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How to find a senior photographer in Northern Virginia

Trying to find a senior photographer? Confused about senior photos – where to have them done, when to have them done? What does a senior photographer really do? It can be really confusing to find a senior photographer because you have a LOT of options. Which will make comparing your options really, really, hard.

We’ll cover the following:

  1. Why do you need senior pictures?
  2. Who to use for senior pictures?
  3. What time of year will you have senior photos done?
  4. Where will you have your senior portraits done?
  5. What will you do with your senior photos?
  6. What will you want to consider in a photographer when look to find a senior photographer?

First – why do you need senior pictures?

Great question! Senior portraits are a self esteem builder, a chance to feel amazing at a time when there are so many adult decisions to be made and most teens at this age are anxious and stressed.  Finding the right photographer is key to giving them a chance to feel amazing and get results that you will all love looking at for years to come. Images they can look at and see how amazing they are, and that bring back fun memories of having the photos done and how great they felt in the process. It’s not about playing model, or spending a fortune. Senior pictures can be as simple as a great yearbook photo, or as elaborate as a journey to another state for an ultimate senior portrait excursion.

Most people go for some great images to have in their own, a beautiful wall portrait or storyboard from the images, maybe a book of all the great photos if they have a few outfits, and some images for grandparents. And you don’t have to travel to Europe or a faraway island to make that happen, LOL!

But you do have to figure how a little bit about what you want, to find the right photographer.

Asking yourself all of these questions and more will help you find the photographer that will give you what you want in the end.  Results you want, and a session that is fun, dynamic, and memorable.

It’s a big decision because these are important images.  The last school photos.  Images you really want so you can keep these memories daily when they go off and start new oppotunites independly, possibly far from home.

Let me tell you some things to think about before you talk to anyone about senior photos — give these things some thought, then start emailing or calling possible photographers.

find a senior photographer senior pictures

Who to use for senior pictures?

You have choice in this quest to find a senior photographer. The school will most likely automatically send you information about booking with their photographer. But in most cases, you do not HAVE to use their photographer. Some schools want their photographer to do the yearbook photos (tux or drape photos), but some will even allow you to go to another photographer to those done. So be sure to know before you use the “contracted” photographer – there are a lot of other options. But here are your three choices for who to use for senior pictures.

  • The School’s Contracted Photographer – Your school has a contracted photographer that will be available to take formal and casual photos, either in the school, or at another location they may offer.  Some schools require you to use their photographer for the official yearbook image (tux/drape) on  either an assigned date, or available make up dates.
  • A friend with a camera – Because photography is so popular, there is usually an assortment of friends with cameras who are eager to take photos for a small fee or even for free.  Most are either enthusiastics, or budding future professional photographers. This can be an option for some, but make sure you know their level of photography skills so you know what to expect from the results.
  • Independent Professional Photographer – An independent Professional Photographer will have specific session type offerings, a price list of products they offer, have local licenses needed to be in business, carry professional liability insurance, and have some level of experience working with this age group to know how to handle any situation that may come up. Some may have studios of their own, and others may work out of public or fee based locations. Not everyone with a website is a “business”, so know what you are paying for before you give someone money.

What time of year will you have senior photos done?

  • Summer before Senior Year– While heat and/or humidity may be a factor depending on where you live, this is typically the most flexible time of year for those with busier schedules, sports, work or other activities. Before school starts can be a plus for the busy senior.
  • Fall or Winter of Senior Year – Fall is the most popular time of year for outdoor portraits, so if you decide upon this season be sure to book your session early.  Your photographer can help make suggestions on the best times of day .  Because of daylight savings time, it is possible that an early dismissal school day might be needed.
  • Spring before Graduation – Incorporating your cap and gown and/or your new college spirit wear into your session is really popular.  If you decide upon a summer or fall session, inquire if you can have a mini session in the spring too to get these last few important photos to tell the story of your senior year.

Where will have your senior portraits done?

Some photographers only work in public locations. While some public locations offer interesting backdrops, consider the lack of privacy you might have, limited options for changing clothes, and if there will be fees to be paid to use the spaces. (Specifically in our area, be cautious about anyone willing to work in national parks without permits or fees they pass on to you – national park areas are permit based locations only and they require permits & fees to be paid for all photography to be done. Without permits being acquired ahead of time, there are federal fines that can be levied if you are approached by park rangers.)

While not all locations require permits, you will still want to consider how you will around the areas and how you will change clothes to stay as neat and “tidy” as possible for best results in your images.

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  • Public Park/Common Areas – Some public parks  or common areas are good options if you can find a comfortable place to change clothes and will feel relaxed in the public setting while being photographed.  If feeling uncomfortable or “on display” is a concern, look for a more private location.
  • Fee Based Locations – Many national parks, historical locations and /or private garden areas offer their facilities to photographers and individuals on a fee or permit based program.  Most will need a reservation and the fees paid in advance.  Rescheduling can be tricky if you need to make an appointment or change due to weather.
  • Personal Location – Maybe around your own home?  Or a friend’s home?
  • Private Park – If your photographer has their own private outdoor area they use, ask what it includes.  Are there multiple areas for different backdrops?  Nature, textures such as different walls, floral areas, “sets” etc.  Are there outdoor changing rooms?  Can you move around the areas easily and comfortably, and quickly to save time in your session? Make sure there are enough options, and even consider asking for a tour. Check out my personal portrait park in this video – Portrait Park
  • Indoor Studio – indoor studios offer more creative lighting options, fun and funky backdrops.  Some can offer a chance to take, or re-do a yearbook photo. Indoor studio  sessions aren’t  all “old school” any more! See how much a new modern indoor studio can offer with advanced lighting techniques and options to even add to an outdoor session.
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See my modern indoor studio video HEREhttps://youtu.be/oAqWUKWNS7M

What will you do with your senior photos?

You have to think about three people to please with senior photos: The senior, the parents, and the grandparents. Ideally, you have a photographer that works to get all of these people happy in one session. While the senior might want to do something fun and adventurous, even modern and cool, grandparents want a picture of the senior smiling at the camera. So finding the right balance in a session, and a photographer is ideal to keeping everyone happy.

There are a lot of great options for what to do with the images that you will have after a session. Custom books are a very popular item for my clients as every one is different you can get a lot of images in one book. You can even add on the digital files and have both something to look at all the time, and something to share online.

Wall portraits and storyboards/collages are another really popular item from senior picture sessions. Some photographers even help you select the right size photo for your walls using specific software to give the correct ratio for your images, and can even offer framing of your wall portraits so it’s as simple as a nail in the wall for you!

Digital files for printing or sharing, desk prints, and more are all options from your senior photo session also.

what to do with senior photos custom book

What will you want to consider in a photographer when look to find a senior photographer?

When you are actually looking to find a senior photographer, consider these things with each person you find:

What is their style?

  • Will you be relaxed and feel confidant that they will give you images you’ll love?  
  • Will they work WITH you to create a fun and relaxed session for YOU?
  • Will they work to incorporate YOUR personality, YOUR interests?
  • How do they handle retouching of images? (not all photographer actually hand retouch your images for skin and hair, blemishes, etc. Be sure to ask what they do and if they say they “edit” the images, ask what that means because everyone defines that differently)

Where do they work?

  • Will the options for location(s) give you what you want for your images?  
  • Will the backgrounds compliment what you want in the end?  
  • Will the location be comfortable for you during the session ?  
  • Will there be enough variety in the area to give you lots of options?

How do they work?

  • Do they have different session types to give you what you want – i.e., highlight a sport or activity, or maybe only a couple casual outfits? 
  • Do they have experience to help you find comfortable & appropriate poses, angles, & expressions?
  • Do they offer consultations to help you prepare?  
  • Do they offer printed products, or only digital files?  
  • Do they have liability insurance just in case?  
  • Do they have all the equipment for any scenario with lighting, fast moving subjects, etc?

Why do they do what they do?

  • Why are they working with this age group?  
  • Are they full time,  part time, or just a hobbyist?  
  • Do feel comfortable with them as a business person?
  • Do they love their job?

You can, and should, ask to meet your photographer before your session – either virtually, or in person.  The connection between the photographer and the subject is a big one. Your senior should be completely comfortable so they can relax and truly love the experience. Some of that happens when they know they are in “good” hands, but the little details matter.

So, now you are ready to find a senior photographer! I hope you’ll consider what I offer for senior sessions – with a start on my senior session page HERE.

I truly hope this page helps you in some way. I also hope you’ll reach out to me with questions – helping you find a senior photographer is important to me because I always want my clients to know their options. I think I have a great offering, but I know I am not the photographer for everyone. So take your time, see your options, and enjoy the process!

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