Senior pictures, also known as senior portraits, are photographs intended to mark an important transition in a young person’s life.
Senior pictures are not the same as yearbook pictures. Often, they are taken the spring or summer before senior year, although in some cases, senior portraits can also be taken to commemorate graduation day.
The best senior photos are those that have a carefully thought-out pose or idea behind them. After all, senior pictures are supposed to allow the subject to express themselves through an exciting rite of passage.
Here are some senior pictures poses and ideas that impress, from classic sitting and standing poses to pictures including pets and landmarks!
This pose will not be for everyone, but for those seniors who want to express themselves confidently and want to show off their chosen outfit, it’s the perfect choice.
For example, if senior pictures are being taken on graduation day, a standing pose can be the perfect way to show off the gown.
Standing can be a really empowering pose, reflecting the growth that comes with senior year and looking forward to what comes next.
When directing seniors for a standing senior picture, make sure to remind them not to be too stiff (You might also want to check out What To Wear For Senior Pictures).
A lot of the time, people don’t know what to do with their hands and arms when standing for a picture, and this can lead to a rigid and awkward-looking photograph.
Try to give directions that ensure the student looks as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
Having something to do with their hands can really help with this. If the photo is being taken for graduation, holding the diploma is one way to keep the hands occupied.
Incorporating some slight movements into a standing senior photo can also help to avoid awkwardness and stiffness.
For example, the student could walk towards the camera, which will help their arms to move naturally by their sides instead of being held stiffly.
2. Sitting Down
Sometimes, no matter how much direction you give, standing pictures can look and feel awkward. However, this doesn’t have to be a problem. After all, there are so many different poses and ideas you can go for that don’t involve standing.
An easy alternative to a standing pose for senior pictures is to have the subject sitting down. This automatically means that limbs will be bent, so stiffness won’t be as much of a concern.
With a sitting pose, you can easily direct the student to fold their hands in their lap, which means they won’t be searching for things to do with their hands.
You can experiment with the sitting pose by finding various things for the subject to sit on. A chair is an obvious example, but you could also try some steps, a swing, or a window ledge.
If you’re doing a senior pictures photoshoot, you might want to try using sitting as the first pose before moving onto standing or other more elaborate poses.
Starting sitting down can help to get through the initial awkwardness of getting in front of the camera, so that by the time you move on to standing, the subject feels more confident.
3. Casual Leaning
A variation of the standing pose that can help to minimize any awkwardness and stiff posturing is the casual lean.
The lean doesn’t have to be dramatic by any means, and you certainly want to avoid slumping because this can look unflattering.
However, having the student gently lean against something like a wall, tree, or pillar can help to create a pose that shows off their outfit and conveys confidence without the risk of stiffness.
You don’t even have to have anything for the student to lean on in order to use the leaning pose for senior photographs.
Having the student cock their hip slightly and tilt their head to one side can give the impression of casual confidence without any of the awkwardness that so often comes with a standing pose.
4. Silhouette Photos
Silhouette pictures can actually make great senior pictures. Usually, you would see these pictures as part of a larger photoshoot that produces a series of images. After all, most students will want some clear and detailed pictures of themselves in their senior year.
However, when done well, silhouette pictures can look artistic and are a great opportunity for self-expression.
In order to create good silhouette photographs for senior pictures, the main thing you’ll need is a source of light coming from the background. Shooting against the light source is what will create the silhouette effect.
Silhouette photography for senior photographs is best done against natural light (the sun). A beautiful sunset, for example, is the perfect setting.
Not only are the lighting conditions and colors perfect for a clear silhouette photograph, but the sunset can represent the end of an era.
You can also do silhouette photography at sunrise, in which case, you’d be symbolizing the beginning of a new stage in the student’s life as they leave high school behind them and go on to new adventures.
5. Family Pose
Senior pictures and portraits don’t have to be just for the senior in question!
The transition into senior year and away from high school is just as emotional and important for family members, so it can be a good idea to include the family in senior pictures as well.
When taking a senior picture that includes other family members, it’s traditional to position the student in the center of the frame so that most of the attention is focused on them.
However, you can get creative with the ways in which you draw attention to the central subject of the photograph.
For instance, if the senior happens to be wearing a graduation gown and cap, it will be obvious who the focus of the picture should be, regardless of where they are positioned in the frame.
You can also call attention to the senior by having them be the only one to wear a certain color, or having them stand slightly forward, with the other family members in the background.
6. Including Friends
Friends are a fundamental part of the high school experience, so including friends in senior photographs is a great way to celebrate the bonds that have been formed over the years.
While pictures that feature family members might be more earnest in nature, pictures taken with friends can often be a little more lighthearted and even feature some more fun poses.
For senior pictures that include friends, you have several posing options available to you. For instance, you could simply line up the friends in a standing pose, or have them all sitting down.
When photographing a pair of best friends, a hug can be a nice, genuine moment to capture for senior pictures, and a group hug can work too as long as you make sure that everyone stays visible in the frame.
7. Posing With A Pet
We’ve mentioned including family members in senior pictures, but we didn’t talk specifically about pets.
However, pets are definitely a part of the family, and taking a senior picture with a beloved pet can make for adorable photographs that will be cherished for years to come.
After all, family pets see us through all the highs and lows of life, and that includes school.
Getting good pictures with a pet can sometimes be tricky unless they are very well-trained. It might take you a while to persuade the pet to look in the direction of the camera, for example.
Therefore, if you know you’re going to be doing a senior photoshoot that includes a pet, it helps to have some treats on hand.
You should also try to take the pictures somewhere where no loud noises or distractions will interfere with the pet’s focus.
Ideally, try to shoot in natural light, since bright, artificial lights or a camera flash can be distracting or even distressing to animals.
If you can’t get the pet to pose exactly the way you want to, don’t worry. Try to embrace the candid nature of pet photography and capture some genuine, affectionate interactions between the student and their pet.
This will probably make for a more memorable and meaningful photograph anyway.
8. Jumping Shots
Senior photographs often aim to convey freedom. After all, the end of high school also means the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, which comes with many new and exciting experiences and a newfound sense of independence. This is why jumping shots are such a popular choice for senior photographs.
Since jumping shots involve a lot of movement, you will want to set your shutter speed accordingly to capture the jump without too much blurring.
You’ll probably need to take a few different shots because it usually takes a couple of attempts to get a shot that looks good when there’s a lot of movement involved.
A lot of jumping shots also involve the classic ‘cap throw’ if taken at graduation. There’s an extra layer of movement going on here, so again, these aren’t always the simplest photos to take, but they’re an excellent way to convey freedom, accomplishment, and jubilation.
Be aware that coordinating a jumping shot with more than one subject can be especially difficult, so it may not be the best choice for friends or family photographs.
However, it can be achieved if this is what the student really wants. You’ll just need to be prepared to take more pictures because the more people are involved in a jumping pose, the more likely it is that someone will have their eyes closed or won’t jump at the same time as everyone else.
9. Candid Poses
The main reason why a lot of senior pictures (and pictures in general) can turn out looking awkward is because looking directly at the camera can be intimidating.
When staring into the camera lens, it’s common for students to feel self-conscious and second-guess their posture and facial expressions. For this reason, candid poses are an excellent idea for senior photos.
Of course, ‘candid poses’ is quite a broad term, which is not necessarily a bad thing because it means you have a lot of options.
In fact, a lot of the poses and ideas we’ve talked about so far can be made into candid shots, simply by ensuring that the subject is not directly looking at the camera.
For example, a shot of a student leaning against a wall or other structure can be a candid shot, as can a picture of a student sitting down.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that the photographs you take for senior pictures probably won’t be genuinely candid, as the student will be aware that they are being photographed.
To make the pictures look candid, you’ll need to give the student some direction, such as ‘turn your head to the right’ or ‘look up slightly’.
10. Walking Away
Entering or completing senior year means walking away from one phase of life, into another, filled with endless possibilities and opportunities.
What better way to represent this than by having the student walking away in their senior pictures?
The chosen location or setting can truly make or break a walking away shot. Since you’re marking the end of high school, it can be impactful to take this kind of picture in front of the school building, or at the gates, to symbolize leaving high school.
Like silhouette photographs, walking away shots tend to be part of a photoshoot of images, because the student is likely to want some photographs where they are facing forward and showing their face.
With that being said, there is a way to show the face in walking away photographs, and that’s the over-the-shoulder photograph.
To get a good over-the-shoulder shot, start with ratios and perspectives. The student should be taking up about a third of the whole frame, and to avoid awkward angles, the camera should be level with the student’s eyes.
If you want to avoid a lot of movement in your photographs, have the student stand still as though they are in the process of walking away, while turning their head over their shoulder to face the camera.
However, if you want the picture to look more authentic, turn up your shutter speed to avoid blurring and try photographing the student actually walking away from the camera.
Make sure the path is clear, and it is safe for them to walk away from the camera while looking back.
11. (Non-Alcoholic) Bottle Opening
Leaving high school may feel bittersweet in some ways, but ultimately, it’s something to celebrate!
Of course, seniors in high school are not of the legal drinking age, so if you’re going to attempt a classic, celebratory bottle opening photoshoot, make sure to do so with a non-alcoholic beverage.
Ideally, try to make the label visible in the pictures so that it’s clear a real alcoholic beverage is not being used.
You’ll want to make sure that the shutter speed on your camera is on a high setting for this kind of picture because you want to capture the spray from the bottle in as much detail as possible.
There will also probably be some movement from the subject, and you don’t want to end up with blurry images.
12. Personal Settings
Senior photographs should be as customized as possible to reflect the personality and achievements of the student in question.
Therefore, you (as the photographer) and the subject of the photographs should think carefully about the setting of your senior pictures.
It makes complete sense to take the pictures at the school itself because of the context of the photographs. However, you don’t need to limit the setting to school premises.
Some examples of settings you could use for the background of senior picture photoshoots include parks, gardens, beaches, woodland areas, or important landmarks.
It’s always a nice idea to work with a setting where water can be visible in the frame (see also “How To Use Reflections To Enhance Your Water Photos“). Water is in constant motion, and is widely used to represent life, which continues to flow and adapt to its circumstances. This is excellent symbolism to incorporate into senior photographs.
Remember, the chosen setting should ideally resonate with the student in the photographs because these images are a representation of their own journey, so discuss this at the time of booking the photoshoot.
Your subject might have a preference regarding the setting for their pictures. If not, you can make suggestions yourself.
Senior pictures are some of the most important pictures anyone will have taken in their lives.
These photographs mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new and exciting journey, which is why choosing the right pose to reflect this and make the images look as good as possible is so important.
Senior photographs can be taken standing or sitting, with friends and family, or with props such as non-alcoholic beverages, graduation caps, or diplomas.
They can be direct and confident, or candid. It all depends on what you and your subject are trying to convey.