Every year, high school and college seniors across the country don their favorite outfits and get their senior portraits taken. Since we've been printing senior portraits since 2004, we get a first-hand look at the trends of senior photography. To get a better sense of just what seniors today are doing, we asked a few senior photographers on what senior portrait photography looks like in their state:
"Senior photography was not a thing when I started my business in Northern California five years ago. There were a few local photographers who offered it (in addition to everything else they shot) but no one had a dedicated senior portrait business. And initially I was worried about specializing in this niche: what if everyone was truly content with the basic studio shot that all the seniors got for their yearbook picture? It took a few years to educate my client base about exactly how wonderful on-location senior portraits can be. Now there is definitely a culture of celebrating graduation with a photoshoot and I have clients tell me they've been looking forward to this for years."
"So many high school seniors in my area don’t even realize that taking photos with a photographer other than the one their school provides for a yearbook portrait is an option. I’m always so excited when seniors take the initiative to capture more creative portraits that actually capture the essence of themselves, and aren’t just formal studio portraits! The most popular locations include by the beach or at a local park, and we usually shoot two outfits."
"Because I am located near the beach towns in Delaware, a lot of my seniors want to use those locations for their senior sessions. Shooting on the beach is beautiful, but can become mundane if you don’t switch it up and make it unique.
Instead of going with the typical white dress, switch it up and help your senior choose something unique to wear. Like a multi-colored boho dress or romper with lots of accessories, like hats, bracelets, and necklaces. Or even try photographing your senior in a colorful look at a local beach surf shop or on the boardwalk. My seniors typically follow what they have seen their friends do for their sessions, so why not switch it up?
I feel like senior portraits have changed drastically from what they were years ago. Now they are a little more fashion forward and editorial-inspired. If you want to make it in the senior industry as a senior photographer, you must really set yourself apart by creating unique imagery. The seniors are wanting their images to look more like magazines and what they see influencers/content creators post.
Part of that is because they see so much of that type of imagery on the various social media platforms. I have noticed in the past couple years that seniors don’t post a whole lot of content on Instagram anymore and if they do, it’s an occasional photo of them with their friends, but not too many of their professional photos. They are spending a lot more time on TikTok and Snapchat."
"A lot of my seniors come to me for fun and adventurous sessions. They always tell me they want something unique, which is understandable! That is just what I do. Georgia has a wide variety of scenery and being in middle Georgia we have access to beaches, mountains, lakes, creeks, trails, woods, waterfalls, and cityscapes all within a short drive away."
"Here in Iowa, seniors are fearless and adventurous. A senior girl raises cattle and leads the dance team... so my senior sessions are exciting! I get to shoot with 1,000 pound animals, wade in the river, capture the sunset on a dirt road, walk a cow on the beach but also capture street art and cityscapes!"
"Senior photography in the New Orleans, Louisiana area used to be really traditional with cap and gown photos, but it's becoming more modern by the year with the use of props, custom caps and stoles, and smoke bombs or confetti! Incorporating the historical elements of the area like the French Quarter, Garden District, Cypress and oak trees with moss, and other landmarks allow for a distinct finish to the photos. Grads care more about the finished product than just taking pictures just because they graduated!"
"Senior photography is extremely popular where I work, especially for girls. Seniors are wanting those casual outside photos instead of the regular yearbook graduation photos. They want unique outside locations paired with their unique outfits that fit their personality. You'll especially see girls posting their senior photos on social media to let everyone know that it's their senior year.
I am seeing more trends of seniors having a casual outfit then changing into their cap and gown for a few photos or a more dressed up look. I notice that, if it is a girl wanting photos done, they typically contact me themselves. But if it is a guy, their mom is contacting me because, let's face it, boys are not fans of photos but those mommas want them done. I don't blame them; it is a special moment in their life that they want captured!
Since COVID, I have noticed that, since the in-school senior photos were either not happening, or you had to wear a mask, or couldn't wear the drape or couldn't hold props, seniors just weren't doing them or purchasing them. So, they'd come to me asking for casual photos with and without props plus with their cap and gown as well. I have had quite a few senior sessions where their entire family came to get a few group shots since they were not able to have an in-person graduation ceremony. I even did some graduation sessions at their schools, which I have very much enjoyed!"
"Senior photography in my area, although pretty popular, is also seen as an optional experience depending on the town. Many public school systems utilize quick studio services for yearbook photos and IDs; however, those who are in search of a more memorable experience often gravitate to photographers like me. I rarely shoot seniors from December through March, and my busiest season is between August and November.
For locations, I tend to shoot outside of the city. Lots of state parks and New England-esque architecture in my area are practically made for autumn photos! Seniors here gravitate to rustic architecture and colorful nature backgrounds.
With social media dominating our everyday lives and being a young person myself, I definitely notice the preference of shareable, striking imagery over the traditional senior portrait your parents may want to hang in the living room. And, don’t get me wrong: I always make sure to get a few of those timeless compositions in my sessions, but my style leans more towards the creative side. I prefer to let my seniors be themselves, try out any ideas they have in mind, and naturally fall into the interpretive prompts I give them. I do pose them here and there, but my goal is for them to look at their finished portraits and feel confident about who they truly are. If they’re not into silly poses, I won’t make them do silly poses. If the traditional posed sitting portrait doesn’t make them feel like themselves, I won’t force them to do that either. I’m all about highlighting the energy that’s already there when I meet them and eventually spark a conversation about who they are and what they’re passionate about in life.
To me, the senior experience is all about celebrating who you’ve been, who you are and who you are becoming. Highlighting that through vibrant imagery and getting to meet so many bright, young people in the process is my passion."
"Senior photography is a big part of my business. Most of my seniors book the spring before their senior year. We usually do a couple of different locations and I encourage multiple outfits so that they get a variety of different looks. I enjoy incorporating things that really show their interests and personalities - a homecoming crown, a fishing pole, a letterman jacket or jersey... They are so much more at ease when they are able to show me the things that have represented their high school experience, and they photos are so much more meaningful for them."
"One of my favorite things about working in a rapidly growing city like Raleigh is that I get to see the minute, yet game-changing, shifts in the industry.
When I first started, senior photography consisted mostly of marketing to parents and advertising products over experience. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! That being said, it’s so encouraging to see how photographers in the area are offering experience-centered sessions, diversifying their pricing and availability to reach more demographics. In translation, that means that more students can afford senior portraits and more families can have images to keep. And I’m all for that, 110%."
"Senior photography in North Dakota is definitely a milestone for a high school grad. Our season for outdoors is limited with summer being most popular. I try to offer my seniors an experience with professional stylized hair & makeup, behind the scenes video, multiple locations, and 4-5 outfit changes. Seniors want images to post on their Instagram that are lifestyle and candid but also want to feel like they've walked off a cover of a magazine."
"Senior portraits are very popular in the Newport, Rhode Island area with the busiest time of year being late July through October. Living on Aquidneck Island, many seniors choose to have their photos done on the beach with fewer choosing a more rustic/farm style background. These days, everyone seems to go for an outdoor location over a studio session. They tend to like a little variety in their clothing and will normally choose 2-3 outfits for their photoshoot. Most schools in my area allow seniors to use these photos in the yearbook, which is part of what makes senior portrait sessions so popular!"
"Senior photo sessions are quite popular here in Utah, especially with senior girls. Senior guys are more often encouraged by friends or parents to agree to a photoshoot. But the girls typically come with several changes of clothes, ranging from casual to dressy, and really love to show off their style and personalities. Caps and gowns are sometimes brought along, but not always.
Most seniors choose to wait until spring of their senior year (sometimes even just a few weeks before graduation) to take their senior pics. The majority want an outdoor location with color... mountains, apple orchards, urban wall murals, and wildflower fields are the most popular choices. Depending on the weather, seniors will occasionally request a charming natural light studio, or perhaps a local greenhouse. But outdoor is definitely more in demand."
– Bev Robinson Photography // @bevrobinson_photography
"Senior photography in Vermont is always an adventure from climbing the highest mountain peaks to shooting urban graffiti in the city. I love the unique ideas Vermont seniors want to create to remember their time in high school."
What does senior photography look like in your state? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks to Sarah Leying for the image at the top of this post!