From clothes to camera, here’s the scoop on senior pictures

From left, GJHS senior Cassie Walker and her mom Brenda preview her senior protrait poses on the screen on the right as photographer Bambi Brady of the Galleria looks on.

Lights, camera ... smile!

High school seniors throughout the valley are whitening their teeth, gelling their hair and patrolling the mall for the perfect outfit as they prepare for that oh-so-special milestone known as senior portraits.

So paste on that grin and prepare to get down to business.

And remember: Don’t break the camera.


First things first: Decide where you want your pictures taken and who you want behind the lens.

Don’t base your decision on the price range of a studio’s picture packages so much as on the photographer’s style, said Bambi Brady, photographer and co-owner of The Galleria Art of Photography and Salon.

To get a feel for the kinds of pictures a photographer takes, visit their studio’s website. Studios often post examples online of the senior portraits they’ve taken for the sole purpose of demonstrating their style and abilities.


Studios usually require clients to book a session a few weeks before the shoot, although some can take pictures the same day, if necessary.

Morning and late afternoon slots are more popular and are usually booked months in advance, said Chad Mahlum of Lifestyle Photography.

While senior portraits are traditionally taken in the summer or early fall, consider other times of the year. Mahlum said that for some clients he has taken preliminary pictures to meet yearbook deadlines, then had the senior come back in the winter for an off-season shoot.


Here is a little trivia for you.

How do studios generally structure photo packages?

a) By time.

b) By number of poses.

c) By number of outfits.

d) All of the above.

If you answered “d,” you’ve earned a nice pat on the back.

Studios offer a variety of packages, and cost is based on a combination of time constraints, number of poses and outfit changes.

A package can cost anywhere from $80 to $1,500, and what’s included varies just as much as the cost. On the lower end, expect digital copies of the pictures on a CD. As the price increases, so do the size and number of the printed shots.

Be on the lookout for deals and discounts throughout the summer months. Many studios offer free graduation announcements, extra copies of wallet-sized pictures or a percentage off a package price for booking your shoot by a certain time or spending a certain amount.


Before you strike a pose, get to know your photographer. Most studios offer pre-picture meetings or phone calls to iron out the details of the shoot.

“We always have a consultation first, and it’s not just a meet-and-greet,” Brady said. “We brainstorm about the pictures and which poses they’ll respond well to, and we have them give ideas. We feed off each other and get our inspiration from them.”

This meeting is the time to speak your mind.

Do you want to be smelling the roses? Tell your photographer. Want to be jamming out to your iPod? Tell your photographer. Want to be nuzzling your pet guinea pig named Wallace? You get the idea. These are your senior pictures, after all.

“Nothing is too out there,” Mahlum said. “We want their sense of identity to come through. Senior pictures should be about them and who they are.”

In fact, photographers love to see a subject’s creativity show, said David Lester of Davis Photographic Group. “I would love to see more kids rope in what they love.”

If you want to add something that reflects who you are, but you aren’t sure how it would work out, mention it anyway. A photographer might be able to incorporate your idea. For example, Lester said he transposed one senior’s drawings to make them the background for his picture.

The pre-photo shoot meeting also is your chance to put in special requests for locations. Most studios are willing to send photographers out for location shoots, although some will tack on an extra fee. So if you want to have your picture taken as you plunge into a pool or ride your horse across your ranch, make sure your photographer knows. Plus, the ambiance adds to the picture’s effect of telling the world who you are.

If you realize during the consultation that you aren’t happy with your photographer’s style, let him or her know, Lester said.

“We have more than one photographer. If someone is happier with the style of one of the other photographers in the group, I’d be happy to pass them off,” Lester said.


Cue the classic parent-child fight.

Mom wants you to wear that brown frilly dress Great-Aunt Irma made you for Christmas and it resembles, well, we’ll let you imagine that.

You want to wear your skinny jeans with your new rockin’ heels.

Who will win this fashion feud?

Neither of you. And both.

“We encourage kids to wear something that’s true to them. Also, bring a ‘parent pleaser,’ ” said Miranda Gallegos, photographer for Mauch Photography.

And some outfits can please both mom and spunky senior, Lester said.

“We can match the setting to what they’re wearing. So if someone was wearing a winter formal dress, we can put them in a conservative setting and then take them outside for more of a fairy tale look,” Lester said.

Your photographer may recommend colors that bring out your features, and you can’t go wrong with long-sleeved solid colored tops. Jeans and T-shirts are always a popular choice, and a letter jacket makes for a traditional look.

What is the best way to choose an outfit? It’s simple. Wear what makes you feel good.

“Be comfortable,” Lester said. “Don’t feel uncomfortable, because if you feel uncomfortable, you look uncomfortable, and that’s reflected in the picture.”


In the time leading up to your photo shoot, take precautions so that on game day, you look like YOU.

Avoid dying your hair an unnatural color and molding it into a faux-hawk (unless you really wear one, regularly, of course).

If you think you must catch some rays, don’t fall asleep and turn tomato red, or get crazy tan lines, for that matter.

Don’t lose your front teeth in a freak hockey accident.

And girls, leave the Chuckles the Clown makeup at home. “Do your makeup like you’re going out with friends. Heavy, but not drastic,” Gallegos said.

Although this is a chance to go all out when it comes to beautifying, the goal of senior pictures is to capture you, just as you are at this step in your life.

You don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder why you look like you just stuck your finger in a light socket.


Although the focus of the pictures is the senior, parents should take more of a proactive role in the action than signing a check.

“We ask parents to be a part of the process. It’s a very emotional time for them,” Brady said.

Brenda Walker echoed that sentiment as she saw her daughter, Cassie Walker, through the experience.

“I wasn’t going to come to her shoot. This was going to be her thing. But I came, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it. Parents should be there,” Walker said.

Even though senior pictures are a rite of passage for the kids, it’s an important time for the parents as well, Mahlum said.

“Long term, parents are going to be the ones to enjoy them 20 years later. The kids are, too, but it’s the parents who will look at this at that time in their kid’s life,” Mahlum said.


Put your game face on and let your individuality shine.

“We encourage their personality to come out in the image,” Brady said. “We ask them to not just be the subject, but also an active participant.”

Your pictures may be taken in a variety of environments, Gallegos said. Most studios have a multitude of different settings, some indoor and some outdoor.

Your photographer will take an assortment of shots in order to please everyone involved, Brady said.

“We have the classic shots which are timeless, which is what the parents will always like to display in their homes, and then we have what the kids want, which is more trendy and more artistic. We make sure we have something for the family, the parents, the grandparents, who get the timeless pictures, and then we have something for the kids, which is more trendy and those are the ones they hand out to their friends,” Brady said.

A photo shoot can last anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours, so get those jaw muscles prepared for a workout. Plan on about 30 minutes for every outfit, Brady said.


Posing for the camera can be an intimidating experience, but there’s nothing to worry about, said Cassie Walker, 17, who will be a senior at Grand Junction High School in the fall.

“Have fun. Don’t be nervous about your clothes,” she said. “I was nervous that the pictures weren’t going to come out OK, but they did. It definitely was fun.”

Amelia Davis, a 2010 Palisade High School graduate, agreed.

“Don’t worry about them too much,” she said. “Photography is so advanced that they can get rid of blemishes. You’ll get a good picture no matter what.”

The process gets easier once the shutter starts clicking said Andr&233;a Rivard, a 2010 Central High School graduate.

“It’s easy to open up. It’s scary at first, but then you get in a groove,” she said.


About 3–4 days after you say “cheese” for the last time, your proofs will be ready for your viewing pleasure, although some studios can show you the unedited pictures immediately after your shoot.

Many studios will post your pictures to a password protected page on the web. You can alert family members to this private portal and supply them with the code so they too can be witness to your stunning style. This is the perfect time to show Great-Aunt Irma that picture of you in the brown frilly dress.

After deciding on your prints, let your photographer know what photos you want in what size according to your package deal. In about a week, you’ll have your prints and be on your way to handing out those wallet-sized photos to friends.


In this digital age of inexpensive cameras and Photoshop, even a novice photographer can take great senior pictures.

It’s a fact Chase Martin, a 2010 Fruita Monument High School graduate acknowledged when he decided to skip the studios.

“I didn’t want to pay somebody to do something I could do myself,” he said.

Bri Castellini, another 2010 Fruita Monument graduate, decided to have her father man the camera because she didn’t want to risk having an impersonal experience or end up with pictures that didn’t reflect who she is.

“Me and my dad could capture what it meant to be me better than studios could,” she said.

If you are looking to take your own senior photos, here are some tips.

Pay attention to your surroundings, Castellini said.

“Take it in a place where you are a lot. If you’re into nature, take it outside. I’m in my room a lot, and that’s where I took my picture,” she said.

And because you aren’t tied to a studio’s limitations, you are free to be 100 percent original, Martin said.

“Be as creative as possible. You can go anywhere you want. You’re not restricted by the bounds of location,” he said.


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