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How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out

Lesson 2 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out

Lesson 2 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

2. How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out


What is Lighting in Layers?


Build a Lighting Foundation


Layer One: Main Light


Layer Two: Fill Light


Layer Three: Accent Light


Layer Four: Additional Light


Lesson Info

How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out

All right, so one of the things that I would like to stress when talking about senior photos is doing things differently. The idea that senior portraits need to be traditional or a certain way... Again, that didn't appeal to me and it still doesn't. I had senior photos takes way back in... I guess it would have been 2001, my junior year, I remember... I don't really remember a whole lot about it, because as a senior guy, I wasn't that pumped to get my senior photos taken. It was almost probably the day before where my mom told me, "Oh, you have senior pictures tomorrow, we better go to the mall and get you some clothes," and I thought... And haircut, that fresh haircut look, that's always great. And I really couldn't care less about it when I did it. I remember the photographer had a medium format film camera so that puts a date to is. And, you know, I remember seeing the studio being that traditional look of the large framed wall portraits, head and shoulders type shots and all that t...

ype of thing, and that is what you see still to this day when you walk in a lot of senior studios around the country. So that just didn't appeal to me. So seniors look at the same things we do. They look at magazines. Even more so, they look at social media constantly, and they want what they see, but so many photographers don't give them that because of this traditional approach to senior photography. And again, that's where... I'm inspired by the things that they look at because that's what I like, too and those are the images I want to create. So the things that make up that and bring it to a different light that normal with senior photography is the lighting. You know, using different lighting, not just the traditional. The direction, so not so much of the still and stagnant posing and making sure every angle is perfect and all that. I use direction, almost giving people cues and having them pretend that they're in a scenario where they're not so much focused on the fact that the camera is pointed right at them, because again, most of these seniors, 99% of them aren't models. They're not used to having... Well, they might be a little bit used to having a cellphone camera pointed at them, but they're not used to being in front of a guy with a camera, so I want to let them forget that so I can capture authentic looks that are genuine and actually show their personality, and we'll get into how I direct them and bring all that stuff out later. And the last part is shooting style. I shoot a lot because when you're having people do a lot of actions and movement and all that sort of stuff, I see a lot of photographers who don't take a lot of photos and I remember back when I did get my photos taken, you know, when you're shooting with 220 medium format film, it's like oh, you get a couple of roles and every photo has to be perfect. Well, we're in the age of 128 gigabyte memory cards and digital and fast computers and everything else, so there's no reason not to do that, and that's kind of where I go with the way I shoot. On a senior shoot now, most of my sessions are about two to two and a half hours, and it is not rare for me to take between 800 and 1,000 images per a session, and some people cringe at that thought, but the reality is I can call through those images and capture one and I'm looking for one specific look that looks like you caught a moment. And it doesn't take long, especially the more you practice and try it, you can see it. Because you see a real look on someone's face. When everything comes together, it's flattering, it caught a real moment and the composition and technical parts of the photo all come together, you know it, so... And then again, this results in the look not typically found in senior photography and that's what brings you more clients who want that. And we're going to get into when we talk about marketing how to start and bring that look to you, especially if you're new, or you're just trying to restart or do something... Refresh, I guess, would be the word and do something that you haven't done before. And again, like I said, don't be afraid to push the shutter. So... Some people look through the session and they think, "Oh my gosh, you've shot 200 images of that one thing and if it's walking and someone spinning around and doing all the stuff, yeah, sometimes you've got to do things a few times to catch that one moment, but when you get it, you know it and it's worth it. Here's a few samples of some of the senior stuff I shoot. Some of these are from other workshops, a lot of them are client work. Just the point is to show that these are more editorial looks with the lighting, the posing, the direction and everything else that is more inspired by what I see in magazines and less inspired by what I would see in a traditional senior portrait studio. And a lot of times, I like to tell that story within one image, so you make people... I want people to look at an image and wonder kind of what's the story behind this? What's going on? It evokes either emotion from the viewer or from the person within the photo, and there's just a little more to it than a pretty picture. And that goes with my editorial work, too, so it's kind of bringing it full circle. Here's a few more images of different seniors and clients. You can see, there's a lot of times not a lot of eye contact because I'm putting people in these scenarios where they're doing things and thinking about other things, and I'm just kind of like a fly on the wall, capturing their emotion and their actions to get something that's natural. And we'll definitely get into the psychology and approach of getting that. And again, here's some more... some more of those images. Like the bottom left one being a little more lighting and compositional heavy, whereas some of the other ones are catching a moment with using different lenses and things like that, too and we'll talk about all that.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Lighting Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lighting Terms Guide

Ratings and Reviews

pete hopkins

awesome teacher and awesome technique. after soooo many webinars, it's really great to see someone break it down to the bare bones of lighting with exceptional quality results. i can listen to Dan all day. no pretense, no over the top emotional pleas, no drama! did i say awesome!!!! Plus, I'm a huge fan of the B! and B2 systems. Freedom is key. Now I can shoot anywhere, anytime. Thanks Dan.


This is by far the best class on senior photography I have found on creativelive. Dan explains the technical aspects in an easy to understand format. He does a great job going through studio shots, outdoor shots, editing and marketing. He's given me some great ideas and inspired me to be more creative. I am going to rewatch the lighting set up for the "hero shot". It's super cool!

Tristanne Endrina

Dan was great. His class was very comprehensive but easy to follow. The slides he used weren't flashy. Instead, they were simple and he went at a good pace. I left feeling like I could really pull off the lighting techniques he taught. I'm excited to put what I learned into my photography. :) Thanks, Dan.

Student Work