Senior Portraits are your opportunity to capture and highlight the final year of your child’s life under your care. Years of love and guidance have brought you both to this pivotal crossroads between childhood & adulthood. You want to hold on to this moment forever and a Senior portrait hanging on your wall will allow you to do just that! Hiring just any photographer to capture and create this heirloom through a Senior Photography Session is like going to a barbershop to get a balayage.  Yes, they deal with hair every day, but that does not mean they know how to to do a specialized hair treatment with professional precision and skill. You have always wanted the very best for your child and this experience is no different. Today I am going to walk you through my top 5 tips you need to consider before you hire a photographer for Senior Portraits.

Tip#1: Invest in the Experience & the Product

Choosing a photographer because they have the best price in town is one of the most common mistakes made.  In the photography industry, the cost to capture an image is minimal. Therefore many people that get their hands on a camera consider themselves a professional.  However, the camera is only a tool used by the artist. Therefore when the final product is a simple photograph and not a wall-worthy portrait, you will understand that you got what you paid for.  A good measure of thumb to use when determining the level of photographer you’re considering is based on the pricing of not only the session but also the end products you will receive. Here is a quick and general breakdown that can help you hire a photographer that will work best for you.

  • $100-$500 – ‘New To The Trade’ photographers often lack many of the fundamentals of photography, including using and editing raw files, storage of finished images, posing, and thus the overall customer experience.
  • $600-$1250 – ‘Mid Range’ photographers are often very creative, but may lack business fundamentals that will improve the overall customer service and efficiency.
  • $1300 and Up – ‘Professional’ or ‘Specialist’ photographers understand posing, lighting, as well as photography essentials. They will also have solid business and customer service which will allow you to enjoy the full experience from the first consultation to the final portrait that will be hung on your wall. 

So why does pricing really matter?  Well in short pricing is a show of confidence yet more important is an understanding of business.  Understanding how to value one’s time is one of the biggest challenges for photographers and creatives in the world.  Doctors have to make up for the years of schooling and the mounds of student loans while photographers often spend years of learning and working for free to develop their style and business knowledge.

Framed senior portraits on a wall above a leather couch

Tip #2: Hire a Photographer NOT a Camera

Often times people think that a nice camera is the main reason a photographer can produce great photos.  I hear it all the time.  “Those pictures are amazing! You must have an incredible camera”. It’s about so much more than that.  The camera is simply a tool, not a gauge of skill! A 5-star pastry chef doesn’t make world-class pastries just because she has the best oven on the market.  It is her skill in the usage of the oven, everything she has learned over the years, the incredible organic ingredients and how she prepares them, the techniques she has mastered – these make her & her pastries world-class. Photographers are no different.

Your child is about to embark on the greatest journey of their life up to this point, the Senior year.  You have spent the last 18 years spending 40-60 hours a week working just so you can give your student all they need before they flew from the nest.  Many of you may find tears welling in your eyes at the thought of your baby leaving home.  Having a senior portrait on your wall may be the only opportunity that you get to see every day for the years to come.  I like to think of these portraits as being a reminder of where your child started, the potential they have within, and most importantly a statement to them of their worth in your eyes. In the years to come, each time your child walks back through your doors you will want the 5-star Senior Portrait hanging as a visual reminder of your love for your child.

a photographer behind the scenes at a Senior Portrait Session

Finding a professional photographer that specializes in Senior Portraits, or focuses most of their work on Senior Portraits, will change everything about the experience for you.  Proper posing is so vital for portraiture.  A photographer that can direct you on how to stand, where to look, how to smile or look fierce, will make your student feel so much more comfortable and relaxed. This is essential so that they can capture who your senior really is.

Tip #3: Research your Photographer on Google and Social Media

Once you have created a shortlist of photographers that you are interested in the next step is to search them and their businesses on Google and take a look at the reviews.  Legitimate photography businesses (Legally Registered with local and state governments)  will be listed on Google Business pages.  Most photographers will show up on the left side, as this is the standard web search via Google.  The right side will only show the business entity as registered and verified with Google.  If the business is not registered on Google, the right side of the page will likely be blank. This means you can likely assume the photographer is not registered with the state and contributing any tax obligations.

Google Search Image of Samuel Marvin Photography

When all is said and done, does it really matter?  That’s up to you.  There are a number of concerns you can expect or anticipate in a situation where you do NOT use a legally registered photography business.  The main issue that can really ruin your Senior year is if you run into any challenges in working with or receiving finished work from the unregistered photographer. You, as a client, will not have any legal ground to stand upon nor will there be many avenues of recourse.  

In your online search to hire a photographer, you want to find a secure business that will stand the test of time, filter trends, and the ebbs and flow of life. When you are searching Social Media in the hopes of hiring a photographer you need to look at more than the number of hearts they receive on a single image that is trending. You want to scan through their images and see consistency in focus, lighting, composition. You want to see families that hired a photographer not only for their first Senior but also their second and last Senior! You want to see a range of images that displays the skill of the photographer, yet, you want to be able to identify that photographers’ specific niche! If they are a fantastic High School Senior Photographer 95% of their photos should be excellent images of High School Seniors!

Tip #4: Hire a Senior Portrait Photographer – NOT a General Photographer

That brings us to Tip #4. There are a few reasons why you should hire a photographer that specializes in the type or genre of photography that you are specifically looking to have done. First let’s list some of the main photographic genres: Weddings, Destination Weddings, Event, Sport & Team Sports, Maternity, Birth, Newborn, Family, Seniors, Automotive, Headshots, Adventure, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. Why does the list go on and on? This is because there are many different techniques and behind the scene elements that differ between each of these genres. When you visit a generalized doctor it is not to talk about a heart valve transplant, it is a starting point for a pain that you are dealing with. When you hire a photographer that understands the specific needs of your High School Senior, from photography techniques to styles, posing, trends, and knowing how to engage your Senior, you will walk away with a happy Senior and exceptional portraits for your home. Together you will be able to create an incredible experience for your Senior.

photographer and model silhouetted against the sunset

The main take away from Tip 3 & Tip 4 is that your portraits are visual documentation of memories that have an unmeasurable value to you and your family! When you hire a photographer that has a registered business, is established & consistent, and is well-reviewed by peers and clients, you’re likely to have a better overall experience. The experience of having Senior Portraits taken will be a highlight of your High School Seniors’ year. When you hire a Senior Portrait Photographer you want the very best experience possible for your child! You want to hire a photographer that is not just any photographer, you want to hire the best photographer for your wants!

Senior High School Senior girl at sunset with her ballet toe shoes

Tip #5: Schedule a Studio Tour or Pre-Session Consultation Before You Hire a Photographer

Our final tip for you today is to make time before you hire a photographer to sit down with them and talk about your Senior and the feel or look of the images you want to have captured. We suggest that this conversation is held in person at the photographers’ studio or a public location. This is the time when you will want to discuss the different activities that have shaped and molded your child over the years. Perhaps your Senior has played the cello all his life or is heading off to college with a soccer scholarship. If your child spent every day in the dance studio or every weekend on the ski slopes there is a chance that they will want those interests documented as part of their life. Or perhaps a horse, dog, or another pet is an integral part of your child’s life. These are interest and hobbies can lead to creative opportunities within the frame of a Senior Portrait that you will want to be sure the right photographer can and will capture.  In addition to this most established photographers will collaborate with your Senior on clothing & location options. As we suggested in Tip #2 spending time doing the research online and in-person with photographers on your short-list will save you time and money down the road.

high school girl in a wheat field with her base

The ultimate goal of giving the gift of  Senior Portraits to your child is to begin their culminating year of childhood with a celebration of who they are and what they have accomplished! When you use these 5 tips in your quest to hire a photographer that is right for your childs’ Senior Portraits you will be at the top of your class with a fantastic experience just around the corner!

If you know a High School Senior in Idaho be sure to try out these 5 Tips on Samuel Marvin Photography. Sam strives to create a Senior Portrait Experience that is fun, uplifting, and memorable! Learn more about our Session opportunities HERE.

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