What comes to mind when you hear "Senior Portraits"? Is it some lovely little gal, dressed to the nine's, looking like she just stepped out of a magazine? If you said yes, you're in the majority. For the most part, it's not an incorrect stereotype. The ladies do seem to go all out with hair, makeup, wardrobe and accessories, shouting from the rooftop that they had their Senior session. However, there's another half of the equation that shouldn't be left out...the fellas.
Let's not forget that the guys are also graduating and that moms and dads all love their sons as much as their daughters. They will want photos to remember their "little boys", as they end their time in high school, too. So, let's delve into some of the important factors in photographing the ever-mysterious teenage boy for Senior pictures.
First, lets dispel the myth that Senior photo sessions for boys can't be glamorous. Ok, so no, you are probably not wanting to see images with glitter on the face and hair being wafted about by a fan for a male but having a hair and makeup artist still has it's place. One thing that comes to mind is that boys are more likely to try something new with their hair, usually the day before (or day of) their session. MANY times, the new style isn't as flattering as it looked on that model from the Abercrombie & Fitch ad. A hair stylist can often mean the difference between dapper and disaster (wait, did I just date myself by using the word "dapper"...don't judge me). a hair stylist will also hang around to keep an eagle-eye out for stray and fly-away hairs. A photographer generally looks at the world through a tiny viewfinder in the camera. We are looking for important things like composition, framing, lighting, etc. In all honesty, most photographers probably won't even notice that hairs are out of place. At the end of the day, a Senior and his family will probably want to purchase a framed print that doesn't have young Johnny looking like Alfalfa with a huge cowlick sticking up.
The other myth that needs to be debunked is that makeup is just for girls. Now, hear me out. I'm not talking about normal, every day life or walking around looking like Boy George (there I go, dating myself again). I'm specifically talking about during a photo shoot. Let's face it, more often that not, blemishes like to pop up about 5 minutes before something really important is about to happen, right at the most inconvenient and inopportune moment. They do that on purpose, I'm convinced of it. The worst part is, they generally bring their family and friends. Then Senior pictures look like a pimple family reunion. A good make-up artist will not only know how best to hide or at least minimize the appearance of blemishes, they can also diminish the shine that comes with oily skin or sweat. Your son will definitely want to hide an acne outbreak and he'll probably also not want to be immortalized with and OPEC shine that makes it look like he has a 100 watt light bulb in his forehead. Cue the makeup artist. Additionally, subtly applied makeup can also help shape a face, accentuating cheekbones and structure of the nose and it can decrease a wide jaw or strengthen a receding chin and more. Hair stylists and makeup artists are super heroes, in the photographic world.
Next I will address posing. Women want to look soft, feminine, beautiful. Men, however, want to look tough and strong and cool. The female form is flattered by a slight turn of the body to be at an angle to the camera. That pose thins and gives shape to all female body types. A good photographer will create or emphasize an "S curve" in the ladies, with proper posing. However, that's not what guys want. Guy poses are usually more squared up to the camera. Women want to look delicate but men want to appear strong and commanding with broad shoulders, strong arms and neck, thin waist. A photographer should never photograph a Senior male looking feminine and soft. The pose should also look relaxed and natural, not forced and uneasy.
Finally, we come to lighting. In the same vein as above, girls like looking delicate and feminine while guys want to look strong and masculine and a big key factor is lighting. That's the last piece of the puzzle for the Senior portrait photographer to put together. Women benefit from large softboxes, octobanks or scrims while men are flattered by harsh, stronger light. This can be light without diffusion panels, use of open bulbs or a light source placed further away. Just don't put any light, for a male or female, in a way that makes them squint too much. Some squinting can be ok, for a guy, but is never complimentary for a female and never when it's so much that the eyes are pretty much completely lost. You can even be creative with back lighting, which can be very moody, which parents and grandparents love.
The only other thing I will bring up is props. I have heard that many professional photographers in the Fort Myers area (and beyond) limit or completely say no to the use of props with their Senior pictures. I think this is a huge disservice to both the high school student and his family. Guys, even more so than girls (just my opinion), on average, are more into sports and hobbies like fishing or their vehicle. If this is a "preserve them as they are" photographic event (as it should be) why would a photographer not capture that part of them that's so important? It just makes no sense.
When setting out to find that perfect photographer for your son or daughter's Senior pictures, I highly recommend that you find a photographer who is comfortable incorporating any sort of prop your graduating teen want to use. Any real professional will be happy to accommodate. If they are not, you aren't dealing with a professional and, for this once-in-a-lifetime event, you definitely don't want to depend on someone who's not a professional. He (your son) will never in his entire life have another "this is who I am at the time of my high school graduation" moment. Don't take a chance and don't settle for the cheapest photographer you can find on Facebook or Craigslist (in fact, I would venture to say that true professional photographers don't advertise on Craigslist at all...but that's another blog for another time). After all, would you look for a surgeon or the cheapest dentist on Craigslist or would you do research for the best?
When you want it done right, and you definitely do, look for a photographer with a real website displaying a real and varied portfolio of photos that display a style that you love and will be proud to hang on your wall.