Expert Tips for Your Teen’s Senior Photos

by | Jun 2023

Senior photoshoot in a school parking lot.

Photos: Angela Doherty Photography

Get ready for your close up with tips from the experts.

Senior photos are a great way to commemorate the high school experience. It allows the student, parents, family and friends to look back at a momentous accomplishment that only happens once—that’s why it’s important to put your best face forward during your senior photo shoot. We asked two local photographers, Angela Doherty and Kristen Calgaro, for their advice to make sure picture day goes smoothly.

Doherty, a Woodbury resident, has been taking photos for over 10 years, serves on the board of the Twin Cities Professional Photographers Association and owns a studio (Angela Doherty Photography) in Stillwater. She enjoys showcasing students personalities through their senior photos, she says.

Calgaro has been interested in photography for 15 years and started her business, Kristen Calgaro Photography, seven years ago. “I have loved photography since high school,” she says. “Things have changed since then. Now, everything is digital. As far as the digital world, I’m self-taught. I do online tutorials and participate in different retreats and programs.” Calgaro usually tries to fit in about 24 senior photo shoots every year.

Jack Thompson Senior Photoshoot

Photo: Angela Doherty Photography

Here’s what Doherty and Calgaro recommend for picture day:


Whether you’re a senior or the parent of a senior, communication with the photographer is crucial in making sure the day is picture perfect. “What I do is get to know [the seniors],” Doherty says. “I ask them a lot of questions. What do they like to do? What would make them feel most comfortable? I talk with their parents.”

Dress to Impress

Bring a few different outfit changes. Calgaro recommends bringing one casual outfit and one elevated outfit, like a dress or a button up shirt, for example.

“I have a full wardrobe,” Doherty says. “Mostly for those who identify as female, sizes zero to 24. I just want them to have fun with it.”

When planning which outfits to wear, consider the scenery of the photo shoot. Ask yourself what colors will look good with the location and what you will be most comfortable in. If you’re unsure of what would look best, ask your photographer for advice.

Bayley Glasspoole Senior Photoshoot in Hockey Jersey

Photo: Angela Doherty Photography

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Consider dressing up or trying a unique pose. Doherty likes to do some outside-the-box shoots with her seniors. “I think it’s fun when they can step out of their comfort zone,” she says. “I like to do celebrity-style photo shoots that are more glam.”

Don’t Go It Alone

Seniors should bring whoever will make them feel comfortable and confident. Both Calgaro and Doherty often see parents attend the photo shoot, but others are welcome.

“I always offer that somebody joins, mom or dad or friends,” Calgaro says. “Whatever will make them feel most confident.”

Timing is Everything

Studio photos can be taken at any time of day. However, if outside shots are on the docket, it’s best to take them about an hour before sunset, a time known as the Golden Hour. “The colors are more vibrant,” Doherty says. “However, if you’re a professional photographer, you can take them any time.”

Put Trust in the Experts

The photographer is going to make sure each senior looks and feels their best. “I like to let them know that I’m going to take charge,” Calgaro says. “If they don’t know what to do, they might feel awkward. So leave it to me!” Calgaro helps seniors with posing and angles. She also sends a styling guide prior to the photo shoot as a way for seniors to prepare.

Location, Location, Location

Calgaro and Doherty both recommend shooting somewhere that represents the senior’s personality. “If they’re a skater, we’ll go to the Woodbury skatepark,” Doherty says.

Although the location is up to the senior, a few of Doherty’s favorite spots to shoot include Marsh Creek in Woodbury, downtown Stillwater and downtown St. Paul.

Outdoor Senior Photoshoot

Photo: Kristen Calgaro Photography

Come Prepared

“Practice makes perfect,” Calgaro says. “It sounds silly, but I tell the seniors to practice in the mirror.”

Along with practicing poses and facial expressions, make sure your clothes are picture-ready. “Iron your clothes,” Doherty says. “Don’t bring them shoved in a bag. It’s also important to know which shoes and accessories are going to be paired with what outfit.”

Outdoor Senior Photoshoot with Hat

Photo: Kristen Calgaro Photography

Stick With What you Know

Don’t stray too far from your “usual.” Calgaro recommends that seniors don’t try a new hairstyle or different type of makeup on photo day.

Have Fun

If you have a beloved pet, bring them as a prop. If you’re a dancer, bring your pointe shoes. Doherty says she can work with virtually any type of prop and will find a creative way to incorporate the senior’s passion. “There was a senior who loved Chick-fil-A,” she says. “I told her to bring fries. She threw them in the air during her shoot. You just need to trust the creative process.”

Emilee Senior Photoshoot with Fries

Photo: Angela Doherty Photography

“Pets, sport props, a horse, trucks, their motorcycle,” Calgaro says. “The possibilities to add some personality to a photo are endless!”

Angela Doherty Photography
Facebook: Angela Doherty Photography
Instagram: @angeladohertyphotography

Kristen Calgaro Photography
Facebook: Kristen Calgaro Photography
Instagram: @kcalgarophotography


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