The Hawk Girl costume tips are great! Here’s my thank you! :)

After last week’s posts on what photography questions do you have, a number of you emailed me about photo coaching teenagers for Senior Portrait Sessions.

Let me start by saying, Seniors are rarely, if ever, impressed with you.

I remember doing a Senior shoot a couple years ago after we had finished working with VH1. I was relaying the story to this Senior and her mom. We had just got back from Maui, and worked with a VH1 film crew for crying out loud. Was this girl impressed? No way. Her mom thought it was amazing, but her daughter seemed more interested in watching the traffic go by then listening to any thing I had to say. And that is how it often goes. Not always, but often enough.

So here’s the post tip: If your Senior seems unimpressed with you, don’t sweat it. Once they see their photos, you’ll see their face light up.

Having said that, what kind of Photo Coaching do we do with Seniors? A mom barking like a dog isn’t going to fly this time. :)

There is so much to say on the topic, but here are the Top Six Photo Coaching Poses we shoot during a Senior Session. Let me know what you think!


Gina Sook, our Associate Lifestyle Photographer, shoots most of our Senior Portrait sessions. She’s awesome! She has been with us for four years now, and her work is beautiful! Last night, Gina was showing me a recent Senior portrait session. Her photos were awesome! AND, Gina demonstrated all the things I wanted to blog about. She said I could use her images as examples, so here we go!

The TOP SIX PHOTO COACHING POSES for Senior Portrait Shoots!

1. Hands Behind on the Wall and Leaning Forward!

We always do a series of shots where we ask the Senior to place her hands behind her at hip level against a wall. Her hands don’t have to be flat against the wall, just gently placed there. Make sure her bottom is touching the wall too. Then have her lean a bit forward into the camera. This is a slimming pose because it elongates her neck and waste.

This is hard to explain to a Senior, so I advise demonstrating it for them. Don’t touch the Senior. Once you touch them by moving their shoulder or chin, they feel like they can’t relax unless you place them. So keep hands off, and model, model, model.

Sometimes a subtle tilt of the head works nice with this pose too.

2. The S Curve Face On!

This pose never feels natural. Be prepared for your Senior to look at you with a frown and say “Is this right?” When she says that just smile back and say, “Yep! You look awesome for the photo even though it feels weird.” Then gently keep adjusting her pose until it’s where you want it, telling her how well she’s doing the whole time so she doesn’t stiffen up on you.

What we’re doing is showing a nice S curve of her hips and shoulders. I usually start by asking the Senior to rest their forearm on their head. Then I ask her to put her weight on the opposite foot to the arm that is up. See below. This creates a curvy line that looks like a S. If I need to, I’ll have her lean into the camera ever so slightly.

Depending on the personality of the Senior, I’ll either have her look away with a big smile, or look right at the camera with no smile or somewhere in between. Even if you don’t use this pose, the S Curve should always be in your mind when it comes to posing women. However they are standing, you want to accentuate motion and curves.

3. The Hip Shot!

This is one of my favorite poses b/c it looks great on so many different body types. It’s a lot like the S Curve above b/c your being thoughtful of accentuating her curves. But it’s a little different. The palms rest on her low back or even lower, depending on her height. Have her push her hips forward and be leaning on one foot more than the other. Then have her look straight at the camera.

Or accentuate the curves by putting a little more sassiness in her hip, elbows and tilt of the head. It’s a flattering pose because the arms behind her are a slimming effect which draws out confident shoulders, her chest and curved lines of her hips.

4. Wide Angles Help Ease the Nerves!

It’s also nice to start with wide angle shots before you move in closer. This gives your Senior a chance to get used to the camera being on her, the sound of you clicking your shutter, and all that other non verbal stuff that makes a Senior tense.

With a wide angle, we still want to be intentional about shooting the shots from a slimming spot. Meaning, we don’t want to shoot straight on. Gina demonstrates this well in her photo. See how it looks like we are looking just a little bit down on the Senior? You see it more in how the railing seems to be descending down.

The Senior is also not standing face on for a reason. Having one shoulder closer to the camera than the other, slims your subject down too.

After Gina grabs her wide angle shot, she moves in for the close up.

The Senior doesn’t have to move anywhere.

5. Teeth, No Teeth and Laugh!

I always take a handful of close up shots whether it’s a Portrait Session or Bride. And I will specifically give these directions, “Can you give me a small smile? Perfect. (click) Now, can you give me a smile with no teeth, only lips? Wonderful. (click, click) Now, close your eyes and go to a quiet place. When you open them, I want to get a shot of you with no smile at all, just your bright eyes looking right into the camera.” (click, click, click) We go through this a couple times so I can capture the many expressions she possesses. Then I end with the Fake Laugh that you already saw us demo on the recent video. :)

6. Try Something Out of the Box!

Gina has done countless portrait shoots at this campus. But the other day, she thought of a new pose that was out of the box. And the results are fantastic! I love the lines of the Senior’s arms and neck and how the shadows help bring definition.

Don’t be afraid to try something new at the end. It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone. And once you’ve covered all your basic shots, why not try something totally different. If it works, it works. If not, it’s okay!

There is so much more to say on the subject of Photo Coaching Seniors, but let’s pause for now. Are these tips making sense? Any questions come up for you on the subject?

A BIG, BIG thanks to Gina for letting us use her images as examples. Gina, your awesome!

For booking a session with Gina, email our Studio Touchpoint lady, Genie! ([email protected]). Genie is happy to answer all your questions.

Question: How do we price our Senior Sessions?

Check out our Portrait 101 Kit to see what my Senior Portrait Pricing is and what the package includes. We also have new packages that we created this year for Gina to offer. We like to change it up every so often for her, and these three packages have been going over well! If you buy the Portrait 101 Kit (or if you have bought it in the past), email Genie with your email receipt. Write “Gina’s Senior Packages” in the subject line, and Genie will forward those to you. (please note: These are Gina’s new packages and are currently not in the Portrait 101 Kit, but just ask Genie and she’ll email them to you once you’ve purchased the 101 Kit.) Also, give Genie a day or two to get those to you. The kit also comes with Photo Release Waivers, Marketing Ideas and Much More!

Click here to see Segment 1 : How to Coach a Family Session!


Upcoming Workshops: Two more spots were bought this weekend! If your considering the Seattle December Workshop as your Christmas gift to yourself or loved one, now is the time to register!

Click HERE to register!

19 Comments: “Q & A, Segment 2: Top Six Poses for Senior Portrait Shoots!”

  1. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the tips! I can’t wait to try them.

    Also, what if we do not have (or cannot find) our receipt for the Portrait 101 kit? :(

  2. Nicole says:

    This post was great and very informational, but I would have loved to see some poses geared toward the guys as well. I had two senior shoots this weekend, and both were guys. I was challenged, which is always good for me. But you are pretty limited to the number of poses you can do with guys without making them look silly. Girls are much easier, in my opinion.

  3. jen s. says:

    ahhah the funniest thing recently with my senior shoot…was a young man…and when he got in front of the camera…he would just stand there…and HUM…we would be like “oh my! this is great…”…he’d be like “hmm hmmmmmmmm hmm hmm hmmmmm”. It was so funny! Course, he loved his pictures. AND the lil dog was the star.

    here they are:

  4. Me Ra says:

    Shooting guys is a whole different post. But there are some great things you can do with them. In some ways they are easier than gals. Whether it’s a Senior or a Groom, we have some classic shots we do every time. That should be another post or something. Not enough time in one day! :)
    I hope this was helpful for starters!

  5. Jill says:

    Young men? Poses for young men? Pretty please?! :)

    Oh, read the previous comments, glad I’m not the only one thinking about “young men” ;)

  6. Dallas says:

    Thank you. This is very helpful and gives me some great ideas. I hope you’ll post some guy poses eventually. It’s interesting how different the Senior Portait style is from when I was a Senior just 10 years ago. There’s a lot more creativity in these than we were offered.

  7. Denise says:

    I saw this one too late :( I had my first senior shoot today and was so nervous. I was totally worried about the ‘unimpressed thing’ from the get go – knowing that seniors tend to have an additude. I read and re-read through your previous post with senior justin – and I also viewed ginas slideshow a billion times on your website to prepare myself (the shots of the ballerina are incredible, gina!!!!) Thanks for this post so much – the lady who did my seniors hair today asked if I would shoot her senior daughter, so I can’t wait to try these out then!

  8. Larry Severns says:

    The last pic of the young lady with her arms outstretched, fingers touching the window sills at her sides brought lump in my throat.
    The expression on her face yielded an almost unseen confidence as she looks up. It speaks of hope.

  9. amanda says:

    I would also love to hear about photocoaching the guys, and will definitely watch for that post!

  10. this is really great! i have never had a set out plan during the few shoots i’ve done with this age group and it’s so valuable to have these in my back pocket when things are getting stale or i feel like i am just getting the same shots over and over again. it’s also really nice to know how to pose a woman (or young adult!) to get the most flattering look…really really helpful and valuable! will be printing this and practicing–thanks!

  11. Christine says:

    I love this post since I think these tips can be used for a lot of different types of shoots. However, if I were the mother of a senior girl I would not want her photographed like #2. I think it’s too sensual for that age…just my two cents.

  12. ali says:

    Seniors are my FAVORITE! I love ‘em because I can just be real and they usually can sense that. When they see that I’m keepin’ it real then they usually are way more comfortable. Teens are smart and they can see right through most anybody. But I think they’re awesome! It’s basically a fun 2 hour hang out session :) I think so far they are my favorite to shoot…but I am excited to see what a wedding is like so we’ll see.

  13. Thank you so much for the tips! Please share more – it is very helpful to us photographers that are just starting out! Thanks again!

  14. Rodney says:

    Wow, what an awesome post! I have done a lot of wedding photography but have always been scared to death to photograph seniors (weird, as it’s usually the other way around). Your tips has given me the confidence to give it a try. Thanks so much and look forward to your post about senior guys. The pictures in the post were outstanding in my opinion. Very well done!

  15. Fabulous! I will try out this week.

    Any good maternity poses you recommend?

  16. Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your website is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this site. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the info I already searched everywhere and simply couldn’t come across. What a perfect website.