Top Six Senior Portrait Poses!

A number of you emailed me about photo coaching teenagers for Senior Portrait Sessions, so today I’ve got my top six senior portrait poses.

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. 🙂

Here are our Top Six Poses for Senior Portrait Shoots. Let me know what you think!  If families is your focus, click here to see Natural Family Portraits:  How to Photo Coach a Session


Gina Sook, our Associate Lifestyle Photographer, shoots most of our Senior Portrait sessions. She’s awesome! She has been with us for over four years, and her work is beautiful! In a recent senior shoot, Gina demonstrated all the things I wanted to blog about. She said I could use her images as examples for senior portrait poses so here we go!


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.

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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.

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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 senior portrait 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.

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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.

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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.

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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!

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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 may have seen us demo on a 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.

Me Ra Koh, The Photo Mom, shows you the Top 6 Senior Portrait Poses

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 the basic senior portrait poses, 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 for our Top Six Senior Portrait Poses. Gina, you’re awesome!

Click here to see  Natural Family Portraits:  How to Photo Coach a Session

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