Hey friends! So you want to try your hand at senior photos? Maybe you have a niece, nephew, brother, or daughter? Give it a go!

I just finished shooting senior pictures for my gorgeous little sister Corrie and it has got me all pumped to talk about photography. Here are a few solid tips on how to shoot bright and airy senior photos on your own! First things first…

1. You don’t need fancy equipment

Every photo from this shoot was shot with a Canon Rebel XSI camera which is a beginners DSLR. A quick google search shows the camera body retails for about $149 used. I also have a second hand Canon 50mm lens which goes for around $125 online.  My Mom tagged along to watch so I had her hold a $2 piece of white foam board to occasionally block the unwanted mottled sunlight. I then edited the photos in Lightroom without purchasing any pre-sets or filters. (A Lightroom and Photoshop subscription is only $10 a month!)

2. Put the subject behind things

When you see some pretty bushes or a cool wall the first instinct is to stand the model in front and begin snapping pictures, right? Boring! By positioning Corrie behind several of the rose bushes I pulled the viewer into the scene making the photo much more interesting. If you’ve ever watched Bob Ross paint you’ll hear him talk about adding different “planes” to your painting in order to add depth. That’s exactly what you are doing here! Sam Hurd is a total master at this too as seen here, here, and here.

I love this technique when shooting females because it can add a really beautiful touch of feminine mystique to your piece.

3. Change micro poses not the pose 

This was one of the hardest things for me to get the hang of and I still forget sometimes. I’d move the model into a pose, take a few shots and then direct her to a totally different pose. Stop! Wait. Most poses work well on most anyone but you as the photographer MUST personalize it for each subject.

Here I had Corrie sitting cross legged in front of some pretty rose bushes. Head left or head right? Chin up or down? Arms behind or in front? Open smile or closed? Eyes at camera or away? Hands in lap or pushing hair back behind ear?

There are a million variations from the base pose of sitting cross legged but I played around until I got what I liked. You’ll notice in all three of these pictures her head is tilted to her right because after trying different tweaks I found that to be the most flattering on her. The next person will be different.

4. If there is a joint facing the camera it better be bent 

Celebrities know this and that’s why every red carpet event features hundreds of bent elbows. Even if you are shooting a close up that shows only the upper arms bending the elbows slightly lifts the shoulders, eliminates squished upper arms, and accentuates the chest and waist. Of course, it’s not just elbows. Cameras adore bent joints everywhere on the body!

I’m a big stickler on this and during photo shoots you’ll see me constantly bending elbows, knees, and even hands. The “bends” may be bad if you’re scuba diving but when photo shooting they are your best friend!

5. Have the model hold the pose while YOU move 

Corrie stayed in the same spot while I orbited around her for this series of three shots. Each photo is slightly different with the final one as my fave. You will be shocked by how often just a tiny bit of movement on your side can be the difference between an okay shot and an AMAZING shot. Each person has their best side or best angle so the more you “sweep” with your camera the higher your chances of catching it. Here I moved left to right but you can also move top to bottom or even diagonally searching for that sweet spot on your subject.

Natural light photography can be a maddeningly unpredictable dance between you, the model, and the light. You can’t control everything but the more you can understand your steps in the dance the more you increase the chances of beautiful shots falling in your lap.

Hope those tips help, guys! If you decide to use them at your shoot I’d love it if you shared your photos with me. I have been helped SO much by free guides like this on the internet so it would be awesome to know I’ve been able to give back (even if it’s just a little).

Happy shooting!






  1. Mom, June 8, 2017 at 9:01 am:

    I learned much by reading this combined with what I saw you do while shooting. You are right. A little knowledge about photography makes a big difference.

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, June 7, 2017
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