5 things that make senior portraits fashionable

As cool as that railroad shot looks right now, it will become the “chin-on-fist” shot of the 1980’s.  In one respect, that’s why I love those types of photos.  However, coming from an advertising background, my job has always been to stay relevant while being one step ahead of the curve.  Frankly, the All-American look isn’t for everyone.

Senior portraits are meant to reflect your personality, and for some that means being stylish, fashionable and similarly, ahead of the curve.  The only way to really get your photos looking like they came out of a magazine is to choose the right photographer; however, here are 10 tips on how you yourself can help make your senior portraits more “Vogue” magazine and less “Family” magazine.

1.  Don’t smile.

I don’t mean scowl instead, but try not smiling.  We all have “that” smile.  You know the one.  It’s not your fault.  We have been conditioned to smile whenever a photo is taken and we’ve all perfected that singular smile we use for all our photos.  As a result, if you don’t change it up, all your photos will have that single same smile.  I’m not saying don’t ever smile, but give yourself permission to convey different looks.  On the same note, there’s differences between relaxed, bored, spacey and pissed–all of which can come out when you’re not smiling.  How do you make sure you’ve got “relaxed” and not one of the others?  That’s your photographer’s job.  They should be able to recognize and coach you through the process.

2.  It’s not always about you.

No fashion shoot is purely about the model.  It’s about conveying a mood or subliminal message that the model becomes a part of.  Have a photo or two where you become a part of the entire photo rather than the central point.  There’s something amazing about being an integral part of the whole picture as opposed to being the subject.


3.  Concepts are necessary.

Ever see a fashion spread and wonder why it feels cohesive despite no strong narrative?  All (good) fashion shoots are conceptualized first, but need not have that concept literally translated in the photos (note that some actually are very literal and when executed correctly are phenomenal).  There’s an underlying mood, theme and backstory.  For example, on my outdoor shoots, I like to have an abstract concept instead of a list of poses and specific spots.  I don’t stick everyone in the same spots with the same poses.

4.  Wardrobe matters.

You don’t need to dress in Valentino to look amazing.  However, you do need to look put together with clothing styles that look good on your body type.  We’ve heard all the tips on not wearing white or busy patterns, but let’s take this one step further.  To look entirely put together, you need an “outfit”, not just individual pieces of clothing.  I recommend visiting your favorite clothing company’s website and examine their “looks” page where they showcase full outfits (e.g. here’s JCrew’s Look Page).  “Um, I can’t afford that.”  Trust me, I hear you.  You could purchase an outfit or two and then return it after the shoot.  (Oops, did I just say that?…)  Also, get second opinions from those you trust.


5.  Practice posing.

It’s the photographer’s job to pose you, but sometimes they don’t always get it right (remember the “chin-on-fist” comment above?).  Practice some basic modeling moves and expressions in the mirror.  Think like a model and be aware of how every part of your body is positioned.  The more practice you get, the more natural and relaxed you will look.  I like to guide my models, but I never make them pose in a way that feels unnatural to them because it will inevitably show up on-camera.


We all can’t grace the pages of Vogue, but we don’t need to look like something out of Parenting Magazine either.  Fashion-influenced senior portraits aren’t for everyone, but if it is for you, seek out a photographer with a portfolio that reflects this.


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