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(Image: John Prentice / Seattle Refined)

At Home Senior Portraits: Shoot them like the pros

These days taking a photo with your cell phone is easy - but that doesn’t make it look good. The quintessential, professional senior portrait requires even light, proper exposure, careful framing and a beautifully blurry background.

You can do it.

Any photographer worth their salt will tell you a great photograph requires great lighting. And if you don’t have a fancy light kit at your disposal, the easiest place to find nice light is outside in the shade. Make sure your subject, as well as the background, are equally shaded.

Next, you need to choose your focal length (that’s zoom). In general wide angle (zoomed out) shots distort the image and can be unflattering. So, take a few steps back from your subject and use something a little more telephoto (zoomed in). On most SLR style cameras 50mm is considered to be a great focal length for portraits. If your phone has multiple lenses, try one with more magnification.

Portraits are all about the person in them so, comfortably fill the frame with their head and some of their shoulders. The subjects eyes should be twice as far from the bottom of your shot than the top. Take the shot dead on, or from slightly above your subject with them either looking directly at the camera or off to the side.

I seem to remember my school photographer telling me to look at his ear when he shot my senior portrait. Apparently, he told everyone else that too, because everyone in my yearbook is looking away from the camera at the exact same angle. Genius.

Ok, now set your exposure. Open your camera’s aperture all the way (lowest F number) and use your shutter speed and/or ISO settings to make sure your subject isn’t to bright or dim. Keeping the aperture wide open in conjunction with a telephoto lens helps create the beautiful blurry background that is the hallmark of a classic portrait style photograph.

“Say cheese!”

Lastly, if your camera has a flash, try a few shots with it on. Sometimes a flash can fill in stubborn shadows on the face, even in daylight.

If you’d like a visual walk-through of this process, watch the video above.