4 Wardrobe Tips & Ideas For Timeless Senior Portraits

senior picture outfit ideas

Photographer Sal Cincotta knows his way around a portraiture shoot — but his wife, Taylor, knows her way around a wardrobe rack. Together, the award-winning pair have shot hundreds of seniors portraits that delight both the subjects and their parents. The key, says Taylor, is being able to pick perfect outfits for each shoot.

In all likelihood, your senior is going to be bringing a pile of outfits that they really like. It’s your job, as the photographer, to pick through what they’ve brought and pull out the outfits — usually three to five, depending on the length of the shoot and the package that they’ve selected — that will be not only flattering, but also diverse enough to enhance your sales and please both the senior and her grandparents.

To cut down on the time it takes to select those looks — and to make sure you’re picking the best possible wardrobe — here are Taylor’s top tips.

Know the trends for senior picture outfits.

“Pick up Vogue,” says Taylor, “read magazines.” If you’re not on top of which trends are currently popular with teens, it’s going to be a lot harder to help your senior style their shoot in a way that they’ll love. This is especially important when the hottest trends aren’t particularly photogenic, or if they’re going to be way too dated in just a few years.

“I know that big, baggy shirts are in,” Taylor explains, “and I know that they look horrible on camera. So I won’t pick those.”

Knowing ahead of time which trends don’t photograph well, or which you know date the photo, can help you explain to your subject why their favorite outfit might not be the best. But sometimes, it’s ok to let them try a few shots in a not-great outfit, so long as you know you’ve got backup.

Worst is first.

If your senior is set on a look that you know just won’t work, shoot that outfit first.

“When they start out with their photoshoot, we know they’re so nervous,” Taylor explains, “so we pick the worst outfit to start with, since we know we’re not going to get a lot out of it.”

Similarly, if there’s an outfit that you know is going to be a stunner, save that one for last. That way, your senior will be super-comfortable and the photos will come out more natural.

Be diverse.

Taylor emphasizes that “you want to make sure you have a range of styles.”

“You don’t want to have everything dressy or everything casual, because that’s going to hurt your sale.”

For senior girls, opt for one look that’s got jeans or another casual look, one in-between look like a cotton sundress, and one formal or cocktail dress. For boys, look for jeans and a t-shirt, something a little nicer, like a button-down, and then a suit or a blazer with slacks.

Ask for a solid.

Taylor and Sal always request that their seniors bring at least one solid black or white shirt.

“It’s a failsafe,” explains Taylor. Teenagers are unusual creatures, and there’s a good chance that they’ll show up to the shoot with some pieces that you just can’t make look good on camera.

“We don’t pick a lot of patterns,” says Sal. “Patterns, to me, date the picture. We don’t want to date the photograph.”

Senior portraits can be very important to both the subject and their family, and as the photographer, it’s up to you to make sure that it’s a great experience for everyone involved. By being firm about which looks work best on camera, while still keeping up with which trends seniors love, you’ll be able to pick outfits that will look great in the photos and make your customers happy.

Are you ready to learn how to take powerful portraits using your mirrorless camera? Join professional portrait photographer Miguel Quiles as he walks you through using your mirrorless device to capture stunning portrait images. Watch for free on November 3-4!

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.