Take Your Graduation Photos to a Favorite Destination
When I had the chance to take some of Alex’s senior pictures in historic Fort Collins in Colorado, I jumped at the chance! Not only is it a gorgeous and memorable location, but I love getting the opportunity to shoot in new locations.
Unique Venues Mean Unique Photos
Most of my photo shoots take place around the East Valley area near Phoenix, Arizona, and even then, I’m continuously on the lookout for new places and ideas for senior pictures. Why? Because I always want my clients to be able to show off unique photos that are unlike anyone else’s.
Fort Collins, Where Old Meets New
If you haven’t had the chance to visit Fort Collins, it should definitely make your list. Full of vintage shops, antique charm, old houses, and tons of surrounding natural beauty, there is plenty to see and do—and the photo opportunities are endless! I should also mention that the weather there is gorgeous, and it’s a very scenic drive through New Mexico all the way to northern Colorado.
Historic Old Town pulled us in, and we were anxious to explore. As soon as I saw the brick walls and paved walkways, I was enamored with the vintage style. We were surrounded by many original structures, and quaint shops were lined up alongside modern stores. It’s an eclectic mix of new and old, and it’s absolutely perfect for a photo shoot!
Texture & Style for Miles
I knew I wanted to capture a few images of Alex with a brick wall background. I especially wanted to capture her laidback style and pair it with the unique texture of the brick. In shorts and bare feet, Alex pulled off a casual style, letting her loose curls flow over her shoulders and her pretty teal crop top.
Background is essential when choosing locations for photos, and in this picture, I love the blues and yellows of the ceramics in the window behind Alex. They perfectly complement the teal in her shirt, her blue jean shorts, and her blonde-brown hair. Everything pulls together for a lovely senior portrait, which is exactly what we were going for!
I wasn’t quite finished with the brick background. Alex has tons of talent I wanted to show off in her photos, and I had a creative idea in mind. With a full brick background this time, she stayed in her wardrobe choice and added a pair of gorgeous shoes and sat on the back of a park bench. Once I had a great shot, I layered a second photo of her—in a competition swimsuit, holding a winning medal—behind the original photo. Friends and family will do a double take when they see this super-fun image.
A little stroll brought us to an area with even more architectural texture…which of course puts fun ideas in my photographer mind! Decorative concrete walls and geometric sidewalk pavers popped onto the scene, and my shutter-clicking finger was immediately ready to go! Plus, there was no way we could leave without grabbing a playful shot with a smiling lamppost lean.
Perfecting the Casual, Carefree Style
Alex is a smiler, and I love capturing her beautiful, natural smile on camera. Notice that for her casual and carefree look, she’s kept her make-up and accessories to a minimum, letting her natural beauty truly shine in her photos. If you look closely, you can see that her lipstick and brows are done to perfection, as are her nails and toes, but for stylish, laid-back pictures, there’s no need to go overboard with layers of eye make-up or gallons of hairspray. If you’re going for a natural and lighthearted look, your best bet is to keep your hair, make-up, and accessories aligned with that.
Reflecting on Memories & Looking Forward
I loved the look of the vintage frame and woodwork on this shop window! And I love the idea of a nice reflection photo to represent the way seniors are reflecting on all they’ve done—all while looking forward to bright and exciting futures. It takes practice, but when you get a great reflection photo, it’s an artistic way to let seniors show off their style in a modern and fun way.
Not sure what to wear for senior pictures? Check out American Eagle! This top ties in back and is super cute, and the ripped denim shorts are a staple in Alex’s wardrobe. If you’re small like her and have a hard time getting a waist to fit, AE is a great place to shop since they have jeans in sizes down to 000!
Natural Beauty, Beautiful Photos
Moving away from the Old Town scene, we had to capture some of the natural beauty the Fort Collins area has to offer. Alex pulled off a quick outfit change, and the jumper she selected couldn’t have been more perfect for the rustic fence railing and mountain background we chose.
Blue skies and fluffy clouds ended up being the ideal backdrop for this kid who has worked so hard and is now on her way to even bigger and better things! Alex is a 2021 graduate from Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, Arizona, and she’s currently starting her freshman year at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. A competitive diver, she’s a member of the Lobos college dive team and looks forward to college competition, as well as completing her studies to work in the medical field.
Ready, Set, FUTURE!
Her friends describe her as being driven, and she thrives on being busy. Alex never backs down from a challenge so she’s guaranteed to go far! When she’s not practicing, competing, or studying, you might find her sneaking in a few episodes of Big Bang Theory or catching up on some of her favorite Disney movies.
She left a few words of advice for incoming freshmen, and she’d like them all to know that life is full of ups and downs, but she says to make your freshman and senior years the very best! She wants everyone to remember not to waste the fun times because they go by really fast.
And if you ever need a little pick-me-up, Alex shared her favorite quote—inspiring words from Mary Poppins: “When the world turns upside down, the best thing to do is turn right along with it.” Very wise words indeed. We’re all so proud of you, Alex!
Quick-Take Graduation Photos: All the Fun in a Fraction of the Time
Senior year is a busy time—for students and parents! It’s easy to lose track of everything that needs to get done, and all too often time gets away from us. We’ve all experienced those “Yikes!” moments when we’re triple-booked and can’t seem to get through our to-do lists, and that’s one of the reasons I created these Quick Take sessions.
Sometimes, a 4-hour photo shoot isn’t exactly what a client is looking for, and that’s where a flexible session menu comes in really handy! While many grads love spending hours glamming it up at a variety of locations, there are times when a quicker, single-location shoot is in order. Why? Maybe there are time constraints, or it could be simply that the client has a very specific look and style in mind which can be captured without a lot of wardrobe changes and moving around.
Whatever the reason, Quick Take sessions are just as fun and enjoyable as full-length sessions, and you’ll get all the bells and whistles, like Style Guides and access to the Style Closet. They simply take less time.
Abby’s Quick Take Session
Abby’s session is the perfect example of how we were able to put together the perfect senior picture portrait package for her and her family—in a fraction of the time that’s usually spent on a shoot. Here’s what we did:
The client meeting. Just like with every client, I met ahead of time with Abby and her family so I’d know exactly what they were looking for in a photo package. This part is especially important if you know your clients want to shoot at a single location. If you’re not moving around town to multiple locations, it’s crucial to make sure your client loves the vibe of the venue that’s selected.
Wardrobe chat. Just like deciding on the venue, Abby needed to narrow down her outfit choices. Since Quick Take sessions are more limited on time, usually one or two outfit changes are ideal. Luckily, Abby’s sense of fashion and casual style lent themselves perfectly to a shorter photo shoot.
Hair and makeup rundown. No matter how long or short your photo shoot is, hair and makeup are essential to pulling off amazing senior pictures! With an entire “look” already in her mind’s eye, Abby was able to convey her waterside chic ideas to me, and I knew she’d show up with a pulled-together look that would shine in every photograph.
This girl knew exactly what she was looking for! With natural senior photos on her mind, the perfect venue popped into my head, and we didn’t have far to go. It was practically in our own backyards, and she already had a lovely dress and natural-style romper that fit into the scenery almost magically.
Beauty & Variety at Eastmark
Eastmark, right here in Mesa, is a large community area that’s bursting at the seams with gorgeous park areas, winding scenic paths, and plenty of water settings. It’s perfect for all those reasons, and, because it’s so large and diverse, none of the photos I take there ever look the same!
Outfit Styling to Match the Scene
Abby styled her hair in long, loose waves and kept her makeup light and natural for a look that complemented the location and her overall look. She showed up for her shoot with her nails freshly done and just enough accessories to pop, but not take any of the attention off her gorgeous face. Talk about pulling it all together like a pro!
Casual sandals completed the look, but of course, we had to grab a couple of pics with bare feet, too.
Of course we had to get some cap and gown photos to commemorate Abby’s major achievement. A graduate from Campo Verde high school in Gilbert, Arizona, Abby is just getting started on carving our her future, and her excitement showed as she proudly displayed her grad tassel along with a winning smile of accomplishment.
True to the Quick Take session format, we were finished with her shoot in about half an hour, and Abby ended up with gorgeous senior photos to show off and share with friends and family. It was the portrait package she’d planned with the look she was going for, and it barely crunched their schedule!
Do you have big ideas for your senior pictures? Is your schedule already jam-packed with senior year activities and antics? Feel like there’s NO WAY to cram one more thing into your busy schedule? Understandable! After having two of my own kiddos graduate from high school, I get it.
If you’re busy or if you simply just know what you want, a Quick Take photo shoot may be the right thing for you! Be sure to reach out for more information to get on the schedule.
When it comes to scheduling your senior portrait session, I have several different options, including everything from that quick 20 minute photo shoot to a 3 hour shoot that includes several outfit changes and even pictures after dark!
Which Portrait Session is Right For You?
Let’s break it down to make it easier. Here are the different session types available for teens and high school seniors. Let’s start with the Premium Sessions. This is what you’ve been seeing for the last 12 years and there are 2 options. For these Premium Sessions, no products or digital images are included. We’ll do an image premiere an ordering session about a week later to review all your favorite images, design your products, and place your order.
The Ultimate: $350 (most popular)
An elite senior photo shoot session with all the bells and whistles. Capture all your unique looks in all the places you love around town, and keep shooting once the sun goes down.
In-Person Style Consultation and Planning
3+ hour session (daytime & nighttime)
At least 50 final images to choose from
Image Premiere & Ordering Session
Collections start at $2295
This is my most popular session filled with all the creativity and fun! Wanna go all out and splurge for senior pictures? This session is for you! Below are some samples of Ultimate senior portrait sessions.
The Platinum: $190
An amped-up session with more time, more outfits, and more locations. A senior favorite that plays out for 2-3 hours and ends at sunset.
In-Person Style Consultation and Planning
2-3 hour session (daytime only)
At least 30 final images to choose from
Image Premiere & Ordering Session
Collections start at $2295
If you want a full session filled with lots of locations and outfits, but don’t want photos at night, this is the session for you! Below are some samples of Platinum senior portrait sessions.
With so many requests for high quality portraits with fewer options, these new Classic Sessions were designed for budget friendly families. These sessions take place only in East Mesa at a select few locations. It doesn’t mean we’re tied to one look, but all the locations are within a few blocks of Eastmark.
The Gold: $150 (Budget Friendly)
A full hour in front of the camera in an artsy, upscale East Mesa location where you’ll show off four of your favorite styles.
In-Person Style Consultation and Planning
1 hour session
20-25 images to choose from
Image Premiere & Ordering Session
Products and digitals are not included
Collections start at $895
The Quick Take: $550
A no-nonsense way to get the high quality senior portraits you’re looking for, all in one place. Below are some samples of Gold senior portrait sessions.
Style Consultation (Phone/Email)
20 minute session
10 images to choose from
5 digital images and print release included
Additional images and products available for purchase.
Short on time? This new all-inclusive session might be for you! Below are some samples of Quick Take senior portrait sessions.
Are You Ready?
With these changes, everyone can afford beautiful, high quality senior portraits with Magical Memories by Michelle! Which portrait session will you choose?
Makeup Trends for Teens: The Perfect Face for Senior Pictures
Makeup trends constantly change to make way for new ideas and new products. Cosmetics play an important role in your overall look and style, and with everything that’s on the market, it can feel overwhelming, but not to worry. There’s no reason to stress, because, just like every other step of your senior picture process, I’ll walk you through what looks and concepts will work well for you in front of the camera.
Ready to learn what’s new and trendy AND combine that with styles that will photograph well and show your very best features? Here’s what to pay attention to this season.
The Eyes Have It
They are the way you show expression, connect with people, and even communicate silently. So of course, when I’m behind the camera, I try to capture every nuance of your personality—and it shines through your eyes! This year’s biggest makeup trend is all about the eyes, and is it any wonder? With all the mask-wearing we’ve had to do, we’ve only been able to focus on half our faces for most of 2020 and the beginning of 2021!
And if you only get to show off half your face, it should look good, right? Here’s how pros and celebs are adding mega glam to their gazes:
Bring on the drama. Don’t be afraid to go a little darker or bolder than normal for your photos. Whatever you see in real life will look lighter via the camera lens, so that little extra boost of color will end up looking perfectly natural in your pics. Especially if you plan on wearing your glasses, give your eye makeup a little extra pop, so it will show up nicely in your photographs.
Get a little catty. The cat-eye is quick and easy to create, and it adds drama to your look, pulling attention to your face. You can create this look with just eyeshadow or with shadow and liner. This year, even the cat-eye gets a makeover, however, with the trend turning toward brighter, bolder colors and more creative shapes that often extend below the eye.
Ombré all the way. A fun trend is the ombré eyeshadow look, blending various shades artfully together from light to dark as you work from the inner portion of your eyelid outward. For an updated dramatic look, add a light liner and mascara after you’ve applied your shadow.
Sun-kissed and glowing. If you’re a sunshine lover, check out the super-fun sunset eyeshadow look that will make you look like you’re beach bound and surf ready. For a golden-toned glow, build from a nude eyelid into a cat-eye shape, incrementally adding and darkening with a sunset palette that can include your choice of any colors under the sun!
They call it the blues. Or the purples. Or even the teals. Vibrant color is making a comeback, and if you’re bold, you’ll probably give this trend a test run. Try it out first on your own at home to see if it’s your style. It’s not a great idea to show up for your photo shoot in bright yellow eye makeup for the very first time! Done correctly, bright pops of color can make your eyes stand out and help you steal the show. Just be sure to nail the look before your big day!
For the first time in a long time, we’re waving goodbye to traditional smoky eyes and heralding the return of color. Emerald greens, striking blues, hot pinks, and neon yellows are making appearances, and the boldest fashion influencers are applying eyeshadow full circle—to both the upper and lower lids.
But don’t worry if you’re not ready to brave the under-eye color trend just yet. Fashion icons are straddling trends and opting for a smoky color fusion and sticking to just the upper lid.
PRO TIP: Sephora is a hot spot for all the popular eyeshadow palettes! You can get coordinating colors that are designed to go together, so it’s easy to blend and find your perfect look.
Beyond the Eyes
Now that we’ve got your eyes covered, it’s time to move on to the rest of your gorgeous face. Here’s what to look out for this season as you prep for your senior picture photo shoot.
Natural Skin & Light Coverage
Embracing your natural beauty is so in! Foundation that perfectly matches your skin color? Hello! We’re welcoming self-confidence, good vibes, and acceptance into our lives, and that means your makeup should make you look good AND feel good!
No paint spackling for you! A light, single layer of coverage is perfect. In fact, with all the mask-wearing we’ve had to do, many have opted to shift from traditional, heavier foundations to products that offer a more natural glow—like tinted skin conditioners and moisturizers. Not only can you avoid that annoying feeling of your foundation running down your face in the summertime heat, but you’ll also get that dewy, glamorous look everyone loves right now.
Sparkling Cheeks & Lids
When the sun hits your skin, there’s nothing like a beautiful sparkle to catch the eye! A quick brush of shimmer over your cheeks and lids will have you looking ephemeral, angelic, and gorgeous in every picture!
Freckles…If You’ve Got ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em
Freckles are THE natural accessory of 2021. Their incredible character and depth-adding abilities draw attention to your face without being overwhelming. So forget all the potions and creams you purchased in the past to try to cover them up. Go natural and let those freckles show!
Feathered, Full & Groomed Brows
Brows are this years’s power piece. Full, striking, and well-defined brows not only sculpt your eyes, but also your entire face. There was a short interlude where we all feared the skinny, over-plucked brow might be making a comeback, but we all stuck together and vetoed that really fast! Your brows frame your face and give depth to your look, so be sure to have them well-groomed and shaped for your photo shoot, but don’t overwork them.
Why is lip gloss amazing? It’s a quick-apply, ready-anytime makeup lifesaver, and it’s absolutely perfect for photography sessions. It can go over your lipstick color to freshen it up, or it can stand alone as a light tint to highlight your look. Keep it handy during your photo shoot and swipe it on fast to match the dewy, glistening glow you’ve created. Then slip it into your purse or pocket for convenient grab-and-apply access the entire day.
The Artistic Touch
If you thought colored mascara went out with the 60s, 70s, or even the 80s, think again. It’s back, and this time, it’s better than ever. The past couple decades missed out with their monochromatic mascaras, but color has finally made its comeback, and in 2021, eyelashes are going to pop!
The boldest and bravest will go for electric blue and vibrant violet lashes, but if you’re not quite ready for that, remember that long and luscious is still the goal. Achieve this look by gently using an eyelash curler to prep the lashes before applying a quick layer of mascara.
PRO TIP: Clumpy spider-leg mascara took the last train to NopeVille, so ditch this look by avoiding excessive layers of mascara. Less is definitely more!
Believe it or not, Kendall Jenner didn’t start this trend. In fact, the popular lip treatment owes its roots to Korea’s beloved and bustling makeup scene (the one that gave us BB cream!) It made its way to the U.S. in 2020 when lipstick was being smeared ruthlessly behind masks. (I don’t need to tell you what a mess that was!) Lip stain entered the scene and became the next best (even better!) thing.
PRO TIP: A little lip gloss on top of lip stain will give your lips a refreshed glow for pics throughout your photo shoot.
Senior photography makeup is all about enhancing your natural beauty. Here’s what you can do to make your photo shoot the very best it can be for YOU:
Start looking at photos of styles, outfits, and makeup you love.
Get ideas from others and figure out what works with YOUR style.
Plan photos and looks that feel natural to you.
Most of all, relax, know you are amazing, and expect to have fun!
Graduation photos are a rite of passage for most high school seniors. They’re keepsakes you and your family can all look back on—a year from now, ten years from now, and more. If my clients today were to ask their parents for a glimpse of their senior pics from back in the day, they would probably giggle at the taller-than-life hair, acid-wash jeans, and tight-roll cuffs.
I’ll admit, there are days when parents now look a bit perplexed at some of the new fashion choices. We’re confused by pockets that are too ripped-up to hold anything, and we wonder how it’s possible to walk in heels that pinch every toe except for one. But, we’ll hand it to you guys…when it comes to fashion, you have it together! You somehow manage to put together things we’d never dream of and make them magically work together.
My clients amaze me every day with their creative and fun-loving senior picture ideas, and that’s why I always meet with them to discuss what THEY have in mind. (Seriously, don’t underestimate your own photo shoot ideas!)
Caps, Gowns & College Countdown
Cap and gown pics are some of my faves because I’m super proud of all the young adults I get to know who are just setting out on their journeys in life. I love capturing the joy, the excitement, and even the nervousness of what lies ahead for all of them.
What’s even more fun is getting creative—over and above the typical standing straight-and-tall, looking super serious cap and gown photos. Much like personalities, there are about a gazillion different ways to capture this stage of life. Here are some exciting ideas to do cap and gown pics if you’re looking to steer clear of the boring and lean more toward the creative and artistic:
College tee with cap and gown. This one is a great way to show off your future plans and share the excitement with everyone! Share these pics with Grandma and Grandpa and close family friends as a way of announcing what the future holds. You’ve worked hard to get there, so be confident in sharing your success!
Decorated graduation cap. Everyone loves to decorate their mortarboard caps in unique ways that reflect their individual tastes and personalities. Whether you’re a musician or a mechanic, your skillset sets you apart, so show it off! Even if your school frowns on letting you walk with a decorated cap, consider purchasing a second one to decorate for photo-op fun. Many high schools don’t allow decorated caps during your actual graduation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show it off during your senior photo shoot!
Grad cap toss. This is the signal for all grads that they have “officially” made it. Hats fly high in the air, rousing cheers ensue, parents get teary-eyed, and flocks of newly-graduated seniors set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Again, some schools frown on the toss now (because of eyes getting poked out and such), but it’s always a hit to re-enact it for senior pictures. We’ll find a nice open area so you can toss until your heart’s content!
Chalkboard message. What about sharing what’s on your mind? Once you’ve donned your cap and gown, another creative option is a mini chalkboard message where you can add your own personalized announcement like “Outta Here!” or “Done!” Be your own walking billboard and announce your success in pictures with a chalkboard note you can share with all your loved ones.
The grad cap peek. A flirty peekaboo from behind a grad cap is a great way to capture the depth and beauty of your eyes. Be sure to let the tassel and the graduation year show!
The walkaway. Whether you’re tossing your cap high in the air or tossing a confident glance over your shoulder, the walkaway is a symbolic photo of moving from one stage of life to the next. I love to find a beautiful outdoor venue for this shot so I can capture sunny, blue skies that surround clients as they walk toward the future.
Show off the tassel. Whether you want to be flirty or serious, showing off your graduation tassel is a great way to share your school colors, your grad year, and all your hard work. Hold it in front of your face and be silly…or look at it pensively as you reflect on your years in high school.
Got more great ideas? I want to hear them! I love finding brand-new, creative ideas that stand out and make my clients the stars of the show. Your senior pictures should reflect all the amazing things that make you unique, so let’s work together to create a customized session that’s exceptionally you.
If you’re a 2022 grad, it’s time to start pulling together your creative ideas and thinking about your ideal senior picture photo shoot. Can’t wait to hear what you have in mind!