So, you have a rising senior in high school and maybe you just got the “senior photo packet” from the school with information about getting a photo taken for the yearbook, but you have questions. “Do I have to use the photographer the school sent me information about for my senior’s photos?” “When should senior photos be taken?” Well, here are some quick answers and things to consider when scheduling your senior photos.
First, generally speaking, in Florida, the senior photo information packet that came home with your student is providing you with information you need in order to get their senior photo taken for the yearbook. While you do need to make an appointment and go to the big studio to get the yearbook photo, which should be free (paid for by the school), you are not obligated to use the studio for any other senior photos you may want or need. So, if you are interested in other photographers, you are free to use them. I encourage you to use a photographer whose style and images you like and are familiar with.
So, if you need senior photos, when should you get them? There really is no “right” answer to this (other than “get your yearbook photo by the deadline they give you”), but here are a few observations about the pros and cons of shooting them at different times of the year.
Summer before the senior year – If you choose this option, anytime during the summer works, but photographers are busiest just before school starts back.
Pros: This is usually when you are asked to get your senior yearbook photo taken, and it is often one of the most convenient times to schedule other senior photos as well. Your student is out of school, the family tends to have fewer fixed time commitments, college application deadlines aren’t competing for your student’s time, and they don’t have to worry about finals, AP testing, IB Testing, or graduation yet. All of these things compete for your student’s time and attention once school starts back. Also, the summer days are long, and, if you are hoping to shoot location photos, possibly with the family, it is possible to schedule evening photo sessions, after work, and still have plenty of daylight and beautiful sunsets. Many school yearbook deadlines for “parent ads” celebrating the seniors are in the Fall, so by taking care of your photos during the summer, you will have your photos in plenty of time to use them for yearbook ads, graduation announcements, holiday cards, and anything else you might need them for.
Cons: Families are often busy with travel, and students often have summer jobs to worry about. Also, your senior can change a lot physically in almost a year, so they may look different when they graduate than they did during the summer. Also, in Florida (and anywhere in the South really), Summer can be HOT. This doesn’t matter if you opt for an indoor studio shoot or an indoor location shoot, but it may matter for outdoor locations. Finally, if your senior is an athlete and wants to work the sport into his or her senior photos, it may be that they don’t have access to their uniform or equipment over the summer.
Fall Semester of Senior Year -
Pros: Generally the weather is cooler in the South, and, depending on your location, Fall can bring with it some really beautiful colors for outdoor shoots. If you schedule during the early Fall, school may not have ramped up enough to create test stress, and college applications may not yet be due. If they play a Fall sport, they may have access to their uniforms and equipment, which may enable them to be worked into some of the photos. As was the case with summer sessions, if you schedule during early Fall, you may be able to get the images back in time for yearbook ads and/or formal graduation announcements (many deadlines for these are before the holidays). Finally, some people will schedule senior photos around the holidays, taking advantage of some time off from school and, sometimes, taking family photos in conjunction with the senior shoot.
Cons: As you get later into the Fall of Senior Year, college application deadlines, the last round of SATs and ACTs and the final semester of grades that may count toward college admissions all add stress to the senior and family schedules. The focus and time required to meet these deadlines can push everything else out and make senior photos seem like a distraction, instead of the fun and personal celebration it can otherwise be. School sports may also compete for limited time in the family schedule, making it more difficult to find time to schedule and think about senior photos.
Pros: With many college application deadlines and the last semester of grades that might really “count” behind you, Spring is the time when many seniors really start to let down and enjoy their senior year. Early in the Spring Semester can be a great time to schedule senior photos because the weather in the South allows for wardrobe options that are not possible in the Summer or even through late Fall in Florida. If you time it right and know the right locations, spring foliage can make for beautiful backgrounds against which to shoot your portraits. And, again, athletes may have access to uniforms and equipment they might like to work into some of their images. While you may have missed the deadline for yearbook ads and formal graduation announcements, depending on when you have your shoot, you can probably still get your images back in time to use the photos for your own graduation announcements purchased through your photographer or, (if you purchased digital images and the appropriate digital rights) through Shutterfly, Tinyprints, or any of a host of other online card providers.
Cons: The Spring Semester of the Senior Year positively flies by. I speak from experience. If you haven’t scheduled the session for the early part of the semester (probably making the call to schedule sometime during or just before the holidays), you may wake up to find that it’s almost time for graduation. While this can be a very happy time for your senior, the latter half of the semester is filled with “senior days” at school, senior trips on weekends, and, as graduation draws near, finals, AP testing, IB testing, and graduation preparation. If you wait too long, you may not even have your images back in time to use them for graduation announcements. So, if you wait until Spring, get it done by March.
There’s no real mystery to scheduling your photos. Just get in contact with the photographer(s) you are interested in as early as you can to make sure you understand how they work, how and when they schedule sessions, and how they charge for their services. Most professional photographers have contact information, as well as information about their fees and examples of their work on their website(s). That is usually the best place to start. If you don’t know any photographers, ask other parents of seniors who they would recommend, and visit their websites to learn more about them.
Make sure you have familiarized yourself with examples of their work, that they routinely photograph high school seniors, and that you and your senior both like their “style” as evidenced by the work they display. How to choose a photographer, and what you should expect from them will be the subject of another post, but the process begins by reaching out to them via email or a phone call. Tell them you are interested in learning more about scheduling senior photos, and, if you don’t reach them directly, ask that they get back in touch with you. Make sure to leave a valid email address or phone number for them to respond.
If possible, schedule a time for you and your senior to meet the photographer prior to the shoot so you can get to know each other and learn about the photographer’s process. Even a short meeting can go a long way toward ensuring that your senior can relax during the shoot.
It’s not too early to start thinking about senior photos now. I already have several sessions booked for this summer for students who are still juniors at the moment, and I receive new inquiries every week. Start talking to your senior now, and take steps soon to get it on your (and your photographer’s) calendar.