "class clown", "best dressed", and any other fun yearbook superlatives. These are a great go-to prop for guys and girls alike, and you'll find yourself reusing them again and again.
32) Stack of Books
The perfect senior picture prop for someone who hit the books during their time at school is none other than a stack of books. Whether it's all the literature they read or a stack of textbooks they mastered, use this as a prop in their senior photo to celebrate their years of hard work.
There's a senior picture idea in this list for just about every grad, from action shots to sentimental snaps. As a portrait photographer, you get to be a part of a time they'll look back on for the rest of their lives.
By being prepared with lots of fresh ideas to create awesome images, you're sure to create some seriously portfolio-worthy photography at your next senior shoot. Once you have the final shots, make sure you upload them to your online portfolio so you can share them with future clients and keep growing your business.
If you don't have an online portrait portfolio yet, no worries. It's very easy to put one together, even if you don't have coding or web design skills. With a website builder, you can have your portfolio live in minutes. All you have to do is curate your collection of images so that you're only uploading your very best work, write an awesome, effective About Me page, and choose a beautiful template that reflects your business branding.
A good idea for photographers specializing in portrait photography is to include an online store on your portfolio website. That way, you can sell senior photo packages and prints to your clients directly from your website. If you want to avoid having to deal with fussy integrations, choose a website builder that comes with built-in e-commerce capabilities.
Now that you have a bunch of ideas for your next senior portrait session, it's time to start landing those clients!
Looking for more must-have portrait photography tips? Read on!