The Senior Fashion Shoot with Craig LaMere
I have been shooting high school seniors my whole career, which started about six years ago. When I began, I was still coaching high school football, and my first clients were my players. To be honest, if it were not for my players, instead of writing this article, I probably would be asking you if you want to supersize your fries. But as luck would have it, their parents were nice enough to book me to shoot their kids’ images. As I started getting more of my players, I began to book shoots for their girlfriends. Then, once I shot the girlfriends, I started to book the friends of the girlfriends—and so on and so on.
Seniors have always been my biggest business here in Idaho. They’re also my favorite to shoot. Each one is different and every shoot is pretty much dictated by their personality and styles. The studio shoots as many girl seniors as guys, and every type of both: sports kids, band kids, outdoor kids, dancers and more. In order to be a very successful senior studio, you have to be versatile. You have to be able to shoot what the kids think is cool, but still be able to produce images Mom and Dad are going to love.
We have many options for our high school seniors. This month, I talk about one of the funnest options we offer our high school senior girls: our fashion session.
The idea of the fashion session came from shooting senior girls in their prom dresses. For most of the senior girl session, I would shoot the girls in their favorite prom dress. I used beauty dishes and harder light, and posed them dramatically. The girls really love the process. In the viewing sessions, the fashion prom dress images were some of their favorites. That’s when the wheels started to spin a little, and I decided we should see about taking it to another level. I decided to offer the whole fashion experience from start to finish. And with that, the fashion option was born.
Image-Driven & Experience-Based Shoots
These are the two basic types of shoots, in my experience. Image-based shoots are family sessions or business headshots. The images produced are the payoff. The images are where the satisfaction of the shoot comes from. Experience-based shoots, on the other hand, are not so much about the images. The images are a byproduct of the shoot. The images trigger the memory of the day and all that went into creating the images. That describes our senior fashion shoots.
Building the Experience
There are three parts to my fashion session: getting the wardrobe together, hair and makeup, and the shoot itself.
Since I’m a photography studio and not a designer studio, I had to find the wardrobe for the shoots. I’ve always used three sources: thrift stores, vintage stores and designers.
Thrift stores are pretty hit and miss. Your selections are limited by what is on the racks. They carry so many different categories of merchandise that the fashion selections are limited. I think of thrift store shopping like panning for gold or diving for sunken treasure. You may go a long time before you hit gold, but when you do, it makes all the work worth it.
Vintage Stores & Specialty Boutiques
Vintage stores are a great resource, especially if you’re looking for period wardrobe. One thing that is nice about vintage stores over thrift stores is that they are more focused, so finding exactly what you are looking for is much easier. The other thing I like about vintage stores is that I am often able to make a sweet deal with the owner of the store, whereby I can actually rent or borrow clothes, which I won’t need after a shoot. I offer the owner images in exchange.
I search out new and hungry designers both in my area and on the Internet. You would be super surprised at how eager new designers are to have their garments shot. The best way I have found to work with them is to reach out with a short email that gets right to the point. I direct them to my website or include images of my style. I have found some really cool people to work with this way.
Hair and Makeup
A few days before the fashion session, if my stylist has not already met the senior, we schedule a quick consult. My stylist takes a look at her hair and assesses what we can and can’t do with it. We also get an idea of her skin type and facial structure. We find out how mild to wild she wants to go with her look. Most of the time, the client just tells us to do what we want. After the consult, my stylist and I start to work on the look we want to do.
I have to give a word of caution to you if you do not have a hair and makeup person you work with regularly and you are going to take on these shoots. You have to make sure they understand what your timeline is and make them adhere to it, or they will run you so far behind that you will want to pull your hair out.
If you can have only hair or makeup, choose hair. If you have the most killer makeup in the world and just okay hair, your look will be okay, but if you have just okay makeup and crazy awesome hair, your images will be super sweet in the end.
We have the girls come in pretty early and they go right into hair and makeup. The moms love it as much as the girls do as the transformation plays out. It’s cool to see how excited the moms get.
After the hair and makeup are done, we go right into the shooting bay. The wardrobe dictates the look we use for the drop. We usually do two looks. We shoot one clean on white, and the other look we match to wardrobe colors and use hand-painted muslins. The lighting is more hard and specular. To shape the light, I use mostly beauty dishes, grids and strip lights. I tend to use broad light a lot. The posing is very edgy and deliberate: 90-degree angles, locked knees and attitude.
To be a successful senior shooter, you have to be able to change with the times and be versatile in what you offer. Seniors are looking for the experience, not the product. They are looking for something different, something unique. Fashion shoots are the way to go.