I love building relationships and telling their story through photography! From newborn, to their annual family session, to graduating from high school…I love to be there to capture it all. My clients have become extended family and most have become good friends over the years. When I am not shooting, or obsessively working to improve my craft, I love to read, hang with my kids & hubby, watch movies, hike, sing at the top of my lungs in the car with my daughter, and drive from pool to pool with both my kids as they both pursue their dreams to be olympic swimmers.
Choosing a location
Choosing a location for a high school senior session is like creating a plot for a story. The location sets the mood and tone of the session. It helps portray who the senior is as an individual; what is unique about them and communicates their personal style. From a crumbling brick wall to a field of yellow flowers, the background helps to tell the story. So how do I choose the location for my senior sessions? First, by asking a set of questions. Their answers (both by the parent/s and the senior) provide the information that helps me decide the best location to tell their story.
The typical conversation with the parent starts with a question; tell me a little bit about your son or daughter? By being quiet and listening, I start to get a good idea of the individual that I am going to photograph. I follow this up with more questions. What kind of music does your son/daughter listen to? What does your son/daughter do in his/her free time? Are they into sports, art, dance, acting, surfing or other unique activities? What is their personal style? Are they modern, preppy, classic, hipster, skater, surfer, earthy or something in between? It is so important to know about the subject as an individual, so I can capture who they are at this moment in their personal history.
Once I start to get a feel for my client, only then do I start to discuss location, clothing and everything else involved with a Blue Sky’s Senior Session. In addition to talking with the parent(s), I find it is really important to chat with the senior in detail about their session. What are they hoping to accomplish in terms of their portraits? I often ask them to use Pintrest or look at magazines. Take pictures of images that they like, so I can get a feel for what they are looking for. It is important to get a balance between what the client wants (which is ultimately the parents) and what the student wants from their images. I strive to capture images that will please the whole family.
Next, I provide the client with a whole list of popular locations that are perfect for senior photography. Then, I try to influence them to choose the location that will best achieve their “look”. If their son/daughter is a skateboarder, I usually suggest an alley setting with a more urban environment such as a graffiti wall. If their son/daughter is a musician or into vintage clothing, I might suggest an outdoor amphitheater or an old coffee house. In addition to an outdoor location, many of the sessions start in my natural light studio. I have old distressed doors, brick and other rustic backdrops that work great for seniors. Not to mention a beat up / rusty vintage truck in my parking lot that looks amazing in photographs. I also find that because I can easily control the lighting, my studio is the best location to get beautiful head-shots.
I’m always keeping an open mind and scouting locations that will support the storyline. In Laguna Beach, California (where my studio is located) I have a lot of amazing places to choose amongst. I’m surrounded by the ocean, open fields, beautiful parks, great architecture as well as edgy urban spots. I always ask both the senior and the parent(s) for input. Often time seniors know some amazing spots that I haven’t even considered. Remember being that age? Always, a few special spots!
If location helps create the plot of the story, the clothing is definitely a supporting character. I love fashion and it is one of the reasons I love senior photography. I explain to my senior clients that this is your opportunity to look like a model for the day and that clothing and accessories are an important component to the overall collection of images that we produce. I have a shooting wardrobe that they can use, along with tons of accessories, but ultimately every session needs to look and feel different and be a reflection of that senior as an individual. This is best achieved by incorporating their own personal style. Prior to coming to the session, I suggest that they lay out several outfits (a typical senior session includes 3-5 looks), and take a picture with their phone and text it to me. This way I can give them input and make suggestions; whether it be additional accessories, layers, shoes, etc.
On the day of the session, the senior and his/ her parent(s) meet me at my studio. We lay out all of the clothing/accessories and decide which location we will use for each look. I start with a few shots in my studio with natural light using bookends for fill light and then proceed to the location of their choice. My preference is that everyone rides together in my van. This way I can bring additional vintage furniture and other props as desired and get some more (and valuable) bonding time with the senior. Throughout the session, I’m combining natural light, reflectors and scrims with off camera flash to provide a number of looks that give their images variety and uniqueness.
What’s the ultimate objective? Simple. Provide each senior with a coffee table book or custom designed album that is special and unique which they can enjoy over the years and share with family and friends. The Senior Photography Session is one of a few opportunities to document a young adults life as they enter adulthood. Ultimately, I want it to be special, personal and unique. I want them to love the entire experience as much as I love photographing them.