3 Tips for an Easy and Fun Senior Portrait Session for any Guy

Senior portraits are one of the big milestones that mark senior year and for many guys, and for many guys they’re not exactly excited about the experience.  Whether you’re a senior guy or the mom of a senior guy, I have tips that will help make the senior portrait experience easy and hopefully a little fun!  Be ready for lots of examples to give you inspiration!

But first, why bother with senior portraits?

Besides needing an image for the yearbook and having a nice photo for graduation announcements, there is a valid use for a senior portrait.  This portrait can be an opportunity to have a good headshot as you move beyond high school.  Whether it’s for a social media profile or an application for a job, having a good headshot can set you up for a number of opportunities going forward so consider making the most of this experience.

Tip #1: What to Wear

Plan for at least 2 outfits

Whether you choose to have a senior mini-session or a full session, it’s important to plan for at least 2 outfits.  Your first outfit should be a more formal outfit.  Choose an outfit that you might wear to a job interview.  Of course, the easiest route is to grab a suit.  With or without the tie, it works for a formal portrait but as you’ll see, there are still plenty of other non-suit options.  Start with a nice shirt and as you can see from the examples, there is quite a variety of options available.

  • button-down dress shirt
  • golf shirt
  • nice sweater
  • even a fitted T can work

Next, choose some nice pants.  Again, there are so many options here so pick what you are most comfortable in.

  • dress pants
  • khakis
  • nice jeans (meaning no holes)

If you really want to look polished, consider adding a dress jacket or blazer.

And finally, THIS IS IMPORTANT, don’t forget to bring a belt and socks that match.  If you’re wearing black pants, bring a black belt.  If you’re wearing dark pants, bring dark socks.

images of a senior guy on the grounds of Hartwood Acres near Pittsburgh. It's fall and there are orange and gold leaves on the trees in the background. He's wearing khaki pants and a blue sweater.

a nice sweater can be perfect for fall and winter formal portraits – fall

images of a senior guy wearing a dark suit with a blue tie. He's seated on a low wall at Allegheny Landing on Pittsburgh's Northside neighborhood.

a suit always looks great for senior portraits in downtown Pittsburgh – winter

images of a senior guy wearing khaki pants and a light blue button down dress shirt. He's standing along the sidewalk in the Southside.

with the right shoes, you don’t even need socks – spring

images of a senior guy with a navy blue suit jacket. He's standing along the North Shore trail in Pittsburgh with the Warhol Bridge in the background.

a suit jacket and jeans work great for downtown senior portraits – summer

Okay Senior Guys, for outfit #2, I recommend something more casual but still comfortable, and YOU! This might be an outfit you would choose to wear going out with friends on the weekend.  Where you want to look good and still be comfortable.  Jeans are fine.  Joggers are fine.  Hoodies are fine.  Anything goes.

images of a senior guy wearing a black t-shirt and light jeans. He's sitting along the North Short Trail at Allegheny Landing in Pittsburgh. The Warhol Bridge is in the background.

so simple – jeans and a T – summer

images of a senior guy wearing a black hoodie, khaki pants and a knitted winter hat. He's on the High Level Bridge in Edmonton, Alberta.

a hoodie and a hat. it works all year round – summer

images of a senior guy wearing a white shirt with a red button down shirt open and black jeans. He's standing along the North Short Trail on Pittsburgh's Northside.

adding a pop of color with a loose shirt always looks nice – winter

As you can see, there are a number of great options for what to wear for senior portraits!  I will say one more time, comfort is key.  Why? Because when we feel uncomfortable with what we’re wearing, it will show on our faces.  You are not going to give that genuine smile if you feel awkward and silly.  So always start with clothes that feel comfortable.

If you’re planning on a full session, plan on 2 more outfits.  A different shirt, a sweater, or a school t-shirt (high school or college).  There are a number of options that can be an easy switch that add some more variety.

Tip #2: Where to Go

Urban or Country?

If you got your outfits together, then you’re ready to decide on the location.  As you can see from the earlier examples, a lot of guys like that combination of the suit jacket and downtown.  It definitely fits with that formal portrait but most outfits can work in most locations.  This is why I recommend thinking about what places you gravitate to.  If you like being downtown then you are definitely urban and we can plan for locations that give you variety while still being downtown.  If you prefer hiking to hanging out downtown, then let’s plan for one of the great parks around Pittsburgh.

But what if you like a little bit of both?

No problem.  2 locations are definitely possible and Pittsburgh is so great because there are so many great parks near downtown or even in downtown.  I’ve found two great options for getting a mix of downtown with some portraits in nature.  First, we have Herrs Island.  It’s a great park just up from the Strip District.  We can get views of the water, tall grasses, and even some train trestles, and then just a 10-minute drive we’re on the North Shore Trail.

images of a senior guy at Herrs Island Park and the Allegheny Landing in Pittsburgh. He's wearing a gray sweater in the park photos and a red letterman's jacket in images downtown.

Herrs Island and Allegheny Landing, only 10 minutes apart for 2 looks – summer

But there are a lot of great portrait options all around Pittsburgh.  Definitely take a look at my senior location guide for more ideas.  And remember, we can also look into visiting your high school for some more variety in your portraits.

Tip #3: How to act

Posing that is Natural and Not Awkward

Ok, you have your outfits, and your location(s) and you’re ready to go.  Now to actually be ready for having your picture taken.  I’m always going to give you tips and directions but here are some things to keep in mind.

The key to looking natural in photos is… FIDGETING.  Yes, moving is actually critical to taking good, natural portraits with great expressions.

You know how to smile but for many people, creating a natural smile on cue with a camera pointed at you is hard and often results in a stiff expression that isn’t quite you.  So first, don’t stand in one place.  Shift your weight.  Pace.  When you start to move,  your brain thinks more about keeping you from falling than the camera, and just that little distraction helps to create more natural and better expressions.  And that brings us to hands.  Keep your keys in your pocket or coins, something you can fidget with. Feel free to fuss with your hair or touch the back of your neck.

Next, when you are ready to smile, think of something that always makes you happy.  Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, scoring the winning sports-ball point, your favorite ice cream, the stupidest funniest movie you watched with your friends.  The best way to have a great natural expression is to have an authentic emotion in mind.

Finally, remember, you don’t have to constantly be looking at me and smiling.  Look off into the distance.  Look down at your shoes.

I do not want your face to be hurting at the end of this from smiling so feel free to relax and take some moments to just think about all that you’ve accomplished and all that’s to come.  You’ve done great things and you’re going to do even more going forward.

black and white images of senior guys looking off into the distance. They're all taken in locations around Pittsburgh.

you don’t have to always be looking at me and smiling. i love capturing those thoughtful looks and gazing into the distance

Hopefully, these tips are a helpful start as you prepare for your senior portrait session, and for any other questions that might come up, you can always send me an email.  I’m happy to help!

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Hi there, it's Jodi!

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