The secrets of taking successful senior portraits

October 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

We have been lucky here in Aspen, Colorado and this fall season has been incredibly beautiful with dazzling golden leaves and snow covered peaks serving as the perfect backdrop for portraits.  This year, more than ever, I found myself photographing high school seniors that live in the Roaring Fork Valley.  I really enjoy working with this age group as they already seem to have a pretty strong sense of identity and style.  Before our scheduled portrait session, I tell them to dress in a way that best reflects who they are and something that they are comfortable wearing.  I always suggest that they bring more than one more top and change half way through the shoot so they have some more variety in the final images.

As I have children similar in age I appreciate the conversations that we engage in and once we start chatting about their year I can visibly see them begin to relax and feel comfortable with me.  As we live in a small community, I try and choose as many different locations as possible so all their portraits have a different feel.  If there is a backdrop that suits the personality of one of these young men or woman than I will gravitate to that location.  That is, if I have a skateboarder we’ll head to the skateboard park or if I have a ski racer we might use Aspen Mountain as the backdrop.  However, I use a shallow depth of field so that the background falls out of focus and only hints to the connection to the subject.  I always make sure that my senior fills the frame and is the focus of the image.  I find that my “go to” lens is my 70-200mm f/2.8 as it gives me that wonderfully blurred background but the senior is nice and sharp.

Evening is my favorite time to shoot as it’s cold in the mornings in the mountains and teenagers are much more awake in the evenings than the early mornings!  I like that half hour just before the sun drops or just after it dips behind the mountains.  If scheduling doesn’t allow for us to shoot during this magical hour then we just head to the shade to avoid the harsh and contrasty light of the mid-day sun.

I usually deliver about 50 lightly processed images and allow the senior to choose their favorite before fully processing and delivering the properly sized image to the high school.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with some wonderful senior boys and girls and it’s been a really fun fall portrait season!

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