What Are Senior Pictures?

Growing up in the northeast, I always knew what senior pictures were all about. They were a part of the rite of passage when graduating high school. It was only when I became a professional photographer that I realized that senior pictures weren’t always popular throughout the United States. So, in this blog post, I want to explore exactly what “senior photos” are.

Pictures During Your Senior Year in High School

Traditionally, senior pictures were getting your picture taken for the yearbook. That was it. As time went on, it became a way to separate a high school senior’s yearbook picture from those of the underclassmen. And, since it was the last year of high school, it was also a way to document this important time in the senior’s life.

In the past, these pictures consisted of seniors getting dressed up (ladies in a dress or sweater, guys in a suit) and sitting in front of a backdrop in a photography studio. This is the way traditional portraits were done for a long time. But things started to change.

Photographers Explore Creative Senior Pictures

Photographers started getting more creative. They left the controlled (and boring) environment of the studio and started doing senior pictures on location. Still using traditional methods but doing so in different environments. This expanded the pallet of variety for the senior pictures and offered the photographer a way to offer something more than just traditional senior pictures. 

Field high school senior picture outdoors

As photographers did more and more photo sessions on location, they began to break the chains of traditional techniques. Using ambient light more. Adding flash when needed. Being more mobile. This opened up even more creative possibilities. They could use multiple locations in a single photo session to enhance the creativity and offer more selections. 

creative high school senior picture at Cleveland Museum of Art
unique senior picture at a church in Cleveland

Modern Senior Pictures

There are several different types of modern senior pictures. There are the traditional photos where you sit in front of a backdrop. Generally, these pictures all look the same.  These are, typically if you are constructing a yearbook. Things have changed in recent years to where seniors can use more creative and different senior pictures for the yearbook. 

The personality and interests of each senior will dictate what type of pictures they will get. There are rural type pictures. What I like to call “trees and leaves” pictures. These are done in a park and reflect the outdoors and nature. There are more urban pictures. What I call “bricks and steel”, urban, or city pictures. These are done in a downtown area or throughout the city. For me, it’s usually downtown Cleveland. And you can have a combination of the two. This is a good option to get the best of both worlds.

And then there are pictures that not many senior portrait photographers will do. These are senior pictures at night. Senior pictures in winter. More out of the ordinary type pictures. These are my favorite not only because not many photographers do them, but they are the most dynamic and creative. They definitely have a distinct look and that is exactly what my clients want.

So documenting the milestone that is a students senior year in high school. That is, basically, what senior pictures are. How you go about doing it is up to the senior and how well and how unique they want their pictures to be.

senior picture of girl standing in front of Cleveland Museum of Art
senior picture on east fourth street cleveland
horizontal senior picture in Cleveland Arcade