Congratulations on reaching senior year! What a huge milestone this is for your entire family! Among the many decisions to be made throughout the next school year is selecting the perfect senior photographer, and we can help you with that. Modern senior photography is nothing like it used to be, and this is far more than getting a yearbook photo. There are many important factors to consider and we will walk through them here.
Senior Photography Style
Before you contact any potential senior photographer, make sure you and your senior are happy with the overall aesthetic of the images in their portfolio. An experienced photographer should have a defined and consistent style throughout their website, social media, and gallery. This ensures you know exactly what to expect in the look of your final images. What do you both like? A clean, classic look? Light & airy? Dark and moody? Film inspired? A portfolio with a mixture of various edits and styles can leave a wide range of possibilities in how your actual images will look in the end, so we recommend choosing someone with a consistent portfolio. No matter how amazing of a person or how perfect of an experience a photographer can provide, if you are not drawn to the look of their gallery images, you won't be happy with yours.
Consider the Entire Senior Photography Experience
Probably the most important factor in choosing a senior photographer is determining how you want your senior portrait experience to look and feel. Are you looking for someone to show up and shoot a super quick session for your (uninterested) senior, possibly in a back to back mini-session fashion because you really only need one yearbook image? Perhaps they don't want to do senior photos at all but agree to it just for mom. If you are looking for super fast without much individual attention, you may want to focus your search on photographers who offer senior minis or low-attention sessions to appease your senior while getting the one or two images you need. You could use a friend or maybe a family photographer that offers super simple senior sessions just like this.
Are you looking for someone to design a personalized session for just your unique senior complete with multiple custom locations, wardrobe assistance, and collaborative pre-planning? Would your senior enjoy feeling spoiled with professional hair and makeup? If you are looking for the full senior portrait experience, you may want to focus your senior photographer search on photographers with full-service offerings that you can trust to carry out your vision. After all, they are only a senior once! Choosing someone who specializes in seniors ensures they are familiar with modern senior photography and are ready to create something just for you and your senior.
Perhaps you find yourself somewhere in the middle - interested in a personalized experience at only one location with multiple outfits but less interested in pro hair and makeup. You will find a handful of senior portrait specialists (like us!) that offer a smaller version of their main experience for seniors just like this. You would still get the expertise that comes with a senior portrait specialist, but without some of the extras that come with the bigger, often half day, experiences.
Extra Senior Photography Sessions
Other than your main portrait session, are you or your senior interested in extra photo sessions throughout the year? Sessions may include themes like prom, cap & gown, college reveal photos, or holiday themed. Some of these sessions may be done in a group setting with "senior reps" (seniors that sign on to represent the brand), but can sometimes be open to all seniors. Images are usually shared on social media or made available for the senior. Extra experiences like this can make senior photography even more memorable, and give them the chance to model on more than one occasion! As a bonus, the teens often end up bonding with other seniors from various schools that they would not otherwise have had the chance to meet. Sometimes they even get together for charity work or nights out!
How Will You Use Your Senior Images?
Prior to beginning your senior photographer search, it is beneficial to spend a moment thinking about how you will use these special portraits. Many schools in the Columbus area do allow use of your choice of professional image in the yearbook, but you will want to check with your school for the specific requirements on that.
Other than the yearbook, how else would you like to enjoy your images? Perhaps you plan to share on social media with family and friends. In that case you will want to select a photographer that provides social media files for use online. If you would like to have the archival digital images with printing rights so you can print or use them at a later time in life (think their 40th birthday surprise or maybe a wedding day slideshow), you want to be sure to find a photographer who will sell you the digital files with reproduction rights. (At Westerville Senior Photography, digital images are available.)
The most popular use of senior portraits is probably printing for the wall or for gifting. If your children have ever seen a portrait of you at their grandparent's house, you know exactly what we mean! Canvas, prints, and other wall art is made to display long after your children move out. It is a constant reminder of who they have become and that they are always welcome home. Perhaps you want to display a few images at work or on the shelf, or have an album where you can enjoy all of the images without choosing just one! You will want to make sure that your photographer has an understanding of quality print products and has relationships with professional labs so that your investment in products is one that will last. In other words, if you plan to print images, you should be choosing a photographer that offers professional prints and understands how to help families choose quality products. Oh, and of course just about everyone sends graduation announcements or party invites. I have so much to say about these that they have their own blog post!
Budget for Senior Portraits
Everyone has a budget, right? And you will find senior photography available in ALL price ranges...from free portfolio-building sessions up through high-end luxury travel experiences, Columbus offers it all. It can be hard to know exactly what you "should" spend without knowing exactly what you want. Be sure to include the entire cost of the experience from planning/prep through products as you are determining your potential budget.
Comparing the overall investment of a lower-cost, lower-involvement photographer with one that walks you through the entire process can be difficult because it has hard to put a price on the benefit and expertise of a full-service experience. There is almost never an apples to apples comparison in the world of photography! If your photographer does not include hair and makeup, for example, you must factor in the additional cost of booking and covering this service yourself, or doing the DIY thing on session day (no pressure, right?!). If they do not offer professional prints or you are left to figure out what to do with the images on your own, you could spend quite a bit of time researching labs and products without assistance. And then hoping you have purchased something that is made to last. With a full-service photographer, this is all handled for you! Just be sure to know how much families usually spend before booking so you can enjoy the process with no surprises later. There is no wrong answer, only a question of what is best for you and your family.
Availability of Senior Session Locations & Dates for Columbus Senior Photography
What good does it do to find the perfect photographer only to have to walk away when they can't fit you into their schedule!? If you are unable to take off work or your perfect 4.0 teen doesn't want to miss school, you will want to focus your search on photographers that allow evening and weekend scheduling (believe it or not, this is not always an option). Additionally, you may need afternoon, evening, or weekend hours for all senior session appointments. Otherwise this experience could turn into a stressful one as you are constantly missing school and work for your planning appointment, ordering appointment, and product pickup. Senior session location options should be researched before booking your senior portrait photographer. There are some senior studios that only operate in their immediate geographic area or at a very limited number of parks/urban areas, but that means everyone that uses them is going to the same locations. What if you want something else? Maybe you want something DIFFERENT that represents YOUR SENIOR better! At Westerville Senior Photography, we operate all over Central Ohio and work with teens from all local school districts. This means we can come to your home sports field, classroom, bowling alley, uptown area, college campus, local park, or a trendy spot with downtown views (we've done all of this and more!). If you can dream it, we can work with you to make it happen! We believe in custom senior sessions because this should be an experience to remember. No two seniors are alike and their sessions shouldn't be the same.
Your Photographer's Ability to Connect with your Senior
I have saved the most important for last! I can't stress enough the importance of this criteria. Imagine spending all this time to plan and purchase outfits and where you will hang wall art only to show up and get fake smiles from your teen! This risk is greatly reduced by choosing an experienced photographer that specializes in high school seniors. They will know how to relate to your teen and get them to open up and be themselves, and this is what creates those beautiful images with their genuine expressions that you will love. If you visit their website and primarily see young family or wedding/commercial work, it could be a sign that they don't primarily work with seniors.
Specialization aside, there are some individual personalities that seem to have more success with photographing teens. Some find it stressful or difficult, and some love it so much they create a brand centered around it! This is a very difficult criteria to convey until you have actually been through your session day and either loved it or not. So even if your teen doesn't care about photos, or if they are not super interested, but photos matter to you, it is so very important to select the right person. We offer pre-booking consultations and welcome the senior to join in the call so we can chat a little before you commit. Consults are a great way for you to figure out if a photographer is the right fit for you AND your son or daughter!
If you'd like more information about how we can make your senior photography dreams a reality, you can learn more here or contact me here! (Don't worry, if your senior guy isn't dreaming about his session, we can still have a great time and create the images you are hoping for!) Congratulations on reaching this major milestone!