8 ways to make senior portraits look (and feel) timeless and chic

Think an online photo filter, but for real life. (Photo: Getty Images / tonefotografia)

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Summer is almost here, which means many students are enjoying the first moments of their summer break. For many rising high school seniors, getting ready and dressing up for their senior yearbook portraits will be on the summer docket.  

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This milestone picture day brings excitement—potentially paired with some nerves—as students begin to celebrate their final year of high school. To ease nerves and boost confidence, being prepared for the big day is an important part of the process.

Want your grad photo session to go off without a hitch and create pics that you’ll be proud to see framed? Here’s what we recommend to prepare for these shots of a lifetime so you don’t find yourself groaning in embarrassment when you’re famous and someone digs out the yearbook. Hey, you never know! 

If you plan to wear makeup, go with what you know

Stick with your go-to products for the big photo day. (Photo: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser)

If you’re planning on wearing makeup for your portrait, Reviewed’s beauty editor, Jessica Kasparian, recommends playing it safe with products you already know and love.

“Use makeup products you’re familiar with and that make you feel good in your skin, whether that means going for a full glam or a ‘no-makeup’ makeup look,” says Kasparian. 

In addition, Kasparian recommends doing a trial run before the picture day. This will guarantee that you’ll love your makeup look and relieve any day-of stress you may already be experiencing.

For those who might want to wear makeup for the big day, but aren’t sure where to start, Kasparian recommends going for a concealer that “can be used to spot conceal blemishes or brighten the under-eyes”. We’ve tested tons of concealer products at Reviewed and recommend the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer, which ranked as our Best Overall choice, due to its full-coverage, flawless finish.

After concealer, Kasparian says you can also use a hint of mascara to make your eyes pop. For this, we recommend the Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara. “We love how well it holds up throughout the day and its clump-free, lengthening formula,” says Kasparian. 

Lastly, don’t forget to bring along your products for touch-ups throughout the day. 

2. Use the right tools to guarantee a good hair day

Tame any flyaways or frizzy hair on site with a hair brush. (Photo: Wet Brush)

With the help of a few of our favorite hair products, you can ensure you’ll have a really good hair day for your portrait.

If you plan to straighten your hair, we’ve tested and recommended the Micro-Shine Flat Iron for a sleek and shiny ‘do. This high-quality flat iron has large, 4.25-inch iron plates to tackle large sections of hair and rounded edges that can create curls if you’d rather do a wave.

For those who are styling their hair in a time crunch, the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer is a must-have. This cult-favorite, Reviewed-approved hair dryer takes just-showered, damp hair and immediately transforms it into a chic and smooth blowout.

At the portrait appointment itself, Kasparian recommends bringing a hair brush with you to ensure your ‘do looks just the way you want it to before facing the camera. Any brush or comb you have on hand will do, but if you’re looking for a new one, Kasparian recommends the Wet Brush because its flexible bristles make detangling a breeze and are less likely to snag or pull at the hair.

3. Pose with sentimental objects to express yourself

There are plenty of ways to express yourself during your senior portraits—rocking your sports jersey is one of them. (Photo: Getty Images / Joseph Calomeni)

When you look back a few years from now, you’ll want to remember what your life was like back in the day. With the help of a few objects or props from your favorite hobbies or passions, you’ll have personal and creative portraits that’ll last you a lifetime. 

If you played a sport in high school, bring in your equipment or your uniform—this will make for a great photo to show friends and family (and yes, they probably will laugh). If you were involved in art, for example, bring in your favorite pieces to pose with and commemorate. But be sure to pack away your items in a secure location, preferably in a protective carrying case. 

4. Choose outfits that make you feel confident

At the end of the day, you should feel good in what you're wearing. (Photo: Getty Images / Linda Raymond)

Reviewed parenting editor, Anna Lane, says that “trying to force kids of any age to wear something that they haven’t selected themselves never ends well for parents or kids.” Show this story to your parental figure and let them know the experts say you should be able to choose your own outfits.

When it comes to choosing senior portrait outfits, choose something you feel confident in. If you’re not sure where to start when choosing a look, Reviewed’s style editor, Amanda Tarlton, recommends going for something timeless that you’ll feel comfortable in. “Now is probably not the time to wear something crazy trendy that you’ll cringe about in 5 years.”

As for color choices, Tarlton recommends earth tones or neutral shades, as they’ll look good in natural or studio lighting and can complement any backdrop. 

In addition, chances are you’ll be able to take photos in more than one outfit. For this reason, we recommend bringing options. “You might want a casual outfit—like jeans and a pretty top—along with a dressier outfit—like a sundress or flowy jumpsuit,” says Tarlton. Likewise, she also recommends a button-down shirt or polo shirt paired with khakis or chinos for a polished look. For something casual, a crisp white t-shirt and a pair of jeans is a laid back, timeless look.

Online stores like Shein are great for getting an elevated look—like dresses, rompers, two-piece sets, and more—that won’t break the bank. If you’re willing to pay a little more, Tarlton says Anthropologie and Free People are two of her favorite spots for dresses. For a good pair of men’s jeans, check out Levi’s, Everlane, and Nordstrom, which are among some of the best places to shop for jeans. 

5. Don’t be afraid to accessorize 

Jewelry metals like gold, silver, and platinum make for simple yet stunning accents. (Photo: Madewell)

Trust us when we say that accessories can enhance your entire look. Consider bringing along some of your favorite jewelry pieces to your appointment. This way, you can put them on or take them off as you please for each shot.

Tarlton recommends thinking “minimal and understated” when it comes to jewelry. She recommends pairing plain gold hoops or a dainty necklace for just the right amount of visual interest, without overpowering your outfits.

6. Iron your clothes and pack them protectively 

Be sure to carefully iron or steam your clothes ahead of time. (Photo: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser)

Now that you’ve picked out the perfect (parent-approved) outfits—now it’s time to make sure they look just as fresh on you as they do the hanger.

Before heading out to your appointment, iron or steam all of your items—we recommend doing so the night before to eliminate day-of, pre-portrait stress. We’ve tested several clothes steamers and recommend the PurSteam PS-937, as it’s easy to use and seriously effective on even the most wrinkled garments.

No iron or steamer? No problem—here are six other ways you can treat wrinkled clothes, including using a flat iron or throwing them in the dryer.

When transporting your clothes to the shoot, keeping them organized in a garment bag can prevent any wrinkles or even accidental stains from occurring on the way there.

7. Pack a travel bag to stay organized

Avoid losing any of your personal items during the shoot by keeping it all in a backpack or carry-all bag. (Photo: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar)

Between makeup products, hair tools, outfits, and other miscellaneous items, you’ll need a convenient carry-all to hold it all together.

Since school may be out of session during your portrait appointment, you can simply use your backpack to keep all your items organized. If you’re in the market for a new backpack (new year, new you?), we recommend the L.L. Bean Quad Pack for a spacious and supportive bag.

If you can’t fit all your belongings into a backpack or carry-all bag, try fitting some extra shoes or accessories in a large tote bag—just make sure not to fold up any clothing into a tote, as you may end up wrinkling it.

8. Bring comfy shoes to change into

Travel to and from your appointment in some comfortable shoes. (Photo: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser)

You may find yourself waiting around before it’s time for your portraits. We highly recommend bringing a pair of backup shoes that you’re comfortable walking around in.

Swap your heels or dress shoes for an ultra-comfy sneaker choice like the Cariuma Catiba Pro shoes. Tarlton tested and raved about them as “the most comfortable shoes” she’s ever owned or worn.   

For an option that’s easy to slip on and take off, we recommend Birdies, the perfect lightweight flats that practically feel like slippers.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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