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Senior Portraits are HOT, but Should Seniors Look “HOT?”

Vintage Senior Portraits

They’re tuned into trends, they’re savvy social media players and they’ve got their parents’ pocketbooks! Ok, so there’s more to this unique market than those traits, but nobody can dispute this fact: Senior Portraits continue to grow in popularity. The Senior market is expanding as teenagers continue to connect with photographers who can create unique portraits of them and their friends. Since Spring is officially Senior Portrait Season, we’re sharing a series of posts about this growing genre of photography. In this case, the topic may stir up some strong opinions. The above images depict a senior portrait from the 1950s and a senior portrait of Sydney Spies, the Colorado student who sparked national debate. Her image appeared in media ranging from broadcast news to regional newspapers.

We’ve come a long way, but have we gone too far?

As “Senior Portraiture” grows in popularity, photographers face tough questions. Clearly, this genre of photography can be fun, creative and lucrative. But it can also put photographers and clients in compromising positions.

A Durango, Colorado senior put this debate squarely on the public stage when she submitted photos of herself wearing lingerie for publication in her high school yearbook.

When Sydney Spies’ senior portraits were rejected by her hight school yearbook editors, she responded,

“Some people might think it’s a little bit sexy or inappropriate. But I think it’s artistic. I think it’s a good expression of who I am as a person. I’m a dancer. I’m trying to be a model. I really enjoy photography and I think that this is a good thing to represent me and I think they are taking away my freedom of expression.”

Clearly, this debate is heated and will only get hotter as seniors, parents and photographers weigh in.

Here are just a few of the questions we face when considering Senior Portraits as part of our business plan.

    • How do we balance our role as artists with our role as adult influencers?
    • What are the boundaries for male photographers who are commissioned to photograph senior girls?
    • Do we play a guiding role in what clothing our senior clients wear for their shoot?
    • How much should we intervene if teens choose clothing that we think looks dangerously demeaning?
    • Who defines what is “tasteful” versus what is “suggestive?”
    • How does freedom of expression play a key role in senior portraits?
    • Where do we draw the line between authentic artistry and inappropriate innuendo?


Do you photograph seniors, or are you interested in starting? You’re invited to share your thoughts throughout this series of posts. We want to hear from you!

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!