(BPT) - Your senior year of high school changes everything, including how you handle school picture day. For 11 years, having your picture taken for school has meant putting on a nice shirt, combing your hair and trying to look like you're not grimacing as you stand in rows with your classmates or sit solo in front of a backdrop. Senior portraits, however, are the most important photos you'll take during your school years, so it's vital to ensure yours turn out great, and really capture your personality.
Professional Photographers of America (PPA), an organization made up of almost 30,000 professional photographers, offers these tips to help you ensure your senior portraits turn out as awesome as you are. (They know a thing or two about how to take portraits that work).
Tip 1. Treat yourself to a little pampering before the big day.
Senior year is busy, so you may not feel like you have time for pampering, but you'll look and feel better if you make a point of taking care of yourself prior to portrait day. Get plenty of rest in the days leading up to your session and don't over tan. Unnatural skin tones and bloodshot eyes don't look good on anyone. Eat well so you'll feel and look healthy and energized.
Get your hair cut about a week before your senior portraits, but remember this isn't a good time to try something new. Stick with a simple style that works for you, and avoid any dramatic changes right before picture day. On portrait day, arrive with your hair and makeup done (remember, simple is better). And if you get out of bed with a blemish, don't worry too much - professional photographers know how to touch up photos to help you look your best.
Tip 2. Let your personal style shine through.
Most likely, all the school portraits you did before were basic, and yours probably didn't look that much different from the next student's. Senior portraits, however, are all about you, and you want your personal style to show on every shot.
Talk to your professional photographer ahead of time about your personal style. Check out their website or Facebook page for tips on how to convey your personality through clothing, props, poses and settings. For example, if you've played on the football team for four years, incorporate sports-related props into your sitting. Have you been a band star? Bring your instrument.
Tip 3. Outfit yourself for the big day.
You'll want to have a few changes of clothes for your portraits, so pick three outfits that meet different 'goals' - one to please your parents, one your friends will think is cool and one you love. You'll probably want at least one dressier (formal) outfit, something more casual but still nice and a third that's fun. It's best to bring at least three complete outfits, but be sure they're ones you can change quickly so you don't lose too much camera time.
Remember, your clothes should flatter you but not draw attention away from your face, so avoid busy patterns like plaids, stripes and prints or too-bright colors. Solid, primary colors look best on everyone.
Tip 4. Remember the importance of accessories.
Everything you wear (shoes to jewelry) should flatter you without drawing attention away from the most important element of the portrait - you. For girls, simple pumps with a heel will look great. Guys, break out the dress shoes and your nicest, cleanest pair of athletic shoes. It's perfectly OK to bring a couple of shoe changes along with your different outfits.
It's also fine to switch jewelry with your outfits, but keep it simple. Avoid big, shiny or flashy items that could become the visual focus of the portrait.
Tip 5. Relax and revel in your moment.
It's perfectly normal to feel a little uncomfortable when you're the center of attention on portrait day, but do your best to relax. The best portraits are ones where the subject feels comfortable and relaxed enough to smile naturally. Calm yourself with deep breaths. Bring your BFF, mom or whoever else makes you feel happy and relaxed. Having trouble conjuring a natural smile? Think about the funniest joke you ever heard, or the sweetest thing your boyfriend/girlfriend has done for you. Good memories can help you smile naturally and avoid the appearance that a smile is faked.
Finally, do your best to establish a comfortable relationship with your photographer. Remember, he or she is there to help ensure your senior portraits rock. PPA photographers can help you with outfit and prop suggestions, advise you on how best to convey your personal style, and suggest poses and settings that will result in great, memorable portraits. Don't be left with senior photos you won't enjoy. Show off the real you and ask your parents to look into hiring a professional photographer.