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Senior Portrait Location Tips

Choosing a Location for Your Senior Portraits in the Dexter + Ann Arbor Area

When senior year rolls around, there’s a lot going on! Let us help you choose a location for your senior portrait session.

Senior portraits have come a long way in the past 30 years or so. What used to be a simple studio formal portrait with one outfit has become a mini model session with multiple outfits and even multiple locations.

Senior portraits are no longer just a milestone. The senior portrait has become an experience, a rite of passage.

And with that, the stakes might seem a bit higher. Some common concerns I hear are listed below. Feel free to keep reading -- or if you'd like to have me answer your questions directly, I'd be happy to chat on the phone or virtually with you!

Could bad weather ruin my senior portrait session on location?

Honestly, it won’t ruin your senior portraits. But bad weather might make us change the date. When planning a senior portrait session outdoors, I always tell my clients that bad weather is a possibility. That’s why we watch the weather in the days leading up to the session — if it looks like it will be rainy or stormy, I’ll touch base with you to discuss options for rescheduling for another day, or moving to an alternate (indoor) location. It’s as simple as that! No fees to reschedule either :).

During this senior session at my client's home in Pinckney,we had clouds galore.. after talkng it over, we decided not to cancel. The rain held off, and the clouds made for unique background vibes!

What if the location for my senior portraits is popular?

Definitely a possibility. But, here’s the thing. Your senior portraits will be special because of who’s in them. You like the location? Cool. You like the photographer’s style? Great! You’re still a bit concerned? No prob! Just talk to your photographer. When I know you’re looking for something a creative or different at a popular location for senior portraits, I can make adjustments to the session so you end up with totally unique images. The more you share your vision with me, the better job I’ll do of making that dream a reality!

I’ve done senior portrait sessions on the same day as other photographers, even passed them on the paths. And I can guarantee that even with the same location, each photographer can create totally different looking images. The location is just one facet of a senior portrait. Trust me.

The mood of a location can vary widely depending on the season, which flowers are in bloom, and the time of day. This portrait was taken on the Border to Border Trail in Dexter, Michigan. Take a peek at the next one!

This portrait was also created on the Border to Border Trail in Dexter, Michigan -- but it has a whole different feel to the image. Your images won't be cookie cutter, just like you're not!

What if I just don't feel like any location is “meaningful”?

Yeah, that can happen. But trust me. If you’re not set on a particular location, there are things we can do to make sure you end up with senior portraits you love. If you like being downtown, we can plan a session in downtown Ann Arbor, Dexter, Chelsea, or wherever you like to hang out! If you are more of a nature person, you’re in luck. The greater Ann Arbor area has a ton of parks with grass, trees, paths, and even water. If one park doesn’t stick out to you, that’s fine! We can pick a park that is convenient and easy to get to — because if forests and trees are your thing, you’ll love the results regardless of the park you pick as the location for your senior portrait session.

Sometimes it's good to pick a location based on what you like. But you might find you end up LOVING your portraits at an alternate location too! This senior was really excited about grungy urban portraits in Grafitti Alley. After we did those portraits, we also stopped by several spots nearby. This is one of my favorites -- I love the light on her face, and her expression reminds me of Mona Lisa's smile.

But Betsy, how do I choose???

Well, first of all, I'm happy to help. That's why I created this next list of ideas, in question form. By answering these questions, I bet you’ll be able to see what types of locations are really meaningful for you! Or, if you can’t, maybe a family member, or even your photographer, will be able to help you connect the dots. And finally, your photographer (hopefully me!!) will be happy to help suggest some spots to pique your interest.

10 Questions to Help You Choose a Meaningful Location for Your Senior Portraits

1. Where do you go, or what do you do, when you have had a stressful day and just want to relax?

You might go for a run. Or maybe you head to your favorite cozy chair and curl up with a book, a blanket, and your favorite hot beverage. You might have an instrument you pick up and let out some chords and melodies, letting the stress of the day fade away. You could be a nature person — you head outdoors to breathe in some fresh air. What works for you?

Senior Portraits in a Field of Sunflowers (Dexter, MI)

Rachel has always loved sunflowers so we included sunflowers in her location senior portraits. Her mom told me about a photo of Rachel when she was little holding a sunflower. I think this is the perfect portrait to pair with that treasured family snapshot! [And in case you’re wondering, no there wasn’t a tree stump in the middle of the field. I brought a stool, and used some Photoshop magic replace it with a tree stump :)].

2. What are your hobbies? Where do you go to do what interests you?

If you like to swim, you’ll head to the pool. If working out is more your thing, you’ll go to the gym, or maybe the great outdoors for a cross-country hike. Maybe you meet up with some friends to make music together. Or you’re an artist at heart and you love going to your studio… or downtown Ann Arbor so you can sketch passersby. Where do you go when you do what you love? Think about how we can incorporate your hobbies into your senior portrait session!

If you’re a musician, it might be only logical to include a portrait of you with your instrument. I love the little white flowers in the background, don’t you?

3. Do you have any pets? Or do you like animals?

While some people are ambivalent when it comes to pets, most of us know where we stand! If you have a dog, a cat, a horse, or any other type of animal… do you want to include it in your senior portraits? Some pets, like dogs, are pretty versatile and you can easily transport them to most locations for a senior portrait session. On the other hand, if you want senior portraits taken with your horse, we’ll probably head to head to the barn where your horse is stabled. Cats are rather particular about their surroundings, so if you want to include your feline, that likely means a senior portrait session at your home. It’s all about making the animal feel comfortable. I’m happy to photograph a variety of animals, and am personally not afraid of bugs/insects/snakes — but it’s always best to let your photographer know ahead of time if you plan to include your pet. I like to be prepared!

Burns Park (Ann Arbor) Senior Pictures With Car + DogLike any young dog (and maybe Labrador retrievers in general), Roy was full of energy and excited …but willing to be around my camera equipment. In this collage you'll see one of him playing a bit with Genna, as well as some of her other senior portraits from the same session.

4. Do you play any sports, or are you on any teams?

If you play football, you might want to do your senior portraits at the high school stadium. Or if you are on track, it might be cool to create some portraits of you at the starting line. If you know you want to do something sports-related during your senior portrait session, but you’re not particular about the location, we can definitely work that into your senior portrait session! I’ve done sports-themed senior portraits in the studio. And if you play soccer or another outdoors sport, it’s pretty easy to find a nice looking patch of green grass for your themed portrait if you don’t feel the need to pose by a soccer goal! Think about the sports you are involved with, and which might be good to incorporate into your senior portrait session. This should help you come up with some senior portrait session location ideas!

Outdoor Soccer Senior PortraitsCaitlin’s mom loved this portrait …and I think this one might be my favorite of the soccer senior portrait series too. What do you think?

5. Do you like the outdoorsy, nature look?

In the greater Ann Arbor area, we have a TON of parks and recreational areas. I am always happy to suggest locations if you need ideas. Some of my clients are happy with whatever location I suggest, as long as it is outdoors and is some sort of natural setting. Other clients want me to do portraits at a specific park where they spend a lot of time. I’m happy to make suggestions, but it’s ultimately up to you. If you like being outdoors, I bet you have some places that you go to frequently. If you go there a lot… chances are it might make for a meaningful location for your senior portrait session!

Senior Picture With Musical InstrumentsI love the sunlight filtering through the trees, the dappled leaves, and the whole setting. It’s amazing how beautiful nature can be! I’m so glad we were able to create senior portraits that included the fall colors.

6. Do you like going downtown?

If the answer is yes, think about where you go when you head downtown. Is it to a particular park? Maybe you go window shopping, or maybe you love being right downtown by Michigan Theater. I’ve done senior portraits all over the place… and no two senior portrait sessions ever look alike. If gritty urban portraits are more your thing, we can definitely talk about a visit to graffiti alley — they walls are always changing so you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a unique backdrop for your senior portraits.

If a smaller downtown scene is more your thing, we can look into downtown Dexter, Chelsea, Saline, or even Ypsilanti. Each city has their own unique charm, so if one spot means more to you, by all means, let’s head there! If you like going to Depot Town in Ypsilanti, it’s always a nice spot. If you want to head downtown Ann Arbor, expect to do a bit of walking. I will add that parking is usually plentiful, unless you want to have your session downtown during the week of the Ann Arbor Art Fair (been there, done that!)…and then it’s going to be more walking!

Urban Senior Picture (Ann Arbor)We went for a more serious look with this edgy senior portrait. I love how the hat brings out the yellow graffiti on the wall. Graffiti Alley in Ann Arbor is one place that is guaranteed to look different due to the changing artwork!

7. Do you have a favorite hangout?

Over the years, I’ve photographed seniors in coffee shops, libraries, book stores, restaurants… you name it. If there is a place that you go to hang out, chances are good that we can plan a senior portrait session there. If you love the store where you work, maybe you want to have senior portraits done there. Maybe you go to Nichols Arcade a lot, and want portraits there. Get the idea? If there’s a place that you go with your friends for fun, maybe we can make that into a location for your senior portrait session. It would definitely be memorable!

We created this dreamy portrait at sunset on Lake Michigan. It really sticks in my mind as a favorite portrait session location — because it was meaningful to my client. The she goes there practically every weekend in the summertime.

8. If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you want to take them?

The spots that you want to share with an out of town friend may include a great place for your senior portrait session. Maybe you want to take them to Gallup Park because of all the cool walking paths and bridges over the Huron river. Maybe you would take them on a walking tour of downtown Saline because you love that area (followed by a side trip to Curtiss Park). Or maybe Michigan Theater would be at the top of your list. Wherever the spot — you’ve chosen it because it’s important to you. So maybe it’d be a great location for your senior portrait session!

Senior Portrait of Twin BoysFor that matter, why not invite a friend or sibling to tag along for your senior portrait session? I had a fun time photographing these brothers both together and separately for their senior portrait session at my studio (and later on location).

This was their preferred location, by Mill Creek here in Dexter -- even though the boys attended Jackson High School.

9. When you scroll through your phone’s camera roll, is there a spot where you frequently take photos or selfies?

If you have location tagging turned on, take a peek at the different spots where you tend to take photos. Do any of those locations seem like a fun spot for senior portraits? You might be surprised to find some ideas for where to have your senior portrait session!

If you take a lot of selfies, think of where you were when you tend to take those photos. Maybe we could use that location for a fun “candid” senior portrait of you taking selfies!

Ann Arbor Senior Portrait :: Kerrytown + Nichols Arb

While the point of senior photos is for people to see your face, your smile... sometimes it's good to think outside the box. Serious, or contemplative, expressions sometimes make a BIG impact.

10. Does your family have a location that is meaningful to you as a family?

Okay, I know these are your senior portraits. You want them to be special to you,… but sometimes part of that “special” comes from doing portraits in a location that you’ve gone to since you were little. So, if you can’t come up with any ideas, but know you want something special… try asking your folks! You could do your senior portraits at the same park where your mom or dad took you as a kid, or maybe your backyard has many happy childhood memories for you. We can incorporate those memories into your senior portraits by choosing that as your location! If you have older siblings, your parents might suggest the same location as their senior portraits. If so, don’t worry about your senior portraits looking the same. We will be able to make your experience unique to you, I promise.

Dexter Senior Portrait With Car

This orange convertible made an appearance in the senior portraits I did for each of the three siblings, as it came their time to do senior portraits. I love the continuity!

Also, if you end up doing your senior portraits at your house, we could do some pictures of you in your environment — your room! That’s up to you, of course. Some people prefer to stay outside in the backyard for senior portrait sessions at their house. But I will say, choosing your home as your senior portrait location all but eliminates your travel time. And outfit changes will be a breeze!

Think back through your answers….

Do you see any similarities? Any locations listed more than once? Maybe that’s a spot to consider for your senior portraits. There is NO wrong choice when it comes to a location for your senior portraits.

Your portraits will be a reflection of who you are because you are in them. Your senior portraits will be meaningful because you are special.

Now What?

Well, hopefully you have some good ideas about choosing a senior portrait here in Michigan now -- whether you plan for a location session in Downtown Ann Arbor or a nature session in a park near Dexter -- if it makes you happy, that's the place to be!

I hope these tips to help you choose a location for your session have been helpful. I’d be happy to help you plan your senior portrait session in further detail too — just contact the studio. I’ll look forward to chatting with you soon!