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Outdoor High School Senior Portraits

What Happens During an Outdoor Senior Photo Shoot? Peek Behind the Scenes | High School Senior Portraits in Chandler, AZ

By: Michelle
November 17, 2021

Your High School Senior Photo Shoot: A Not-So-Top-Secret Look Behind the Scenes

Everyone wants to know—but not everyone wants to ask—“What in the world actually happens at a photo shoot?” I’m about to give you the inside scoop so you’ll be ready to tackle your day with enthusiasm and kick the nerves to the curb. Hint: It’s probably a mix of some of the things you were thinking and a surprising amount of things you hadn’t even dreamed up. Trust me, your day in front of the camera lens is going to be all you imagined…and then some.

After a session, I often gets comments like these:

  • “Wow! That isn’t what I was expecting at all!”
  • “That was much easier than I thought it would be!”
  • “I had such a great time! I didn’t expect it to be so much fun!”

After years of being a professional photographer, what happens during a photo shoot (EVERY photo shoot) is normal to me but not always obvious to graduating seniors. So I thought I’d revisit this post and share some behind-the-scenes insight and the planning that goes into your senior portrait session. 

Start with an In-Person Consultation

I like to start with a phone consultation so you’ll know if we’re a good fit. If you want just some quick photos, I might not be the right photographer for you…and that’s OK! Once we talk, you’ll get a feel for my enthusiasm and creativity, plus I’ll get to learn more about you and your teenager. Seriously, even if you choose another photographer, having a great 15-minute conversation is never a bad thing, right? All that sounds great, so let’s set up a consultation where we can meet in person or over Zoom. This plays a HUGE part in the success of your photo shoot. It takes time to warm up in front of the camera and that is a lot easier if we’re on the same page.

Unlike other photographers that meet you in a parking lot the day of the shoot, I’d love to meet ahead of time to get to know each other. You get to tell me what you want, see sample sessions, and get ideas for your session. You’ll also have a chance to touch and see the beautiful product line. But don’t worry, no decisions are required yet; I just want to get to know you so it will be like having a best friend behind the camera making sure you look fabulous!

If you’d like more information, this link will tell you how to get started for your senior pictures. I still have some availability for Class of 2022, and Class of 2023 will start consultations in the spring.

Choosing a Location

Don’t worry; you don’t have to choose just one! I like to wander during sessions to find unique spots. Sometimes you find a hidden gem when you least expect it, so bring comfy walking shoes. We’ll move around a lot during your photo shoot so I can capture you with as many different backgrounds and environments as possible. If we’re in a downtown area, we’ll easily walk several blocks to find the best locations for you.

Sometimes we go to popular areas like the Riparian Preserve or Nichols Park. Downtown Gilbert or a small local park are great because they are often less crowded, and we’re able to get more creative shots and use the great backgrounds and colors that nature provides. Most high school seniors like a combination of both natural elements AND a bit of the urban environment. When you’re with me, we cover a lot of ground—and that means we get a wide variety of shots.

C’mon, let’s take a look behind the scenes of what will make up your amazingly fun photo shoot!

Behind the Scenes

We typically arrive at our first location between 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, depending on the weather, the sun, and the locations you’ve chosen. We’ll go through your outfits to determine which outfit will give the best vibes, which ones are “must-haves,” and you’ll use my portable changing room to change into your first outfit. I’ll set up the equipment and take some test shots, and then we’ll be ready to capture some amazing shots of you in action! 

In this shoot from 2019, I am working with Trevor, a 17-year-old basketball athlete from Mesquite High School, and his mother, Gina. During our session, Gina snapped a few pictures of Trevor’s session, and I thought it would be fun to show some behind-the-scenes pictures compared to the final senior portraits.

This red wall really isn’t anything special, but when paired with Trevor’s flannel shirt, the headshot is great! Couple that with some prompts to get that genuine smile, and it’s a win for both of us!

High School Senior Pictures Gilbert Photographer

High School Senior Pictures Guys Outfits

Ideas for Senior Pictures for a Basketball Player

While other photographers rush through sessions and use basic posing, I love trying new and creative ideas! Of course we do some beautiful headshots, but I try to do something new at every senior session. This way you’re guaranteed to have unique, fun, authentic senior pictures. I don’t have behind-the-scenes samples of this particular shot, but I had to include it because it ended up being one of Trevor’s favorite images. As much as I’d love to, I can’t move the sun, and for this shot, it just worked better to have him spin the ball…with his LEFT hand! Yeah, that was fun! It might have been a challenge, but look at the outcome. Worth it? I think so!

Athlete Sports Senior Pictures Basketball AZ

It’s All About Lighting

If you’re gonna do basketball pictures, you need a basketball court. Gina told me about a great park near their home with a nice basketball court. While this was a great opportunity to highlight Trevor’s love of basketball, I needed to assess the location and lighting—and we had to be careful because often, neighborhood parks can be crowded, making it tough to get the shots we’re after.

Gina was able to snap a few casual pics for me so that I could determine the layout of the park, including potential lighting issues, landscaping, and other details. The park was at street level with a lot of trees, so I instantly knew I could shoot great photos without houses distracting the scene. Score!

It’s not uncommon to find me climbing a ladder or laying on the ground to get the exact shot I want. Sometimes we just get creative and see what the results are. These shots really show what it’s like behind the scenes!

High School Senior Pictures Basketball

High School Senior Pictures Sports

As the sun went down and we were done with action shots, it was time to pull out the lights. Since Gina is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, she also chose to paint a ball silver and the results were even better than we’d hoped! 

High School Senior Pictures Gilbert Athlete

High School Senior Pictures Sports Letterman Jacket

After Dark

We were having such a great time we kept shooting after dark. After a quick uniform change, we captured even more unique basketball shots. The sun sets quickly, and with the off-camera lighting, we can choose how much of the background to include in each photo, offering plenty of variety.

High School Senior Pictures Basketball Player

Trendy Night Shots

If you want nighttime portraits—a popular photo trend for the Class of 2022—then we continue shooting into the evening. Downtown Gilbert is a favorite nighttime location, even if it’s just the edge of a parking lot or parking garage!

High School Senior Pictures Gilbert Photographer After Dark  High School Senior Pictures Guys Suit

High School Senior Pictures Downtown Gilbert

Highlighting Your Hobbies and Interests

Many high school seniors choose to include their sports because it might be the final games of their career. Trevor added basketball in several ways. We chose to start with Trevor’s Mesquite High School uniform (shown above) and a standard basketball. You want your senior in a suit and tie? No problem! It’s an incredible look and trust me, the guys love it when we combine this snazzy look with their favorite sport.

High School Senior Pictures Gilbert Photographer Night

High School Senior Pictures Gilbert Photographer Sports

You Don’t Play Sports?

This is actually a very common concern with my high school seniors. “But I don’t play sports. I’m not active in clubs. I’m just a regular teenager.” One solution is to include your favorite pro sports team, as Trevor did. Now, his was even more awesome because he has a personalized Phoenix Suns jersey! However, any of your favorite sports teams would work. Don’t overlook your college team!

Gilbert High School Senior Pictures Basketball

High School Senior Pictures Behind The Scenes

Or how about the college you’re planning to attend? It just so happens that Trevor got an academic scholarship to the University of Arizona in Tucson!

High School Senior Pictures College Shirt

Finishing the Photo Session

Most daytime photo shoots take 2 – 3 hours. I like to end the day by making sure we have at least 35 great shots. A checklist includes basic poses, close-up shots, and even some candid fun and funny shots of you being your quirky self. Whatever makes your personality shine through, that’s what I’m looking for—and that’s what I’ll capture in senior portraits. 

Your memories of high school should be cherished. I will work with you to create a modern, authentic plan. When you trust me to capture your look, personality, and style in high-quality professional images, you’ll be proud to share your high school portraits with friends and family!

Senior Photos Michelle Robetson

Hey 2022 Grads, it’s time to start thinking about YOUR senior pictures!
Freshman, sophomores, and juniors can sign up so you won’t miss out!
(480) 779-7797


Senior Photos Michelle Robetson

Hey there! Want to catch up on the latest, see where I’ve been photographing, and get some great ideas for your photo shoot? You’re in the right place! My blog is updated with some of my favorite photo sessions, hilarious stories, and insights you’ll want to know before it’s time for your big day.



  1. What a great overview of the session with behind the scenes.

    • Thanks Elena! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Love this behind the scenes look at a Senior Portrait Session. Most people have no idea how much work goes into creating outstanding Senior Portraits, so this is really informative and fun.

    • Thanks Susan! I love showing clients how final portraits can look so different from what we see in real life!

  3. I loved this blog post and your session with Trevor, Just by the variety you had in the blog I can imagine what else you got to capture of his great session!

    • Thanks for your sweet comment, Shunta! These are some of my most favorite basketball images!


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