Graduation portraits aren’t just photographs; they’re timeless reminders of achievement, hard work, and a bright future. At Magical Memories by Michelle, professional graduation pictures are what I do every single day of the year, and I’m proud of the diversity and uniqueness of every single one of my clients.
In honor of Black History Month, I’m excited to share highlights of some of my best and brightest clients, Black grads who have serious style, mega-personality, and over-the-top drive to succeed in everything they do. These are some of the most amazing kids I’ve run across, and as clients they were some of the most fun to work with!
The Power of Professional Graduation Portraits
Graduation is one of the most important milestones you will mark in your life, and senior portraits serve as a lasting reminder of all the hard work and dedication it took to earn your diploma. They reflect your unique personality, style, and aspirations, and they reflect who you are at this pivotal moment in your life.
From beginning to end, I want your graduation experience to be meaningful and memorable. That’s why I work so hard to create a visual narrative that reflects you and your individual journey. With a blend of professionalism, creativity, and artistry, you’ll take home professional keepsake portraits that will help you and your family remember this event forever.
As I reflect this month on the diversity of my clients, I’m so grateful. The graduates featured here, each with distinct goals, personalities, and backgrounds, have all blown me away with their grace and ability to react in front of the camera. Keep scrolling to see more of their professional images and learn how we worked together to build sessions everyone loved.
Aaron, a talented young athlete, chose to do a portion of his session at his high school so he could show off his track skills. His gallery includes lots of senior pictures in Downtown Chandler as well as photos taken at night.
Capturing the Essence of Graduation | Professional Portraits in Mesa, Arizona
While I have clients who travel from across the country to visit me for portrait sessions, I’m based in Mesa, Arizona. And let’s be honest…when most people think of Arizona, they think “tan” and “sand” and “desert.” Not too exciting, right? Wrong!
Even some of the locals are surprised at the photo opportunities that abound here. From gorgeous desert vistas that are laden with a variety of cacti to urban settings to waterside locales (yes, there are water destinations here!), every beautiful location idea you can think of is right here at our fingertips. (Except the ocean. I’m good, but even I can’t bring the ocean to Arizona!)
Before we headed to a local basketball court, LeeAnthony and his family selected this gorgeous location for his senior portraits. After traveling over an hour from Maricopa, we hits parts of Chandler and Gilbert to complete his gallery. I was thrilled that he had some fun ideas for basketball senior pictures too!
Photo sessions at Magical Memories by Michelle are designed to be deeply personal, reflecting each graduate’s unique journey and style. I work one-on-one with every senior, helping them select from stylish dressy outfits, casual looks, and everything in between. And for my ethnic clients, I use my skills to help them coordinate the best outfits and makeup to work well with the backdrops they love. Of course, we take time of day, lighting, and all sorts of factors into consideration—but the bottom line is that I’ll make sure you look your very best in your final images. After all, I want you to have a portrait package you’re proud to show off and share!
During your session, I’ll pay attention to every single detail. For example, in the photo above, you’ll notice how light and shadow play together to ensure that the lovely Keep is the star of the show. We drove to downtown Gilbert for its Western-themed townscape that fit perfectly with Keep’s graduation photo theme, and she absolutely glows as she grins and tips her hat toward the camera. Leaning in a casual stance against a rustic corral post, she’s able to show off her perfectly coordinated cowgirl boots. All the tiny details of this photo come together to create its magic…and that’s how I approach every picture I take.
The photo above is a great example of using light to highlight my subject. In this closeup, Keep tips her hat and looks downward, giving us a glimpse of her gorgeous long lashes and professional makeup. But guess what? Without the right lighting, her lovely dark skin would look dull—because it would be in competition with all the other things going on around it. Here, I’ve blurred the harsh background light and instead focused soft lighting on Keep’s face to pull the focus to her own natural beauty. This is one of the many reasons to seek out a professional for your senior pictures. You’ll look gorgeous, and you can count on technical, behind-the-scenes artistry to help you create a gallery of images you will adore!
Highlighting the Beauty of Black Grads in Mesa, Arizona
I love to showcase my clients throughout the year, and this month I love that I get the opportunity to highlight all the hard work and dedication these Black students from Mesa have done to earn their senior diplomas and graduate! They are moving on to the exciting futures they have been planning for themselves, and it is such an honor to help them share their achievements with their friends and families.
When it comes to your senior pictures, nothing is more important than looking and feeling your best, and that’s why I work with every client up front to organize outfits, hair, makeup, and all the other details. This way, there are fewer surprises on the day of your session and you can just kick back and be the star you are!
Top Tips for Photographing Darker Skin
Capturing the richness and beauty of darker skin tones in photography is an art in itself, and that is why I highly recommend you invest in professional portraits when it’s time for your graduation photos. At Magical Memories by Michelle, I’ve mastered this art through years of experience, practice, and continued education. Here are just a few of the things that are on my checklist when it comes to attention to detail and precision when photographing clients with dark skin:
- Reflective light is your friend. Especially when it comes to photographing clients with darker skin, a wash of light can add tonality and detail that would otherwise get lost in the background. By using reflective light in this way, it makes it possible to see more of a client’s feature details and expressions. Plus, colors and shades will look brighter and more vivid when a bit of light is added. NOTE: I do NOT lighten skin. I want you to be your authentic, natural self in your senior pictures, so I use the power of light as a tool to make you stand apart from your background in your own, this-is-me gorgeousness.
- Leverage different stages of color. (Many might call this an ombré look.) This is a great way to create depth. In the photo below, I used light to pull the eye toward Aaron as he popped a wheelie on his skateboard. With varying shades of sky and sidewalk, Aaron is pulled toward the front of the portrait in a dynamic, artistic fashion. Note, too, how the soft light ensures his warm skin tone isn’t lost in the evening backdrop, but instead pops forward as part of the focal point.
- Don’t forget the hair. In many of these photos, you’ll notice a soft light source is used to illuminate clients’ hair. That’s because the details and texture of dark hair tend to get lost in the background. Have you ever seen cartoon drawings of a character’s hair that looks just like one giant blob with no texture? That’s exactly what dark hair often looks like without a light source to help show off its dimension.
Below, Rae is gorgeous as she twirls in an emerald dress with silver heels. In an updo and accessorized just right, she’s the belle of the ball, and it’s easy to see the healthy shine in her hair—even in nighttime photos—with a little help from a good light source.
- Background is key. It