Capturing the Formality of Senior High School Portraits

Senior high school portraits are typically more formal than other types of school portraits. These portraits are designed to bring back memories of the journey the student had during their high school years. They also serve as a way to capture a defining moment. It's the moment when a child becomes an adult by most American standards. While the pictures can be fun, most people prefer the formal pictures. Here are a few ways you can take more formal portraits.

Materials Needed

  • Backdrops
  • Change of clothing
  • Time

Step 1: Backdrops

A more formal portrait will require a formal background. A soft grey, dark green or blue will work best. Whichever kind of background you decide on, you want to be sure it doesn't take away from the subject of the photo. You can create a background by stretching some basic fabric over a large board or piece of cardboard.

Another option is to take some photos in a park. The natural setting can still be used for formal portraits. These portraits will look slightly more casual, but can still convey the important message a senior portrait should.

Step 2: Posing

The posing is important in conveying the formality of a senior portrait. The most popular pose is that when the senior is seated, shoulders and body at a slight angle, while they look directly at the camera. This helps create dimension in the photo, while keeping the important features in the photograph. Another popular option is to have the senior seated on the ground, knees up to their chest and face turned towards the camera. This is slightly more casual, but allows the photographer to get a closeup of their face without the issue of the squaring that can occur with straight on shoulder shots. If you decide to take photos outside, you can have the senior pose against a tree or next to a favorite item that represents a hobby. 

Step 3: Lighting

Lighting is important for formal portraits. If the portraits are going to be taken outdoors, it's best to take them a few hours after dawn or about an hour before dusk. This way the sunlight isn't harsh and overhead, minimizing shadows. Indoor photographs should use a flash that can be bounced at a higher than average angle. This will allow the light that bounces on to the portrait subject to remain soft without creating harsh colors, shadows or lines.

Step 4: Take Many Pictures

A high school senior portrait session can last as long as 3 hours. It's not a quick in and out like all other school photos are. This is because you will want to choose from many shots and capturing the emotion in the photos takes time and work. The photographer will likely want several outfit changes, many different poses and different backgrounds. Plan for this time accordingly. Be sure to have the cap and gown, as well as some formal and informal clothing available for the wardrobe changes.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: