Senior Picture Mistakes

- Things to watch out for:

1. Know how to Read the Ads: One industry secret for photographers (especially inexperienced ones) is to send out "Stock" postcards and e-mails. That means the images on the advertisement is not the photographer's own work. "Stock" images are used by photographers just starting out, or if their day-to-day work just isn't good enough to attract business. If you can see a "printed in USA" or similar text somewhere on the advertisement, then it is probably not a true representation of the photographer's abilities. In defense of some photographers, "Stock" images and postcards are a low-cost alternative to creating a custom senior portrait advertisement. Therefore, as always, we recommend visiting any studio personally before you commit.

2. Special Days & Times: This means that you get one price if your high school senior is photographed on one day, and a different price the next. Read the fine print if you sign up. If you senior gets sick or has an acne breakout the day of the appointment, you may be out a significant sum of money if you need to cancel your senior picture appointment.

3. "No Session Fees": Usually a good deal if the quality of work is good. You can save a couple hundred bucks depending on your market. If your high school senior gets sick on picture day, the senior photographer takes the hit, not you. Downside is that those senior portrait studios tend to double-book for that exact same reason and you may end up spending 2 or 3 hours juggling between photographers and waiting around in the lobby or park for what is normally a one hour senior photo session.

4. Be Aware of the Retake & Refund Policy: Read the fine print and ask questions. All senior picture studios work differently, so don't assume anything because you heard it from another parent or coworker. A good studio will offer a retake or full refund, no questions asked, if you are not happy with the results. There are some grey areas there, so watch out, mistakes can be made or your end, too. Don't be too quick to place the blame on your senior photographer. Retakes should be offered if you politely explain that you are unhappy with the result of your images.

  • A fair retake policy would do the following: Retake all the same outfits, in the same hairstyle, at no charge. If you want a retake because you didn't like how the leopard skin tuxedo and pink feathered hat turned out is really not the photographer's fault. So, in our opinion, a "same outfit" policy is more than fair. Also, your high school senior photographer may be meeting your high school senior for the first time on their senior picture day. They won't know that you don't like your student's hair one way or the other, so to demand a retake because your high school senior didn't comb or style it the way you like it, is not fair. Call the studio with instructions for the photographer beforehand if you think your high school student may "forget" to follow your instructions. They will appreciate the input and you'll save all of you a big headache later.
  • It is also considered fair practice for the photographer to delete all the images you don't like after you request a retake. Many photographers do not allow "double-dipping" senior pictures. That's industry slang for clients who at first act like they hate their pictures, demand a retake in totally different outfits & hairstyles. They then expect to be able to buy from all the outfits equally. (If you really don't like them, why would you buy them is our thought? )It is unfortunate that some people try this stunt because they didn't want to have to pay for the extra outfits in the first place. Sorry folks, but that's like buying a pair of shoes, wearing them for months, and returning them to the store because they "don't fit". That's a cheap trick, in our opinion, and most all senior portrait photographers work very hard and don't deserve that kind of treatment. But, go ahead and try it... and don't be surprised if they hang up on you when you try and book your next senior in the future. Senior Photographers and small-business owners deserve the same respect you do.

5. "Restrictions Apply": Ask if there are any restrictions or "catches". Some places may require minimum orders up to hundreds of dollars. Some Senior photography studios only offer discounts on time with an "assistant" or "trainee" school portrait photographer and your high school senior will not be photographed by the "name on the door". Also, you may find that the money you pay for your session may or may NOT be applied to your order. Make notes and take names when you ask these questions.

6. Be aware of your local Trespassing laws when going outside for Senior Pictures: Your senior photographer may not have a studio of his/her own and may want to take your senior pictures outside and around town. Public parks and landmarks are OK for senior pictures. But, did you know that if your senior portrait photographer takes your senior pictures on private property you BOTH could face legal action and possibly jail time?

Some places you may not think as private property for your senior pictures include: Rural cornfields used without permission, flower gardens & fences next to sidewalks, alleyways (non-public accessible), loading docks, stoops/doorsteps of private homes and businesses, and railroad tracks.

Trespassing laws and fines vary from state to state. Check with your parent or guardian if you aren't sure, or if you think your senior portrait photographer may be asking you to go somewhere that may get you in trouble.

How to Get your Senior Pictures Online:
*Little known Senior Picture fact: Railroad tracks may look cool and artsy in your senior pictures, but they are NOT public property and are owned by the railroad company. You may incur serious fines or prosecution if you are caught trespassing on them. Passing out photos of yourself on them will provide all the evidence they'll need to prove you were there. Not to mention it's just plain dangerous!