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Senior Portraits Explained by Elaine Zelker

I've been a full time photographer for the past 8 years...and before that I was a Registered Nurse (I do still work in Hospice Nursing about 4-5 times per month...and I love it!). When people ask me what type of photography I enjoy the's definitely portraits...particularly headshots and senior portraits. Let's focus on Senior Portraits now. I want to share with you some of the reasons why it's so important to capture these moments, how to choose a photographer that is right for you, and what steps to take to make sure you are prepared for a great shoot!

How To Go About Choosing A Senior Portrait Photographer That Is Right For You

You should choose a senior portrait photographer the same way you would choose a photographer for any other type of life event (like headshots, weddings, family).   It's important that the style of the photographer, their personality AND what they offer be a fit for you, otherwise it may not work. Don’t just simply compare photographer's prices. There are a lot of things that determine what a photographer charges, and so simply comparing pricing doesn't help you understand that.

Do some homework.

Here are some helpful hints for choosing the right photographer:

1. View their Website Portfolios, FB albums, Instagram, Twitter (to get an overall ‘feel’ of their work, style, personality)

2. Read their bios (are they someone you would like to hang out with?).

3. Understand their experience - a photographer with years of experience is often more expensive than someone just starting out.  That makes sense, right? That should show in their work as well.  While many people think that because they have a great camera they can take great pictures, there is so much more to professional photography than that, and your photographer should have credentials they can share with you as well.

4. Word of mouth - word of mouth is a great way to find potential photographers in your area.  Happy clients like to share their experiences (and unhappy clients like to share much, much more).

5. Location of they even have a studio? If not, are they working of a basement or a garage? Does that make you comfortable or uncomfortable?

I remember my senior portraits (barely). I went by myself. They weren't a big deal, and the whole process wasn't all that exciting. I drove to my high school, wore a simple shirt and jeans.  My photographer must have been really cool because he had me put on one of those triangular black "drapes" that was almost off the shoulders but not quite, but that ensured I looked all "graduation and adult-like" showing off my neckline and cool necklaces (and big hair, of was 1989!!).

Today, it's completely different, and the idea of it all can be very overwhelming for both parents and students, especially for your first “senior”.

So, Why Are Senior Portraits A Big Deal Now? 

Senior portraits are about celebrating a life stage - for many teens, their entire senior year is filled with many milestones, and it is definitely one worth noting and celebrating in many ways, including portraiture.

Their last year with their childhood friends.

Their last year ‘home’.

Their last year living under “mom & dad’s” wings. (even though that may not end until they are out of college, if not, married!)

I feel as if you have to capture that! Never forget who they are, at this EXACT moment.

I created this handy-dandy guide that explains my process from beginning to end.

You can download here:

(16 Ways To Help You Prepare for Your Senior Portrait Session) that will show you exactly how to prepare for an amazing, fun, personal photo shoot!!

(Includes my packages as well…if you’re ever in the Easton, PA area!!)


I love making the connection with the kids, and capturing them as they are today. I adore how they morph in front of my camera and I see their true personality come out!  This time goes by so fast...and we as photographers (and parents) need to savor every little minute. I always advise parents to allow the kids to wear what they love. Bring their guitar or cowboy hat...boas or a musical instrument. Whatever makes them feel like themselves...let's celebrate and capture it!


Elaine Zelker

IG: elainezelker

Twitter: @elaine_zelker

FB: Elaine Zelker Photography


Here are some samples from a Girl and Boy Session:


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