7 Tips for Choosing the Best Photographer for Senior Pictures
There are thousands of photographers out there, so how do you know which one is the best photographer for your senior pictures? How do you choose? What should you look for? How do you make that decision when there are thousands of photographers? Not all sessions are the same, so you’ll need to decide what’s important to you! These tips are designed to make sure that you’re picking the perfect senior photographer to capture your senior year!
Tip #1: Do your research.
Ask around. Ask other moms and seniors about their experiences with photographers that they’ve used. Additionally, you should ask each photographer you are considering for references and reviews. Check the photographer’s social media. Dig through their website to see if their style matches yours. When you’ve done all of that, make sure that you feel confident that you will be comfortable spending an hour or more with this person. You want to feel a connection not only to their work but to them. Again, you only experience senior year once. Make your senior portrait session count!
A good way to gauge what your experience with a photographer will be like is by noting how quickly they respond to your emails, calls, or texts. Does it take days or do you usually hear back from them within 24 hours? It’s important to have reasonable expectations and to realize that you are not their only client, but you also want to feel like you are important to them. Make sure that you have a good feeling when you communicate with your photographer. Are they excited about your shoot? Are they giving you helpful advice? (Psssst…my goal is to make EVERY client feel like my ONLY client!)
Tip #2: Don’t let price alone dictate your decision.
I get it. Teenagers are expensive! Car insurance, prom, college, life…it’s never ending! Price is the first thing that most people ask about. Don’t let price be the roadblock to getting the look and experience you want! These are your senior photos! If you go with the cheapest photographer or have a friend take them, are you going to get images you love? Will you have envy or regret about your senior pictures? This is a rite of passage, one of the most important milestones of your teenage years.
Find someone you love and believe will deliver the best experience and images! You’re only going to do this once! And this is super important…try to find someone who will guide you through the process, help with styling, and offer ideas for product selection. While there are times to hire a hobbyist, hiring a professional is definitely worth it when it comes to senior pictures.
I know there is a wide range of prices out there, and I know I’m on the high end, but that’s because of what I offer and what I deliver for each and every client.
Tip #3: Choose a photographer that specializes in senior pictures.
Many photographers think it is best to offer a little of everything, and some do it very well! I used to be that photographer, the one who took newborns and families, seniors and engagements, pretty much anything that was requested. Over the years it became very obvious that my true passion is working with teens and seniors, and when you love what you do, it makes all the difference in the world!
If a photographer only works with a few seniors here and there, they may not be the best choice. Being an amazing family or newborn photographer doesn’t mean that they’re as good at photographing seniors (although they may be!). This is why it’s important to ask to see a full session and really look at their portfolio before making a decision. Are there a lot of different seniors shown? Do they show both guys and girls? You want to be sure that you hire a photographer who is an expert and knows how to help you look and feel your best. You’ll also want to be sure you’re not just a number to them, but a priority. If you hire a wedding photographer, they will likely be focused on brides. If you hire a newborn photographer, they’ll be great at posing babies but may not be able to help with styling.
By specializing in senior pictures, it allows me to keep up with trends, have a dedicated Style Closet, and have years of experience working with teenagers. My first seniors were the Class of 2011, and after a few years I began only doing sessions for teens and seniors. Now, I get recognized regularly by industry leaders and published in magazines!
Tip #4: Choose a Professional Photographer
One of the most important tips for your senior pictures is choose a professional photographer! You’re only a high school senior once, so why not hire the best? These days, anyone can buy a “good camera” and “become a photographer.” It is a great hobby! But for your senior pictures, please be sure to choose a professional. You don’t want someone who is just starting out to document such an important milestone! I’m a full time professional photographer. My goal is to produce beautiful, timeless portraits for you. This isn’t a weekend gig or something I do just for fun. Think twice before you ask your BFF with a cell phone or your favorite uncle. While they might be good, they do not have the skills and artistry to capture your unique personality in photographs, and have limited time behind the lens.
You also want to make sure that if it’s required, your photographer has permission and/or a permit to use the location you select. This is a HUGE deal and a big difference between a professional photographer and a hobbyist! While it maybe isn’t always required, it is always best to ask if you’re in a public place! Some of the parks require permits for day use, some places strictly prohibit photography. Please be respectful on their decisions. I’ve used restaurants, stores, and even private residences…but never without asking first!
Professional photographers have standards to uphold and are always improving their skills to you the best. This is done for a reason! I want you to be confident that I will produce amazing portraits for you!
Tip #5: Take your session to the next level.
Who doesn’t want to feel amazing when they are being photographed? Being pampered on the day of your session is not only fun but it will make you feel more confident and beautiful. Find out if the photographer has a professional hair and makeup artist to help you achieve the look you want. Make sure that the photographer is willing to meet with you before your session! It is often hard to open up to someone you’ve never met. Find someone who is easy to reach and responds to your questions. You don’t want this to be a stressful photo shoot! Getting helpful advice and knowing exactly what to expect at the session is a plus and goes a long way to calm nerves and make both you and your parents feel confident.
Tip #6: The truth about portfolio building.
Often people will try to cut costs by hiring a new photographer or someone who is portfolio building, but here’s why that can be a problem. Are you paying for a senior session that represents you or for your photographer to build their portfolio? I always remind my clients that this is their time, not mine. I’m here to provide my talent and experience but it’s not my session, it’s yours! I’m happy to suggest locations that offer interesting backgrounds or give a certain vibe. If you’re unsure about what to wear, I’m happy to help you choose outfits. This is all part of a photographer’s job!
However, if a photographer is telling you what they want for your session, it’s important to ask yourself if the photo shoot is more about them than it is about you. Your input and creative expression are key! If you need ideas, I’m full of them, but even when I use similar ideas or locations, I don’t want your pictures to look to like your friends’ pictures. I want you to have something different! Is there a limit on locations or outfits? Often photographers will only let you change once or twice, or don’t have a place for you to change if you’re outdoors. Be sure you get all the details before you commit!
Tip #7: Include your parents.
This may seem like an odd thing to look for in a senior photographer, but it’s still essential. Having one or both of your parents involved in the session is important! Make sure the photographer allows a parent to be present at the shoot at all times. A good senior photographer will shoot for both you and your parents and provide you with images that everyone in your family will love. A few sessions this spring I had both Mom & Dad at the photo shoot and it was phenomenal! It makes me feel like we’re all in this together! (And just as I typed that I heard High School Musical in my head, which wasn’t intentional!) Plus, sometimes I convince them to step in for a quick picture. Go ahead, let the tears roll down your face.
There you have it! I hope that these tips have been helpful and will help you pick the best photographer for you. If you think we might be a good fit, I’d love to meet you and offer you a free in-person consultation.
Now scheduling senior pictures for the Class of 2020!
Enjoy Your Senior Year! Class of 2020…It’s Your Turn!
High school has flown by, and now you’re a senior!!! When you look back, have you really enjoyed high school? Or did you just fly through, waiting for the next chapter of your life to begin? Now is the time to make the most of your senior year! While this all may seem daunting, relax! It will be OK! Now is the perfect time to start planning these things, because the earlier you start planning, the easier it will be in the spring! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later! Planning in small increments over a long period of time will significantly reduce your stress levels. So plan early, but don’t stress!
Visiting college campuses
The best way to start planning the future is to visit the place you might be living at for the next four years. This will help you make an informed decision about your future. Don’t let this slide! Get your essays written and submit those applications! Before you know it, it will be spring and graduation comes quickly! When you’re planning your visits, try to schedule your visit while school is in session.
Start planning and saving…NOW!
While it’s true you still have a little while, it’s best to start planning early. Start thinking and planning where you want to live- are you going to live at home, in a dorm, or in an apartment? Will you have a meal plan? Some colleges have rules involving staying in dorms and having meal plans, so check with your college to see if you are required to have one or both of those things. Some other things to check is what is included in the dorms, whether you have communal bathrooms or private bathrooms, how close your dorm room is to certain buildings, etc. It’s better to be prepared so when you arrive on campus, you aren’t surprised on much.
Spend more time with friends
Whatever you decide to do after high school, it’s likely that some of your friends will be moving away. Try to take advantage and spend time together. Also, be sure to make new friends too! See if you know anyone at the universities you’ve visited. Maybe you’ll be able to connect with old teammates, friends’ siblings, or your friend that moved away a few years ago. And be sure to nurture your current friendships. Doing this will ensure that you’ll have someone to talk to if things get rough next year.
This is the time to reach out to those teachers who made an impact on you. Your teachers would totally love to hear a small token of your gratitude. Remember, most of them have a passion for what they do. Showing appreciation will go a long way. Whether it’s your math teacher who got you through Algebra or your favorite coach, let them know how they’ve helped you grow. You might even take some time to drop a note to your favorite elementary school teacher too!
Spend more time with family
It’s hard to balance school life, homework, and friends, but don’t forget to spend time with your family. Mom is probably having a hard time too, so take this time to do something special together. She’s gotten you through the last 17 years and you’re gonna need her even more as you venture into the adult world! You may be going away to school next year, joining the military, or moving out on your own. Enjoy having your family close!
Explore new things, new places, something different. Take a day trip with your BFF’s, or visit a new coffee shop, check out the museum in your town.
Be upfront with your feelings
There’s no better time to embrace honesty. Don’t leave that chance for things unsaid. Definitely don’t be rude or mean about things, but saying how you feel about things that scare you will help you leave high school with no regrets. Get it off your chest and it will help you enter your next chapter of your life with nothing holding you back.
Embrace school activities
This is your chance to fully participate in everything your school has to offer. Don’t look back and regret not going for the last time. This includes sports, football games, dances, and spirit days! While some of you may be playing sports in college, for others the number of games or meets left may be limited. Make the most of it!
It’s time to let go of old grudges. It’s your senior year! Honestly, it probably won’t matter that much in the future. Holding on to the past will only leave you with negative impact on your life. Relax and let it go!
Practice basic life skills
Now is the time to learn how to be more self sufficient. Learn some basics! For example, learn how to do laundry correctly. No, you’re not supposed to dump your entire month’s worth of clothes into one load. Cook some basic dishes, maybe even cook a vegetable. Learn the basics of car maintenance and make sure it is in good working condition. And definitely be sure you know how to handle money. Practicing now while you still have parents around to guide you, will help get a handle on some of the adulting that will be hitting hard next year!
If you’re an athlete, check out our tips for your senior sports portraits!
Now scheduling senior pictures for the Class of 2020!
I’m here to help and am always willing to answer questions. There are no dumb questions, trust me, I’ve asked them all. What may seem like common sense to some is new to someone else no matter how long you’ve been shooting! Today I’m just gonna ramble a little about some basics and see what happens!
What Lens Do You Use?
Oh boy is this a loaded question! It is by far the most asked question that I get from both hobbyist and professional photographers. The answer is easy to give, but much harder to put into practice. Let’s start with the easy answer. What’s in my bag?
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 70-200mm 2.8L
- Canon 28mm 2.8
- Canon 85mm 2.8
- Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
- Sigma 15mm 2.8
Clear as mud, right? I went through exactly the same thing! I used to get so frustrated when I’d ask and the photographer would reply with “well, what are you trying to do?” Uhhhh, get awesome pix like you? LOL! No joke, we all thought like that as beginners and we are ALL beginners at some point! Worse yet I would ask and they’d tell me. I had asked for a great lens for sports and bought my 70-200mm 2.8L which I bought in 2009 and is still my baby. Over the years I took portrait classes and one webinar in particular really had me stumped. I had the same camera and same lens, but VERY different results. Mine were, well, not great. Hers were amazing! Then I started to notice something. While we were both using the 70-200mm lens, my focal length was all over the place. Hers was at 200mm nearly all the time.
So What? Bokeh vs Compression
So think of focal length as if you stand in one spot facing your house. The smaller the focal length, the more of your house you’re going to get in the frame. Nearly everything will be in focus, due to the compression (or lack thereof). Just stick with me and stash that in your brain for now. Everyone seems to think that bokeh produces those beautiful creamy images, and that is one part but not the whole picture, so to speak. So now go stand in front of your house using an 85mm. You’re gonna get maybe half of your house. Next, use a 70-200mm lens, 135mm, or long focal length. If you’re still standing on the sidewalk, you’re likely get a window and front door. Why? Because of the compression.
Now let’s put that into practice. For years I shot all my sessions with my 70-200mm getting nice portraits and creamy backgrounds. This image was taken with the 70-200mm at a focal length of 140mm. All that color behind him? That’s sun and trees at Tumbleweed park. All compressed into a gorgeous, creamy background.
Too many photographers think that creamy backgrounds come from shooting wide open with an aperture of f/2.8. That’s only part of the equation and honestly, that thinking will often result in one eye that’s in focus and another that’s out of focus. Again, speaking from experience. So in order to get a shot like Jalen’s and get that creamy background, I knew I needed to use a long focal length. So this was taken with a focal length of 140mm and an aperture of f/4. Not even f/2.8! I could have closed down even more if necessary and still had this compressed background. Say for example, if Jalen’s parents were standing behind him. I’d want them in focus too, so I probably would have closed down to f/5.6 and adjusted the shutter speed and/or ISO accordingly.
When I’m with a client, I keep my 70-200mm lens on most of the time. It’s an amazing portrait lens! So here’s Adrienne which was also shot with the 70-200mm lens, but this time at a focal length of 75mm and an aperture of f/4. See the difference? Still get the upper body, but the background isn’t all compressed. You can see the lake and tall grass, get some sense of the surrounding and Adrienne still fills a good part of the frame.
Now let’s get serious. What happens when you want those gorgeous eyelash shots and you want all the lashes in focus? Well, following the thought that shooting wide open will give beautiful bokeh just doesn’t work in this case. This is really the perfect example of using the right lens to get the background compression but still keep your subject in focus. This image was taken with the same lens, focal length set to 110mm, and an aperture of f/4.5! Yep, 4.5 not 1.8 or 2.8. If I had used my 85mm @ f/1.8 the result would have been very different. See, she’s not perfectly straight. Think of aperture as a thickness, like a piece of glass. Using an aperture of f/1.8 would have resulted in one eye being more in focus or her eyes being in focus but not her nose.
Wide Angle Lens
Now let’s jump to the shorter focal lengths. This image was shot with a 28mm lens because I wanted the full picture. I wanted the background, the water, and the surroundings. Using this lens, I can be pretty close to my senior and still capture all of this. I could have easily been sitting in this exact same spot shooting, changed to the 70-200mm lens and taken a closeup of Adrienne! What would have happened? All that tall grass behind her would have been compressed. Results might not have been ideal due to the lighting, but that’s a post for another day.
Let’s get out away from the pretty backgrounds into urban downtown Phoenix. This image was also taken with a 28mm focal length. Notice how I got everything in the frame and was able to make Mercy take up a good part of the frame but still fit in all the urban landscape.
What lens do you use?
Let’s get back to the original question and answer. The answer is, it depends what I’m shooting and the look I’m going for.
When you might use a wide angle lens or short focal length, like a 28mm:
- Want a large area
- Tall buildings
- Urban areas
- Lots of surroundings
For me, 28mm let’s me get these fun shots like the one of Mercy. It let’s me catch gymnasts jumping or a football player throwing a football and I want to capture a lot of the field and stands. It also lets me create the illusion of something being larger or bolder, like a car. The closer you get, the more distortion you get. Play with it! Wide angle lenses can really bring variety to your portfolio!
When you might use a long lens and long focal length, like a 70-200mm:
- Don’t love the background and want to blur it out
- Headshots without distracting surroundings
- You want the texture but want the focus on your subject
- Creamy backgrounds
My 70-200mm is still my go-to lens for portraits. I get great headshots and people are always requesting those “gorgeous blurry backgrounds.” It also lets me get further away so I’m not right in someone’s face. The downside of course, for those of you who have worked with me, is that I have to back up. Then back up more. And then back up a little more to get everything in the frame!
Next time we’ll talk a little more about aperture and bokeh. Have more questions or need clarification? Shoot me an email!
Calligraphy Tips for Beginners
Something I’ve picked up within the past year and a half is hand lettering, or modern calligraphy.
This kind of style is new and fun, and it’s different from the kind of calligraphy you may have seen from hundreds of years ago. With the help of a bunch of different YouTube videos and Pinterest posts, I have become obsessed with improving my hand lettering! I am no expert and am still learning, but here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned, along with some product and Instagram suggestions!
Make sure you are writing correctly.
For this style of lettering, it’s important to do a thicker line on the downstroke (more pressure with your pen) , and a thinner line on the upstroke (less pressure with your pen). This is key to modern calligraphy, or really any type of calligraphy. It’s hard to get the hang of this at first, so try some exercises like this:
Choose the right brush.
For this style of lettering, I use the Tombow Dual Tip Brush Markers. They come in loads of different colors and are super fun to play with! Each marker has a brush tip, and on the other side has a bullet tip for faux calligraphy or any other type of writing. They are fantastic. (Pro tip: use a smooth marker paper or sketchbook if you want to buy some Tombows. Believe it or not, regular printer paper is rough on the brush tip, and can leave it frayed!) A cheaper alternative are Crayola markers, or the Crayola Super Tip Markers. Below you can see how you can achieve a similar effect with the Crayola markers for a fraction of the cost. You may want to consider starting out with these, and if you are interested further in hand lettering, check out the Tombows.
Fake it till you make it!
I started off without using any type of brush markers or Crayola markers. I used a regular pen or pencil to create my hand lettering. I’m glad I started off this way. I got the hang of what the lettering should look like, and I had so much more control over the letters. For this, you add another line and fill it in next to the downstrokes. It’s hard to explain, so look at the picture below for help!
It’s hard at first to make your lettering look like all those pictures you see on Pinterest and Instagram. This is something I’m still working on! Especially when you start out with brush markers, it’s easy to get discouraged. It all looks so easy, and then you go to try and make your letters, and it looks horrible. Don’t give up! Keep trying and practicing. You’ll soon see that you are more comfortable. For inspiration on different designs, check out Instagram and Pinterest. They have loads of cute quotes and words to replicate. This is mainly what I do, but am starting to branch out and create my own designs.
Want some ideas on who to follow on Instagram? Here are some of my favorite accounts!
@amandaarneill, @calligrabasics, @calligraphy_by_drew, @calligraphynerd, @hellotosha, @itskateshandwriting, @krystalwhitten, @lesliemaedesigns, @makewells, @oncewrite
Best of luck in your hand lettering journey!
Tips for Making the Transition to College
At this point in high school, you’re probably starting to think about college. You may be working on applications, scholarships, or have already been accepted to a college. Then you start thinking about your dorm room or apartment, how you are going to pay for all that stuff, your roommates, etc, etc. I was just in that spot a few months ago, so let me give you a few tips on how to manage that stress!
Start Planning Early
It’s easy to say, “Oh, college is still so far away, I don’t have to plan for another few months.” While it’s true you still have a little while, it’s best to start planning early. Start thinking and planning where you want to live- are you going to live at home, in a dorm, or in an apartment? Will you have a meal plan? Some colleges have rules involving staying in dorms and having meal plans, so check with your college to see if you are required to have one or both of those things. Some other things to check is what is included in the dorms, whether you have communal bathrooms or private bathrooms, how close your dorm room is to certain buildings, etc. It’s better to be prepared so when you arrive on campus, you aren’t surprised on much.
Start Saving… NOW!
This is something you may have been doing for years, but for me, I’m a horrible saver. I just want to spend right away, so when it came to getting stuff for my room at college, things were a bit more stressful. I don’t know about you, but I saw all these perfect college dorm rooms on Pinterest, and wanted all the best decor and storage. I had to remember that there are things I have at home that work. Try bringing things from your own room at home to make you feel more comfortable at college. A lot of people like to purchase brand new comforters and/or decor (which is great and fun!), but for me, I wanted things to feel more like they were at my home. I brought the same comforter and a lot of the same decorations I used in my room to make things familiar.
Get in Touch With Your Roommate
Once you have your dorm room or apartment figured out, now would be a great time to get in contact with your roommate(s). Your student housing may give you your roommate’s contact information and name, so contact them! For me, my apartment building only gave me their first and last name, so I went to social media to figure out who they were. It sounds creepy, but they were all grateful I took initiative and contacted them first because they were hesitant to do the same thing! It was helpful to create a group chat with my roommates so we could figure out who was bringing certain things so we could save money and not buy double. When it came to contacting my room roommate, we discussed things like who would bring the shower curtain, who would bring a toothbrush holder, if we wanted to have matching towels or just bring our own, stuff like that. It may also be helpful to discuss with your roommate if you’ll have matching room decor; I know some people like to match or coordinate colors and bedspreads. Plus, it’s great to get to know your roommate before you move in with her! Ask her about her favorite food, some of her pet peeves, what her family is like, etc. Might as well become friends with her when you’ll be living with her for several months. 🙂
Meditate/Take Time for Yourself
All of this may seem daunting, but take some deep breaths! It’ll be okay. NOW is a great time to start planning these things, because the earlier you start planning everything, the easier it will be when it comes down to crunch time. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to plan everything only a couple weeks before move-in day. Planning in small increments over a long period of time will significantly reduce your stress levels. So plan early, but don’t stress! Everything will fall in place and it’ll work out how it’s supposed to. You may want to look up a guided meditation on YouTube if you feel stressed, or even just hang out with your friends to get your mind off things. Do things that genuinely make you happy. Do you like to play sports? Do you like working out to release some stress and endorphins? Maybe you like singing, playing an instrument, or being creative. Whatever it is, try to make time in your day to do something you love.
I hope these tips were helpful and you have a smooth transition to college! It’s a lot of fun!
Fall Fashion Trends
- The color Burgundy is not only one of my favorite colors but a perfect choice for the season leading up to Christmas! The color gives off a nice a cozy vibe. Something you would want to curl up with a cup of tea or cocoa while you watch some movies.
- Metallics are an interesting a fun choice for the fall. Silver metallic boots are the rage this season and definitely add a fun little something to your outfit.It’s a good addition when you want a little bling but not look like you’re going to the Met Gala! Or you’re a tween who just discovered sequence!
- Retro Vibes
- Though Retro Items have been in style forever this season especially takes its nod to the retro styles. Things crop tops and high waisted jeans and shorts. This season many Aesthetically pleasing pictures on media contain a cropped top or sweater paired with high-waisted bottoms! I good way to keep casual but also show off what your mama gave you! I definitely love participating in this trend!
- Oversized tops/sweater
- One of my favorite trends in this fall that never goes out of style is a good oversized sweater! The versatility! You could wear it as a dress, with some shorts, jeans or leggings! The options, graphics, and styles what give it the classic go for cozy casual or cozy chic. It all depends on how you style it!
- I’m not saying you gotta go out and get the expensive velvet! There are plenty of velvet items you can get affordable! Like a pair of velvet booties (Which are very popular right now), You can find them for a good price if you look hard enough! If velvet boots aren’t your thing then maybe a velvet hat? I got a red velvet baseball hat from Forever 21 for 7 dollars! Whenever I wear it out I always get compliments. This trend is the fuzziest by far!
- This trend is always in but it really takes the cake during the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving! Shorter boots (known as Booties) are extremely popular, especially when they are sequined, suede, or a glossy leather look. As for the longer boots, thigh-high velvet boots are super popular right now, they give off and fun and glamorous vibe with just a hint of retro! Those boots are definitely on my wishlist to pick up ASAP!