I want to shoot my kid’s senior portraits! How hard could it be? Intro: Planning

I hear this every so often, and even though I love shooting Senior Portraits (and am dirt cheap because I do this for fun), I always try to encourage people. I know, I know, the pros out there are saying “C’mon! owning a DSLR makes you a camera owner, not a photographer or an artist!” I get that and agree to some degree, but I think there are a few easy things that a parent can do to actually produce some senior photos that will make both of you happy, and honestly, the photos will mean a lot more to both of you.

This is the first post in a series – I currently have twelve topics planned, who knows how many it will really be, but I’ll try to cover most of the basics, and in fairly short and concise ways. These are not meant to be dissertations on photo technique or gear, but a series of simple, fairly short posts that build on each other to help you get better pictures.

As a parent that is taking this on, you have one distinct advantage over having someone else do it – TIME. Think about it. You have a few months to get photos of your senior. Unlike when you hire someone to do this, you don’t have to do it all at once!

To get started, the first thing you need to to is agree together that this is a project for both of you. This should not be a chore or something to cause division or bad feelings. Know that you will both not like all of the images, and agree to learn together.

…and start early. I can’t emphasize that one enough. If you wait until the last minute, save yourself the stress and heartache and find someone to take the photos for you. Seriously. This should be fun for both of you and bring you together. Your child is growing up, or has. This is a memory you want to be a pleasant one for both of you.

If you both think this is a good idea, sit down together, and make a list. Ask yourselves questions like “What backgrounds do we want? Something natural? Rustic? Modern? Urban? Is there a special place we would like as a background?”  and “What do we want the images to say about you? How do you want this photo to portray yourself or your family to others?” Are there specific shots you want? Do you want a shot in the varsity jacket, a particular uniform or with the clarinet or basketball? Write them all down.

I use a basic form for most shoots, and I get the answers in advance. That form is available for download here.

Also make a list of cool places you might want to shoot. Keep a notebook with you, and if you see somewhere in town, or at a park, or wherever, write it down. Look at friends’ photos, surf Pinterest, etc. Make a Pinterest board of ideas. It’s a terrific tool, and I suggest to all of my customers that they do that a few weeks ahead of our shoots, and I go in and review their ideas before we go out. I don’t promise replication, but absolutely promise inspiration.

Once you have a plan of shots and locations you want to try, again, be sure to write them down. Remember, you have the gift of time if you started early. Are any of those places better in the fall, winter or spring? If so, categorize them as such, and look at your calendar. Get at least one date on the calendar to begin this journey.

Planning is key. Make lists of places and particular types of images you want.

Next time we’ll discuss cameras… and no, you don’t need a high dollar, major league DSLR and a bag full of lenses to do this. With a little know how, most people could make nice portraits with a decent point and shoot, but we’ll explore that in the next post in the series.

Go shoot!


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