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Super Styling Ideas for Senior Portraits

Westfield photographer Karen Slack's tips for getting the most out of your senior portrait session

The senior portrait session captures a moment when one chapter is ending and a new one is beginning, with photos for your senior yearbook and friends, and also treasured gifts for family. Westfield photographer Karen Slack shares her tips to make your personality shine through.

Plan Ahead
Research photographers to see their consistent editing and posing styles. “If you like dark and moody, don’t choose someone who edits in light and airy,” Karen notes. “A phone consultation helps you know if you’ll jive with the photographer.”  Find out what’s trending in fashion styles and locations, and save images to show your photographer.

Photoshoot Locations
Whether choosing city locales or a beautiful park — or both — make sure locations are feasible. Karen says, “Some photographers restrict location choices, while others allow for several, and you want to know beforehand.” Consider outfits for various locations. A natural setting calls for casual clothes — but formalwear can also look stunning. “An urban locale is a fun place for trendy or formal styles,” Karen shares. Brainstorm outfits for settings with your photographer.

Colors and Patterns

Determine colors that work best with your skin tone and hair color. Karen explains, “Solids are best and less distracting; consider trying different neutral and vibrant colors for variety. Subtle floral patterns and plaids can also work wonderfully.” Dark colors like black, gray, and navy are formal, while lighter colors and denims are casual. White can be casual or sophisticated, depending on the outfit. Vibrant clothing can add fun, but avoid slogans and branding that “may not stand the test of time in your portraits,” suggests Karen.

Outfit Ideas
Dresses are a great choice — formal dresses, sundresses, and rompers are popular. Consider a matching, two-piece outfit featuring a top and skirt. Karen notes that “denim, especially in jackets, is a perennial favorite for senior portraits.” For guys, a tailored suit or blazer with dress pants is a great option for a put-together look. For a more casual approach, consider a button-down, polo, or Henley shirt with khaki pants or shorts, or an interesting tee with shorts or jeans.


Shoes, jewelry, hats, ties, scarves, and sunglasses can show off your unique style. Avoid patterned shoes with patterned outfits, and choose comfortable footwear. “Heels are nice, but not for long periods of standing,” notes Karen. Accessories add pops of color and unique touches. You might consider accessorizing with your musical instrument, sports equipment, or creative work.

Hair, Nails, and Makeup
Make grooming appointments just prior to your photoshoot, but hair appointments are best done a week in advance, to allow for adjustments to cut or color. Practice your makeup or book with a stylist to try out looks. Neutral nail polish goes with all outfits; avoid flashy designs. Guys can benefit from a manicure for clean, attractive nails and cuticles.

Try On Outfits

“I tell my clients to take selfies of the outfits they are considering,” Karen says. “Outfits that look great in person don't always photograph well; this is a good way to filter out unflattering items.” Once you’ve gone through your closet and perhaps purchased some clothing or accessories, try on and photograph your outfits and share them with your photographer. Karen says that “by working with your photographer beforehand and bringing along a helper for your photoshoot, you’ll be sure to create a fun, memorable experience.”

Karen’s advice for seniors is to “not stress too much about all the little details. It can be as involved or simple as you’d like to make it. The most important thing is that you are relaxed and enjoying yourself, because this is what will show in your photos.”

Karen Slack Photography is located at 77 Mill Street, Suite 300, in Westfield. She can be reached at 413.896.0047 or