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12 Tips for Amazing & Unique Senior Pictures

What is the most important thing High School seniors want from their senior portraits?

Well, if there's one thing we've learned from photographing nearly 700 high school seniors at our studio in the past 10 years, it's that seniors want photos that are unique and stand out from other kids at their school.

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Of course, they want to look amazing in their pictures too, but there seems to be a real desire to create photos that are different ... Portraits that tell a unique story about who this individual is so he or she can look back in thirty years and remember this 17 or 18 year old version of themselves.

In this blog post, I've compiled 12 different things you can do to create amazing and unique senior pictures that are as one-of-a-kind as you are. With each of these 12 suggestions, I've included photo examples from our studio here at Tyson Zahner Photography to illustrate each strategy.

If you like what you see here, feel free to click here for senior session pricing and info and then give us a call at 573-204-1529 to book your senior session with us and we'll take care of the creativity and the implementation of these 12 strategies for you.

#1 - Hobbies and Interests

One of the easiest ways to make your senior portraits unique to you is to incorporate props that tell a story of your hobbies and interests.  We've had clients incorporate everything from sports to music to animals and even hunting gear.

#2 - Unique Locations

Many of our clients ask us to shoot in their own back yard or at a family farm or even in the senior's bedroom because these are locations that no one else would have access to.

If you don't have a unique location of your own, just ask your photographer for location suggestions and implement any of the other 11 tips on this page to make that location unique. A good photographer should be able to shoot the same location over and over and make unique images each time based on the subject he's photographing.

#3 - Lighting

The word "photograph" literally means "Light Graph".  Not only can proper lighting  be used to make your skin look good or add the right amount of drama to an image, or even add shadows to areas of your body that you would prefer to hide, it's also a creative device that, when used properly, will result in amazingly unique portraits.

Lighting is what really separates the professional photographer from "People who own nice cameras".  Anybody can click a button on a camera, but a true professional knows how to find the "right light" and how to create new light and shape existing light for amazing results.

#4 - Posing

A photographer who knows how to pose a subject properly is able to slim the girls or bulk up the guys with just the right positioning and body placement.  Not only that, posing is one of the most important elements in making sure that the photo is unique and creative.

If you don't have a lot of ideas on how to pose, you shouldn't really have to worry about it as long as you choose a photographer who knows his stuff.  Many of our clients mistakenly believed (and worried) that they would have to arrive to our studio with all of their own ideas on posing and positioning.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

While we are certainly happy to listen to your posing ideas and implement them into your session (if you have some), it's certainly not necessarily for you to come in with ideas.  Most of our clients just bring their favorite outfits and leave the rest to us ... That is why you hire a professional after all!

#5 - Angles and Lenses

Most amateurs shoot every pictures from exactly the same angle (standing position with the camera at head height).  When shooting senior pictures, don't be afraid to squat down or stand on a ladder or even lay on the ground to get that unique perspective that most other people will never think to shoot.

Not only do these various angles provide variety and creative perspective into your images, angles can also give a very pleasing perspective to different body types when used properly.  A low angle can make you look larger than life (guys really like this type of shot with their truck or sports gear) while a photo that's shot from a high angle has a slimming effect.

To add an extra creative "cherry on top", when you can combine a funky angle with just the right lens, you can really get some amazingly unique senior images.

#6 - Close-Ups

This one is so simple and yet many people over-look it.  Think about it ... there's nothing more unique than your face.  So be sure to shoot plenty of close-ups to show off these facial features that only you possess. 

Now, when shooting close-ups, there's two very important things to consider.  First, it's very important that the eyes are properly lit.  As the old saying goes, your eyes are the windows to your soul.  They also happen to be the main feature that draws a viewer into your portrait.  They must be well lit in order for your close-ups to "pop".  

Also, it's very important that you use the right lens and stand at the proper distance away from the subject when shooting close-ups.  The wrong lens (and/or distance) can distort certain features on your face and result in unflattering images.

#7 - Attention to Details

Clearly your face is important (as mentioned in item #6), but not every photo has to have your face in the shot.  Sometimes it's a good idea to just focus on the details.  Things like shoes or tattoos or class rings can all make excellent detail shots when photographed properly.  These may not be the kind of photos that grandma will hang on her wall, but they make great story-telling images that look great in an album or a collage that you will love looking back at later down the road in life.

#8 - Accessorize!

In the same way that an accent pillow can really pull a room together, accessories are a great way to express your individuality and add that extra "something" to your outfit.  Hats, jewelry, scarves, jackets, vests, handbags and even vehicles can really help to add that extra 'spice' to your photos that makes them unlike anybody else at your high school!

#9 - Look Away from the Camera

You don't have to stare right at the camera for every single picture, you know.  Some of my favorite photos are those candid moments in between "posed" shots when a subject is looking away laughing.  Just make sure that you have a photographer that looks for those moments and snaps them when they happen, ... or one who knows how to pose these "looking away" moments so they look natural and unique.

#10 - Bring Your Loved Ones

One of the things that makes you so unique and special is the relationships you have.  Having them in your life has made you the unique individual you are.  So don't be afraid to incorporate them into your senior pictures.  We frequently photograph every type of "loved one" from pets, to parents to siblings and boyfriends/girlfriends.  If they've shaped your personality, don't be afraid to ask your photographer if you can incorporate them into your senior pictures.

#11 - Action!

Just because you're creating still images doesn't mean that you have to hold still while you're making them.  Don't be afraid to jump or kick or sing or dance or move around in any way that might look cool and add some energy to your photos.  Just make sure you use the proper camera settings and lighting to capture the action.

#12 - Fun Faces

It's not just your looks that make you different.  It's your personality too, right?  Don't be afraid to inject that personality into your senior portraits.  When you laugh and make funny faces, this shows a side of you that's 100% different from everyone else at your school.  

Number 1, because they're not you (obviously) and number 2 because most of them won't photograph anything outside of the normal looking-at-the-camera poses.  So if you want to inject your personality into your photos, just make sure to tell your photographer ahead of time.

Also make sure you choose a photographer who knows how to have fun and pull your personality out of you.  Getting in front of the camera can be very intimidating, especially if you've not had your photo taken professionally a lot.  A good photographer will make you forget there's even a camera there.  Usually about 10 minutes into the session, you'll start feeling natural and normal and your true self will start to come out (especially if you have a photographer who prompts you to do so).

Final Thoughts ...

Now that you know 12 different ways to create senior pictures that are as unique and one-of-a-kind as you are, you just need to find a photographer who can implement these strategies for you.  You're only a senior once so make sure you choose wisely.

If you'd like to learn more information about the senior sessions and pricing and packages available at Tyson Zahner Photography, click here.

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