My sister put me on notice during my niece’s junior year of high school: I want you do to her senior photos. And … NOT the beach. We can do them anywhere but the beach.
My sister (and my niece) live in Mississippi, and apparently every single one of her friends who had been seniors had done senior photos at the beach. Keep in mind that the beach is, minimum, 2.5 hours away from my hometown, and you can see how persistent trends in senior photography can be.
In Little Rock, locations like the Junction Bridge, the Old Mill, and the Clinton Library area can become over-used. Garvan Gardens, while not in Little Rock, is another popular Arkansas photography destination.
There’s also a common “look,” that, while not necessarily tied to a specific location, can cause your senior photos to blend in. It might be old barns one year, ancient broken-down trucks the next. It could be fields of tall grass (probably shouldn’t be with the recent outbreak of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Arkansas) or railroad tracks (DEFINITELY shouldn’t be since you’re breaking the law and putting your life in danger to boot).
Locations locations locations … how to make sure your own senior photos aren’t just a carbon copy of everyone else’s?
Here are some Do’s and Dont’s when it comes to picking a location that will make your senior photo session extra special.
1. DO Think about what is special to you. Do you love baseball? Have your happiest moments been spent hiking? Or are you an indoors sort of person who loves a good book? The advantage of picking a location that has meaning to you, is that it will also go a long way towards making sure you are comfortable and relaxed during your photo session.
2. DO Talk to your photographer about what you love. Your photographer should be asking questions so that they can tailor the session around you, anyway. Don’t be afraid to give him or her a general idea of what you would like. Specific locations aren’t necessary; in fact, it’s possible your photographer will be able to help. Gardens? A waterfall? A giant tree? Your photographer might just know the perfect accessible location!
3. DO Choose locations that are open to the public. Be aware that some locations require a fee, especially indoor locations. You may be expected to pay extra fees for sessions in privately-owned gardens, museums, or other private or semi-public spaces.
4. DO Plan around popular times if you are going to a popular location. One of our top senior portrait locations, The Old Mill, is completely packed with seniors and photographers on your average Friday evening in March. If you’re committed to the scenery, you will be able to get a lot more of it (and a lot less of photobombing tourists or even other photo sessions) if you schedule an off-peak time. Note that one reason so many people show up at the same time is that many photographers work a “day job” — so if your photographer is available during normal business hours that can be a real bonus.
5. DON’T Trespass. Sure, there are some cool locations out there, but any location that requires going onto private property should be off-limits unless you’ve received permission to photograph there. The good news? Permission is often very easy … simply a matter of you (or your photographer) making a phone call to ask. A side note: train tracks. You aren’t going to get permission, and it’s dangerous … so just don’t plan to take photographs there.
6. DO plan in advance. If you play baseball and want photos reflecting that, you can ask for permission to shoot at the ballpark. If being in the woods is your thing, find a location that provides a backdrop of trees or trails. Advance planning with your photographer can make many things happen!
7. DO look at other senior photos and if you see a location you like, call and ask about it! Some photographers have access to exclusive locations … a photographer I met from Texas turned his entire yard into a park specifically for doing senior photos.
8. DO choose a standard location, but make it look different. When photographing at The Old Mill, for instance, I spend only a few moments getting the standard mill-in-the-background shot, because when clients see the other photos that one is seldom their favorite. There’s so much that can be done in a location, and every photographer will take a different approach. In the end, loving your senior photos comes down more to choosing a photographer you trust, and letting them get the most out of whatever location you decide upon for photos.