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"When should we schedule senior photos?"

"When is the best time to schedule senior photos?" I have been getting this question quite a bit recently- and for good reason! There is a lot of confusion about the right time to schedule senior portraits with a photographer. Keep reading to find out the best time to schedule, but first let's talk about why you would want to take photos with an independent photographer (like Neill Studios!) instead of settling for the photos done through the school.

Everyone knows the typical senior portraits provided through the school system- basically these are standardized headshots that go into the school yearbook. The photographers here might do a couple extra poses as a part of your child's package, but everyone's photos look more or less the same. The whole process is set up to photograph the hundreds of graduating seniors in the area as quickly as possible. Honestly, it's a tough job for the photographers and they really do a good job giving everyone a consistent look, and quickly too.

Of course, they give parents the option to purchase wildly marked-up prints and lots of parents are eager to pay for anything senior-related to commemorate this huge milestone, and rightfully so! It's a huge steppingstone, and for a lot of people, they might even be the first in their family to reach this achievement. Seniors deserve to be celebrated! But parents, before you spend a good chunk of your hard-earned cash on overpriced photos from the school, you should consider hiring a local professional photographer for your senior's session. Here are some reasons why!

1. Independent professional photographers spend more time with you and your senior. Being rushed through the portrait process in the schools can be boring for teens, at best, and can be downright anxiety-inducing for others! Does this really seem like the best method to capture your child’s personality? Do they feel happy? At-ease? Probably not, and it’s going to show.

Imagine paying for this. Source:

We spend time learning about your senior’s personality, hobbies, and interests. This is so we can carefully tailor your child’s portrait to show who they really are- how you see them, and how they see themselves. We can even incorporate fun props that let your senior remember this time in their life; some popular props include: cars, musical instruments, sport jerseys, and so on. This should be a FUN process and the photos will be totally customized for YOU! Plus, you get a great variety within your final album that you definitely won’t get from the school session.

Kaci, taken Summer 2021 at Camp North End in Charlotte, NC by Neill Studios. She really wanted some cool graffiti portraits as part of her session.

2. We will never pressure you to purchase anything you don’t want to, and we include the unwatermarked, downloadable digital photos in all of our packages. Maybe it is because I am a millennial, but I feel that since we are in the year 2021, the digital photos are just as important as the prints (and maybe more important for some people). As a photographer, I want you to share your photos across Facebook, Instagram, email, wherever. Families are often spread out across the country, or even across the globe, and it’s not always feasible to mail off prints when you can just upload the same image and share it online. We release the photos to you in an online gallery. Then, you can feel free to order prints, books, calendars, and many other options from us. But we will never pressure you to do this! This keeps the photoshoot costs very low for you and you can save your money for the prints you truly do want.

3. Build a trusting relationship with a real person! At the end of the day, we are all members of the same community and you are supporting your local economy when hiring a local professional- your dollar goes a lot further for an independent artist than it does a huge company. I seek to build not just professional relationships with my clients, but also friendships. Unlike huge companies, I truly care about if you had a great experience and that you absolutely love your photos. To me, photography is more than just selling you a picture of your kid; it’s about the art of freezing a moment in time- not just the moment that is caught on my camera.

Eryn, taken in Summer 2021 at Camp North End in Charlotte, NC by Neill Studios.

So now that you have decided you are going to hire a local, professional photographer for senior photos, let’s talk about timing. Should you schedule before they go into senior year? During? Or right before graduation? The truth is: there is no “right” time. There are a couple factors that will play into your decision for which season you want to book.

First off we need to consider if your senior participates in any extracurricular activities. If you are hoping to get some photos of your senior in their volleyball, football, basketball, or other type of uniform, you should be sure to schedule your photo session during that season! In many cases, the school loans out these uniforms for a set period and once it is over, the uniform must be returned. Be sure to schedule a session while they still have the proper uniform. Similarly, if you are considering cap and gown photos, these are typically distributed at the end of the year right before graduation. We LOVE personalizing photos with your senior’s hobbies and interests, whether they are through the school or something they do on their own- we will ask if they want to do any of these shots during their photoshoot.

Kaci, taken in Summer 2021 at Camp North End in Charlotte, NC by Neill Studios.
Rickey, taken in Fall 2019 at Frank Liske Park in Concord, NC by Neill Studios. He brought a vintage farm truck to his photoshoot!

The next thing to consider is which season your senior feels most comfortable. Many senior photo sessions are done exclusively outdoors (although they certainly don’t have to be). There are benefits and drawbacks to taking photos outdoors during each season. For example, springtime can be great for mild temperatures and lush greenery, but not so great for allergies and surprise thunderstorms. Similarly, if your senior does not tolerate heat very well, you could benefit from a spring or autumn session. Typically where we live, winter is not a popular time to take outdoor senior photos since there isn’t much greenery on the trees. We also don’t get a lot of nice-looking snow, either. Just something to think about.

Eryn, taken in Summer 2021 at Camp North End in Charlotte, NC by Neill Studios. Colorful and bright, just like her bubbly personality.

The season will also affect the color scheme of your finished portraits. If you love the gorgeous oranges and reds of autumn, it may be worth scheduling at the beginning of the

senior school year. You can also color coordinate outfits with the seasons. For example, if your senior wants to wear their favorite bright teal shirt for photos, it would look much better against a summer backdrop than fall or winter. You can learn more about individual color seasons here if you would like more help color coordinating:

Something else to consider is which outfit choice will be most comfortable, so if your senior is really set on wearing a suit and tie, then one of the cooler seasons might be the most comfortable (we can’t always edit out sweat marks).

Rickey, taken in Fall 2019 at UNC Charlotte by Neill Studios. He really liked the interesting geometry of this building.

Lastly, consider whether or not you want more of the staged, “formal” portraits taken in a studio. Some photographers offer this option while others do not. Some offer it as an add-on to a package or a stand-alone option. The great part about this option is that you don’t have to worry about the weather, but you may be a little more limited in the types of photos you get. This is something we are excited to offer our clients, so if you want this look, just let us know.

Nina, taken in Winter 2021 at our studio in Concord, NC by Neill Studios. Simple, and chic! All eyes on Nina.

At this point, you are equipped with a little more knowledge on when you should set aside time for senior photos. We want to make things as transparent as possible for you, so if you have questions related to senior photos, do not hesitate to reach out to me! I offer three senior portrait packages, starting at $199 with plenty of add-ons to make sure you get exactly what you are looking for. Be sure to check out some of my work at and browse some of my sample galleries (like what you would get with your package!) at

We are located in historic downtown Concord in the basement of 11 Union Street South and serve all of North Carolina.

Questions? Feel free to shoot a message to me at

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