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5 Tips on Styling Hair, Makeup, Eyelashes, and Nails for Senior Photos

Senior pictures are a big deal. The goal is to create photos that make you look your best while also maintaining your everyday style.

In this post, I’m sharing five tips for styling your hair, makeup, eyelashes, and nails without going overboard.

We’ll wrap up the tips with what to bring to your photoshoot to make sure you look refreshed throughout your session.

Let’s dive in, starting with hair styling.

collage of senior photos showing how to style hair and makeup for senior photos

Tip One: Hair Styling for Senior Photos

The first thing to decide for styling your hair is whether you want it up or down. Go with the look that makes you feel the most confident and natural. When you feel good, it’ll show in your final pictures.

Best Practices for Hair:

  • Clean hair photographs best. Some girls swear their hair will style better with day-old hair. But oily hair and dry shampoo can complicate an otherwise perfect session.

  • Consider bringing hairspray to tame flyaways.

  • Pack hair accessories if you want to throw your hair into a high ponytail or pull it away from your face for a few photos.

two senior photos of girl in Columbus, Ohio showing tips on how to style hair for photos

two senior photos of girl with different hair styles in each

Tip Two: Makeup Styling

Are you worried about how much makeup to wear for your senior photos? I always say less is more.

Glam-styled makeup might look great for prom, but don’t go with an over-the-top look that isn’t “typically you” for your senior pictures.

Best Practices for Makeup:

  • Less is more!

  • Go for a natural (to you) look. You can’t go wrong with a clean, simple look.

  • Avoid an over-the-top glam look. This is best for special events, not senior photos.

  • Don’t wear layers of makeup to try to conceal blemishes. I’ll help with this in the editing process.

Three senior photos of girls with natural hair and makeup styling they did themselves
All these girls did their own hair and makeup styling, and they look great!

Should you hire a professional hair and makeup artist or DIY it?

I’ve seen great results from both, so it’s a personal preference. If you do work with a stylist, I recommend doing a trial run to make sure you like their work before your shoot.

three senior photos showing examples of professional hair and makeup styling
Theodosia had full hair and makeup styling by a professional. The stylist pulled off an amazing everyday look - just polished up a bit!

three senior photos showing examples of girl with professional hair and makeup styling
Sadn also worked with a professional stylist. Her look is a little more than her everyday look, but still looks like her - just a little extra glam.

What about blemishes? I’ve got you covered.

Don't stress if you have acne or blemishes on the day of your photo session. It’s totally normal. All photos you purchase include retouching in the editing process. So there’s no need to try to cover blemishes with heavy layers of makeup. Just apply your makeup normally, and we can edit out blemishes later.

two photos showing blemish removal on senior photos
I aim to keep retouching subtle and natural, so the client still looks like themselves but the version we all see on their best day!

Tip Three: Eye Makeup and False Eyelashes

Eyes are the window to the soul, and that’s true for your senior photos too. The first place we look at in a portrait is the eyes, so we want them to look bright and lively.

For eye makeup styling, I recommend keeping the look clean, bright and avoid lots of glitter and glam. Be mindful if you choose to wear false eyelashes to your session. They’re popular right now, but they don’t photograph too well.

False eyelashes can make your eyes look dull and smaller than they actually are. They also block the catchlights (the white reflections of light in the eye) that make your photos come to life!

We want your eyes to take center stage, not the eyelashes!

Best Practices for Eye Makeup and False Eyelashes:

  • Curl your lashes and add a couple of layers of mascara.

  • Mascara should be clean, not clumpy.

  • Avoid heavy black eyeliner. It can make your eyes appear smaller.

  • Avoid glittery eye makeup. It may overpower your photos and look dated in a few years.

  • Skip false eyelashes, if possible.

  • If you do wear false eyelashes, keep them small and modest.

I did two sessions with E’Moni for her senior photos. In the first session, she wore fake eyelashes that overpowered her eyes. If you look closely, you can see that I had to draw catchlights into the photo on the right to give them more life.

two high school senior photos showing how false eyelashes don't photograph well

When she came back for her second session, she wore smaller false eyelashes and liked the results much better.

senior photo of girl wearing small false eyelashes which photograph well

Tip Four: Nails

Your hands will be visible in many photos, so make sure they’re camera ready. If you’re wearing open-toed shoes or will be barefoot in any photos, give your toes some extra attention too!

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that we don’t want your nails to pull attention away from your face. So just like makeup styling, keep things clean and simple.

Best Practices for Nails and Polish Color:

  • Make sure fingernails are clean and trimmed.

  • Wear a light or neutral color that will match most of your outfits.

  • Don’t wear complicated designs, glitter, or jewels.

  • Avoid nail polish that matches your skin tone perfectly, or your nails will blend in too much.

  • Touch up any chipped nail polish the night before your session.

three senior photos of girls with nicely manicured nails
These are all great examples of nicely manicured nails.

Not into nails or nail polish? No problem.

Again, this all goes back to creating senior photos that capture who you are. If you aren’t into wearing nail polish, you don’t need to. Just make sure your nails are clean and trimmed, and you’re good to go!

Abby and I have worked together multiple times now, so she doesn’t mind that I pick on her here for an example.

During her sunflower session, she forgot to get her nails done. She was so self-conscious about how they looked that she kept trying to hide them in photos. This really limited what we could do in terms of posing. We still pulled off great photos but probably missed out on a few, too, because her nails weren’t camera-ready.

two senior photos of girl in sunflower field with nails that need manicured
The photo on the left shows Abby's chipped nails. The photo on the right shows her hiding her nails.

Tip Five: Hair and Makeup Products to Pack for Your Senior Photos

To keep you looking refreshed throughout your session, you’ll want to bring a few hair and makeup products along. There’s no need to pack your whole arsenal of makeup supplies. These few things will do just fine.

Items to Pack:

  • Loose powder (to touch up shiny areas)

  • Oil blotting wipes (great for guys and girls)

  • Lipstick and lip gloss (good for reapplying between clothing changes)

  • Brush, comb, and hairspray.

  • Hair clips or ties (if you plan to change your look)

two senior photos in columbus ohio of girl wearing two different hair styles
Bringing a few accessories for your hair can make your senior photos look completely different!

Final Thoughts on Hair and Makeup Styling for Senior Photos

Whether you treat yourself to working with a professional stylist or do everything yourself, keep your look natural. After all, you’ll likely send out senior photos in graduation announcements, submit them to your yearbook, and exchange them with friends. Your photos should look like you!

Most importantly, plan to have fun! The more you look and feel like yourself (hair, makeup, clothes - all of it), the more it’ll show in your photos.

collage of senior photos showing off different ways of styling hair and makeup

Interested in working together for your senior photos? Awesome. Schedule a free call with me here, and we’ll get started!


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