Senior Portrait Do's and Don’ts

If there’s one thing Montclair State has in common with every other university, it’s that its seniors join in the task of taking a professional grade portrait.

While seemingly like any old school picture at first, this one is a much bigger deal than the rest. To graduate college is an amazing feat meaning that this photo will forever sit in a frame on your living room shelf or have a permanent place in your parents’ wallet. Or in some cases, both.

Because of how serious it is, there is very little time and room to mess up. So to make sure the affair goes smoothly, here are some do’s and don’ts for taking your senior portrait.

DO pick a day you’re amply available

Unlike your previous experiences with class photos, there are a variety of days for you to choose from to get it done. No one knows your schedule better than you so plan accordingly. You don’t want to be squeezing your appointment in between classes or rush it right before you have to go to work. The session itself should take about 10-15 minutes, but allow for extra time in case there are other students lined up before you.

DON’T forget to set an alarm

You may be one of those people whose internal alarm clock always goes off just when you need it to. But just to be safe, you might want to set an alarm (or three) the night before. The last thing you want is to oversleep on the day of your session. Whether it takes place in the morning or afternoon, waking up late could cause your entire day to be out of sync and take you completely off schedule.

DO choose what you are going to wear ahead of time

And this does not mean just starting to look into it the night before. You know the day of your photo is coming. You also know what is and what is not hanging in your closet. So make time beforehand to pick out your picture perfect outfit and make sure there are zero flaws. You don’t want to end up discovering a difficult to hide stain or embarrassing hole on your photo ready blouse.

DON’T forget that your entire body will not be in the photo

Unless you’ll be wearing a dress, keep that in mind. Something I notice that with both male and female students taking a senior portrait is an . . . exaggerated shoe choice. Wearing dark jeans or black slacks is a good choice since, naturally, it will bring your outfit together. However, wearing sky-high heels for a photo which will only feature the top half of you seems unnecessary. Save yourself the trouble of walking around in them and stick to what’s comfortable.

DO decide your makeup carefully

If you’re not a fan of flash photography, you also won’t be a fan of how the photos are taken. I’m no makeup expert but I know well enough to say that, for the sake of a good photo, shimmery shades are not your friend. Sticking to a more natural, matte type of look is advisable. This way, you’ll be able to highlight your features and the camera will be able to bring out a bright, beautiful you.  

DON’T forget about your hands

After a few headshot style pictures, it’ll be time to pose with a couple of items that will remind you why you’re taking these photos in the first place. As you’ll be holding a mortarboard (a graduation cap) and a “diploma”, your hands will become another featured part of you. If you’re up to it, invest in a manicure (done ahead of time, of course). If not, keep your nails neat, short, and coated with a clear polish. This will fit the professional setting of your photo perfectly.

DO take care of your hair in advance

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that everyone’s hair is different. Maintenance and styling will also be unique to everybody. No matter what you plan to do with your hair, plan it ahead of time. Remember that practice makes perfect and hair gone wrong is, at least in my opinion, much more difficult to fix than a wrong smear of makeup. While the photographer may fix your hair to bring out your face more, how it ends up in the photo is ultimately up to you.​

DON’T practice your smile too much

Practicing may actually work for you. In that case, disregard this completely. But sometimes, too much of a good thing actually isn’t. Practicing your smile for a lengthy amount of time, particularly with your teeth showing, could potentially tire your jaw muscles out. When it’s time to step in front of the camera, you’ll strive to show that smile you’ve perfected in the mirror but may find that it won’t feel as natural. The last thing you want is to look fake since your smile will be the central and, because of your accomplishment, the most important part of your photo.

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