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How to Take Creative Senior Pictures | Tips and Posing Advice from Arizona’s Top Senior Photographer

When you've got a client who's absolutely excited about branching out and going with an exciting theme or venue, absolutely go for it! It gives you the opportunity to broaden your experience as a professional photographer, and you'll get to deliver unique and artistic images!

Take Senior Photos From So-So to Stellar

What do we want? Less boring senior pictures! When do we want it? Since forever, right? Stand by the tree, stand by the wall, stiff awkward smiles. No thanks!!

I’ve seen whole sessions that seemed to be more focused on a single tree in the background than the actual client. In fact, if you’re becoming a little too familiar with a background component, you know you’re doing something wrong.

A Tale as Old as Time

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been scrolling through online photography collections for inspiration or out of interest and ended up filled with despair as a clearly uncomfortable senior stared out awkwardly from the images.

In truth, it’s not their fault. In fact, I’ve had seniors come to me heartbroken that their previous senior session didn’t work out. Somehow, out of about 70 pictures, they didn’t find a single one that stood out. They either ended up with duplicates or bland images.

From Boring to Breathtaking

I feel their pain, and I want to change the way their photo shoots turn out. How? By dedicating my entire career to making sure my shoots are NEVER boring!

My Policy Doesn’t Include Generic

I’m at the level where I can confidently say that now because I once wasn’t. Let me tell you, having someone call your portfolio boring is a watershed moment. You either curl up into a ball and give up or pretend you’re Oprah Winfrey being fired from her first tv job (fact) and work even harder to succeed.

Distinctly Dazzling: Meet Erica

Over the years, I’ve learned the key to photography doesn’t just lie in having the best equipment or angles, but also in bringing out the best in every client. That means spending time talking to and getting to know everyone I work with.

Erica is a vivacious and energetic girl, and I was thrilled to help her create the best photo shoot ever! As adventurous as she is, I’m pretty sure those steps aren’t the most comfortable thing ever to lie on, but in this shot, she looks perfectly at home. What a great photo Erica ended up with simply by taking a chance on an outside-the-box pose! If you love her style, check out more from Erica’s senior portrait session!

scottsdale senior portrait photographer

Helen’s Freeze-Frame Moment

What about Helen framing her lovely face with her hands? By doing this, she draws attention directly where it should be and creates an air of fun-loving confidence that jumps out of the photo.

I love working with seniors who are fearless and willing to try new things when it comes to expressions and poses! Sometimes we end up with gold…and sometimes the ideas just don’t work out. Either way is ok. Because when we it does work, we end up with stunning images like this one. WOW! Helen has an entire gallery filled with gorgeous senior pictures!

How to Take Creative Senior Picutres

My Secret?

When I was just a baby photographer looking for my footing in the professional world, I often asked other photographers what their favorite lens to use was. Of course, I loved their work and was trying to figure out the secret behind it.

I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but one day, I became THAT photographer…the one I used to ask all the questions of. I found myself answering more and asking fewer questions.

My answer to the favorite lens question? After years of experience, I tell photographers who are learning that using the same lens and camera all the time won’t do you any good. You save yourself the cumbersome step of wondering why all your photos look the same, no matter what you do, when you realize the fault lies in the lack of equipment diversity.

For the curious among you, I love my Canon 70-200 2.8L II to the moon and back, but I only task it with closeups and compressing backgrounds.

If I want to include a lot of the surroundings, my Canon 24mm 1.4L is the best lens around! Love, love, love this image of Mercy! I chose to use the sun to my advantage in her downtown Phoenix photo shoot.

Ideas Urban Senior Pictures Downtown Phoenix

Leverage Unique Locations

I’ve wanted to shoot ’50s vintage senior pictures in a diner for a long time, but I had to find the right person. And along came Rae! She was just as excited about shooting at Chase’s Diner as I was, and she was so prepared! She bought the perfect polka dot dress and shoes and even selected a leather jacket and pants for a second outfit.

Chandler Senior Picture Ideas Diner

When you’ve got a client who’s absolutely excited about branching out and going with an exciting theme or venue, absolutely go for it! It gives you the opportunity to broaden your experience as a professional photographer, and you’ll get to deliver unique and artistic images, too. It’s a win-win!

This is why you’ll also hear me talk about day-to-night photo shoots, waterside shoots, and drives into the desert to capture the perfect setting. When I said there’s no such thing as generic in my photo packages, I meant it!

Remember: The more willing you are to go off the beaten path and discover new opportunities, the more unique images you’ll end up with. And the more versatility you’ll show clients!

Top 5 Tips for Turning Same Ol’ Shots Into Spectacular Moments

  1. Get to know your clients. Every client is unique, and when you get to know them AND what they like, you’ll be a gazillion steps ahead when it comes to getting the location and setting right for their senior photos. Plus, they’ll feel more comfortable and be more likely to express themselves more naturally in photos.
  2. Be daring. I’ve been known to go out on limbs (literally) for the perfect pics, and I’m not about to stop now. If the perfect angle happens to be from the middle of a pond, I’ll be photographer in a tiny rowboat.
  3. Be on the lookout for magical moments. They can happen anywhere…from the middle of the desert to the middle of an asphalt parking lot. When the lighting hits just right or your client pulls a once-in-a-photo-shoot expression, you better be on your toes if you plan on capturing it!
  4. Hope for the best; expect a monsoon. Most of the time, things will work out seamlessly (ok, fairly seamlessly), but you’ll never get through an entire photography career without running into at least one rainstorm, mud puddle, or bird poop situation. If you’re prepared with a “go kit” that contains everything from Tide sticks to hairspray, you can conquer the world AND keep taking photos!
  5. Loosen up. You’re the professional, but it’s ok to laugh, be a little silly, and have fun with the clients when it’s photo shoot time. Why? Because when you’re relaxed, they’ll feel more comfortable, too. And that means you’ll get more authentic expressions and fewer stiff and stilted movements.

The trick to taking super creative senior pictures for every client? Keep your eyes open for opportunities, get creative with your planning and perspective, and keep working on your own personal photography style!

  • These are great tips, not only for newer photographers but also great reminders for those that have been doing it for a while and need to shake things up a bit!

    • Hi Brandi! I love hearing from other photographers! Hope these tips give you some fun ideas for your senior clients too!

  • Great ideas for ways to take senior portraits from boring to unique.

  • Wonderful ideas for creative senior pictures from this Phoenix portrait photographer. I love the hands blurry framing the senior girls face in the frame. AWESOME!

  • Great tip, you absolutely have to get to know your clients and when you do you will capture the very best of senior pictures for them and yourself.

    • Hi Shunta! I offer all my seniors and in-person consultation before we even book a date because I really want to get to know them first. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to get in front of the camera without meeting your photographer first!

  • This is so important- getting to know your client, and telling THEIR story! this is a once in a lifetime moment for these Seniors and their moms! your creativity shows why they trust you to capture it!