Outdoor Senior Portraits: 6 Tips And Tricks To Get Started

October 11, 2013

Outdoor Senior PortraitsWhether you’re already making money with your shutterbug skills or trying to build up your portrait portfolio, photographing high school senior portraits can be rewarding, both financially and professionally. Not sure where to start? Here are six steps for success!

1. Choose Locations Carefully: Always take time to communicate with the student before the shoot to learn what type of look he wants. Because many teens prefer outdoor portraits, scout out locations in your area before the day of the shoot. Look at parks, rural fields and public gardens for natural settings. For an urban vibe, explore abandoned buildings, cobblestone streets or parking garages with a city skyline in the background. If the student is an athlete, head to the playing field or court.

2. Control Your Lighting: Working outside can pose some lighting challenges. Unlike the controlled environment of a portrait studio, sunshine is a bit unpredictable. To give your senior a sparkle in her eye and reduce the shadows on her face, use a portable reflector. Or experiment with fill flash. In this simple technique you use an external flash (mounted on your camera) set at 1/2 or 1/4 to add a small pop of light. This works well for brightening faces tucked under baseball caps.

3. Have an On-Location Backdrop: Although Mother Nature has you covered for most backgrounds during your outdoor senior portrait shoot, take a few minutes to snap a few plain background shots. These might be required for the school yearbook. A collapsible reflector can serve as an impromptu backdrop; have a helper or the senior’s parent hold the black back or white front of a reflector behind the student’s head and shoulders.

4. Don’t Pose Every Shot: Senior portraits should capture the personality of the teen. Between posed shots, keep your camera handy for the unexpected impromptu antics that will surely happen. Your favorite shot might just be the baseball player adjusting his ball cap while standing on home plate, a ballerina lacing up her point shoes or the cheerleader doing a practice leap to warm up for the photo shoot.

5. Make a Quick Change: One of the most difficult tasks to achieve during outdoor senior portraits is the discreet clothing change. By planning ahead-and stopping at locations with public restrooms-you can solve this problem. Many public parks and small business districts have public restrooms where the senior can do a quick change or spruce up makeup. Suggest that your subject make easy changes, such as slipping a sweater over his lightweight shirt or by switching her jewelry or hair accessories.

6. Include a +1: Finally, make every senior portrait session unique. Try including a +1 for each senior you work with. Allow the teen do a few pictures with a best friend, a pet or a parent. Often these pictures become family favorites. Discuss this option when booking the appointment so the teen can make sure the +1 is available and ready to smile for the camera on the day of the shoot.

Do you have fool-proof tips for taking senior portraits outdoors? Please share them in the comments below!

Image Source: Morguefile