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Senior Photos Checklist: How to Prepare Your Senior For Their Photo Shoot

Senior Photos Checklist: How to Prepare Your Senior For Their Photo Shoot

For many high school seniors, getting their senior photos taken is an exciting time. These treasured photos will be used in their senior yearbook and given to friends, family, and teachers as they move on from their high school years into the next stages of life. 

Getting ready for senior pictures can be a little stressful for both the teen and parent.  Between planning what to wear and what to bring, it’s understandable! That’s why I put together this senior photos checklist to ensure seniors and their families arrive at their session prepared and confident for a great experience, and of course, to walk away with beautiful photos.

#1. Bring Water and a Snack

My first piece of advice is to bring water and some snacks. It may not seem like tough work, but posing, wardrobe changes, weather, and even moving around the photoshoot location can wear on seniors during their session.  

Not only is water refreshing, but it’s also great for your skin and keeps seniors comfortable during their photoshoots. As for snacks, I recommend eating well beforehand to last you through the entirety of the photoshoot. If you’re in a rush, please bring a snack to get you through. Avoiding anything greasy or messy for sure. Messy food could easily end up on your clothes, your face, and your hands. Plan to pack healthy snacks for the energy you need to smile through a session! 

#2. Apply Day-to-Day Makeup

I know it may be tempting for your senior to add a little glam to their day-to-day makeup routine, but I suggest keeping it simple. For senior pictures, the more natural the look, the better, and here’s why. 

When it comes to makeup, shine is the enemy. Makeup that contains glitter, such as lip gloss, eye shadow, and blush, may look great in person, but on camera, the flashes create white spots and will make skin look grainy and uneven. 

Stick to more natural tones. Trust me, the photos will turn out much better. Make sure your senior brings their makeup along with them, in case it’s needed for touch-ups. If you have questions about using a certain product or if you’d like a recommendation on a local makeup artist, I’m always here to ask and consult! 

A female senior stands in the road smiling. Capture Life Photography's senior portrait checklist will ensure your senior is prepared and confident at their session!

#3. Plan Your Senior Photos Wardrobe

Choosing your wardrobe can be one of the most challenging parts of preparing for senior photo shoots, but it doesn’t have to be if you plan ahead. Your senior’s outfits should reflect their tastes and who they are. I suggest picking out two outfits for a mini session and four to five outfits for a classic session.

Encourage seniors to pick outfits that show their unique style. For example, student-athletes can bring their uniforms or letterman jackets as a few outfit choices. It’s great for them to wear something that reflects their hobbies and interests, and casual outfits as well as semi-formal. 

Pro tip – Suggest they wear colors that match the season of their shoot:

  • Spring/Summer: blue, red, yellow, pink, purple 
  • Fall/Winter: reds, navy, dark green, and deep orange/rust 

When choosing outfits, try to avoid clothing with stripes, bold patterns, or big logos.  These can distract from their faces. Also, avoid flesh-tone colors such as white, tan, and peach. These colors can make subjects look washed out. When picking an outfit, stick with darker, solid colors, and always make sure your senior tries them on ahead of time. 

A female leans against a tree, smiling. Knowing what clothing and accessories to wear at their session helps ensure senior portraits turn out great!

#4. Don’t Forget Accessories

Seniors should select accessories for each outfit they bring. Simple jewelry, like the rings they wear every day, or their watch is perfect. They could bring simple hair accessories as well. A small clip or flower adds a little fun to portraits. 

For seniors wearing necklaces, make sure they are not large or distracting. This, again, could pull focus away from their faces. If a necklace is too bright or sparkly, it could again add white spots to your photos. 

One last thing to remember when it comes to accessories is shoes. When seniors are selecting shoes for their outfits, check to confirm they are clean and that they’re wearing matching socks. These will show up in full-body photos.

A female high school senior with long hair sits on a step. Hair styles are an important element when planning for your senior portraits.

#5. Stick With Tried and True Hair Styles

Hairstyles may just be the second-most stressful aspect of senior photos. While it may be enticing, now is not the time for seniors to try a wild new trend. Instead, encourage them to wear one of their typical hairstyles. 

I suggest that seniors with shorter hairstyles get a cut or trim one week before the shoot so that it looks fresh, healthy, and clean. If a stylist will be doing your senior’s hair on shoot day, however, a cut may not be necessary. When working with a stylist, I suggest scheduling a practice run so that you’ll know exactly what their hair will look like for their senior photos. 

A beautiful fair skinned senior smiles for the camera. Capture Life Photography doesn't advise tanning before a photoshoot.

#6. Skip Tanning Beds or Treatments

As I mentioned earlier, a natural look is best. Don’t overdo it on tanning! It’s common to get a little color in the summer when many senior photoshoots take place, but I don’t recommend seniors try to achieve a perfect tan right before their shoot. They risk dealing with peeling at the time of their photoshoot, or worse, a bright red nose!

#7. Check Your Fingers and Toes

Something that may not have crossed your mind is that hands will often show in photos. I suggest making sure fingernails (and toenails) are trimmed and neat for the photoshoot. 

If your senior is going to wear any sort of polish, I suggest a simple style with a color that will complement their outfits, and again, isn’t glittery. Getting nails done the day before the session will reduce the chances of them getting chipped or broken!

#8. Bring Meaningful Props

Adding props to a session is a great way to add some fun to senior pictures. After all, they don’t have to be completely serious! These photos represent seniors and their personalities. If you’re adding props to your photos make sure they are meaningful. For example:

  • For student-athletes: sporting equipment.
  • For musicians: instruments or sheet music.
  • Other hobbies: cars, flowers, signs, balloons. 
  • You can even bring a favorite portable piece of furniture, such as a lightweight chair or stool.
  • Pets: Dogs, cats, horses! Just talk to me in advance, please! 

A senior in her cheerleading uniform walks in the distance as the photo focus is on her gear on the ground. Bringing props related to your senior's activities adds a personal touch to your graduation photos.

#9. Avoid Glasses Glare in Your Senior Photos

One of the downsides to taking photos with glasses is the glare. Similar to the shine from glittery makeup, the glare from glasses can be distracting and potentially ruin a photo. However, there are a few simple solutions to this. 

One solution is to buy/borrow a pair of suitable frames without the lenses. If you want to keep your glasses in the shot, you can also go to your local optician and have them remove the lenses temporarily. Most will do it for free with enough of a heads-up. 

If these aren’t viable solutions, be sure to have your lenses spotless and we’ll do some creative posing to avoid glare. Anti-glare lenses are preferred and under all circumstances, no transition lenses should be worn.  

#10. Don’t Worry About Braces and Blemishes

Blemishes are part of the high school experience. Many seniors have them! However, if you’re worried about how they’ll appear in photos, talk to me ahead of time and we can discuss editing options. If you aren’t comfortable smiling with your braces, let’s discuss this before your shoot. 

Braces or not, don’t forget to brush your teeth and floss as well. Also, I suggest guys plan for a fresh, close shave on the face and neck.

#11. Have a Friend or Family Member Come Along

I always recommend having a parent or a sibling accompany seniors to their shoots. They can be go-to snack and water dispensers, makeup and hair fixers, outfit suggesters, moral support, and most importantly, help seniors to relax. Friends and boyfriends or girlfriends can be a bit of a distraction, so it’s best to keep it to just family.

Watching your son or daughter have their senior portraits taken is a special experience for parents, and a time to reflect and celebrate your child!

A mom smiles with her senior son during his portrait session.

#12. Relax!

Most importantly, I want everyone to have fun during this experience. Senior photos are about capturing seniors at this moment in their lives, they and their loved ones can look back on fond memories.

We’ll start by chatting and getting to know each other. I promise there will be lots of laughter! A natural smile is the best thing to see in portraits.

#13. Scheduling Your Senior Photos

It’s never too early to book your session! That way, we can brainstorm ideas and create the best senior photos experience possible. Booking early helps you avoid the stress of getting photos turned into the yearbook on time. Plus, you’ll get a jump on distributing individual photos to friends and family!

I hope you found these tips helpful! With a little planning and preparation, senior photoshoots can be a fun and memorable experience for all involved. Contact me to book your session today!

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