The Truth About Yearbook Photos | Gilbert Senior Photographer

The Truth About Yearbook Photos | Gilbert Senior Photographer

The Truth About Year Book Photos: School Contracted Photographers

It’s time to say what’s usually left unsaid: The photography industry isn’t a strictly regulated industry. Like any other artistic profession, there’s always some wiggle room for expression, innovation, and just pure creativity. But what that freedom leaves behind is a lot of grey areas and some divergent practices. So, it’s no wonder I’ve been asked approximately 2.5 million questions since the start of my career. One myth that seems to confuse and frustrate seniors and parents every year is:

“Do I have to only use the contracted photographer?” 

For senior students, that means: are they obligated to use the photographer that their high school has selected? Usually, if they want to get into the yearbook, the answer is yes. While many high schools across the country allow students to submit their own yearbook photo, most metro Phoenix area schools will require you to use the contracted photographer if you want your picture included in the yearbook.  That used to mean getting something better than the school pictures that you’ve had taken since kindergarten. You went to their studio and had a few choices of photos for the yearbook, sometimes even an outdoor portrait. In recent years, the Gilbert School District has started having “senior pictures” done in the auditorium.

Speaking from experience with my 2019 grad, it was nothing short of awful. The incorrect times were given, there is no retouching, and it is the same basic background as all the underclassmen. You’re a number, that’s it. Smile, click, done. No personality, nothing that makes this milestone even a little special.  I hate doing this, but with his permission, I wanted to share my son’s “senior photo” from 2019. Keep in mind, this wasn’t the first attempt during school picture day! If you can imagine, that one was even worse! The 2nd attempt was a complete lack of communication and frustration that lead to the 3rd attempt (pictured) which required him to drive to the studio anyway. So in this case, nobody else was there so they they had at least a few minutes to get a decent picture. And they still botched it. I want to mention that the majority of these issues are not in any way his fault. The fake smile? Ok, maybe. But a good photographer can even help with that! As a professional photographer, two of the biggest mistakes that stick out is the horrible lighting and the fact that the edge of the background is showing. Where is that eye-roll emoji when you really need it? 

Just a quick note, I did ask Trevor’s permission before sharing this picture on my blog. He absolutely hates it and was more than happy to let me share hoping that seniors will realize that there are so many better options for senior pictures.

High School Senior Yearbook Photos Mesa

Don’t worry, you might have to take a picture or two with the contracted photographer (especially if you’re on a school team). You definitely aren’t required to have all of your senior photos with them. That doesn’t mean they won’t try! In fact, most parents and seniors have their own unfortunate stories about forking out unexpectedly for photos they never asked for. Contracted photographers could even try to convince you that they’re the only option for senior portraits while attempting to sell their packages.  When in reality, you can choose your own senior photographer and have a gorgeous gallery filled with images like this. Same kid, different photographer.

Think it’s because I’m his mom? Heck no!!!! Ask any photographer who their most difficult client is and each will say their own children!  This image was taken within a few weeks of the school pictures. Yes, we did several sessions together including cars and other outfits, but this is standard in all my sessions. A beautiful headshot of your teen. Sometimes smiling, sometimes not, always a beautiful portrait of your soon-to-be graduate.

high school senior yearbook photos gilbert

You Don’t Have To Pay 

In the last 12 years of business, I’ve heard many parents complain not about the cost, but of the quality. They don’t even like the pictures, yet they feel obligated to pay for them! 

You see, while some photographers take yearbook photos on the school’s premises, others host senior photography sessions in their own studios. In the latter case, the photographers generally have a little more time to deal with each student and go above and beyond capturing a basic yearbook photos. But remember, you DO NOT have to buy these images. In fact, it’s not even your job to pay for your senior yearbook photo. It might take all of your strength to say no. Still, truthfully, that money can be spent better elsewhere – like on a professional senior photographer who’ll invest in getting photos that really showcase you, your talents, and your personality! 

Trevor has a love of cars, in particular sports cars. Arranging to borrow this 1965 Shelby Cobra was a special treat for both of us and this is definitely a favorite image!

Professional Senior Pictures Yearbook Photo Graduation

You Have The Freedom To Pick Your Own Photographer!

It’s crazy to think that one background is enough for thousands of students! They’re all bursting off in different directions with their own interests, experiences, and preferences. That can’t all be contained or captured in one generic shoot. Also, your senior year has numerous milestones leading up to graduation. Sure, Covid-19 has done its best to pry them away from us, but the right photographer can give them back – even if just for a few moments.  

You see, independent photographers (ME!) are not bound by any school district. So, I have the right to fully customize shoots for my clients, and I’m not afraid to use it! I’m free to collaborate with my seniors on their shoots. So, we can either focus it entirely on what they want or spend our time hunting down great locations while brainstorming fun pose ideas – mainly a mix of both! I’m also there to help with outfit ideas (ahem, Style Closet,) retouching your images, and offer a helping hand when you’re picking your favorites for designer products.  

Custom Yearbook Photos

For a select few lucky students, they can hire a professional photographer and submit their own yearbook photo. I require the specs from the school, but here are two yearbook photos I’ve done recently. In both cases the girls were allowed to sort through and choose their favorite to submit. So they are still simple, but still so much better than the standard. 

Best Senior Photos Yearbook Mesa AZ

Get it touch soon and let’s have fun and capture some great moments – I look forward to shooting with you!

Award Winning Senior Portraits | Professional Photographer in Phoenix, Arizona

Award Winning Senior Portraits | Professional Photographer in Phoenix, Arizona

Award Winning Senior Pictures

Many of you have been to my office and seen my stack of magazines. Each issue has anywhere from 1 to 8 of my images published and I’ve been able to see so many smiles and happy tears from teens when they find out their image was selected! Often they don’t even know that I’ve submitted them for publication! I thought it might be interesting to hear from someone who publishes these magazines, so today I’m featuring Beverly Williams from Senior Year Magazine and Teen Years Magazine. I’ve had many images published and even recently had a new image published in Senior Year Magazine’s Best of 2020 edition!

Meet Beverly Williams

I’m Beverly Williams and I’m from Atlanta, Ga.  I am the creator of Senior Year Magazine, Teen Years Magazine and Infinity Photography Magazine.  All three are Instagram accounts where we feature work of photographers from all over the world.  I also publish print magazines under the Senior Year Magazine name and the Teen Years Magazine name, and we offer Business Education classes to photographers as well.

Mesa Photographer Published Senior Pictures

Why Did You Decide To Start Publishing A Magazine?

I started Senior Year Magazine back in 2015.  Initially, I created it for the Instagram featuring aspect in order to recognize more photographers from within the industry.  The Instagram account grew quickly and now we have over 22k followers, have been hash tagged in over 531k images, and we have featured over 13k images on our Senior Year Magazine Instagram account.  In 2017, we created the Senior Year Magazine Private FB group for photographers and in early 2019, we published our first print magazine.

How Many Issues Have Been Published?

At the present time, we have published a total of 17 magazines.  Fifteen of these have been under the Senior Year Magazine brand and 2 have been published under the Teen Years Magazine brand.

Award Winning Senior Pictures PhoenixBest Portrait Photographer Phoenix Az

How Do You Choose Which Images To Publish?

When selecting images for the magazines, we literally go through thousands of image submissions, looking at each and every one.  We are looking at the overall composition – posing, lighting, creativity, etc.  We select what we feel are the best images of the ones that are submitted.  It is important to us to feature a variety of photographers and a variety of seniors and teens, representing a variety of styles. 

Does Everyone Get Published?

The goal at Senior Year Magazine and Teen Years Magazine has always been to feature as much variety as possible both in terms of images we feature on our Instagram and in terms of of images we publish in our magazines.  While we do the best we can, all photographers who enter submissions for our magazines have not been published.  We are always looking for new, creative talent.

Why Do You Think It’s Important For Photographers To Get Their Images Published?

High school seniors today, have a plethora of photographers from which to choose for their senior pictures.  When a photographer has been published in our magazine, it enables them to market and promote themselves within their community, to show that they work has been nationally or internationally recognized and published. Many photographers use the magazine as a sort of gateway to reach more high school seniors and parents within their community.  We provide a badge to every photographer whom we publish that can be used social media marketing and on their website.  We also provide the photographers with marketing templates to designate that they were published as well.

High school seniors and their parents are excited when they find out they have been published!  We include their names, city and state with every image that goes in the magazine. It’s very exciting to them to know that one of their images was chosen from thousands submitted world-wide.  Many parents purchase the magazine as a keepsake and when they receive it, they post a picture of it on their own social media, giving credit to the photographer.  This helps promote the photographer even more within their area. So basically, it’s an excellent marketing tool for photographers as well. 

Senior Year Magazine

We have a website for photographers where we offer Business Education Classes, Marketing Templates for Photographers, A Photographer’s on-line listing by City and State, as well as a full explanation of “How To Get Featured On Our Instagram” and “How To Get Published In Our Magazines”.

Award Winning Images

Thanks Beverly for sharing a bit more about Senior Year Magazine! I’ve had many images published including my most recent of Queen Creek High School Senior, Erica Hart. You can read more about that here!


Mesa Senior Photographer  |  Professional Senior Portraits  |  Alli

Mesa Senior Photographer | Professional Senior Portraits | Alli

Mesa Senior Photographer for Red Mountain High School

How about a throwback this week? Let’s go back to 2017, the year my senior portrait sessions really started growing! Many of you have heard how special these kids are to me and how I love watching them grow into amazing young adults. Well, Alli is definitely no exception! She’s written blog posts for me, helped me with my Style Closet, and is always willing to give that invaluable “young person” perspective I need to make sure my business thrives! I love her every bit as much as I did when we met over 5 years ago!

As a Mesa senior photographer, I get to meet lots of high school seniors but I’m not sure I could love a senior more than Alli!!!  She’s just my kind of girl.  Sweet, giggly, gorgeous, and tons of fun!  Alli is a graduate from Red Mountain High School and both she and her mom Lisa wanted something special for her senior pictures.  We started in Downtown Mesa, and what I love about this area is it can be grungy and urban, country chic, or sweet and vintage!  It works very well for senior portraits and when you have a girl with an awesome variety of outfits and a ukulele, you just can’t go wrong!  Her beautiful floral dress was sweet and comfy, and while I usually love girls with lots of shoes, most of Alli’s pictures looked best when she was barefoot.  Hey, I never said you would stay clean during your senior pictures!  Arizona is dusty and I often find myself sitting or laying on the ground to get just the right angle.  The uke on the front steps of the Sirrine House was just so fitting and showed off Alli’s fun personality, which I’ll never forget!  I don’t believe in limiting my clients, so we squeeze in as many outfits, looks, and locations as possible to give you the very best variety.  So once we were done in Mesa, we headed to Gilbert for some more gorgeous pictures.

FYI, often future grads will be inspired by another session and that was the case with the Alli’s uke. I just did a session a couple of weeks ago for a Desert Ridge High School senior and when she saw these pictures, she said this was definitely on her list!


Mesa, AZ High School Graduation Pictures

Modeling Tips for Amazing Senior Pictures

Teen girls are always so hard on themselves.  My goal during senior photo shoots is to show them off with many different expressions.  Alli and her mom both agreed that this gorgeous black & white image makes her look like a model!  It sure does!!!  One of the biggest concerns I hear from senior girls is that they always look irritated and annoyed when they try to pull off a serious face. No worries though, I’ll help you along and you’ll get tips to be sure you look and feel fabulous for your senior pictures!

Style Closet

Alli had the chance to try out some of our new accessories including jewelry and hats from Charming Charlie!  Over the years the accessory collection has grown to include a small trunk, lots of hats (loooooove hats!!!), fun jewelry, scarves, and whatever else I can find that will make senior pictures that much more fun!

Disneyland Fan

As if Alli wasn’t already rocking her session, next comes the Disney obsession!  If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that our family loves all things Disney!  So Alli’s darling Minnie Mouse shirt coupled with iconic Disney ears was already perfect…but then the red shoes!  Absolute perfection and again, a great way to show off her fun loving personality!

Image Premiere and Ordering Session

Next comes Alli’s Image Premiere, which is every photographer’s dream!  We watched her slideshow and mom was near tears watching as her baby girl was getting closer to graduation every day.  One of my primary goals as a professional photographer working with teens and pre-teens is to bring out the confidence, let them see their inner and outer beauty, then create keepsakes that will remind them how special they are to their family.  So to hear Alli squeal in delight as she was able to see for herself, how truly stunning she is!  Like most seniors, she was a little nervous, but with just a little guidance she was a natural in front of the camera!  Yes, we had her singing, dancing, and laughing, which in person might seem a little odd, but WOW!!!  When you see the results it makes all that silliness worth it!

We worked together to create gorgeous artwork which met all their needs.  One of their favorites included a beautiful image box filled with double sided silk prints.  So now her family can swap out images and have lots of choices on which pictures they want to display!  Hearing Alli squeal in delight while opening her packages and seeing beautiful face just gives me chills!  Mission accomplished!  Happy mom, happy teen, and one very happy photographer!   Please excuse the low quality cell phone pix, but that smile was too great not to share!

Now it’s 2021 and the Signature Image Box is still a favorite! Now you have the option of a 5×7 image box or the big one…the 11×14 keepsake box!

I can’t help but smile remember sweet Alli. Since then she’s attended classes at BYU Idaho, moved back to AZ, and has the most adorable little furbaby named Mia!

Arete Prep Academy Senior Pictures | Professional Senior Photographer

Arete Prep Academy Senior Pictures | Professional Senior Photographer

Professional Senior Portraits in Mesa

By far, one of my favorite parts of a photo shoot is that you never know which way it could go. One moment you’re clicking away, and the next, well, you could have a monster drink can as starring guest or come close to setting a prom dress on fire. Yes, things can get a little wild. But, if you can go with the flow, you might just like where it takes you. Helen was well aboard the “let’s see what happens” boat and brought us all along for the ride.

And We’re Off!

With Helen at the helm, we got off to a start on what should have been a scorching Spring day considering the 106°F temperature!! Strangely, it felt quite cool, but who’s complaining? Not us anyway! With the sun out, it would’ve been silly to not dip into the Style Closet to pull out some sunglasses. But we got silly anyway with the famously cheeky “hello boys” sunglasses. Helen pulled them off with her trademark ‘cool.’

professional photographer senior pictures mesa girls

Using the Style Closet to Her Advantage

I just loved her choice of white and blue (one of her fav colors!) flowery dress from the Style Closet. Not only did it pop beautifully against the natural-toned background, but it was very ‘a la Spring.’ Plus, gorgeous nails and the slight glint of a chic necklace are just PERFECT!

Professional Photgrapher Senior Pictures for Girls in Mesa

More Style Closet Fun

Inspirations can come from anywhere during a photoshoot. You often hear of dress belts being repurposed, but how often do you hear of them being tied around a lovely tan hat for romantic effect? Well, that’s what we decided to do! And wouldn’t you know it, it worked!

professional senior portraits mesa

Helen was SO spontaneous

The mystery to how she does it all might have been resolved when we went back to the cars for a quick outfit change. There, we found a monster drink can. Could we leave it behind and miss the opportunity for a quirky photo? Of course not!

Professional Senior Photography in Mesa, AZ

Book Lover

As Helen is a lover of all things literary, we knew we’d have to add some bookish twist to the shoot. And what better way to do it than posing in front of a bookshop (who shall remain unnamed) in the dark? While a bookstore at night may not sound like the most  photo-worthy location, you just have to look at the picture to have your doubts wiped away instantly. Who knew the lighting would work that well? A professional photographer, that’s who!

professional photographer senior pictures mesa books

Brains & Brawn!

As you might have guessed by now, Helen is quite the brainbox. After graduating from the Arete Preparatory Academy, she planned to study the mind-boggling mix of physics and math at NAU in Flagstaff!

professional portraits high school graduation mesa

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a wild side. In fact, she let me know that she plays soccer, volunteers, hangs out with friends, reads, does ALL of her homework, and even somehow finds time to enjoy theatre on top of it all – WOW!

professional photographer senior pictures mesa fun

Making and occasion out of it

My heart almost stopped when I saw Helen’s GORGEOUS prom dress. Then it dropped when I found out she didn’t have the chance to wear it due to prom being canceled. But we couldn’t have that, no sir-ee! Tags still attached, they added it to Helen’s wardrobe even with the tags attached and no scissors to be found. So, with mom to the rescue, we burnt off the tags (while holding our breaths!) and finally let it show in all its glory.

I honestly could hardly believe our luck. The dress was beyond beautiful and suited Helen down to the ground – literally. She looked like a queen!

professional photographer senior pictures mesa prom

Helen rocked the entire shoot! Without a doubt, she’ll l be amazing at anything she sets her brilliant mind to! Helen’s younger sister, Isobel, is graduating in 2022 – exciting! Who knows, maybe I’ll get to enjoy a similar photo shoot with her soon!

Fashion Tips For Your Senior Pictures

Some accessories or clothing pieces are delightfully multi-purpose. If you’d like to reimagine your outfit like Helen bravely did during her shoot, here are some tips that can help you to do just that!

  • Tuck your shirt in! Whether posing proudly in pants, jeans, or even a skirt – there’s something high-fashion about tucking in those loose top ends.
  • Ankle bracelets – You don’t have to go out and purchase a specific bracelet to achieve that dreamy boho-chic look, a traditional wrist bracelet tied around your ankle will do! The fashion police aren’t checking anyway.
  • Belt up! As we can see from Helen – the humble belt works hard no matter how you use it.