Senior Portraits 101 – senior portraits help with scheduling

Senior year goes by in a whirlwind of classes, first jobs, internships, sports achievements, college visits and applications and so many other things that keep both parents and kids spinning.  On top of that, you’re trying to enjoy the moments: homecoming, holidays, banquets, prom.  It’s a lot.

Then there’s planning senior portraits.  

At some schools, they have a photographer and you just show up.  Sometimes you have to actually schedule with that photographer or you have to go out and find your own photographer.  Well, you’re here so hopefully that helps if you’re one who has to find your own photographer.

I’m here to provide you with some senior portrait help and share what I’ve learned as a photographer and as a parent of a senior.  This post will help provide an idea of what to expect and how to plan portraits during senior year.

First, let’s start with a little timeline:

infographic timeline for planning portraits during your senior year of high school


  • Spring Junior Year
    • Time to start thinking about senior portraits
      • When do I want to schedule?
        • Summer? Start planning now to get on the photographer’s schedule
        • Fall?  Start planning now to get on the photographer’s schedule (fall dates fill up fast)
        • Winter?
        • Spring? Yes, it’s not too late to schedule senior portraits in the spring.  You won’t likely be able to have a photo for the yearbook but you’ll be able to have photos for graduation invitations.
      • Start gathering location ideas.
      • Start connecting with possible photographers.
  • Summer before senior year
    • Make your plans
      • Schedule your summer or fall portrait sessions.
      • Decide on your location.
      • Decide on outfits.
  • Back to School
    • Watch for senior emails.  This is when you get information about yearbook photos sometimes within the first week, but definitely within the first month.
    • Make note of deadlines for yearbook submissions and/or if you need to schedule your senior pictures with a school photographer.
  • Fall
    • Schedule late fall or winter portraits.  Availability for fall sessions might be very limited but not impossible to schedule.
  • November/December/January
    • Yearbook deadlines
      • Submit senior pictures and senior ads if your school offers them.
      • Order prints from your session.
  • February
    • Relax 🙂
  • March
    • Send out save-the-date cards for graduation and graduation parties
    • Schedule spring portraits
  • Spring
    • Send out graduation announcements and invitations
    • Schedule cap & gown photos
    • Order those final prints

This timeline is created from just some of what I’ve experienced as both a parent of a senior and a senior photographer.  Events and deadlines might not work out the same for all schools and you don’t have to do all of these things but hopefully, this can serve as a bit of a guide.

Black and white photo of a senior girl sitting on a bench between white columns at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“Spring Junior Year: Why Spring?”

Because schedules fill up quickly for both the seniors and the photographers.  Summer and fall are prime senior seasons so it helps to get started early to be able to plan your session.  Many photographers start scheduling summer and fall seniors in March so if you have limited availability and are hoping for fall color on that first Saturday in October, you should get on that calendar early.

For seniors who want to wait until November or December for portraits.  You have a bit more time so you can relax.

“These decisions are overwhelming.  Where do I start?”

I totally understand that feeling.  It’s okay.  There are no wrong answers and plenty of flexibility.

For my seniors who aren’t sure when they want to plan portraits, start by looking at your schedule.  Do you have sports, activities, or work limitations?   One year, I had several football players wanting to schedule senior portraits.  They couldn’t schedule until football season was over so we planned their sessions for November and December (the one player had a solid playoff run).  Time is sometimes the biggest factor in deciding when you can schedule.

If you aren’t restricted by sports or activities and still don’t know when to schedule, then I suggest thinking about what you want to wear.  It doesn’t need to be specific outfits (that’s several steps away) just think about in general what you like to wear and feel the most comfortable in.  Are you hoping to wear a pretty sundress?  Then summer is your time frame.  Are you hoping for jeans, funky boots, and your favorite hoodie?  Then late fall or winter is your best bet.

Whenever you schedule, please note that it usually takes about two weeks from your session before you will receive your finished gallery.

Everyone loves the fall!

I get it.  Everyone DOES love the fall.  Sweater weather.  Pumpkin spice.  Leaves.  It’s a very pretty time of year and very popular for portraits.  The joke in photography circles is that October for photographers is like April for accountants.  It’s a lot.

If you have your heart set on fall senior portraits, there are some things to keep in mind.  

First, book your photographer early.  Many photographers have a limit to the number of portrait clients they can book in a month.  It’s not just a matter of having the time to schedule to shoot but also being able to do all of the editing that comes after each session.  

Second, be flexible when it comes to leaf color.  It’s so hard to predict when the peak time for color will be.  It’s usually around the second week of October but that depends on when the weather decides to get cooler.  As someone who pays attention to these things every year, it’s becoming harder and harder to know what to expect with the timing of fall weather and color.

Does that mean green leaves when you want reds and oranges and gold?  No not at all.  If you schedule in October, there should still be some color.  And I have some editing tricks that I use to bump it up a bit more.

Yearbook photos?

Whether you can use your senior pictures in the yearbook is up to your high school.  Each school is different.  If you have questions about yearbook photos, I recommend reaching out to the high school for details like deadlines, file size, and any other requirements they might have.  I’m also happy with making sure it’s the right size and sending your image directly to the school if you provide the contact information.

A young man wearing a red graduation gown and medal.Announcements, invitations, cap & gown photos?

As the beginning of spring arrives, it’s time to think about graduation.  March is typically a good time to send graduation announcements or save-the-date cards for friends and family.  

Then by mid-April, you might want to consider cap & gown photos.

For my senior clients, I offer a special mini session with cap and gown portraits as well as a quick portrait with the immediate family all at your home. Those can be scheduled earlier in the day on graduation day or sometime during that week before graduation (many seniors have the days before graduation off of school for graduation practice and other ceremonies).

Don’t forget to print your photos!

Having your senior portrait session is just the first part.  Yes, it’s great to share photos on social media but it’s also important to print your photos.  Don’t let your images collect dust online.

One final bit of  advice

I’ve been a senior photographer for many years but am now in the process of surviving my first year as a senior parent.  It’s been a rollercoaster ride for both me and my senior.  My advice to parents is to be gentle with your seniors, they have so much pressure on them these days.   And to the seniors, be gentle with your parents, they have a lot of big emotions about this moment.  The worry, the love, the pride.  And for everyone, do your best to enjoy each moment.

For more information on scheduling senior portraits with Jodi Walsh Photography, visit my senior page and send me an inquiry to get my full Senior Session Guide.

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Hi there, it's Jodi!

I hope you enjoy my work and please let me know if you have any questions about photography, art, or anything at all.

When it comes to portrait photography, there are a lot of options. It's important to me that I help my clients create the session and have the products that are the best fit for their family!

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