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90 Minute Senior Session | How to Achieve Variety and Quality Portraits in Less Time

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

90 Minute Senior Session

If you’ve ever photographed a senior session, you know how much time and attention you need to give each one. After years of practice and honing my craft, I’m going to explain how I’ve streamlined my sessions. I now shoot efficiently without making the client feel rushed or sacrificing the quality work I demand of myself.

All of the images in this post were photographed in under 90 minutes at my Columbus portrait studio and neighboring outdoor location!

Stay tuned for my tips on how to streamline your own workflow, too!

High School Senior - Young lady in woods looking over shoulder into the camera

Meet Kayla

Kayla is a high school senior this year. If you’ve followed my work, she probably looks familiar. That’s because we’ve actually known each other for a few years, and she’s been the subject for a few of my projects.

Kayla is an advocate for social justice and women’s equality. She’s an artist, a reader, and an accomplished swimmer.

Kayla plans to forge her own path after graduation by studying Social Justice and Documentary Film-making. I can’t wait to watch her journey unfold and see her leave her mark in the world.

Indoor and Outdoor Senior Session - Kayla, Senior 2021 Columbus, Ohio

A Common Misconception

Even though Kayla and I have worked together on portrait projects in the past, she still arrived for her senior session a bit nervous, especially about posing herself. I’ve found this to be a common anxiety that many clients have, even the clients who have joined me for portraits multiple times. They all feel like they need to pose themselves.

Kayla said, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” I helped her get over the initial jitters by reminding her, “You know me, Kayla! I got you! It’s my job to guide, pose, and have you looking your best. We always end up creating beautiful portraits together!”

After this gentle reminder of how amazing she’d done in past sessions, everything flowed naturally.

Lewis Center Outdoor Senior Session - Young Woman in Woods

What a 90 Minute Session Workflow Looks Like

We began Kayla’s senior session in my studio, located just outside of Columbus, Ohio. I like to start with indoor studio work first. It helps us get comfortable working together without dealing with the outdoor elements. Studio work also lays the foundation for posing flows (more on that later).

We moved through a few outfit changes and included some images of her in her school's swimsuit. She’s been a competitive swimmer since she was eight-years-old. She brought her swimsuit along but didn’t think she wanted to be photographed in it. Her mom and I both said, “We get it. What teenager wants to sit in front of a camera in her swimsuit? But you’ll want these memories years from now.” And she agreed.

Once we completed work in the studio, we went to a spot right outside my studio. It has perfect light as well as tons of trees and paths. It’s convenient, beautiful, and private.

Within 90 minutes we were able to get many different looks! Indoor, outdoor, casual, dressy, soft, and dramatic. Learning how to shoot quickly and efficiently doesn’t mean your clients have to feel rushed, and it certainly doesn’t mean the work you create is of less quality.

2021 Senior Photography In Studio - Competitive Swimmer


I’ve learned to implement these steps over my years in the photography business. I've been able to streamline my workflow during the sessions and in post-production!

Pro Tip 1: Lead with small talk

I’ve learned that a little “small talk” before shooting can really put the client at ease. It helps build trust and connection before having a camera out.

Whether it’s the first or fifth time meeting with a client, leading with small talk lays the foundation for a great shoot together.

Pro Tip 2: Wardrobe recommendations

Unless it’s a family shoot (wardrobe changes with little kids? Any parent knows that's a nightmare...), I always tell my clients to bring several changes of clothes. More importantly, I ask clients to bring clothes they feel comfortable in.

When you feel more comfortable, you'll feel more confident! And when you're wearing your favorite clothes, it shows.

Pro Tip 3: Use time during wardrobe changes

While the client swaps out their wardrobe, I use the time to make any background and lighting changes. The five minutes saved here or there really help move the process along.

Pro Tip 4: Flow Posing

Make a list of shots you normally do during a session and make a flow posing chart from your list. After doing this a few times, you’ll have it memorized, and it will become second nature.

When you utilize flow posing, you’re never wondering what to do next. My flow posing usually starts with head and shoulder close-ups. Then I move to 3/4-body and full-body poses. Making slight adjustments helps me create different images without requiring a lot of effort from the client. An example of flow posing is below.

Flow Posing in Studio Photography

Pro Tip 5: Location Scouting

If you offer studio and outdoor photography, it’s best to have a few outdoor options that are close to your studio. This cuts down on travel time from location to location and speeds up the overall process for you and the client.

If you’re shooting in multiple outdoor locations, choosing spots that are close in proximity to each other also saves time. And the more familiar you get with each location, the more efficient you can be once the camera is up.

Pro Tip 6: Don’t overshoot

I think we’ve all been guilty of this. I used to just "spray and pray." Sometimes I'd have 300+ images after an hour-long session. Don’t overshoot! It wastes your time and your client’s time. And remember: the more you shoot, the more you have to cull in post-production.

Really inspect the pose, background, lighting, and details before clicking the shutter. And then trust yourself! Don't click three times with the same exact pose or expression. Click once and make a change.

A way to practice this technique is to pretend you’re shooting on film, and that each shot is going to cost you money. Money for the film, money for the developing, and money to print a proof. It will make you think twice before taking 10 shots of basically the same image.

At your next shoot, pause and ask yourself “If I can only take one shot, is this the one?” If it’s not, make adjustments before pushing the camera shutter.

Hope this helped!

Where to next?

Want to learn more? I have educational blogs here and a mentoring page here.

Want to book your senior session? Awesome!

Click here for a free consultation with me!

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