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Top 10 Tips to Prepare for Your Senior Photo Session – Pittsburgh Senior Photographer

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Top 10 Tips to Prepare for Your Senior Photo Session

Before we jump into how to prepare for your senior pictures, let me give you an idea about what to expect and when to schedule your senior portrait session with Laura Mares Photography! 

What to Expect

Most high school seniors have little to no experience with a professional portrait sessions before their senior pictures. So everyone feels a little awkward to start! You don’t know what to wear, what location to pick, how to prepare, how much makeup to wear… Don’t worry—I’ll walk you through it and those jitters won’t last long!

Scheduling Your Session

I suggest scheduling two months ahead of when you want your session to take place. This allows for the whole process to be more relaxed, no last minute cramming. This also secures you a spot in my busy schedule. The perfect time of day is golden hour, or two hours before sunset. This is the best time for beautiful golden directional lighting and it also eliminates harsh shadows. 

1. What to wear

I recommend bringing multiple looks, 3-5 is best. Now we may not shoot them all, but it is always helpful to have multiple options ready. Bring outfits that range from comfy/cozy to more formal. This makes the whole session less stressful and more relaxed because you don’t have to worry about if you picked the right outfit. Try to avoid loud patterns and colors, they often clash with the background. Also, make sure to pick out clothes that fit close to your body, they are always more flattering in photos. No matter your body type, remember that baggy clothing is very difficult to pose and take pictures of. Also consider colors, specifically ones that compliment your skin tones. Pick the colors that compliment your eyes, skin tone or hair are perfect! Layers are another important factor to think about. Jean and/or leather jackets, flannel shirts, slouchy cardigans and shawls are all great to give us options during a shoot. Remember to include a variety of textures and necklines that keep in line with your style and personality. Think of lace, velvet, leather etc… Shoes, shoes, shoes! Don’t forget boots, Birkenstocks, heels…whatever is the most YOU. Also, if there’s a prom dress or any other gowns that you have in your closet that you never get to wear, but love, bring it and we will try to use it! 

2.  Prepare

A week prior to your session, gather up and try on each complete outfit. Check that they fit you well and all the pieces go well together. Also, check that they are clean and not wrinkled. Also, don’t forget to include any undergarments needed (i.e. no striped undershirts/black bras under light shirts!!!)

3. Pamper yourself

A few days prior to the session, make sure that you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Think of this as the equivalent of preparing for an audition or interview. This will aid in keeping your skin clear and eyes bright! Think about going to get your hair and/or makeup done, and a manicure before coming to the session! Also, don’t stress if you wake up with blemishes the day of your session, and don’t mess with them, as that will only inflame them more. Leave it up to me and the magic of photoshop. Make sure to pay attention to your nails and eyebrows. This applies to girls AND guys…be sure to clean up your eyebrows before your photo session! As your hands will likely be in at least a few photos, so make sure they look how your want them to (i.e. no chipped polish.)

4.  Be On Time

The day of your session make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with directions to our meeting place and leave yourself time to figure out traffic and parking. There is nothing worse than arriving frazzled, except arriving late. Especially because we schedule your session around the best sunlight. Losing session time stinks! Try not to schedule anything after your photoshoot. Simply put, you don’t want to feel rushed to leave the photoshoot, so don’t try to schedule anything immediately after your senior photoshoot. It is best to set aside the better part of the day, so you have time to come slightly early to the location in order to look around and start to plan what you might want to do during the session. 

5. Be Comfortable

Remember to bring comfortable shoes in case we have to do a lot of walking. Additionally, remember to bring water and other beverages to start well hydrated. Snacks, energy bars and other snacks to much on are always a great idea for in between shots. 

6. Don’t be afraid to ask! 

During this prep time think about if you see something on Instagram or Pinterest that you would like to try or if you would like to recreate a photo of sentimental value let me know. It is always exciting and engaging for you if you bring your own ideas for posing. I love to get creative, so if you can, try to do some “research” on poses and location ideas that make you more excited for the session. I love to reflect your specific interest and personality in your senior photos. 

7. Stay Natural

Stay away from fake tans. For one thing, it looks unnatural. For another, your pictures could reveal peeling skin or a cherry-red nose. Don’t worry about braces. Your braces are a part of the high-school “you” and shouldn’t be avoided or hidden. Also, apply markup naturally. It may be tempting to pull out your glam skills and go all out, but you run the risk of looking like someone else! Also, after walking around, especially during the summer, it will pay off to be wearing  more simple makeup. 

8. Bring Props

It is always fun to include some special moments from your high school career in the session. That can be anything from your soccer ball, to your cello, to your costume from the school play. It is also a great idea to bring hats and any other accessories that are special to you. Although, I would stay away from large or flashy jewelry. Remember to keep it simple, but it always pays off to bring items that make your photo’s more personal and more YOU. 

9. Pick the right location!

I have shot pretty much everywhere in Pittsburgh, from Urban, Garden, Studio, Rustic, Farmland…you name it! So I want to encourage you not to feel worried about going out of the ordinary studio shot, and to try new locations that reflect your personality. I encourage you to look through my instagram and portfolios for inspiration on where would be best for your Senior Session. 

10. Miscellaneous

Be sure to bring chapstick or lipstick and any other makeup for small touchups. Bring an extra pair of shoes that will be comfortable to walk in. Bring someone along whom you are comfortable with, whether that’s a friend or mom, it will make things more relaxing and fun! If you are getting a haircut, get it at least two weeks ahead of your session date. You don’t want to try out a new hairstyle the week of photos! Also, make sure to have all the paperwork and retainer completed prior to the session! 

For tips on what to wear to your senior portrait session, click here.


Hi, I'm Laura Mares! I'm thankful to be a wife, mother and Pittsburgh lifestyle photographer. I photograph because I believe that life is simply beautiful and every person has a story worth telling. I'd love to tell yours.

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