We’ve compiled our favorite senior picture ideas for guys – even the ones who aren’t that into being photographed.
Shy guys, sweet guys, smart guys, silly guys, and (of course) tough guys: with so many great dudes in the world, you’d think photographing them would be a breeze! But over and over, senior photographers find themselves struggling to make meaningful photos of their guy clients that please both the high schooler and their parents.
For your average, awkward, awesome high school guy, you might need a bit of help. So we’ve curated a variety of our favoring senior portrait ideas for the great guy clients in your life.
Something To Lean On
Full-length leaning shots can show off a great outfit or fantastic background. But don’t forget to move in for a few closer-up photos, too!
“I use encouraging words and affirmations throughout the session, telling them, ‘Wow, you are so natural at this!’ or ‘Ahh, this last one was really good!’ – and I never show the back of the camera. They should leave the session feeling like everything went well. Even if there were a few poses that didn’t work, I never let on. At the end of the session, they don’t remember how many poses we did; so if one didn’t work and I need to cull those photos, there are still plenty of great images to choose from!” – SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY CO.
Use depth of field to your advantage. Instead of asking your client to lean flat against the wall, for example, find an angle that allows for a more layered final image.
Ideally, everything in a photo should jive with your client’s story. If your senior guy is a theater fanatic who bikes to school, photographing him leaning against his car won’t be meaningful. Likewise, if you’re photographing a rough-and-tumble country guy, don’t use the big city skyline as his picture backdrop.
Add Movement To Your Senior Pictures
The further away you are from your high school years, the more likely you’ll be to forget how much energy those young whippersnappers have. Don’t overlook opportunities to get some motion out of each picture session!
Bump Up the Shutter Speed
From riding a four-wheeler to kicking a soccer ball, any sort of physical sport can make for great images that highlight a teen’s passion. Just remember: big motion requires a fast shutter if you don’t want a blurry mess.
Senior Portrait ideas that incorporate motion don’t require feats of athleticism. Ask your client to stroll toward you, or tap into your beloved collection of dad jokes to elicit some genuine (albeit wry) laughter.
“I encourage a lot of movement, from walking to and from me, to moving quickly from location to location. If I stay in one pose or location too long, the senior starts to feel tense; they think they aren’t doing something ‘right.’ By moving them around, I keep the session flowing.” – SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY CO.
Even the simple act of moving from sitting to standing can make for a moody moment. Senior photo shoot sessions are often a teen’s first experience with professional photography. This makes these clients the perfect test subjects for creative posing tips and lighting setups.
Sit, Squat, Kneel, Chill
“To get your senior guy to relax, ALWAYS START YOUR SESSION SITTING! Whether they are on stairs, against a wall, or on a car, let them get comfortable with you and the camera. When they are sitting, they are in their own space and feeling comfortable – not wondering how to let their arms hang or how to stand. As you are starting the session and testing your lighting, make conversation and try to relate to your senior. Make them feel valued as a friend – NOT just another client.” – PRESTON LUKE
One Knee Up
It’s next-to-impossible to sit suavely with both knees clutched to your chest. Let your client relax by telling him to relax one leg out in front of him or curled under his other leg.
You don’t need to drag an armchair all over town to get seated images (but 10 points to you if you do.) Look for stairs, ledges, curbs, tree stumps…
Wherever your client sits, make sure the area is sturdy and safe. One of my clients once sat on a fallen log while in a short dress, and she wound up with poison ivy on her tush. True story. Thankfully she had a grand sense of humor.
Take A Knee
Kneeling works beautifully when sitting looks too slouchy. Take care to avoid “crotch shots” by shooting slightly to the side of your client.
Eye Contact Is Overrated
Some of your clients may find eye contact difficult due to their sensory processing style. Others may simply feel nervous gazing directly into your lens. The good news? Senior photo sessions no longer demand big cheesy grins directed toward the camera.
On the Serious Side
Capture pensive glances or natural smiles by encouraging your guy clients to look away. If they’ve told you they have a “good side,” this is a great way to capture their preferred angle, even if their body is positioned in the other direction.
Instead of telling your client to “gaze into the distance” (which sounds entirely too emo), direct them to look at something specific – like the angry dog running up behind you, or the truck that’s about to run you over as you photograph from the middle of the road. (This is why we all need insurance.)
“But what do I do with my hands?!”
Hands can be nearly as expressive as faces. We clench them when we’re nervous, rub them together when we’re thinking, and tuck them into pockets when we’re feeling shy – or exceptionally relaxed. Give hands a role in your senior photo sessions with posing tips even uncoordinated teens can master.
“When all else fails and everything is looking the same, tell your senior to plant their feet on the ground, stand tall and bold, then pull their hands up to mid stomach and hold them upright. Have them rub their hands together like they are lathering hand-washing soap, then have the senior look down, left, right – anywhere! Play with your angles, and you are guaranteed to get a pretty sick shot that totally boosts their confidence level.” – PRESTON LUKE
Loose & Limber
If your client is a fist-clencher, ask them to relax their hands so their fingers fall naturally. Watch out for hands that land in awkward places, though.
Pockets Are There for A Reason
“Tuck your thumbs in your pockets.” That’s the simplest way to get your clients hands relaxed at hip-height. If your client tucks their whole hand into a pocket, make sure their thumb and a bit of their hand is exposed so they don’t appear one-handed when they’re not.
A Simple Stance
Once your client is comfortable with you, you can usually get them to relax into a simple standing pose. If your senior still seems stiff, encourage them to widen their stance a little, and rock forward on the balls of their feet. The subtle lean will help highlight the face.
Elbows To Knees
Everyone on the planet knows how to lean forward and rest their elbows on their knees. It’s simple, comfortable, and does a great job of minimizing the waistline while accentuating the face.
A Bit of Both
Ask your client to combine elbow-to-knee with hand-to-knee. This posing idea gives guys some seated swagger, and shows off their manly-mister-man-sir-tough-guy shoulders.
Pay Attention To Perspective
If your senior guy is seated on the ground with their elbow wrapped around one knee, open up your aperture for a shallower depth of field. The bokeh that envelopes that elbow will keep it from looking overly large compared to the rest of the senior’s frame.
One and Done
The park bench, elbow-to-knees look is a great way to take a great Grandma Photo. What’s a Grandma Photo? It’s a photo a teen’s grandma will love because their sweet angel looks engaged, friendly, and natural – all in one great frame.
Get Into the Studio
Whether you own your own studio or rent one from a fellow photographer, studio senior photo sessions are perfect for clean, client-centric images. Bonus: you can take them rain or shine!
High Key vs. Low Key
High key senior photos have a white or bright background. Low key portraits have a black or dim background. Consider the mood your client brings into the studio, their clothing style, and their overall comfort level when selecting a light or dark backdrop.
Remember: light colors reflect light, while dark tones absorb light. Make sure your client’s dark hair or skin don’t disappear into an under-lit scene. Likewise, don’t blow out the highlights in a client’s light hair or skin!
No Studio? No Problem.
You don’t need a proper studio to create a dramatically-lit senior photo. You simply need flashes or strobes that are more powerful than the ambient light!
The perfect balance of created light with ambient light can create opportunities to make beautiful portraits rich with story.
Slices of Life
You don’t always need to photograph a client’s full face to make a beautiful portrait. Close crops, silhouettes, and reflections all offer opportunities for a fresh perspective.
Get Into Their World
When you take the time to build a relationship with your clients, they’re more likely to open up to you and share what matters most to them. Instead of insisting on locations you’ve used over and over again, try to join your client’s world. You’ll be rewarded with fresh senior pictures ideas galore!
“I work to make the atmosphere comfortable, fun, calm, and enjoyable for every senior! From the time the senior arrives, I engage them in conversation, learning about what they like, their dreams, what they plan to do after high school… I keep the focus off the session and on their interests. This distracts seniors from feeling stressed or nervous about being photographed.” – SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY CO.
A Wardrobe That Deserves Its Own Picture
Your client’s wardrobe has a major impact on the success of a shoot. Any brilliant senior photo posing ideas will go out the window if your client is uncomfortable in their outfit, or if their clothing choice doesn’t complement the location.
Help Your Clients Out with Clothing Advice
“I tell my seniors to LEAVE THE BUTTON UP AND TIE AT HOME! Help your senior dress in their own style. They want to look ‘cool’ while staying masculine. Some go-to pieces I suggest are denim jackets, ripped jeans, solid black or white t-shirts, flannels (unbuttoned with a graphic tee underneath), or long-sleeved t-shirts worn under a graphic tee. The more you layer the more visual interest you have!” – PRESTON LUKE
Which of These Senior Picture Ideas Will You Try First?
Comment below, and share your own senior poses and senior picture ideas while you’re at it!
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Photographs by THE CARRS, JASMINE WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY, KENDRA LYNECE, LAVENDER BOUQUET PHOTOGRAPHY, LYNSEY LUE PHOTOGRAPHY, PRESTON LUKE, ROSS KYKER PHOTOGRAPHY, and SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY CO. | Special thanks to TWO BRIGHT LIGHTS