High School Seniors + Sports

3 Posing Tips to Instill Confidence in High School Seniors

February 22, 2019

By Hope Taylor

© Hope Taylor Photography

When working with high school seniors, it can be tricky to get them to look natural in front of the camera. We see so many photos floating around on Instagram of seniors who look like they are natural-born models, but the reality is that they have most likely never been in front of a camera before. I’ve learned that the way we pose our clients doesn’t just affect the way the images look; it actually affects the way that our clients feel.

If we put our clients in front of our cameras with no posing direction or poor instruction, they are going to be left feeling frustrated, insecure and anxious about their senior experience. This is the last thing that we want! If our clients are left feeling this way, it will affect everything about their experience, including the way that they view their images. Even if they look beautiful in the final product, they will always remember the way they felt when they were in front of your camera. As a result they might not:

  1. share their images on social media following their shoot or share their experience with their friends
  2. leave a positive testimonial about their experience with you, or
  3. order prints or products/make future investments.

When you think about posing in this way, you may take it a little more seriously, and you should. If done correctly, the way you communicate posing in your business could improve your marketing and your bookings more than anything else!

Here are my three favorite tips to building confidence in your clients through your posing:


When your client first arrives at their portrait session, their nerves and anxiety surrounding the shoot are at their peak. No matter how nervous you feel as the photographer, I can promise that they are more nervous than you are. The first 5 or 10 minutes of the senior portrait experience are crucial in how the rest of the experience will go.

Instead of diving right into shooting at the beginning of each session, build in an extra 10 or 15 minutes to chat with your senior when they arrive. Ask them about school, look through their outfits and take a slow walk to the first shooting location. You want them to feel comfortable and at ease, which is hard to do if you immediately throw them in front of your camera.

Then, when it’s time to start shooting, I like to give my seniors what I call my pre-shoot pep talk: I break down exactly what they can expect and relieve any of their stress. I say something like, “Okay girl, before we get started, I just want you to know that none of my seniors are models, so you literally can’t mess this up! I am going to tell you exactly what to do the whole time, so there’s no need to be nervous! Your only job is to have fun!”

This reminds them of two things:

1. It is my job as the photographer to make them look good. They don’t need to have any modeling experience to do a “good job” at their session.
2. I will not leave them hanging with no idea of what to do next. I will always be giving some type of instruction, direction or praise, so I don’t want them to think they’ll have to know what to do.


The name of this trick sounds so silly, but it’s one of my favorites! When posing my seniors, I always put them in a pose and have them look away from the camera first. Instead of having them stare directly into my lens and wait on me to take an image, I’ll put them in a pose and say, “Okay, go ahead and laugh over your right shoulder at that tree!” or, “Drop those eyes down towards your shoulder,” or, “Laugh past me toward the car behind me!” This allows them to feel more comfortable because they aren’t staring into the camera, and it actually gives more natural expression because they typically giggle when asked to laugh at something random.

When it comes to serious images or poses with no smile, I’ll ask them to drop their eyes to their shoulder then pop them up at me to grab the shot. It makes eyes appear more open and bright, and it makes your client feel more at ease when trying to give you their best “model face.”


I learned very quickly when photographing seniors that the best thing I can do to help them feel more comfortable is to make myself look silly. When telling my clients how to pose or what I want them to do, I don’t just tell them—I show them, even if it means that I lay in the grass, sit on the ground or strike a Tyra Banks face while I’m dripping sweat from working so hard. Two things happen:

1. There is no confusion on what the pose looks like, so my communication is clear and confident.
2. My client instantly feels less awkward getting into that pose because I made myself look awkward first! This breaks any barrier and helps my clients to laugh along with me and loosen up throughout the session.

I’ve created a freebie with some of my favorite go-to poses for senior clients to get you started if you need a little more guidance. Download it and keep it on your phone at your next session so you don’t get stuck with which pose to do next!

Hope Taylor is a senior portrait and wedding photographer/educator based in Fredericksburg, VA. She last wrote about “Preparing Your Senior Portrait Clients Before Their Photo Shoot in Three Easy Steps.”


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