Senior Portrait Question


TPF Noob!
May 6, 2007
Reaction score
In the South
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
I recently received a question to one of my ads on craigslist, that surprised me. They asked what schools accept my work. It never occured to me that a school would be picky about what studio a portrait would come from, as long as the material is of quality. They mentioned they have alot of parents with the PTA that are looking for a good choice for their upcoming seniors. So my question is, do you have to get approved by a school or does this person not really know what they are talking about?
Some schools in our area definitely do this. It's really not about parents looking for a good choice. It's about schools knowing that they can get free work out of photographers who want to photograph their students. The schools will require you to take pictures at things like graduation and sporting events for free, and in exchange, they will add you to their list. It's really none of the school's business, but it is what it is.
There are several things in play. It's been an evolution going back to the days when students were directed to the "school photographer" for senior portraits. As mentioned, the photographer would provide, free of charge, all additional photos for yearbook publication: team photos, group photos, usually coverage of one of each event... football game, basketball game, etc. This grew into also providing camera gear with film and processing for student photographers, including instruction. Often, the school received a "commission" or "discount" at the end, as "kick-backs" were not acceptable.

In exchange, the school would provide the names and contact info for the seniors, sometimes helping in scheduling the sessions. The seniors were charged for the sessions. The studio also got the work to do the underclassmen.

Gradually, the argument that the school has no right to dictate where students spend their own money took hold, and seniors sought new, better sources for thier portraits. This presented a new concern. Just as other teams and clubs compete, the yearbook staff would submit thier book into competition. One of the criteria to score well (at least back then) was consistency in the senior portrait section. So the yearbook staff developed a set of specifications for submitted photos.... background color, head size, and such.

Some students began to submit photos at the last minute, just before the publisher's deadline, that did not meet the specs. Not wanting to exclude photos and still wanting to achieve a uniform look in the yearbook, the schools began to provide the seniors with a list of photographers that promised to provide portraits that would meet the specs and deadline.

Today, some schools strictly enforce this. But many, if not most, have softened or abandoned the effort.

Last edited:
Didnt expect this pain. :) Who should I contact in each school about this? Im guessing not the principal, perhaps ask for the teacher in charge of the year book. Another pain is the school is a few hours away. :)

Im more interested in doing the creative senior portrait stuff, the kind they keep for themselves and give to their friends.
You might have to go through the School Board.

You might as well start there.

Even if that step isn't required it might save you some grief if the principal (generally the go-to) has a buddy that shoots and would rather keep it 'in the family' -if you know what I mean. ;)
Didnt expect this pain. :) Who should I contact in each school about this? Im guessing not the principal, perhaps ask for the teacher in charge of the year book.


Yeah... yearbook moderator. They're used to getting these calls.

Nearly always, the student will have this info. They typically get it at the end of the junior year.


One more thought. SOME schools have an arrangement with a studio to do ALL seniors FREE, and may not accept photos from other sources. There are two like that in my area. The kids go for their free head shot, and then shop for the rest of their portraits.
LOL As a parent, that would be great.

Down here where I live there is only one studio you can go to for official photos. For the whole County. Well over 100K population through 1 studio. And they are FULL retail if you catch my drift.

What a deal right?
...where I live there is only one studio you can go to for official photos... And they are FULL retail.

Better yet... well for photographers.

I would deliberately begin spreading the word that, "Before you have your 'official' yearbook photo, come see us for the portraits you really want... portraits that creatively express your true personality. Get a variety to choose from with our unhurried sessions specifically designed for seniors, and all at great pricing that provides real value. Then, go get your yearbook photo."

Or something like that. I takes just a senior or two from each school to get the word out.


Most reactions

New Topics