10 Tips to Help You Choose a Location for Your Senior Portraits

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When senior year finally rolls around, there’s a lot going on!  Add senior portrait decisions on top of that, and you might feel a bit overwhelmed, right?  After all, senior portraits have come a long way in the past 30 years or so.  What used to be a simple studio formal portrait with one outfit has become a mini model session with multiple outfits and even multiple locations.

Senior portraits are no longer just a milestone.  The senior portrait has become an experience, a rite of passage.

And with that, the stakes are a bit higher.  Not only do you have to find a decent-looking outfit, you have to pick the right location for your senior portrait session.  If your photographer is like me, they’ll be able to list off a bunch of neat spots based on your interests.  But still, it can seem a hard to commit to just one spot.

senior boy leaning on boardwalk railing - michigan senior portrait photographer dexter mi photo
For T’s session, our main location was Mill Creek Park in Dexter. I love how versatile this park is — even though I’ve photographed numerous high school seniors there this year, every session feels completely unique and different.

Maybe you’re worried about the weather being bad.

Maybe you’re concerned that the location is “too popular” and your photos won’t look special.

Maybe you’re not sure if the location is really a meaningful spot to you personally.

You’re not alone in feeling this way.

But don’t worry!

Let’s take this step by step.

Could bad weather ruin your senior portrait session on location?

Honestly, it won’t ruin your senior portraits.  But bad weather might make us change the date.  When planning a senior portrait session outdoors, I always tell my clients that bad weather is a possibility.  That’s why we watch the weather in the days leading up to the session — if it looks like it will be rainy or stormy, I’ll touch base with you to discuss options for rescheduling for another day, or moving to an alternate (indoor) location.  It’s as simple as that!  No fees to reschedule either :).

What if the location for your senior portraits is popular?

Definitely a possibility.  But, here’s the thing.  Your senior portraits will be special because of who’s in them.  You like the location?  Cool.  You like the photographer’s style?  Great!  You’re still a bit concerned?  No prob!  Just talk to your photographer.  When I know you’re looking for something a creative or different at a popular location for senior portraits, I can make adjustments to the session so you end up with totally unique images.  The more you share your vision with me, the better job I’ll do of making that dream a reality!

I’ve done senior portrait sessions on the same day as other photographers, even passed them on the paths.  And I can guarantee that even with the same location, each photographer can create totally different looking images.  The location is just one facet of a senior portrait.  Trust me.

Maybe you just aren’t feeling like any location is “meaningful”?

Yeah, that can happen.  But trust me.  If you’re not set on a particular location, there are things we can do to make sure you end up with senior portraits you love.  If you like being downtown, we can plan a session in downtown Ann Arbor, Dexter, Chelsea, or wherever you like to hang out!  If you are more of a nature person, you’re in luck.  The greater Ann Arbor area has a ton of parks with grass, trees, paths, and even water.  If one park doesn’t stick out to you, that’s fine!  We can pick a park that is convenient and easy to get to — because if forests and trees are your thing, you’ll love the results regardless of the park you pick as the location for your senior portrait session.

Now for those tips.  Which are really questions to make you think….

10 Questions to Help You Choose a Meaningful Location for Your Senior Portraits

You can think of this as a list of tips, formatted as a questionnaire.  By answering these questions, I bet you’ll be able to see what types of locations are really meaningful for you!  Or, if you can’t, maybe a family member, or even your photographer, will be able to help you connect the dots.

1. Where do you go, or what do you do, when you have had a stressful day and just want to relax?

You might go for a run.  Or maybe you head to your favorite cozy chair and curl up with a book, a blanket, and your favorite hot beverage.  You might have an instrument you pick up and let out some chords and melodies, letting the stress of the day fade away.  You could be a nature person — you head outdoors to breathe in some fresh air.  What works for you?

senior girl portrait in sunflower field, sitting on tree stump, dexter michigan photographer
Rachel has always loved sunflowers so we included sunflowers in her location senior portraits.  Her mom told me about a photo of Rachel when she was little holding a sunflower.  I think this is the perfect portrait to pair with that treasured family snapshot!  [And in case you’re wondering, no there wasn’t a tree stump in the middle of the field.  I brought a stool, and used some Photoshop magic replace it with a tree stump :)].

2. What are your hobbies?  Where do you go to do what interests you?

If you like to swim, you’ll head to the pool.  If working out is more your thing, you’ll go to the gym, or maybe the great outdoors for a cross-country hike.  Maybe you meet up with some friends to make music together.  Or you’re an artist at heart and you love going to your studio… or downtown Ann Arbor so you can sketch passersby.  Where do you go when you do what you love?  Think about how we can incorporate your hobbies into your senior portrait session!

musician senior portrait, music instrument senior portrait photographer ann arbor michigan senior photos
If you’re a musician, it might be only logical to include a portrait of you with your instrument. I love the autumn colors in the background, don’t you?

3. Do you have any pets?  Or do you like animals?

While some people are ambivalent when it comes to pets, most of us know where we stand!  If you have a dog, a cat, a horse, or any other type of animal… do you want to include it in your senior portraits?  Some pets, like dogs, are pretty versatile and you can easily transport them to most locations for a senior portrait session.  On the other hand, if you want senior portraits taken with your horse, we’ll probably head to head to the barn where your horse is stabled.  Cats are rather particular about their surroundings, so if you want to include your feline, that likely means a senior portrait session at your home.  It’s all about making the animal feel comfortable.  I’m happy to photograph a variety of animals, and am personally not afraid of bugs/insects/snakes — but it’s always best to let your photographer know ahead of time if you plan to include your pet.  I like to be prepared!

high school senior girl with labrador retriever dog on grass, ann arbor michigan senior photographer
Like any young dog (and maybe labrador retrievers in general), Roy was full of energy and excited …but willing to be around my camera equipment. Here’s one of him playing a bit with Genna while we got him in position for the real senior portraits.

4. Do you play any sports, or are you on any teams?

If you play football, you might want to do your senior portraits at the high school stadium.  Or if you are on track, it might be cool to create some portraits of you at the starting line.  If you know you want to do something sports-related during your senior portrait session, but you’re not particular about the location, we can definitely work that into your senior portrait session!  I’ve done sports-themed senior portraits in the studio.   And if you play soccer or another outdoors sport, it’s pretty easy to find a nice looking patch of green grass for your themed portrait if you don’t feel the need to pose by a soccer goal!  Think about the sports you are involved with, and which might be good to incorporate into your senior portrait session.  This should help you come up with some senior portrait session location ideas!

high school senior soccer goalie, girl portrait, outdoors dexter mi of skyline high school senior ann arbor mi
Caitlin’s mom loved this portrait …and I think this one might be my favorite of the soccer senior portrait series too. What do you think?

5. Do you like the outdoorsy, nature look?

In the greater Ann Arbor area, we have a TON of parks and recreational areas.  I am always happy to suggest locations if you need ideas.  Some of my clients are happy with whatever location I suggest, as long as it is outdoors and is some sort of natural setting.  Other clients want me to do portraits at a specific park where they spend a lot of time.  I’m happy to make suggestions, but it’s ultimately up to you.  If you like being outdoors, I bet you have some places that you go to frequently.  If you go there a lot… chances are it might make for a meaningful location for your senior portrait session!

senior boy portrait photographer fall colors dexter michigan
…..seriously. The sun, peeking through the trees. Gorgeous. I love those rays of sunlight, the dappled leaves, and the whole setting. It’s amazing how beautiful nature can be! I’m so glad we were able to create senior portraits for Ian that included the fall colors 🙂

6. Do you like going downtown?

If the answer is yes, think about where you go when you head downtown.  Is it to a particular park?  Maybe you go window shopping, or maybe you love being right downtown by Michigan Theater.  I’ve done senior portraits all over the place… and no two senior portrait sessions ever look alike.  If gritty urban portraits are more your thing, we can definitely talk about a visit to graffiti alley — they walls are always changing so you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a unique backdrop for your senior portraits.

If a smaller downtown scene is more your thing, we can look into downtown Dexter, Chelsea, Saline, or even Ypsilanti.  Each city has their own unique charm, so if one spot means more to you, by all means, let’s head there!  If you like going to Depot Town in Ypsilanti, it’s always a nice spot.   If you want to head downtown Ann Arbor, expect to do a bit of walking. I will add that parking is usually plentiful, unless you want to have your session downtown during the week of the Ann Arbor Art Fair (been there, done that!)…and then it’s going to be more walking!

graffiti alley, ann arbor, mi portrait photographer senior portrait photographer downtown ann arbor, location senior portraits ann arbor
We went for a more serious look with this really edgy senior portrait. I love how the colors fad to black. …and A’s hair looks great with all the colors at Graffiti Alley in Ann Arbor!

7. Do you have a favorite hangout?

Over the years, I’ve photographed seniors in coffee shops, libraries, book stores, restaurants… you name it.  If there is a place that you go to hang out, chances are good that we can plan a senior portrait session there.  If you love the store where you work, maybe you want to have senior portraits done there.  Maybe you go to Nichols Arcade a lot, and want portraits there.  Get the idea?  If there’s a place that you go with your friends for fun, maybe we can make that into a location for your senior portrait session.  It would definitely be memorable!

blimpy burger ann arbor senior portrait session, location senior portrait ann arbor mi photographer senior photos on location
We created this edgy senior portrait at the old Blimpy Burger before it was demolished. It really sticks in my mind as a favorite portrait session location — because it was meaningful to my client. He worked there :). Best part? I got a burger after our session was complete!

8.  If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you want to take them?

The spots that you want to share with an out of town friend may include a great place for your senior portrait session.  Maybe you want to take them to Gallup Park because of all the cool walking paths and bridges over the Huron river.  Maybe you would take them on a walking tour of downtown Saline because you love that area (followed by a side trip to Curtiss Park).  Or maybe Michigan Theater would be at the top of your list.  Wherever the spot — you’ve chosen it because it’s important to you.  So maybe it’d be a great location for your senior portrait session!

senior portrait outdoors dexter mi ann arbor photographer, friends photo senior photo
For that matter, why not invite a friend to tag along for your senior portrait session? We had a fun “friends” photo during the middle of this senior portrait session at my studio…

9. When you scroll through your phone’s camera roll, is there a spot where you frequently take photos or selfies?

If you have location tagging turned on, take a peek at the different spots where you tend to take photos.  Do any of those locations seem like a fun spot for senior portraits?  You might be surprised to find some ideas for where to have your senior portrait session!

If you take a lot of selfies, think of where you were when you tend to take those photos.  Maybe we could use that location for a fun “candid” senior portrait of you taking selfies!

senior portrait silly face, relaxed and casual senior portrait of girl, ann arbor michigan senior portrait photographer
It’s okay to be silly during your senior portrait session!  We took a series of photos, some smiling, some silly… doesn’t this senior portrait remind you just a bit of a selfie?

10. Does your family have a location that is meaningful to you as a family?

Okay, I know these are your senior portraits.  You want them to be special to you,… but sometimes part of that “special” comes from doing portraits in a location that you’ve gone to since you were little.  So, if you can’t come up with any ideas, but know you want something special… try asking your folks!  You could do your senior portraits at the same park where your mom or dad took you as a kid, or maybe your backyard has many happy childhood memories for you.  We can incorporate those memories into your senior portraits by choosing that as your location!  If you have older siblings, your parents might suggest the same location as their senior portraits.  If so, don’t worry about your senior portraits looking the same.  We will be able to make your experience unique to you, I promise.

Also, if you end up doing your senior portraits at your house, we could do some pictures of you in your environment — your room!  That’s up to you, of course.  Some people prefer to stay outside in the backyard for senior portrait sessions at their house.  But I will say, choosing your home as your senior portrait location all but eliminates your travel time.  And outfit changes will be a breeze!

senior portrait lake michigan channel to white lake, senior portraits lake michigan photographer senior photos
Maggie has family on Lake Michigan, and many weekends are spent on the lake. So it was only natural that we did some of her senior portraits on that side of the state. here’s a gorgeous senior portrait of her next to the channel.

Now, look through your answers….

Do you see any similarities?  Any locations listed more than once?  Maybe that’s a spot to consider for your senior portraits.  Seriously, though, there is NO wrong choice when it comes to a location for your senior portraits.

Your portraits will be a reflection of who you are because you are in them.  Your senior portraits will be meaningful because you are special.

You don’t have to stress out over finding the perfect location.  It’s okay to flip a coin, or ask others for input.

I hope these tips to help you choose a location for your session have been helpful.  I’d be happy to help you plan your senior portrait session in further detail too — just call the studio at 734-424-0472, or get in touch via our web form.  I’ll look forward to chatting with you soon!