Senior Portraits with Noah: S.E. Portland

Hi all, I want to share my first official senior portraits I did recently with a young man named Noah in S.E. Portland. My last blog post was about a senior portrait test shoot I did with my cousin to get all the details worked out. This time, it was for real. I met up with Noah in inner S.E. Portland on what was supposed to be a perfect sunny day. Ya sure. I swear, the whole day was perfect, and then as soon as I made my way to our photo shoot location, the clouds rolled in, laughing at me with their cloud-like laughs. We got rained on too, but hey, it’s Portland.

To backtrack a little, we had met earlier in the week to discuss the look and style of the photos he was hoping for. He told me he liked the idea of incorporating his bass guitar into the photos, and wanted to go for a clean look overall. Also, he specifically did not want to be photographed running through a sun-drenched wheat field. Got it! As soon as he described what he was going for, I knew in my mind that inner S.E. Portland would do the trick.

I like this part of town because it doesn’t get as much foot traffic as other parts of town. There are tall, inconspicuous buildings that are great backgrounds, and they also provide a lot of shade.

Give the People What They Want

Senior portraits in Portland with Noah

We started out with some simple head and shoulders portraits to get warmed up. I had him sit on the sidewalk and posed him in a relaxed position. No need to get fancy when starting out. Even though the clouds had brought down the light level, it was still fairly bright. I could tell he had a hard time keeping his eyes open, so I just had him close them until the very last second. When he opened his eyes, I took the photo. Photos from this location were clean and simple. He looks great in this one.

Now Surprise Them

When most people think of senior portraits, they think of natural backgrounds and natural light. This is a winning combination, to be sure. I will usually try to balance a session with pictures a client expects to see and with ones that they are surprised to see (in a good way). What I mean is, I want a client to say, “Whoa, how did you do that?” So here’s an example of a lighting technique I’ve been playing around with lately.

Senior portraits in Portland with Noah

This photo has some serious attitude. It couldn’t be more different in feel from the last one, but it was only taken a few minutes apart. When photographing him I was thinking to myself, “Whoever is on the other side of this door, please don’t open it right now!”

Showing your Personality in Senior Portraits

Like I said earlier, Noah wanted to incorporate a musical instrument into some of his portraits. I thought this would be a great idea, but I wanted to make sure the photo wasn’t just about the bass guitar. I’ve seen some senior portraits where a prop is over-emphasized. I’m hoping to achieve a “what, this old thing?” vibe from incorporating props.

Senior portraits in Portland with Noah: incorporating his bass guitar into the photo

I also like the next photo a LOT.

Senior portraits in Portland with Noah: incorporating his bass guitar into the photo

I was also playing around with the lighting color on this portrait to get some more drama. The scene was not this blue in real life. Again, I’m trying to balance a session with expected and unexpected photos.

Finding a Natural Background

The clock was ticking, it had started raining, and we had about 15-20 minutes left in our session. I realized up to this point, every photo had an urban look to it. I really wanted to find a patch of greenery for our last scene, but there was absolutely nothing around us. I panicked! JK :) I asked Noah if it was cool if we drove a few blocks to find some greenery. He agreed, so we threw our stuff in his car and drove off.

It didn’t take more than a couple minutes before I saw someone’s yard that I knew would be great for a background. That’s right, someone’s yard! I mean, it’s not like we went in the yard. We stayed on the sidewalk.

Senior portraits in Portland with Noah

I think these photos have a subtle difference to them, in terms of his expression. After almost two hours, he seemed really used to the camera, so I didn’t really try to direct him as much; I just let him be how he was. I think these expressions are very genuine.

Senior portraits in Portland with Noah

This last spot was a nice way to end our session.


So there you have it. My first official senior portrait session is in the books. Noah was a great person to photograph, and I hope he is thrilled with how his senior portraits came out. I also hope he looks at these photos 10 years from now with a positive feeling inside. “You know, that was a really fun time!” I like how spending a couple hours to photograph someone can feel like a little journey. Again, being present is the key. Nothing else matters for those two hours.