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What to Wear: Tips for Picking Outfits for Your Senior Portrait

My boutique photography studio, Samantha Grant Photography, exclusively caters to high school senior portraiture in Northern California. I love the entire process of designing the shoot, working with seniors to make them look fantastic during their session, and also creating beautiful heirloom works of art for their families to cherish. But here at Basic Invite I’m going to discuss one of the finer points to photoshoot prep that comes up for me time and again: outfits.

As a senior portrait photographer the number one question I get from clients is about what to wear. In my typical portrait session we have time for three outfits (four if the senior really wants another look and can change fast) but a lot of people find selecting those three looks to be a challenge.

Obviously, whatever you choose should reflect your personality- if hiking is your passion I’m not going to suggest a floor length gown. But at the same time a lot of seniors enjoy having at least one look that is a little dressier than they would normally wear. Let me give you some tips that I tell everybody and hopefully it will help you figure out what to wear for your own shoot.

If there is time for three looks, most people like to have one look that is more casual, one look that is more dressy, and a third look that could go an extreme in either of those directions or be something else completely.

1. The Casual Look: Jeans, Off the Shoulder Tops

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

The casual look is almost always jeans. Ripped jeans are a huge trend right now. Traditional blue, black, and white are the most popular colors. A lot of seniors wear them with vans. If you go with skinny ripped jeans, having a looser top balances the look.  Check out Brandy Melville for these.  Off-the shoulder blouses are a great pairing with the ripped jeans. If you’re into the mom-jean trend, go with a more fitted top to balance that out.  A nice looser top in colder weather could be a chunky sweater.

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

 

If you want to make this look slightly more dressy swap out the vans for a pair of heeled booties. And if you want to be super on trend, pair the ripped jeans and booties with a giant fluffy faux fur jacket. Those are super fresh right now and the texture of the faux fur photographs really well.

 

Portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

2.  The Dressier Look: Rompers & Maxi Dresses

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

For the dressier look rompers have been the go-to choice this year, but a word of caution: rompers aren’t for everybody. Most rompers have a gathered waist band that falls at your natural waist. Often, even with thin clients, this can create a bit of a puffing out around the lower stomach area. So if you have a romper that you absolutely love, do a reality check in front of the mirror standing in a bunch of different ways to see if you like how it looks. The other tricky thing about rompers is that they can be super short. I want my clients to have tons of variety in their gallery— if you aren’t able to sit down without exposing your underwear in the romper, that’s going to cut down on a lot of poses for your shoot. Just keep that in mind.

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

My absolute favorite dressier looks have always involved Free People dresses. I can’t explain it but their stuff is so flowy and romantic and seems to look great on everyone. Every time I’ve had a client show up with a Free People dress- either short or long- they have LOVED how those images turned out despite the fact that they weren’t sure where they’d ever wear the dress again. But honestly, we’re here to create a work of art, featuring you, so you might find that investing in a beautiful dress is worth it.

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

If Free People just isn’t in your budget, I also highly recommend checking out Vici (they have maxi dresses that seem designed for photoshoots) and also Francesca's. Francesca's is actually a great resource not only for dresses but also for accessories: if matching jewelry and shoes to the clothes isn’t your thing just pick a look that Francesca’s put together and buy the entire look. It’s a way to get the talent of a professional stylist for free.

3.  The Third Look: Letterman Jackets, Team Uniforms, College T's and more

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

The third look is what stumps the most clients: casual, dressy, and then what? Well often this is the opportunity to bring in one of your passions and design the look around it. Letterman jackets are quite popular for this. One word of caution- if you plan to wear your letterman bring a lint brush to the shoot! Those fuzzy jackets pick up all kinds of stuff, especially if you have a dog.

Another idea is to wear a uniform from your sports team; if you do, don’t forget any additional props like the lacrosse stick, soccer ball, or poms. Seniors who already know where they are going to college sometimes bring a t-shirt or sweatshirt with their new school logo on it for their third look. Or, if your life revolves around music, you can select an outfit that you wear when performing.

Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography Senior portrait by Samantha Grant Photography

Regardless of what you wear to your senior portrait photoshoot make sure that you love it, that it fits you well, and that the look is complete. Put each look together-- head to toe-- with plenty of time in advance so that if you need to run out and get something, you can. Paying special attention to having the right bra to go with each look, and having the perfect shoes will play a huge part in helping create an amazing gallery where you will love every single shot.

-Samantha Grant Photography specializes in high school senior portraiture in Pleasanton, CA. For more tips and tricks to get the most out of your senior portrait session visit the blog.

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