How to plan, design and book your DREAM Senior Portrait session in just four, easy steps!

Discover your Desired Style of Photography

Chances are you've been planning your Senior Portraits since the beginning of your high school career in your head or perhaps with a mood board on Pinterest full of inspiration images for outfits and locations. Out of the images you've seen posted on Instagram and Pinterest, I bet that there are certain styles that really speak to you and reflect your personality. After you've fallen in love with a style, you'll have a much easier time finding the photographer that is the best fit for you in your area.

I've found that when identifying a photographer's style there's two main aspects to look for: Editing style and shooting style.

Here's a list of a few different photography editing styles:

a. Warm, deep, rich, vibrant

b. Moody, rich, cool

c. Light, airy, pastel, natural

Now, here's a list of a few different photography shooting styles:

a. Candid, fluid, documentary style

b. Posed, classic

Personally, I fall into both of the "A" categories for both my shooting style and personal preference: Warm, deep, rich, vibrant, candid, fluid, documentary style photography. When planning any style of shoot, I ask myself, what kind of "tone" or "mood" do I want to set with these photos?

Below is Mattie Nealon showcasing some of our most highly requested moods during Senior Sessions:

Windswept, Documentary Style

Editorial, Vogue Style

Moody, Defined Style

Glamorous, Movement-heavy Style

Choosing Your Photographer

Here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing your Senior Portrait Photographer:

A. Their schedule/availability

Many photographers, especially those in high demand, are likely to be booked out months (if not a year) in advance. I generally advise High School Juniors to plan to book their Senior Portrait Session shortly after the New Year to make sure they are able to get a slot with their photographer during the summer months before their Senior Year.

B. Their turnaround time

First off, what is turnaround time? Turnaround time, in the context of photography, is the length it takes a photographer to send their client's finalized gallery to their inbox. Turnaround times for photographers can range anywhere from a week to a few months. It's important to take this into consideration prior to booking your date depending on your High School Yearbook department's deadline for turning in your Senior Portrait.

A lot of photographers have their turnaround times listed on their website. If they don't and you're hoping for an August or September session, you'll want to make sure their return is around two weeks or under rather than two months; most High Schools require Senior Portrait turn in between October and November.

For example, my turn around time for Senior Portraits is one week from the date a client's portraits are shot with a next-day preview.

Choosing your Date

Now that you've discovered your preferred editing and shooting style and pinpointed your local dream photographer, let's talk about how to choose your date and book your Senior Portrait Session with your photographer in three steps.

Step one: Contact your dream photographer using the contact form found on their website - usually under the "Contact" or "Book your session" tab.

The best way to get a hold of your dream photographer is to go directly to their website and send over an inquiry with more information about your vision for your Senior Portraits. Direct messaging your photographer might sound like an easier route, though many photographs receive dozens of messages a day to there direct message inbox where your inquiry may become lost. Inquiries sent directly to your photographer via their website using their contact form is efficient and convenient for both parties. Some questions you can anticipate on your photographers contact form will regard the kind of session you're interested in, the location, style, length, budget and date/time of year that you'd like to book.

Step two: Have a general idea of when works for YOU to have your Senior Portraits taken.

The more information you have about your own availability, the quicker your photographer will be able to help you secure a date for your Senior Portraits. Make sure you know which of the following works for you: The month, the day of the week and the time of day.

For example, if you have your heart set on a session scheduled in August and evenings (sunset) on the weekend work best for you and your family but you're also available on a few Friday's, you'd want to ask your photographer if they have any available dates left for weekends in August, and if not, what their end of the week availability looks like.

Step three: Find a date that fits both of your schedules and get it officially secured in your name.

After you've conversed with your photographer and decided on a date and time that works for the both of you, you'll need to get your date officially secured in your name. Here's how this typically works.

One: Sign your photographer's Client Agreement/ Client Contract form that indicates your responsibility as the Client and the photographers responsibility as the Photographer. This is a standard practice used by service providers to insure and protect client's and the photographer's experience.

Two: Pay your photographer's booking deposit. Photographers will typically require a non-refundable booking deposit to officially secure your session and accept the remaining balance of your session's dues shortly before the date of your session.

For example, I require a $100.00 deposit on all Senior Portrait Sessions and the remainder of the balance one day - one week (depending on the session specifics) prior to my client's session date.

Choosing your Location

If you've lived in Oregon a while, you'll know of it's many different landscapes and backdrops. When choosing a location for a session, I always ask my clients how far they would like to travel outside of their home town, (answers vary from ten minutes to up to three hours) if they'd like a single location or to opt for shooting at two separate locations and if they'd prefer a backdrop featuring woods, water or industry.

Choosing your portrait location is often one of the most exciting parts of planning any photoshoot. Make sure you take into account how far you're willing to travel, the safety of the vehicle you'll use for your transportation, who will be available to accompany you to your shoot, (safety in numbers, especially when traveling long distances) how many locations your session package allows time for, (shorter sessions may only allow time for one location, where as packages that come with multiple hours of coverage may allow for two or three) and what the location means to you.

If you haven't yet thought about all of the different location options out there, here's a few of my favorites:

Devil's Punchbowl Natural State Area, Otter Rock

Armitage Park, Eugene

Downtown, Coburg

Mary's Peak, Philomath

Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Woodburn

Mount Pisgah, Eugene

Your own backyard