Dreaming Out Loud…In Vibrant Color & Elegant Style
It didn’t take long to realize Rae’s senior picture photo shoot would end up turning into TWO photo shoots, and it worked out perfectly! Rae and her family had so many amazingly creative ideas that I wanted to make sure we planned enough time to cover everything!
If you remember, Rae had a fabulous ‘50s-themed photo shoot at Chase’s Diner in Chandler, Arizona, and she looked like she stepped right off a movie set. Check out that photo shoot here.
The Pictures Teens & Parents Want
You know parents and teens always show up in my office in complete agreement about senior pictures, right? KIDDING! Most of the time, there is compromise and give and take so that everyone ends up happy with the outcome. It’s perfectly normal, because moms and dads see their grads as the kiddos who used to dump dry cereal over their heads on Saturday mornings; while teens see themselves as young adults ready to burst onto a scene of adventure and freedom. (There’s a bit of a dichotomy we have to overcome!)
If I didn’t tell you, you probably wouldn’t even notice, but in Rae’s diner pics, she’s wearing braces. In her second session, she’s not. Wait, what?! First of all, you don’t notice because this girl would be gorgeous wearing a paper sack! But she and Mom had a different perspective on the timing of her photos. That’s because Rae absolutely loved her braces and wanted to remember how she looked in them. And Mom was super excited to capture photos of Rae after her braces came off. For me, that’s no problem at all. We just do both!
That’s the thing about working one-on-one with your professional photographer. When you throw out the idea, I’d venture that we can either accomplish it—or come pretty darn close! I want you to look and feel your best, and when your photo shoot is done, I want you to be able to say we did everything you wanted to do for your senior pictures.
Dreaming of Glam in the Great Outdoors
For her second photo shoot, Rae glammed things up! This time, we took things outside, and after donning a light pink chiffon gown with a sequined bodice, Rae dipped her toes in the water. There’s something absolutely beautiful about the combination of glam contrasted with the natural beauty of a running stream. For Rae, this setting captured her laid-back, carefree style and her gorgeous laugh.
Versatile Style for Miles
When I say this girl has an eye for outfits and looks that really work together, I mean it! Rae had outfit after outfit that she expertly pulled together to work with her hair and make-up, and she pulled off every single one.
With a few fun props and her down-to-the-last-detail hair and nails, she went from dreamy waterside splashes to seriously sassy and classy, pairing her serious look with a casual lean on a sports car. Notice how we paired the different shades of green! Even though they’re not the same, they work well together and serve Rae’s bold style well. Of course, sunglasses were a must for this supercharged photo.
Gorgeous in Green
Nighttime photos were a must for Rae—especially after I saw the way she rocked this emerald green dress. As the sun went down, I was able to pull in the twinkling background lights, which added even more atmosphere. Rae’s selection of nude, strappy heels, glamorous up-do, and a single gold-toned necklace let all the focus fall on her fabulous wardrobe choice and her beautiful expressions.
Going Casual for the Wrap-Up
There’s no look this girl can’t pull off! From glam and dressy to casual and modern in denim, Rae’s fashion game is always on point. At the end of the evening, she rocked faded and ripped denim with a cropped hoodie to show off her laid-back urban style.
When you’ve got style, personality, and confidence to match, you’re already photo-shoot ready! It was a joy to work with Rae and her family, and I can’t wait to hear what Rae does after graduation.
Great Accomplishments, Great Future
She says her greatest accomplishment is graduating early. She’s planning to study to become a midwife, and trust me, it will happen. This is a determined, smart, and motivated young lady. She loves singing, reading, writing, and taking pictures. A self-confessed dreamer, Rae is loving, kind, and blunt—and looking forward to a bright future.
Her advice for incoming freshmen is to never let anyone else determine who you are or what you can be. Rae is wise beyond her years, funnier than you’d believe, and gorgeous inside and out! She is on her way to doing great things.
Photo Shoot VIP
Between hair touchups and outfit changes, we captured a combination of looks Rae was going for. But there’s one person we couldn’t have done it without! The moral support (and laugh-inducing encouragement) of her mom—were invaluable, so of course, Rae’s final portrait package included a photo of mom and daughter enjoying a candid moment together.
I love it when parents want to participate in senior picture photo shoots! Why? Because even though most parents decline at first, it ends up being a favorite photo! Mom and Dad, you’re welcome and encouraged to tag along during our adventures! You guys are great moral support, plus your kiddos usually love it when you help them with wardrobe changes and things like emergency lip gloss applications.
Photography Life: Expect the Unexpected & Roll with the Punches
There’s never a dull moment as a photographer. It’s one of those careers that you simply have to jump in and experience the unknown in order to build up knowledge and prepare for all those moments that will inevitably pop up and surprise you from time to time.
From 2009 until now, my photography career has been a bit like a crazy road trip with your bestie. Picture a winding road with a few roller coaster hills, wind in my hair (literally!), some unexpected and surprisingly productive pit stops, and great memories!
How rewarding is a career like that? So rewarding that you want to tell everyone about it!
Growing Creativity & Expressiveness
Every road trip has its learning moments. Ever set out for paradise and instead end up with a flat tire or taking a wrong turn? Luckily senior pictures are nothing as dramatic as that! Usually the toughest situation clients face is a flat hairdo mid-session, and that’s fixable with a quick shot of hairspray. Occasionally, things go a little more sideways, but we always go with the flow, and usually that ends up in some surprisingly lovely impromptu photographs!
Pro Tip for Photogs: When I keep my cool and remain unshaken (even in the face of a pop-up windstorm), my clients stay relaxed and unshaken, too!
Really, there’s no other way to become a professional photographer than weathering every situation imaginable. You name it, it’s happened to me during a shoot! And everything that’s happened has helped me grow and become better at my job.
Going Out on a Limb (Literally)
Just about every client wants to hear about past photo sessions or see some creative ideas—mostly to help them start brainstorming their own fabulous photo shoot. I love sharing past shoots with clients, but I always say, there’s no way to predict what a session might throw at us. What I can guarantee is that I’ll be able to handle it! That’s something that comes from years of making LOTS of lemonade, even when forces outside my picture-taking control kept trying to throw lemons at me.
I’ve climbed rocks, sat in water (both on accident and intentionally!), smacked my head, and dangled from trees. Let’s not even discuss how many times I’ve tripped! I will, quite literally, go out on a limb, wade through water, hike in the desert…all to be sure I get the best images of YOU!
Interestingly, it seems like some of the best photos come from those unplanned and unexpected moments. These are the moments when some photographers might panic and reschedule and when some clients might want to melt into a puddle of disappointed make-up. But I’m not one to let the little obstacles stand in my way! I’m the one sitting on the rock in the middle of the lake, remember!?
Here are some of the stand-out photos that have made their way to the top of my faves list—because they are fun and fabulous, but also because they were taken either in less than desirable circumstances and turned out to be accidentally awesome or they captured clients in candid and silly moments!
The wind isn’t always my worst enemy, but on this day, it came close. Living in Arizona makes it fairly easy to plan sunny, blue sky pics. Aside from excessive heat in the hottest months, every calendar day is pretty much fair game. In fact, the ONLY thing in the world that might make me cancel a session is the wind. Unfortunately, Arizona wind has a mind of its own. Not only does it blow in strong gusts, but it picks up ALL that dry dust that’s been laying around and swirls it into the air. Imagine all that, and then add long hair to the mix. You can end up with a nightmare for your outdoor photo shoot really fast!
Needless to say, I was keeping a close eye on the forecast for the day of Dianica’s shoot. When you’re a professional photographer, you also become a bit of an amateur meteorologist of sorts. I was reassured we were expecting a mild, delightful breeze at about 10-12 mph, which would be just enough to capture a lovely hair-blowing-in-the-wind effect.
With a picture perfect forecast on the horizon, I hopped in the car and drove 30 minutes west to Chandler. And that’s all it took for the wind to pick up to 25 mph! YIKES!
As you can imagine, Dianica’s long, gorgeous locks were flying, but I’m not one to let the wind beat me! Check out the amazing photos we ended up capturing with a little creativity and patience.
Yep, these gorgeous sun hats are both available in my Style Closet!
Wardrobe Tip: If your top is too long or doesn’t look right tucked in, tie it!
Time Flies & We’re Always Having Fun
Being a photographer has taught me even more how quickly time flies. I love it when I am contacted by past acquaintances and friends, but the more time that’s passed, the more I’m reminded of how grown-up kids seem to be now.
A fellow gym mom contacted me, and this one will always stick in my mind, because I was shocked when I saw her soon-to-be-graduating son. While we hadn’t talked in a few years, of course I remembered her family, and memories of our boys at 9-10 years old flooded back. They were always playing at the gym while our girls were at practice.
The young man that turned up for his photo shoot was a grown-up version of one of those little boys! I was shocked at how fast the years had flown by, and I couldn’t believe that Alex was about to graduate. Be sure to capture those moments in time, because they definitely DO fly by. And while these were his high school senior pictures, just like that, 4 more years have flown by and now he’s a 2021 graduate of ASU’s Construction Management Program!
Grooming Tip for Guys: Wanna rock that facial hair? Just be sure to trim it the morning of your photo shoot.
Timing: The Moments That Matter
Senior sessions are judgment-free, no-holds-barred areas. If you want to be silly, fun, wacky, or business-like…that’s exactly what you should do. Bottom line: you do you! The charm of a senior photo session is that there’s ZERO PRESSURE, and the only thing you have to do is be yourself.
This image of Helen embodies all of the things I just described. At this exact moment in time, she was in her element, goofing around between shoots, with no posing. It was simply the real Helen. And WOW…what a picture it turned out to be!
I will admit that I worried for a moment and wondered if Helen’s parents might question my sanity for taking the pic. I thought, “What if they hate it?” But all that worry was for nothing, because they loved it! Mom especially loved that I caught a moment when her daughter was just being herself.
Can you imagine how awesome it would be to have a picture like this of your mom or grandma? I’m sure it’s long way off, but I’ll have to keep in touch with their family to make sure this photo gets passed along and cherished.
Sassy, Silly & So Much Fun
Mercy is another client I’ll always remember! She’s all grown up and moved across the country now, but this goofy cross-eyed photo is still one of my favorites when I need a laugh!
It’s also hanging in my office, and clients love to refer to it when talking about expression and making sure I capture their personalities. No doubt about it, Mercy has personality to spare, and it shows up perfectly in this picture!
Make Your Shoot Memorable
There are a few things you can focus on before your senior picture photo shoot to ensure you get the true-to-you, expressive pictures that people will be talking about for years to come:
Prep to feel confident. After we’ve figured out your venues and your overall theme, it’s time to focus on YOU! It’s all about self-care and looking gorgeous, so for girls and guys, take plenty of time to plan your outfits and hair, and book grooming appointments about a week before your photo shoot so you’ll feel your absolute best. When you feelready to go, you’ll be ready to go!
Believe in the magic. If I’m not worried, you don’t need to worry! So if there’s a cloud in the sky or a raindrop in the forecast, you can trust that I’m on top of it. Even if you break a nail (gasp!), if you don’t see the photographer panic, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Believe it or not, most things can be fixed, so just keep having fun!
Be comfortable & be yourself. Be sure to choose comfortable outfits that you look and feel good in. Then, don’t be afraid to loosen up, talk, be silly—just be yourself. I’ll see those natural, expressive moments and capture them whenever they come up.
Your senior pictures are when you get to shine and show off all the things that make you YOU. So get excited and let your quirky, funny, serious, silly, casual, artsy side show!
What is a style closet anyways? How do I choose clothing for my senior pictures? What should I buy? How do I choose locations that good with my wardrobe? These are all very important things to consider when planning your senior portrait session. I know it can be overwhelming, but we’ll answer all of these questions for you right now!
Our Exclusive Style Closet
We know you have a ton of outfits in your closet, but which ones are the best for senior pictures? I’ve been a professional photographer for over 10 years now, and I’ve learned that great styling can either make or break your senior pictures. Often though, my senior girls don’t have outfits that match the locations they like or the vision they have for their photo shoot. I know you don’t want to spend a lot of money on new clothes that you maybe will only wear once or twice. The answer? Our exclusive Style Closet!
Yes, we have a closet filled with tops, skirts, dresses, rompers, and tons of accessories that are available to borrow for your photo shoot. My outdoor photo shoots are like a fashion show. I want you to feel confident because if you feel confident, you’ll look better, and you’ll have more fun! And that’s what this is all about, right? We’re celebrating one of the most important moments in your life… high school graduation!
I’m not a big believer in having a bunch of casual outfits or being all dressed up. I want you to have both! I know you have more than one style, and I want to capture a complete picture of you right now so you can look back on this time with great joy. I’m guessing you have some super cute outfits in your closet, so by all means, bring them! By the time you’re ready for your photo shoot you’ll know which ones are best, but you’ll also know what you’re missing. You’ll have a chance to dig through the Style Closet, and you might find the perfect dress to wear by the lake or a great skirt that will show your vintage side!
But of course, clothing comes in many patterns, colors, shapes, and sizes! It’s often difficult to choose outfits that will photograph well and make you feel confident. I found this body shape calculator to help you find the perfect dress for your body shape. Whether you are showing off your hourglass curves or trying to give your bust a boost, you can use the body type calculator to to find the perfect dress that highlights your silhouette. It provides a waist-to-hip ratio that perfectly fits your body and waist shape then determines measurements in 5 main categories. Give it a try! Once you are on my schedule and receive my What to Wear Guides, you’ll find even more great info about choosing the best outfits for your senior photo shoot!
Long, Flowing Dresses
While I’ve always had hats and accessories, I didn’t always have outfits to style my seniors like I do now. One of the most difficult locations for clients to style is the lake. Sounds easy, right? But you can’t just wear jeans and a t-shirt for senior pictures by the water and have the same effect as if you’re wearing a beautiful boho look complete with a flowy dress and hat!
The dress below is a favorite for senior girls wanting to be near the lake for their session. Sometimes they’re in the water, sometimes they just splash, and sometimes they just sit near the edge, but no matter what they do, this beautiful blue and white summer dress always looks fabulous!
Meet beautiful Sarah…no, she’s not a senior, but she’s one of the lucky ones who has a mom who didn’t want to wait for senior year! So they took advantage of our teen portrait sessions, and Sarah chose to wear this dress, twirl a little, then get right in the water!
Kaitlyn loved the idea of being near the water for her senior portraits, but she sure did surprise me when she walked in and started splashing away! It really showed her playful personality as she splashed and played in this beautiful little area of East Mesa. I especially love it when we can capture the edge of one of the little waterfalls like we did in the 2nd image. We caught just the right splash at the right time, but we won’t discuss how many shots it took to get that right AND have her toes pointed!
Yet another senior who chose this dress while picking through our Style Closet! Arete Prep senior has yet another look, different from the other two teen girls. That’s one reason clients choose to have their senior pictures with Magical Memories by Michelle. Same location, same outfit, same photographer…but 3 different looks! Depending on the lighting and the time of year, and of course the personality of each teenager, you’re guaranteed that your images will still be unique to you!
So if you decide you’d like to have your senior pictures taken near the lake, but you’re not sure what to wear, consider this dress from our Style Closet as one of your options. It flatters many different body types and has adjustable straps. If it’s a little big, we simply clip the back to make it fit better. No worries about ruining one of your favorite outfits by going in the water. Once you’re finished, the dress comes back home with me to get washed, steamed, and ready for the next senior!
Creative Outdoor Ideas for Guys: Including Some With the Siblings!
With clients like this, my job never gets old! When I first met Wyatt with his family, I could tell he would be energetic and open to lots of creative ideas to highlight all the things he’s been doing for the past several years.
And this Gilbert Classical Academy graduate has been busy! He has a ton of hobbies and loves sports—both watching and playing. Plus, he’s wise beyond his years with plenty of wisdom for those following in his footsteps at GCA.
An Eye for Sports
When I asked him what he really loves, basketball topped the list, so of course we had to go for some all-out PHENOM shots of him—some where he looks seriously fierce and also some with his fun-loving grin showing through. Like many of my clients, Wyatt also loved the idea of the urban scene as a setting for his senior photographs, so we set out for Downtown Chandler, and it did NOT disappoint!
Downtown Character, Downtown Style
The awesome thing about Chandler, Arizona, is that it’s full of venues with character! From brick walls to quaint local shops to artsy gathering spaces, there’s virtually an unlimited selection of creative photo spots. I was able to capture these great shots without us having to travel too far.
Wyatt is an all-round sports fan and a diehard supporter of the Texas Longhorns, so we had tons of fun planning several of his shots around a sports theme. And there was no question about getting a photo of him throwing the University of Texas “Hook ’em Horns”!
A Young Man With a Plan
When asked about his future plans, Wyatt was excited to tell me he plans to head to college to study business. Fully invested in his love of sports, he would also like to work for the athletic department at college and plans to work toward becoming an athletic director. Focused on the future, he knows he needs to work and study hard, get his foot in the athletic door, and persevere. He’s definitely well on the way to accomplishing those goals!
Wyatt’s Words of Wisdom
Looking back over his high school career, Wyatt says he really enjoyed math class, especially the challenge of solving equations. A hard worker, both in the classroom and on the sports field, he has some valuable advice for incoming freshmen. He says his high school years have flown by, and wisely cautions, “It goes by faster than you think.” He says to make your high school years memorable and enjoy all the time you have with the friends you’ve made. He goes on to remind younger students that every day won’t be perfect, but if they take things one day at a time, things will turn out ok. After all, at the end of the day, the little things we tend to stress over really don’t matter that much at all.
Talk about a smart young man!
Wyatt loves the feeling of competition, specifically in sports, and he is proudest of his accomplishment of winning the Spartan Award FIVE years in a row! The Spartan Award is one that exemplifies leadership, hard work, and determination. Way to go, Wyatt! What an amazing accomplishment!
He might get a little relaxation in before heading off to college, so don’t be surprised if you find Wyatt kicking back and re-watching Game of Thrones while enjoying his fave fast food from Raising Cain’s or Five Guys.
With his successes already piling up, I can’t imagine what’s next—but I know it’s going to be great. I’m so glad I got to work with Wyatt and his family, and I can’t wait to hear about the awesome things he does!
Bonus Fact: Wyatt is another of the famed triplets I’ve been writing about! Check out the entire triplet photo shoot to see amazing shots of the sibs and to learn how they all worked together to land on perfect venues and timing for their senior pictures. Can’t get enough of these 3? Cole’s photo shoot was done the same day as Wyatt, while Tally’s photo shoot was in Downtown Phoenix a week before.
How do I know when a photo shoot is successful? When nerves turn to smiles…and even (gasp!) laughter!
You might be surprised to read this, but sometimes it’s difficult to get senior guys to relax and fall in love with the idea of a photo shoot. In fact, the idea of senior pictures often starts with Mom or Dad, and the young men go along to keep them happy.
But once everyone has decided senior pictures are a FANTASTIC idea, it’s my job to make sure that, by the end of a photo shoot, everyone is happy. (Don’t be surprised if you get a goofy mom joke thrown at you. Desperate times call for desperate measures, after all.)
Joy for the Future
I love working with graduating seniors for lots of reasons, and Cole epitomizes every one of them. He warmed up quickly to the camera, and it was amazing to see the excitement he has for the journey he is about to embark on. One of my very favorite things about my job is sharing just a little bit of that excitement and joy—and being able to capture those moments so they can share them with loved ones.
Finding the Magic
My goal is to set clients at ease, get them talking, and maybe even get a few laughs—because that’s when the real magic happens. When the nerves fall away, that’s when true personality makes its appearance, and that’s when I can capture photographs of the young adult everyone knows and loves. THOSE are the senior pictures that Mom, Dad, and the entire family are looking forward to!
The Zoolander Fear
We quickly zeroed in on Cole’s hobbies and interests, and he warmed up to the idea of a photo shoot that involved all the things he’s loved throughout his school years. He was also a fan of a photo shoot that would NOT involve people saying things like, “Work it.” or “Turn, turn, spin, snap!”
For many clients, the fiasco of a Zoolander fashion show may be the closest they can imagine to a photo shoot—and that is terrifying! I always reassure them that their photo shoot will be ALL ABOUT THEM and the things they love. A little bit of information and preplanning go a long way toward making grads feel comfortable in front of the camera.
Taking Basketball to the Streets
After learning one of Cole’s favorite pastimes is basketball, we didn’t waste any time finding a way to work his love of the sport in with his affinity for the downtown urban vibe he’d previously mentioned to me in our client meeting. The great thing about finding an awesome location is that you can usually get several shots there. Amazingly enough, every one of Cole’s basketball photos was taken between some generic downtown Chandler buildings, so we didn’t have to travel far to get them!
These are some of my favorites, too.
As we were headed to our next location, I caught this great image of Cole and his brother Wyatt together…in a parking lot!
On the Way to Success
Cole has big plans for his future. A 2021 graduate of Gilbert Classical Academy, he has his sights set on a career in the medical field and hopes to get into nursing school as he continues his studies. He’ll be attending Arizona State University, and I’m sure he’ll do everything he has planned and MORE! He is such a smart young man with so much support behind him that I know he’ll go far.
An adventurous spirit, he plans on going to Europe one day, and he’d love to have a nice car, too. Cole is such a diligent and hard worker, I’m sure he’ll reach all the goals he sets for himself!
If Cole could give a piece of advice to incoming freshmen, he said it would be to just take things one day at a time. With hard work and perseverance, they’ll get to the finish line.
Things are heating up here in Arizona, and now that graduation is over, you might find Cole chilling out and playing video games until it’s time to get geared up for college. He also enjoys swimming, which just might win out over basketball—at least until we get temps that are under 110 out here in the desert! He says his friends describe him as a relaxed and laid-back guy, and after working with him through the planning, photo shoot, and image selection process, I can say they’re definitely right.
One of my favorite fun-loving and easygoing clients, Cole was willing to try different poses and locations, and he ended up with a huge variety of images that his parents loved.
Bonus fact: He’s a triplet! And he was flexible enough to combine his photo preferences with those of his siblings to end up with a mega selection of photograph keepsakes their parents can enjoy forever. See the entire triplet photo shoot here!