Preparing for Your Senior Portrait Session

“What Now?” A question I get asked often. The key to a successful senior portrait photo session is, without a doubt, preparation. You know what happens when you feel frazzled before and during a photo shoot? You look frazzled! For that reason alone, don't wait until the last minute to plan all your details or get everything in order.

blond teenager getting her senior photos taken at sunset in the tall grass at Otsego Park


On the day of your shoot, it's important to budget your time. If you plan to have your hair, nails and makeup done, make all your necessary appointments far in advance. You can get your nails done a few days before, but your hair and makeup should be done a few hours before your photo shoot (with enough time between each appointment to get to your next destination).

Some salons do accept walk-ins, yes, but it's better to have an appointment when you have other places to be. The last thing you want is to be sitting at the salon sweating it out with both eyes glued to the clock hoping you'll make it to the shoot on time!

The Night Before

The night before, go through your prop and garment checklist again. As you go through the list, check the items off only after they are packed and ready to go for the following day.

Clothes/Jewelry: Make sure all your garments are clean and pressed, then put them in a hanging garment bag. Put your shoes in a box or another bag so they don't get your clothes dirty. Also, keep jewelry separated so they don't get tangled up in each other.

Props: Put all your props in the car you'll be driving to the photo shoot. You don't want to mess up your hair or sweat off your makeup by lifting heavy objects right before your shoot. Plus, if it's all in there the day before, you don't have to worry about it on the day of!


No less than a week before your photo shoot, make a list of all the props you plan to bring, as well as all the garments/accessories you'll be wearing. One by one, make sure you have all those items on your list.

Doing this a week before the shoot gives you ample time to find any items you wanted to bring to the shoot, but may have forgotten about. Don't forget to send me a list of your props, as well. Knowing what you want to use/wear helps me choose the right locations and helps me plan your session!

Top Senior Session Tips


  • Clothing must be wrinkle free (Photoshop doesn’t help with this one)

  • Bring a mix of solid colors and prints

  • Layers give great options for different looks (jean jackets, sweaters, pull-overs

  • Choose clothes that fit well and are comfortable

  • Think accessories: hats, shoes, sunglasses, sports gear, musical instruments

  • For the ladies - neutral undergarments - I don’t want to see bra straps

  • Well-groomed, clean fingernails and toenails - no chipped polish

  • Bring clean shoes


  • Avoid small, busy patterns and large logos

  • No sheer/revealing clothing

  • No too-short skirts, dresses or rompers (think stairs, sitting poses)

  • Don’t go to the beach a few days before (tan lines are NOT Photoshop-friendly)

Senior boy getting his senior portraits taken at Mill Ruins Park, downtown Minneapolis.