My 10 Do's and Don'ts for your Senior Photo Adventure
Hi, I’m Josh Hartman. I’m a Traverse City senior photographer who specializes in capturing high schoolers in epic locations all across Northern Michigan. Some of my favorite photography locations are at Sleeping Bear Point near Glen Arbor, the dunes in Elk Rapids, and the forested trails of Empire, Michigan. Every May through October, I roam Northern Michigan in my van with my girlfriend and my dog, so I’m always discovering new great locations, which brings me to my first bit of advice for your senior adventure session.
1) Do choose the right location
For my style of senior photography, I aim to capture candid senior photos in a beautiful natural setting. I know many great locations all over Northern Michigan. Some of my favorite dune trails are in Glen Arbor and Empire. Often times, my seniors come to me with location ideas. Emma chose to have her senior photos captured at Crystal Mountain Resort. She had been traveling here since she was very young and so this area means a lot to her. Emma shared this about the location she chose for her senior photos, “Crystal Mountain has been a second home to me ever since I was a little girl. Every time I step on site, I just feel a sense of peace and relaxation settle over me. It’s such a special quiet place, that I’ve always associated with positive and happy memories.” The important thing is to choose a location that’s right for you, but I’m always happy to provide a recommendation based on what type of adventure you’re looking for.
2) Don’t worry about posing
With my style of candid senior photography, I aim to capture photos of you exploring the natural world that is available to us in Northern Michigan. My senior photo adventures feel more like a hike through the woods with a friend. That means you don’t have to worry about stiff poses and holding a smile. I am of course happy to offer posing tips. On a typical senior adventure session you can expect to see running around to capture as many different angles. I often capture over a thousand images for my senior shoots and choose about 10 percent of those. What I’m really looking for is that fleeting moment when everything lines up: a glimmer of a smile, a windblown dress, all the drama that a Northern Michigan sunset can muster.
3) Do bring plenty of outfits
It’s a good idea to bring 3 to 4 different outfit options with the plan to wear 2 or 3 of them. Bring something more formal and something a bit casual. Try to keep clothing visually simple and avoid outfits with words or designs, except perhaps your school logo. Feel free to bring any accessories you like too. Emma explains her outfit choices for her senior session: “For my session I had 4 different outfits. Each one was very different, but all outfits I felt happy and beautiful in. I wanted each of my outfits to show a different side of me. With each outfit I tried to wear an important piece of jewelry to me! My first outfit had a necklace from my best friend, my second outfit had a bracelet that my mother got when I was born, and my last outfit had a bracelet my grandmother had gotten me.”
4) Don’t plan your shoot in the middle of a Saturday
If you’re coming up for the weekend, you may want to avoid scheduling a session in the middle of a Saturday. Sleeping Bear Dunes can be very busy on the weekends. Most people would prefer having their photos taken without the distraction of other people. Not to mention, the light for portraits is much harsher during the middle of the day. When it comes to great light for senior portraits, I usually prefer starting photography sessions about 10 minutes before sunrise OR about 90 minutes before sunset. So I guess the big question is… Are you a morning person or do you prefer later in the day.? I will say that on an overcast or rainy day, you can get some great photos in the middle of the day. The lighting is still great and there are far less tourists. So that is one exception. But usually to avoid crowds it’s best to plan your session earlier.
5) Do bring a friend
For your senior adventure session, it’s a good idea to have a friend or family member with you.We can make the best use of our time by having extra help and not to mention having familiar faces nearby can help relax you. A friend makes everything better. They can make you laugh. They can double check your outfits. They can also be there to hold any extra clothes you may have. Ladies can bring any makeup for touch-ups, chap stick, and lip stick. Your friends and family can even jump in a few photos with you!
6) And don’t forget your furry friend
I love dogs. My texas heeler Kovu comes with me everywhere, so I understand why you want to bring your furry dog with you. Just let me know in advance, so I can choose the right hike. Dogs are not permitted in some areas of Sleeping Bear Dunes near Glen Arbor. There are a number of great trails for dogs in Empire and Maple City. Let me know you’re bringing your pup, and I’ll be sure to remember some special treats. My pup Kovu travels in our van with us all over the country. I know she’d love to meet your furry friend.
7) Do plan to wear good shoes …or no shoes at all
Shoes or no shoes? That is the question. And it really depends on the weather. If your senior adventure session is in the summer in Glen Arbor, then you don’t need any shoes at all to hike the dunes. Often times, we may choose a couple different locations to drive to and then do some exploring on foot. This gives you the opportunity to go back to the car for water or to change outfits. In planning your senior adventure, it’s a good idea to let your photographer know if you prefer shorter adventures or if you don’t mind a longer hike. Definitely plan to bring some fun shoes, but bring some practical ones too. You don’t want to be hiking up dunes in wedges.
8) Don’t worry about the weather
Sleeping Bear Dunes can be very moody. One day it’ll be nice and warm. And the next will be windy and cold. It’s a good idea to pack layers just in case. The spring and fall can also be rainy in Northern Michigan. We can definitely chat about the weather beforehand (usually a day or two before your session). I think it’s a good idea to be flexible the day of your senior shoot. Try not to over-plan your day and you can even schedule a backup date in case of bad weather. Do keep in mind that overcast days can make for some dramatic clouds and lighting for your senior photos. So don’t stress if you see rain in the forecast. An overcast day also means that we will be able to capture beautiful images in the middle of the day, not just during the golden hour.
9) Do dress warm
Layers are key when planning outfits for your Northern Michigan senior adventure. Guys might choose a long sleeve shirt that would look good over a solid colored shirt (like a green button up over a simple black t-shirt). Girls can bring along extra sweaters, scarves, or leggings to wear under a dress if needed (especially in the early spring and late fall). If you’re planning a summer senior adventure, it can still be chilly in the early morning and near the sunset hour, so it’s a good idea to bring warm layers in order to avoid photos where your shoulders are up by your ears. The important thing is to make sure you are comfortable so that you look your best in your photos.
10) Don’t worry about it being perfect
As a senior photographer, it is my goal to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Really, you can think of it as a hike with a friend. When I asked Emma if she was nervous for her senior adventure session, she said: “Yes, I was SO nervous! I’ve never had my pictures taken before, so the thought of someone looking at me and snapping photos of me for TWO whole hours seemed terrifying. The first 10-15 minutes of my shoot I felt very awkward, but then as soon as Josh had me twirling in the woods and laughing so hard! I would ABSOLUTELY do it again!” Later Emma said her favorite photos were the candid ones, the photos where she is running in the woods or just enjoying the view. I want you to look back at your photos and see your expression and personality come through in your photos. So come with an open mind and positive attitude. It’s going to be fun! ~Josh