Senior Portraits

Blast from the Past: Kara

Photographing Kara was a huge step for me. I had just started dabbling in family and child photography earlier in 2012, yet I knew my ultimate goal was magazine-style portraiture. However, I was shy and I had no idea how to direct clients. At all. My process was basic: I picked the place and helped choose an outfit, but when it came to actually photographing someone, I could not direct beyond some basic suggestions ("stand over here and look this way").

Kara is obviously beautiful and actually has great natural movement, which was the only reason I could get some nice shots of her back then. She was such a good sport, too! We drove to a battlefield near Fredericksburg, VA and parked near a field. In retrospect, I did a terrible job using all the great colors and spaces that were available nearby - but, again, live and learn. What I did learn that day was that trying new things is important in life and that fear is a terrible reason not to follow your dreams. Since then, I have photographed many women and my ability to direct them has gotten much better but had I not taken the first step that day, I would probably still be just as non-assertive as I was back then. 

How to Smile Naturally in Photos | Bangor, ME Senior Photographer

"I hate my smile in pictures!" Believe it or not, this one of the biggest concerns my clients have when they come in for a photoshoot.

And I totally get it, because I have so been there. In fact, when I get nervous, my lips and cheeks start twitching to such an extent that a careful observer might ask me if I am having a stroke. And once it starts, it's really difficult to relax and give what I like to call a "natural smile". While it is perfectly normal to feel a little self-conscious when the camera is turned to you, I have some tips for smiling more beautifully that my clients find helpful and I would love to share them with you!

bangor maine senior photographer
  • It all starts with a relaxed face. Many people (particularly women) tend to carry tension in their shoulders and mouth, so before you do anything else, focus on releasing that tension: drop your shoulders, look down with your eyes (or close them if you have to), and relax your face.
  • Now that you think you have relaxed your face, really relax it. That means drop the eyebrows, unclench that jaw, and relax those lips. You don't have to part them, but make sure they are not tense or tight. (This can be really tough when you're nervous and a photographer who is good at posing clients will know how to help you be less anxious during your shoot.)
  • Next, without tightening your lips, try smiling with your eyes. Look up (into the camera or in the mirror, if you're practicing) and, with soft eyes, lightly tighten the muscles around your temples, ears, and upper cheeks. This is probably the toughest movement to explain but once you get the hang of it, it's easy to do over and over again. You can try looking someone you like in the eye, and really trying to get a sense of what muscles you use to give a kind, attentive, and friendly look. Practice, and you will be able to engage the same muscles to look equally present and relaxed in your photos. 
  • Now, try gently adding a little smile on your lips. This is the second expression I guide my clients into. Everything is the same as before (soft eyes, relaxed face) but you add a little smirk in the mouth. This expression is great if you want to actually "be smiling" in your photos and is an excellent way to look friendly and approachable (one of my favorite expressions for senior photos and casual headshots). 
  • The key to achieving a seemingly spontaneous smile is to work through the previous progression all the way to a full smile. Start with a relaxed face, smile with your eyes, slowly add a lip smile, then break into a full-on smile (show some teeth!) without tilting your head back or closing your eyes. Try to have the photographer (whether it's a selfie or a friend snapping a photo with their phone) take the photo as soon as you smile - or, try to wait until the last second to smile - because the longer you hold your expression, the less casual it looks. 

I hope you find these tips helpful! In my studio, I carefully guide my clients through their expressions in order to get the most beautiful ones and while it might be harder to do this in a selfie or a casual photograph, with a little practice anyone can look relaxed and natural in a photograph! 

When is the Best Time to Schedule a Senior Portrait Session?

So you blinked and have a high school junior at home. Or perhaps you are a junior yourself - congratulations! Prepare for the next year to go by in a flash. You might not have even started thinking about senior pictures, but believe me - now is the best time to start looking around if you want to have your best pick of both photographers and dates. 

If you are reading this post chances are, you live in Maine. That means that unless your senior wants to be surrounded by snow and/or mud in their photos, January through April are generally off limits for outdoor sessions. You can still schedule an indoor session (most of my portrait clients have their photos taken in my studio so feel free to browse this website for ideas) but if you want green grass or golden fields, the earliest dates are in May or June. That is not to say that you should wait until May to book your session because if you want your pick of dates, you should be scouting out photographers as early in the Spring as you can. 

May and June are some of the best times of the year for senior portraits. Students are generally done with school for the Summer but not as busy as they are in their senior year, the weather is nice, and there are a lot of different options for beautiful settings. A lot of parents do not think to schedule a senior session so early in the year so this is a great way to beat the crowds, both in photography studios and in those coveted local photography hot spots.

July and August are also great months for senior photoshoots as far as weather and settings go. However, if your chosen photographer also shoots weddings, you might have a hard time scheduling your session with them. Many families also go on vacations so the opportunities and dates can be somewhat limited. Most schools in Maine start their school year at the end August,  and many yearbooks have a September or October deadline, so keep that in mind. 

September and October can be great month for photos, unless you have an athlete at home who is busy with practices. Wedding photographers, whose busiest days of the week are Saturdays, might have a hard time accommodating your athlete on the weekends. Photoshoots also have to take place earlier in the day which can further complicate scheduling, and the weather can begin to be tricky, particularly as October approaches. If you have waited this long and are not dealing with a yearbook deadline, however, you might be rewarded by backdrops of beautiful foliage. 

From November to February, outdoor sessions are much more difficult to schedule and have to be done quickly so as not to give your senior frostbite. Indoor sessions can still take place without problems, although if your photographer uses natural light (like I do), they have to happen at a specific time of day, such as in the morning or early afternoon. Your range of outdoor backdrops is very limited. 

If you have waited until now (March through May of senior year), you are cutting it very close to the line! If you want to wait for outdoor photos without snow and mud, you might not be able to order graduation announcements in time. Your senior will be busy with school assignments and activities, and sessions will be difficult to schedule. However, if you have procrastinated until now, you might be able to ditch the traditional senior portrait and instead plan a family photoshoot! This is a great way to capture your family together before your child heads off to college.