High School Seniors + Sports

High School Senior Portraits: The Male Client Approach

July 22, 2021

By Jacquelynn Buck

As a 15-year veteran of portrait photography, I am here to tell you that high school senior portraits are not just for girls, but there are differences in how I approach booking, photographing and planning for male clients. The most important thing, regardless of gender, is that I make sure that the senior portrait experience is, well, an experience. I want my senior portraits to be fun and memorable; not stuffy or boring. And I want the senior to feel like they can bring and be themselves, whatever that looks and feels like. When I hear from male seniors after the session that “this was more fun than I thought it would be!” I know I’ve done my job well.  

senior portraits include swimming and other sports shots of male subjects.
© Jacquelynn Buck

Senior Portraits: Booking + Planning

When it comes to photographing high school senior boys, the mom tends to be the one more vested in the photos so I always start with her. But once she is on board with the session, I want to involve the senior so that he can feel included and like he has a say. We discuss clothing, location, sports and other interests like music or the arts, and how to incorporate that into the session. Clothing tend not to be a priority for the senior guys I see (unless they are super fashion-forward, which does happen). When they don’t have a clear vision of what to wear, I find myself offering a bit more advice and guidance for how to plan. I typically suggest one casual look, one more formal suit and tie look, and one that is what I call “very him,” meaning what he feels like he is most comfortable in, what he would call his “style,” because often what mom wants and what the senior guy feels comfortable in are not the same thing! I also suggest they text me when they have the three outfits (I always suggest three but sometimes the guys don’t take me up on all three) so we can discuss options ahead of time.

high school senior photography using props.
© Jacquelynn Buck
senior portrait with cat.
© Jacquelynn Buck

Prop-Driven Senior Portrait Shoots

Photographing senior portraits for guys can be very prop-driven, and I often see musical instruments, sports equipment, sports-related clothing (like varsity letter jackets) and special-interest items show up (for instance, recently a client brought their Bible to the session). I encourage anything that is their passion or hobby and, as such, I recently photographed a high school senior boy wearing a Link costume (from the video game Zelda) while holding his black cat (above). Yes, really.

Power poses for male high school senior shoots.
© Jacquelynn Buck

Powerful Poses

With many of the senior guys I have photographed I have used more “powerful” poses—arms crossed, wide feet stances, hands in pockets, crouched down (a sort of squat position) and seated poses where I ask him to clasp his hands and lean forward between his legs from a seated position. For my style, I don’t usually ask guys to lay on the ground, lay on their stomach, or put their hands on their face, but there is no right or wrong, and certainly no specific pose to associate with any gender.

[Read: How to Work with and Photograph Neurodiverse High School Seniors]

When it comes to posing, the most important thing is that you ask your client ahead what they want, what they like, what they are comfortable with, give confident and clear direction, and leave them room to opt out of any pose even as you’re doing it. Conversations before, and during, the session is key. Sometimes it’s hard for the senior guy to verbalize what they like (or don’t) so I almost always ask for reference photos that they have seen that they would like to emulate. This helps me visually see what they want (even though I don’t copy poses exactly, it’s very helpful to know what their vision is).

While I may do a few things differently when it comes to senior portraits for guys, there is a list of things I do no matter the client:

1. I always incorporate off-camera lighting into the session.

I find being able to use both natural light and light off-camera allows me to give the client a mix of that soft, natural vibe and that dramatic, edgier, magazine-cover vibe. And since I have some epic scenery to back me up in the desert, the dramatic lighting really helps illustrate the scene and also helps my photographs stand out. My go-to lighting system is Profoto.

2. When it comes to posing, guy or girl, there is one thing I do know

Moms love close up photos of their senior, so I am always sure to get those for her.

3. When it comes to pricing, I have a flat session fee and then the client purchases product on top of that.

My session includes three clothing changes and a consultation on how to prepare and that is the same regardless of guy or girl. I leave hair and makeup up to the client, so that is not included in the cost though I do have a list of pros I recommend if they are looking.

4. Whether the senior is a guy or a girl, the product purchased really depends on the parents and their budget.

I offer a range of products from prints and albums to wall art and digital downloads, and packages that combine all of those. I let the client know the pricing ahead of time and we discuss what they think they want but they ultimately don’t make the final decision until they see the images during my In Person Sales review session, which is now about 80 percent on Zoom (though I am starting to build studio reviews back into my routine). One thing I do notice is that senior girls are way more interested in having a digital version of their images for sharing on social media and I find that senior guys don’t really request access to those as often.

[Read: 3 Ways Senior Portrait Photographers Can Connect with Clients Post Pandemic]

So the take home message is that, yes, senior pictures are for girls, but senior pictures for guys are totally a thing, too, and marketing to them (and their moms) will help diversify your portfolio. Because girl or guy, the senior is still graduating, and that’s worth celebrating, and remembering, with photos.

Jacquelynn Buck is an accomplished portrait and wedding photographer serving Phoenix, Tucson, Scottsdale, Mesa, San Diego, Southern California, Orange County and destinations across the country and world.