High school seniors no longer want to graduate with only a cookie-cutter yearbook picture as their legacy. Instead, they’re flocking to photographers for portraits that represent who they are — or who they’d like to be. Case in point: For the photo shown here, Scott Hayne let Chelsea’s windblown hair partially obscure her face, observing, “It’s not your classic senior shot, but kids are looking for images that show their depth.” During a time when people are cautious about money, senior-portrait work now comprises between 20 percent and 45 percent of some wedding and portrait photographers’ business, a dramatic increase from just a year or two ago — and it’s still growing. Hayne, Senior Portrait Artists Artist of the Year in 2009, started his photography business in 2007. In the second year, his senior work went up tenfold, and in the third year nearly doubled that.
Senior-portrait photographers tend to be already established as general portraitists and, in many cases, wedding photographers. And a significant percentage of them have begun translating the skills and styles popular with those clients to their senior work, including lighting effects, postproduction work and unusual angles. A student might cover half of his face with a guitar or the focus might be on a school ring with the teen blurred in the background. Monarch Photography has become known for such effects as gradient masks, and a trademark look of Scott and Adina Hayne (The Senior Experience) is post-processing textures. As Huy Nguyen of f8studio says, “I think [senior portrait] photographers are becoming aware that they have the power to be creative.”
When working with teenagers, getting to know them is perhaps even more important than with other types of clients. Photographers who go out of their way to discover their subjects’ interests are the most successful at putting them at ease — and getting the most evocative images. Create a fun experience, incorporate elements that make the images very personal, make the students look good — and different from everyone else — and seniors will be happy.
Though most studios are equipped with props that range from old trunks to colorful umbrellas, teens these days are invited to bring props and clothing to the shoot that represent something important to them — a violin, football uniform, camera, ballet shoes, soccer ball or even a car.