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Smartphone or Professional Photographer…Is There a Difference?

Ever wonder if you could just use your fancy smartphone for senior pictures? Stop! I'm going to tell you why it's worth investing in a professional photographer for your graduation photos.

Professional Portraits Make Your Senior Pictures Shine

How many photos do you have saved on your iPhone? If you’re like me, you probably have HUNDREDS of pictures of friends, family, and adventures stored on your device. And those pictures are great because they are full of in-the-moment laughs and funny shenanigans you want to remember forever. After all, that’s why we take photos…to freeze a moment in time and have that memory to look back on.

BUT when it comes to capturing monumental, one-of-a-kind moments—like your graduation—it’s smart to work with a professional photographer who has an eye for lighting, poses, textures, props, and more! You’ve worked hard and waited a long time for this moment, and a pro can help you get organized and plan all the shots you want in your dream photo collection!

Fun Cap & Gown Graduation Photos

It’s your senior year, and that means there’s a LOT going on—in addition to enjoying your final year in school with all your friends and participating in activities you love! Before you know it, your to-do list will be full of tons of things that will make your last year in high school memorable and fun.

It’s a pretty good bet that you’ll be busy with all the hustle and bustle leading up to graduation, and that makes it easy to forget to schedule your senior pictures. It also makes it tempting to have a friend or family member take a few pics with a smartphone…and then check that item off your list. But there are so many reasons you shouldn’t take that route!

Can You Use Your iPhone for Senior Pictures?

The short answer? Yes, of course you can! I’ve chatted with many soon-to-be grads who have plans to take their senior pictures with their smartphones. In fact, with its latest release, Apple claims that the newest iPhone features the BEST camera yet, which makes it great for capturing everyday spontaneous moments when you’re on the go. Your iPhone might do an excellent job, but when you hire a professional photographer for your senior picture session, you get much more than just their professional equipment. You get the benefit of their experience and trained eye! When planning a photo session, it’s about finding the right lighting and angles and the perfect locations. It’s about making you feel comfortable, confident, and relaxed. And it’s about all the planning and collaborating before the session.

When you hire a professional photographer for your senior pictures, you get the benefit of KNOWING your pictures will turn out beautifully! To put it simply, your iPhone just can’t beat a proper camera—especially without a professional behind the lens.

A Professional Photographer Makes All the Difference

Here are just a few reasons you should consider choosing a pro to take your senior pictures:

  1. Pros have years of experience and an eye for what will look great in a picture. They are used to combining different colors, textures, shapes, and more to artistically show you in your very best light.
  2. They have access to professional retouching and editing tools. Professional photographers are on top of the latest technology, and they stay up to date with popular trends.
  3. Pros are knowledgeable about the region and know all the best photo locations. They know all the hot spots and will have tons of great ideas to combine your look with great backgrounds and props.
  4. Pros are experts behind the lens. They use a variety of different lenses and lighting techniques to deliver the best, most creative images.
  5. Your senior pictures are WORTH IT! You’ve put a lot of hard work into your school years…especially your senior year, so why not invest in a photo session that highlights all your best features and shows off all the things you love?

The Temptation Is Real

I know the temptations! It’s quick and easy to plan an informal photo sesh with you and your besties. Plus, it’s super fun! But no matter how great your smartphones are, they just don’t deliver the dynamic photos that a professional can. That’s because a professional photographer offers years of skills and tools that will make your senior pictures seriously shine.

Your senior year is a HUGE—and it deserves a photo session that will make you the star of your very own story! When you choose to have professional photos taken, you’ll walk away with a collection of photos you and your family will cherish for a lifetime. When it’s time to toss that cap high in the sky, it pays to work with a professional senior photographer who’s full of great ideas and plenty of experience.

Gorgeous Outdoor Graduation Photos

Perspective Changes Everything

Graduation gets closer every day, and it’s time to get prepped for some seriously life-changing events! It can be nerve-wracking to think about moving to another phase of your life, but it’s not really such a different world…it just requires a different perspective.

And while we’re talking about perspectives, it’s important to mention that the styling, locations, and poses you select for your photo session can change your photos entirely! A professional photographer is equipped to balance ALL the things that are important when it comes to capturing the best, most magical shots.

Lighting Is Key

Lighting is one of the most important parts of any photograph, so it’s important to pay attention to where it’s coming from and how you can use it to balance all the elements of a picture. Professional photographers study lighting and know exactly how to use it to make your photos even better!

In Arizona, where a lot of photo sessions take place outdoors, the sun is a major factor. Those of us who’ve worked extensively outdoors know all the tricks and tools to use to bring out the beauty of outdoor photos. Instead of letting the sun wash you out, a pro can leverage the gorgeous natural lighting—and even add a little extra with a reflector or off-camera flash.

In this shoot from 2019, I’m working with Trevor, a graduate from Mesquite High School, and his mother, Gina. During her son’s senior session, Gina snapped a few pictures with her smart phone. This side-by-side photo comparison adds great perspective about why hiring a professional photographer for life’s biggest moments is a great idea!

High School Senior Pictures Gilbert Photographer

With great lighting and a professional eye behind the camera, Trevor shines in all of his photos!

High School Senior Pictures Guys Outfits

Great Timing Gets Great Photos

Have you heard of the golden hour? It’s the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The name alone indicates that the golden hour doesn’t last long, so preparation and experience really play a role in taking advantage of the beautiful lighting the sun offers during those hours.

A professional photographer doesn’t capture their best images by accident. It’s about consistency and knowing how to shoot in different types of lighting. Because many of my sessions last two to three hours, we don’t always get the perfect, most ideal natural lighting, so I’ve learned to use the Arizona sun to my advantage. Believe it or not, images like this are not created in Photoshop. With the proper settings, you’ll get sun flare, light leaks, and sunbursts without any editing in Photoshop.

Gilbert Senior Portraits with Pets

A Photographer’s Eye

When it’s time for your photo session, just remember that I’ll be looking at things through my photographer’s point of view, so we may not see things exactly the same way.

What’s that mean? It means that where you see a blank concrete wall, I may see a great opportunity to show you off in flattering light against a backdrop that’s full of texture, light, and shadows! Yep, I think through all of that stuff before asking you to pose in different areas…because there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to finding the ideal locations and photo ops for you.

Senior Picture Ideas Guys San Tan Valley

I typically ask clients to 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 then go through outfits to determine the looks that will give the best vibes, the outfits that are must-haves, and we’ll even go through shoes and accessories to make sure you look your very best in every shot! Once we’ve got your looks lined out, you’ll use my portable changing room to change into your first outfit. I’ll set up the equipment and take some test photos, and then we’ll be ready to capture some amazing shots of you in action!

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.” So let’s talk about your passions! Do you love to read? Draw? Play video games? There are sooooo many options! Another fun idea for your senior pictures is to include your favorite pro sports team, as Trevor did. And he was able to make this shot even more awesome by sporting a personalized Phoenix Suns jersey.  When you’re choosing your outfits, a jersey from any of your favorite sports teams will work—after all, this is all about showing off the things you love during your senior year!

Below you can see mom’s photo vs the final image. Notice the play on light and shadow, the texture of the bricks, and the vibrant colors. Your smartphone can do a lot, but it can’t do that!

Gilbert High School Senior Pictures Basketball

What You See vs. What I See

Brianna’s mom also took some shots with her cell phone while we were out for her daughter’s senior session. The clarity and color of a professional camera simply can’t be matched by a camera phone. Of course, Brianna looks lovely relaxing in this green Adirondack chair—and for quick, in-the-moment memory making, you’ll get some pretty good shots with your phone.

But when you compare these two photos…well, there’s no comparison! In the photo taken by a professional photographer with professional equipment, the vibrant green of the chair stands out and gives Brianna a fun and bright background. Even the flowers in the bushes stand out more, and Brianna’s stylish outfit is in sharp focus. She glows in this picture, and in fact, it ended up being one of her family’s favorite pictures, so we printed it as a gorgeous 16×24 Signature Silk Wall Portrait.

Gilbert Senior Pictures Fashion Hats

A Rare Opportunity

Years later, I’m still shocked that we had the opportunity to capture the beautiful pink moon! Below, you can see another great comparison between a smartphone photo and a professional photo. The lens compression is something that just isn’t the same with a camera phone. The breathtaking photo on the right takes on a magical aura with the brilliant pink of the moon in contrast to the blue sky, and as all the other foliage and foreground fade to the background, my client stands out in gorgeous focus.

Gilbert Az Outdoor Senior Pictures

Behind the Scenes

If you were to have a behind-the-scenes look at many of the photos I take, you’d probably wonder about the cars, people, and other things that look like they’re going to clutter your pictures. Just check out the photos below: one shows shows a candid image of me at work, while the final image is focused solely on my gorgeous client. A great photographer has an eye for great photo opportunities, and sometimes that means working around a little bit of background noise. In the professional photo below, you’d never know we’re so close to a parking lot!

Stunning at Sundown

Some of the most striking photos are taken after the sun starts to go down, and many of my clients opt for a day-to-night photo session for that very reason. With a quick adjustment to my camera settings, I can keep working as the natural light fades, so no matter how dark it gets, your session