Let’s be honest. Senior portraits are NOT like they used to be. When I was a senior back in ’96, you went to the school for senior portraits from Prestige or Lifetouch. You did the same backgrounds and poses as everyone else, and you could order a package. I remember we only purchased the handful of 4×5 proofs, and I think a 8×10 of my drape shot, at a total of $175. I remember not being very excited about them because honestly, they weren’t representative of “me” at the time. I was never the preppy girl in high school, but that’s what I felt I had to look like that day. Plus, they didn’t really retouch them very well, and I had a really ugly zit attack going on that day.
Now days, senior portraits are MUCH different. I know what you’re thinking, “yeah, WAY more expensive“. You’re right, they are. What my mother paid $175 for 21 years ago was an assembly line photographer, and about 10 small prints that weren’t even retouched. Back then, THAT was expensive too, but it was the cheapest package they had. None of my classmates that went to the school photographer got “unique” images that would show their personality, or incorporate their interests. I think my entire photo session lasted about 20 minutes, and would have been even shorter if I hadn’t changed clothes once.
So what is different now? I can’t speak for all photographers, but I know for many, we’ve worked hard to create a greater experience for seniors, along with a much more in depth view into who they are as an individual. As for Lonnie and I, we are making this experience a “wow” event for them.
Take Drew Cook, for example. Drew loves kyaking, mudding in his jeep, and is into wrestling and cross country. Here are a few from his Senior session last summer:
I don’t remember anyone back in 1996 getting images like that. Senior portraits now are so much more involved. We did a total of three different days of shooting for Drew’s session. We probably shot for a total of 8 hours, and he ended up with a USB of around 100 fully retouched images, a leather bound layflat album, and 2 grandparent albums.
And here’s the kicker: this might be the last time he will have professional images made until his wedding day (perhaps!).
As a mom, when you have your child you go crazy with photos of them. You photograph every move they make, and some also take them to get professional photos a few times as they reach milestone ages. Then…..nothing. As they grow into the ages of 8, 9, 10….and then the awkward early teen years, we just take a few cell phone shots and that is about it. We are all guilty of that.
When your child becomes a Senior, you start to realize that the future is uncertain. Will they go to college? Will it be local or will they be away far from home? Will they visit often? What about family vacations? Will they even come anymore? And oh how I wish I had a family portrait on the wall of all of us before they moved. Will they get a job out of town and become a totally different person? You just have no idea.
High school graduation is in ways, also your own. It’s your own finishing moment -presenting your child to the wide open world. You’ve been on a journey with them the last 18 years to care for them, mold them into decent humans with morals and values- you’ve provided for them, nurtured them, cried with and for them, and this is the moment that they are released into the world as adults- to flourish on their own and to make the best out of everything you’ve taught them. This is truly a moment worth photographing.
And as far as the price goes- yeah, Senior portraits are more expensive. And so is a gallon of milk, a new car, a flat screen tv, dinner for 4 at a restaurant, and most everything else. But it’s not just due to inflation- you remember how I described my senior portraits back in 96? Well, there’s a whole lot more that goes into it now. You can still use the school photographer and get that assembly line package- in and out in less than an hour. You can end up with photos that are just like anyone else’s- that are just a documentation of how they look on the outside. I know when we photograph a senior, we are trying our best to pull their personality through in their images. We want to give a photographic document of who they really are at this crossroads in their life. It’s such an important time- they have the whole world at their feet and opportunities like never before. You’ll want to always remember this time- when they were on the cusp of adulthood- yet still your baby.
Not only do you get beautiful images from our Senior portrait experience, they also get a major confidence boost. (and what teenager couldn’t use that?). So many things are different these days- the times have changed in so many ways- and lots of them are bad. Kids have it harder than ever now, what with social media and bullying. We see it time and time again how these teens don’t feel pretty enough, or sporty enough, or important enough. It’s really a shame. We work hard during our sessions to make sure and communicate to our seniors how awesome they really are. It doesn’t matter if you are into sports, or on the cheer team, or a ridiculously talented artist. We have lots of Seniors at consultations who say “I can’t really do anything cool for pictures, I’m not in anything extra-curricular”. It’s super hard to get them to realize that just because they aren’t on a team of some sort, they are still really interesting individuals!
Nick wasn’t in sports, he didn’t even really seem to care much for getting pictures made in the beginning- but I’m pretty sure his mind was changed when he saw this image for the first time:
You see, what was important to Nick at the time, was his truck, his dog Bobo, fishing, and his sense of style. Also, it was important to him to have his session here on his grandparent’s property. And that’s what he will remember when he looks back at his photos years down the road. Once Lonnie showed him this image on the back of the camera, he was totally down to do whatever pictures we asked, and even started coming up with his own cool ideas! You could see the boost in confidence level wash right over him like a wave- it was so cool.
Senior Mari Grace- we just loved her and her family. Her mom ordered 3 images as 16×20 canvas wall art, and I’m willing to bet that those will always be on their walls, even though pieces of furniture in the house may change over the years. Her mom and dad will look at those images in their home every day, and feel a sense of pride in the beautiful talented daughter they have raised.
No, Senior portraits are a necessity- but if you can do it, DO. I encourage all of you reading this to make it a priority to have your senior professionally photographed. It’s worth it, THEY are worth it. It isn’t a necessity, but there are other things we spend money on that also aren’t necessities. I’ve seen folks spend $600 on a prom dress (that gets worn once)- or $500 a month on a new car (that they wont likely have in a few years)- $200 on a designer purse ( that will be out of style next year), and yet they scoff at the idea of paying the same amounts for beautiful artwork of their own children that will hang on their wall. (forever).
You’ve invested in your children this far, send them off with an experience that will not only boost their egos, but will give you lasting images of who they are- the wonderful, talented, interesting, little person you’ve introduced into the world.