Tips for Senior Portraits

It sounds easy, right? Book your senior session with a photographer. Wear awesome outfits. Take perfect photos. Boom. Done.

Well, not exactly. Although taking senior pictures sounds easy, almost immediately after a parent books a session for their teenager, I start getting the questions-- What would be the best location? What kind of outfits should she wear? Can he wear a ball cap or is that a big no-no? Should we do fall? Spring?

If you have landed on this page, you are certainly not the first to ask these questions. Hopefully I can help! Below you will find my Senior Styling Guide, broken down to help you prepare (and rock!) your senior session.

tips for senior pictures cleveland, tn | Caitlin D. Photography


When deciding on your location, brainstorm places that maybe only you and your family have access to! Do you have an uncle with a huge farm and horses? A cousin with a lake house? A friend who owns a wedding venue? Access to a beautiful neighborhood garden or ball park? Choosing a personal location can make your pictures unique and special! One of my all-time favorites shoots was an engagement session where the couple had access to a friend’s farm. On it they had a meadow with beautiful flowers, a vintage tractor, a barn built in the 1800’s—seriously, it was surreal! Because they used their resources, they were left with beautiful, original pictures.

Have no idea? I always have locations in mind! What’s important though is to think of the style you are wanting to create—edgy? Bohemian? Classic? Casual? Considering your style will help you decide on a great location.

My suggestions:

- Edgy: Downtown—brick, concrete, fire escapes, parking garages

- Bohemian: Field, woods, water (bring a basket of flowers!)

- Classic/prep: downtown—brick, garden, street lamps, cute benches

- Sporty: local baseball or football field (I always prefer one that needs a little maintenance-- gives it a more vintage feel!), local high school, bleachers, ball park fence.

- Casual: park, lake, downtown

Session Time

The best time to start a session is either between 1-2 hours after sunrise and before sunset. Photographers tend to call this “the golden hour”. Its that perfect time of the day where the sunshine is soft and hazy rather than harsh. This light makes for skin color perfection and helps avoid harsh shadows that tend to happen mid-day. These two times are also perfect because who doesn’t love a sunrise or sunset backlighting a photo!

When planning out your time, use a sunrise/sunset calculator on the internet to get a good idea of when your session should start.

tips for senior pictures cleveland, tn | Caitlin D. Photography

Outfits (for girls)

Choosing the perfect outfit for senior pictures can be daunting! Do I wear a dress? A skirt? Pants? Should I be casual or dressy? Bohemian or classic? Seriously, a person can become overwhelmed quickly! So here are a few tips on dressing that will work for anyone:

Skip the sleeveless. Opt for shoulder coverage. Three quarter sleeves are my personal favorite! I cannot tell you how many times, even in my fitness prime, I have seen a picture of myself from a party or wedding and rather than my eyes moving to my smile, my hubby, how good my hair was looking—the first thing I notice is my arms! Often we tend to press our arms hard against our side, giving us unflattering results. It’s hard to remember to maintain a little distance between the arm and side over a two hour photo sess! Adding sleeves is an easy way to address this. Bonus points—bring a jacket or sweater! This is an easy way to add more variety to your session.

Avoid crazy patterns and go for a more neutral look! Earth tones, blush pinks, and creamy colors all look incredible on camera, especially if you are choosing a woodsy location. Busy patterns can distract from both you and the location you’ve chosen. Plus, if there is a problem with a photo, these colors make it much easier to edit.

Location matters when choosing your outfit! I recommend the following depending on your location

- Downtown: jeans/pants (or a jumper/romper), a cute top, and a jacket. Many times when in a downtown location, you will be sitting on concrete, leaning against brick, doing cute poses on fire escapes—wearing a pair of cute jeans will allow you to move more and bend your knees without showing too much to all the pedestrians! Mini-skirts will also look cute, but I would make sure you have a pair of jeans to change into.

- Field, meadow, woods: Flowy dresses! Think bohemian, ethereal, whimsical magic! Tulle and lace are perfect materials or a cute floral dress from altr’d state or a similar store. There is nothing more breathtaking than a sunset photo with a girl spinning in a dress!

- Water: Heading for the lake or river for your shoot? Go for a short dress or skirt! This way you can get in the water without getting soaked, especially if heading to another location after. If you don’t mind getting soaked, though, a long dress that flows and moves in the water can be gorgeous!

- Park: Blue jean miniskirts, jeans, or short dresses all look cute! Perfect for a stroll on the greenway or a sidewalk. Have a pup? See if a parent can drop of the dog for 10 minutes for a few quick pictures so you can have some sweet memories to take to college with you of you and your animal bestie.

tips for senior pictures cleveland, tn | Caitlin D. Photography

Outfits (for guys)

Depending on where you want your pictures to be, I would have two-three outfits. The first being something nice. Think church clothes. A navy blazer and khakis look great on a guy! Blazers really show off the shoulders and make the waist look leaner on any man. Outfit number two: casual. Are you a t-shirt and jeans kinda guy? Like something a little more preppy? Rock-it. Last, if you play a sport, bring that jersey! I usually recommend your uniform top and a pair of jeans on bottom.

Make-up and accessories

Go professional: If you have the resources, have someone do your make-up. Hiring a MUA will remove some of the stress of looking “perfect” and, of course, looks great on camera. Big bonus: if you decide to book your senior session with me, all Caitlin D. Photography senior clients receive 10% with Makeup By Lexi (@makeupbylexi) ! She’s an incredible MUA based in Cleveland.

Hair and nails: Make-up would be my first splurge option, but if you can swing it, think about getting your hair and nails done! I have found that I can be hanging at my house watching Netflix in pajamas, but if I have my nails done I still feel confident (bring on the surprise guests!).

Spray Tan: Skip it. I know that they can look so pretty in person, but on camera, spray tans generally give you an orange tint on camera, no matter how gently or professionally applied.

Jewelry: I love dainty jewelry. In fact, it’s almost exclusively what I wear—but for photos, consider larger earrings or necklaces since most small jewelry will not show up well in photos.


I generally don’t add many props to senior sessions as some can be a little dated, but here are a few things I do suggest:

Cap and Gown! If you already have your cap and gown, or can borrow from an alumni, bring it along with you. This is the perfect time to get a few pictures of you in your full senior gear in a beautiful location rather than when you are just walking across the stage.

Think about senior gifts. Do you want to give your grandparents something special? Maybe a teacher? Think of a cute quote or prop to bring that will make a unique gift.

Hats: I think hats are a perfect way to set off a particular style. Although I do not recommend them all the time, a felt hat in a field or a ball cap at a ballpark can really make a session.

Pinterest ideas: If you are like me, you’ve been on pinterest and already have a hundred ideas. Keep in mind, two hours fly fast! Try to limit cute pinterest prop ideas to just one or two so we have plenty of time to get all those other gorgeous shots of you!

I hope this helps. Now go rock that session! Visit my package page for more details on senior session with Caitlin D. Photography!

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