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“…Because probably the next time she has a photo shoot this big, it will be at her Wedding….” High School Senior Girl Photography Karen McConaughey….St. John XXIII

High School Senior Shoot. For many of my generation, this meant a cap & gown picture that was forced on us by the school’s yearbook company, Prestige or Lifetouch, and maybe a pose by some big white plastic numbers indicating our graduation year. Are you getting the image?

For many girls, their Senior pictures today are NOTHING like it was when we were in High School. Let me be clear, NOTHING. Times have changed sister and let me tell you it is pretty much like a mini wedding shoot. Or at least it can be. Well, for some.

Now to be fair, I do have both ends of the spectrum when it comes to photo shoots.

Some prepare extensively for a photo shoot. Like prepare every single minute detail. Others do not. Others literally wing it or rely completely on me to guide them. My clients are a mixture of both types and I am very, very glad or else life would be very boring. The MOST important aspect to any type of shoot is NOT the location. Yes, many think it is. It is NOT the wardrobe. Important to have clothes on, yes! I am NOT that kind of photographer, thank you very much. It isn’t even the hairstyles or the makeup.

The most important aspect of any photo shoot is YOU. You being comfortable. You being able to take a breath and know that the person behind the lens gets YOU. Who doesn’t just want to just show up and be yourself? Be totally celebrated for whatever it is that is YOUR thing. If this aspect is not present in a photo shoot, it shows. You can have all the best of the best but if someone is uncomfortable in front of that lens, it will affect everything. This is my #1.

So…..if your thing is fashion and shoes and accessories, then let’s get it on! If you love music, volleyball, climbing rocks, your truck, football, singing or books, bring it on! It does not matter to me what YOUR thing is, just that it is present and you feel really excited about it. I’ll handle the rest.

For example, working with Conor Glenn was probably the easiest, most laid back experience I have literally ever had. And I am pretty laid back with my cut offs, t-shirt and Birkenstocks.

We never even spoke or met before her Senior Shoot, except for the few texts her mama and I exchanged over a date & time. And if I recall, it was up in the air even on the day of the shoot! Well, let me be fair. Her family has lived next door to me for the past I don’t know 10+ years….so I think she first babysat for me when she was in Middle School. So yes, I have known her. I have watched her grow up from afar; back and forth from swim team, cross country, getting asked to homecomings….And I have loved every second. She is the oldest of three daughters: Conor, Dylan and Logan. When it came to her Senior Shoot, Conor Glenn wasn’t concerned about what to wear, hair or even makeup. She was so comfortable, so relaxed that we met up after her swim team practice. Her hair wasn’t all the way dry and she didn’t have a stitch of makeup on. Wait! Maybe some light lipgloss. She had a tank top from the college she was going to be swimming for and a homecoming dress, both of which were balled up in her swim bag. She wore one pair of shoes for the entire shoot, her Birkenstocks. Did I mention she is a girl after my own heart? Yep. Her mama Bernie is precious and one of the most real people I have ever met. Her and her hubs have raised these three beautifully amazing girls with very little drama and hysterics. They are just the sweetest, most down to earth adults I have come across in such a crazy generation of child rearing. My point is, for Conor her senior shoot was just about capturing her, natural, beautifully as she was on that day. Check it out for yourself, here gallery is right here. Breathtaking!

Now, let’s flip to the other side…..

Working with Lauren Chedotal was another absolutely amazing experience with a ton, ton, ton of planning and preparation. Her mama Karen was the orchestrator behind all of it- quite excellent and I am pretty sure there is a spreadsheet somewhere with every single detail documented! Now to be fair, I knew Lauren prior as well. She was actually my middle son’s CROC buddy on swim team in another lifetime. But as life happens, years pass and it’s just so busy that you lose track and before you know it they are contacting you for SENIOR PICTURES! What?

We met before, I think they were really interviewing me vs. me getting to know them! Once they booked, we reviewed a ton of different shoots, looking at locations, lighting, backgrounds, each one offering something a little unique to match with their vision. These type of shoots challenge me. They push me to step up my game. Want to shoot at that location? Yes, I have done 500 million shoots there BUT now I must do it in a way that I never have before. Squat, laydown, change the angle, manipulate the light- whatever it takes to achieve the vision that you are looking for. The weather must have been checked by both of us (not an uncommon thing for me as the two most used apps on my phone are weather underground and sunrise/sunset times for an area…yep, I am that girl.) After weeks of preparing, we were ready.  On the day of the shoot, Lauren had their stylist come to the house and started hair on not just her but, her mama and sister Emma as well. Then she was off to the mall for makeup at the Mac counter. Lauren is an ace herself at that winged eye but on her special day, who doesn’t want a pro? They arrived early to run through all the outfits, which were meticulously arranged down to the accessories! I stood in awe. I should have bowed down, these ladies have style. The shoes alone would have sent you straight to Nordstroms!

[Confession here. Although I have a mental map of a shoot I really do rely on the moment and how I feel in it. To some, this may be scary but after ten years of doing this, it is just what works for me. I get there. I look at the lighting. I watch my client. It’s not an engineering answer, I know. It just happens. Light is probably my biggest draw. I walk around. And then I just start trying stuff. Usually about five, ten minutes it just flows. we move from spot to spot, always looking for that light. Change positions. I shoot tight, middle, wide which is another way of saying close up, waist up and full body. It is so natural for me now that I don’t even think about it. The shoot takes on a life of it’s own and really I am just a character along for the ride. ]

Lauren looked nothing short of stunning. So did her mama and her little sister. My boys had friends over that day and of course, when she pulled up the football was put down and all of a sudden we had an audience, or rather the Chedotal ladies did.

Some work their whole lives and while they have been wildly successful, still have that question of “what if…. I would have tried this….?” Not me. I did the corporate life (and for some that is just fine). I am doing exactly what I hope to be doing in 20+ years. I love working with these clients, both the ones who prepare and those who wing it naturally. Because if it’s YOUR thing, than the results will be the same- AMAZING! Authentic. Classic. I love watching the clients face as they see what it looks like to just be, be happy, be themselves and celebrate their passion. Cause I’ll keep showing up to capture it!


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