This blog post idea came from a random phone call a few days back. A dad googled senior photographers and he called me to ask a question. “My wife and daughter booked with a photographer and are telling me that it is going to cost over $2,000, is this a ripoff?” It seems like this is kinda the feeling most parents have when they start looking. “Senior pictures are how much?” But it’s not just the price that has changed over the past few decades.
I graduated from Tigard High School in 1996 and had my senior pictures taken in 1995. My best friend was a rep for a photographer in Portland, so of course, I had to go to her as well! Let me remind you, it was the 90’s, no google, no internet, we used a phone book to look up businesses, film cameras, no digital downloads and you can only purchase prints through the photographer.
We paid over $500, guessing my mom could tell you the exact amount, but I remember taking home the proof book and choosing our 12 favorite images for the black folio. We got 12, 5×5 prints in a folio and my favorite image submitted to the yearbook. Pretty sure my dad was appalled at the price.
But my senior picture experience wasn’t the norm. Most of my friends when to a large photography studio to have just a few shots taken, or just one for the yearbook. And to this day I have people ask if they can just have one shot for the yearbook. I will have a day of mini sessions just for this purpose in September so keep checking back for the date announcement soon!
Fast forward 20+ years, and senior portrait photography is its own genre of photography. Those of us that choose to specialize in senior portraits do it because of how this has evolved. When you are 17 years old and looking at adulthood coming your way, graduating from high school where you might have spent 12 years with the same kids, it’s a lot. I can’t speak for anyone else but when I was 17 I was scared of everything. Of leaving my home, meeting new people, doing well in college, not doing well in college, meeting new people, did I say meeting new people cause that was tough for me! Senior pictures were my first portrait of just me. I’d had family pictures taken before but not a picture of just me. They gave me a confidence I hadn’t had before.
The evolution of this genre of photography was to give 17 year olds their first real portrait experience. One that is about them, about their style, their interests, their passions. The reason for that is because you want to have something that shows who you were. So that future you can look back and laugh at your mom jeans. It was the 90’s and it was cool, but now it’s back in style and I really don’t know how to feel about it ok.
My hair and makeup professional has a daughter and she said that she knows she’s going all out for her senior portraits because the professional photos you have taken in your life are senior portraits and wedding photos. And she wants her little girl to wait a while before getting married. Totally makes sense to me, my senior portraits were taken at 17, I got married at 34. 17 years between them, and I changed a lot in that time.
So I told that dad that yes, $2,000 is a lot of money but the portraits of his daughter will be priceless in 20 years. I love my senior photos so much and am so happy I have them. It’s hard to explain that value. These days we’re so used to snapshots with our phones, slap on a filter, and call it a portrait. But a real professional photographer is taking the time to curate your photoshoot so that you’ll see yourself on your best day. So that you aren’t saying “felt cute, might delete later”. Your senior portraits will represent a bit of who you are as a teenager and hopefully give you a bit more confidence going into adulthood. Plus now you can get digital downloads AND prints!