As a certified professional senior portrait photographer, one of the most frequent questions that I am asked by parents of high school seniors is “when should my son or daughter have their senior portraits taken?” In this article I hope provide a road map for parents that will make choosing when to book your high school student’s senior pictures a bit easier and stress-free.

The most popular time for seniors to take their high school senior pictures is during the summer before their senior year, but fall portrait sessions are not uncommon.

High school senior pictures can be taken at almost any time of the year. While most students choose to have their senior portraits taken during the summer before their senior year, many opt to wait until October to include fall foliage in their on-location senior portraits. Some high school seniors even decide to brave the elements and create snowy winter senior pictures at places like Timberline Lodge or White River Snow Park on Mount Hood in January or February. A small number of students also opt to have cap and gown or other celebratory images taken during the Spring, just before their high school’s graduation ceremony.

It is very important for parents to determine the deadline for submitting senior pictures to their high school yearbook before deciding when to schedule their son or daughter’s senior portraits.

The only hard deadline that drives the creation of most high school senior portraits is the due date for submitting your son or daughter’s senior yearbook picture to their high school yearbook.  This date is set at the discretion of their high school’s yearbook staff. 

These deadlines vary greatly from school to school. Some schools require submissions just after the start of the school year and others giving students until February or even March to submit their yearbook images. I try to keep a list of general senior picture deadlines for high school yearbooks in the Portland and Vancouver areas of Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, but you should be sure to check in directly with your son or daughter’s high school yearbook to make sure you don’t miss an important deadline.

Why is the summer before senior year a popular choice for taking high school senior portraits?

Having senior portraits taken during the summer before your son or daughter’s senior year is a popular choice for several reasons. First, it allows the senior to have their portraits taken in a more relaxed environment, without the pressure of school or extracurricular activities. Second, it provides ample time for the student to choose the images they want to use for yearbook and graduation announcements. 

Additionally, summer in the Pacific Northwest offers nearly unlimited opportunities for stunning senior pictures. The long summer days provide a great amount of flexibility when planning for the perfect light at the perfect location. And, especially in Oregon, summer is a time for little rain and cloudless skies. Rarely is there a need to reschedule a senior portrait session in the summer due to inclement weather.

One downside to summer senior portraits, however, can be the overwhelming late-summer heat. This is particularly hard for senior girls who invest many hours and dollars on their hair and makeup.  One recommendation I always have for seniors in the summer is to consider an early morning portrait session. Early morning sessions, starting as early as sunrise and running until the sun rises above about 45 degrees in the sky, can product beautifully colored skies, soft natural light, and comfortable temperatures that work with almost any clothing style.

When should I consider scheduling a high school senior portrait session in the Fall?

Having senior portraits taken during the fall of senior year is another popular option. The reason is somewhat obvious: fall colors. Fall senior portrait sessions offer a different color palette and atmosphere than summer, which can add to the creative style and personality that is portrayed in the senior portraits that we will create for your high school senior.

In Oregon and Southwest Washington, fall colors typically peak in mid-October and last for a period of a few weeks. But you’ll begin to notice leaves beginning to change yellow or gold as early as the first few weeks of September. And during years of good weather, colorful reds can cling to the skeleton branches of trees as late as early November. 

It’s also worth mentioning that trees at higher elevations will change colors first. So if your portrait session is located near Mount Hood or in the Cascade or Coastal Mountain ranges, you’ll want to plan your senior portrait session on the earlier side of this range. Conversely, the coastal communities located near sea level along the Oregon Coast will be among the last places in Oregon to experience fall foliage color changes.

The one big downside of a fall senior portrait session in Oregon and Southwest Oregon is the unpredictable weather. Just as the fall brings colorful foliage, it also signals the return of the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest.  Rain can wreak havoc on professional camera gear and, more importantly, a high school senior’s hair and makeup.  And the wet weather and cooler temperatures can significantly limit the types of clothing that you will feel comfortable wearing for your high school senior portraits.  More than anything, be prepared to stay flexible and to reschedule your senior portrait session the later in the fall you schedule your high school senior portrait session.

Winter offers an opportunity to take unique and creative senior portraits.

Winter portraits are not for every high school senior. Winter portraits are a good choice for a high school senior who is willing to brave the elements, suffer through some discomfort, and to whom creative senior pictures are of high importance. Winter can be a challenging time to take photos, but experienced professional photographers know how to work with the winter light and weather conditions to capture stunning and unique portraits.

Winter in the Pacific Northwest offers unique scenery. Snow-covered trees, frozen lakes, and icy landscapes can all create stunning and memorable senior pictures. Winter can also mean that senior portrait locations will be less crowded.  And, the colder months create options for interesting and creative winter wardrobe choices such as cozy sweaters, stylish coats, and fun accessories like hats and scarves.

What else should you consider when scheduling a senior portrait session with a professional photographer?

There are a few additional things to keep in mind when deciding on the best time to book your son or daughter’s high school senior portraits with a professional photographer.

  1. Weather. Weather can be a significant factor when scheduling senior portraits. If you have a fair-weather child, scheduling their senior portrait session in the summer or early fall will make them feel the most physically comfortable. Calm weather will make your senior more likely to give you beautiful, non-forced smiles and expressions for the camera.  Bad weather on the other hand may produce shivers, goosebumps, and grumpy feelings that will show in their senior pictures.

  2. Your Senior’s Schedule. It is really important to consider your son or daughter’s availability and other family obligations when scheduling their senior portrait session. Kids these days are hyper-busy with jobs, sports, and all sorts of extracurricular activities. The average senior portrait session will to last about 2 hours (often less for senior guys, and sometimes more for senior girls, depending on the number of outfit changes and your goals for your portrait session). You are also likely going to need some extra preparation time before your senior portrait session to gather last minute items or to prepare hair and makeup. And, parent’s shouldn’t miss the rare opportunity to make the most of this experience and take their son or daughter out for a celebratory lunch or dinner after their senior portrait session. Bottom line is that a senior portrait session is a once and a lifetime experience, so don’t take away from that by trying to pigeon-hole your session between other obligations or creating a stressful situation that may affect your final senior images.

  3. Photographer’s Availability. Your photographer’s schedule will likely fill quickly during the senior portrait season, especially on sought-after summer and fall weekends. When planning your senior portrait session, it is best to get on my senior portrait calendar at least 3-4 weeks in advance (and more if possible).  When you initially book your session, we’ll scheduling a 30 minute planning call where I will help you choose a location and finalize the logistics for your portrait session.  You’ll likely come away from that call with some ideas or a shopping list for clothing that you may need some time to implement. The more time you can give yourself to plan in advance of your son or daughter’s senior portrait session, the more confident, prepared, and comfortable both of you will feel, which will yield better results for your senior images.

Ultimately, the best time to have senior portraits taken is up to the individual student and their family. If you need a hand working through the details for your son or daughter’s senior portrait session, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am happy to answer your questions and to help you through every part of planning the perfect senior portrait session for your child. You can learn more a

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