Here’s the good news for someone who wants to get started in high school senior portrait photography: You don’t need a studio anymore to be considered a professional photographer.

Is there any image, any pose, any lighting setup you’d normally do in a studio that you can’t do on location? No. Might it be easier and more convenient in a permanent studio location? Of course.

But the point is, you shouldn’t let your lack of a storefront studio location prevent you from pursuing your dream of professional portrait photography. It’s just not necessary anymore.

If you have the ability to set up a home-studio in your basement or garage go for it. That permanent location will give you more and easier options for studio-style portraiture. But I would advise against renting studio space.

If the choice is no studio or rented studio space – definitely skip the studio.


Seniors Love Outdoor Portraits

I love to work in the studio, playing with light and creating new and different backgrounds. But no matter how realistic my sets might look, no matter how perfect my lighting or natural the pose – studio portraits are obviously studio portraits.

Seniors love the natural relaxed look of outdoor portraits and they’re always more relaxed during the outside part of their session. The studio setting is my space, my designs, my backgrounds. But I don’t own the outdoor setting, it’s not contrived, they’re not in a space I created.

Yes, your subject is naturally more relaxed in outside settings, but you still have to work at it to create beautiful images. Let’s look at a few tips that’ll help you improve your outdoor standing portrait poses of seniors.


Tip #1: Pose Your Senior Interacting with the Background

While I certainly do full and half-length images in the studio, the inside environment lends itself to half-length and closer images. And while I, of course, do half-length and closer images outdoors, the outside environment, the background, and the foreground beg to be included in the image.

The image below is one of my all-time favorite outdoor senior girl image. Can’t take credit for the idea – she wanted to be in the fountain wearing her prom dress. Who am I to argue.

This next one is a love it or hate it kind of pose. I don’t know how many seniors, during their pre-portrait consultation said, “Don’t pose me hugging a tree.” And yet this girl specifically requested this pose. I agree wholeheartedly that’s it’s an overused pose that dates the image but again – if that’s what they want.



Tip #2: Look for Leading Lines

Incorporating leading lines in your image will definitely improve your composition. It adds interest to the image and leads your eye through the image.

This next image was always a favorite location. In an alley alongside a parking ramp structure. There are red plastic no parking signs on the face of each of those pillars so I have to keep the angle pretty shallow to eliminate them. More than once I ended up having to remove them in Photoshop if I wasn’t paying close enough attention during the shoot.

The railroad tracks in many of the gallery images provide natural leading lines that recede into the background. Just be careful using railroad tracks as a spot for portraits. I do believe it is actually a federal offense to trespass on railroad tracks. And of course every time I do the railroad tracks I always think of the opening scene in that movie Fried Green Tomatoes. SPOILER ALERT: (Kid gets his foot stuck under the rail, train comes, leg goes.)

This is another favorite image – albeit one I wish I could redo. The driveway in the distance curved to the right and then back left. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the entire curve in the initial image and what you see is all I got. But I like how the receding driveway lends a little mystery to the image.


Tip #3: Be Unpredictable

The wonderful thing about shooting digital is the ability to experiment – and the ability to further enhance your vision in post-processing. 

I liked the vertical lines of the concrete wall behind her and I wanted to accentuate her long legs. She’s standing on a trash can which enabled me to shoot from a naturally lower angle.


This next one is within the underbuilding drive-through lanes of the bank down the street. It had that mercury vapor lighting but these kids – brother and sister – were funky and fun and I thought they’d like it. They did.


Pretty green vines and nice red brick in a nasty back alley. Broken bottles and trash litter the ground and the whole area stinks. On this particular day in this spot, someone had parked this flatbed wooden wagon. Never miss a chance to take advantage of what will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had her jump up on the wagon, the light was perfect and that was that.


This pose was done one time with this girl. She was a naturally sassy poser and I’d worked with her before on either cheerleading or dance line pictures – I can’t remember which – so she was comfortable with me. I’ll admit this pushes the envelope a bit on sexiness and it’s not for every senior girl. Or senior Mom.


Tip #4: Color Harmony

Admittedly trying to incorporate color harmony – between your senior’s outfit and the background – in outdoor locations, is pretty challenging. But when you find it use it, because it’s magic.

Yes, I understand only a moron wouldn’t be able to incorporate color harmony in an outdoor image when the subject is wearing green but I’ve always liked this image.

She leaning on the fence that borders the railroad tracks you see in all those other images. The shrubs behind her are probably 20 feet away. I backed way up and zoomed out to 200 mm on the lens to compress the background. A wide aperture makes the shrubs nice and soft.

The glass blocks incorporate a little no-so-natural green in the image that pulls together with some of the greens in her top. A little saturation tool in Photoshop helps the glass blocks pop.

And these next two pull in flowers of a similar tone to that of the dress and top.


Tip #5: Show off Those Shoes

My wife and I have one son – no daughters – but I now have two granddaughters. The oldest is only seven but good grief she’s already infatuated with shoes! What is it with you women?

If your senior client has special shoes – make sure you capture a few poses that show them off. Take advantage of a pretty prom dress to show off sparkly shoes.


That’s all I got about outdoor standing poses for senior girls. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

What Can I Help You With?

Do you have questions? Do you need help with posing or lighting or equipment? That’s what I’m here for so please just ask. Shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able.

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