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Why Hiring an Inclusive and LGBTQ+ Friendly Senior Photographer Matters

LGBTQ+ Friendly Senior Photography

If you identify with the LGBTQ+ community, you may want to do a bit of research before hiring your next photographer. Why does hiring an inclusive and LGBTQ+ friendly senior photographer matter? Because, as a client, you will know that you’ll be accepted and celebrated before ever stepping foot into their studio. And when it’s time for your session, you’ll rest assured knowing that you will be greeted with your preferred pronouns and with an open heart.

We’ve all heard of the “exclusive” senior sessions. But photographers who make “inclusive” senior sessions part of their business model and marketing aren’t as widely seen. I’d like to change that, starting with my business.

young woman on rainbow bench smiling at camera for senior photos

Celebration In Senior Photos

Senior portraits are a milestone for everyone. For some, having senior portraits taken might be the first time they’ve ever been in front of a professional camera. For others, it might be their opportunity to show the world who they are as a young adult. Specifically for the senior who sees gender as fluid or maybe hasn't seen someone like them in typical Senior Sunday scrolling, these portraits will become milestone portraits celebrating who they are now and have always been whether the world was ready or not.

Finding a photographer with a portfolio that shows inclusion and diversity will help you choose the right one to work with. If you’re in the Columbus, Ohio, area, then I hope it’ll be me.

woman with purple hair and black sweater gently smiling at camera in columbus studio for senior pictures

Pronouns and Portfolio Matter

Another way to know if the photographer you’re interested in working with is LBGTQ+ friendly is to read through the wording they use on their website. Do they have inclusive language and openly discuss pronouns? If they do, that’s a good indication that they genuinely care how you identify.

Another place to look is at the photographer’s work itself. Does the photographer have a diverse portfolio? Does the photographer care about things like gender, stereotypes, and inclusion? In the last two years, in addition to my typical client work, I have worked on two personal projects, one focusing on race and one focusing on gender. (One of my favorite sessions for this past summer was this one about gender expectations for women.) I take pride in welcoming everyone to my studio and championing the many ways they represent a modern, progressive world.

black and white images of a young lady standing against a white textured wall and a brick wall in downtown westerville ohio

young woman with purple hair in black sweater and white collar shirt smiling big for camera

Now that we’ve discussed a few things to look for if you want to work with an LGBTQ+ friendly photographer, let’s look at some things I do with each of my seniors (including Ali here!) to help them have a great session.

Fashion and Wardrobe

We all have one or two pieces in our wardrobe that we gravitate to over and over. I encourage my clients to bring wardrobe pieces that match their personalities and allow them to be comfortable. It helps elevate the client experience and helps the client feel more relaxed.

For Ali’s session, she brought an outfit that she thought was “appropriate” for senior photos: a tan sweater and black pants. I could tell that she didn’t have her whole heart in that outfit. She looked nice, of course, but her body language and expression suggested that her next outfit--the one she told me she really liked--would be more fun, more her style. From a photographer’s point of view, I could see a visceral change in the way her expressions and movements changed when she wore clothes she loved.

Ali’s favorite wardrobe pieces were her black sweater with a white collared shirt and a comfy flannel shirt. Her comfort in these outfits is undeniable--just take a look!

young woman with dimples softly smiling at camera in black and white photo and wearing a black shirt with white collar

young woman in brown jacket and black pants smiling at camera gently with hand on her hip

Diversity in Location

When we planned Ali’s senior session, she voiced her desire to shoot both indoor and outdoor photos, so we did just that! We traveled around Columbus to find specific spots that spoke to her aesthetic and personality.

We are so fortunate to have amazing Metro Parks in Columbus, Ohio. But they don’t provide much diversity or *spice* to the shots.

In Worthington, we found a rainbow-painted bench, and Ali LIT UP with excitement! There wasn’t a forced smile on this bench, only excitement and joy. I also noticed that Ali changed her social media profile picture to one of these images. If that’s not a sign that we got the photo, then I don’t know what is.

Small things like this mean so much to clients, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community. Helping Ali find something as simple as a colorful bench assured her that I cared and wanted her senior portraits to represent who she is.

woman with purple hair wearing a flannel shirt and black converse shoes sitting on rainbow bench in westerville ohio for senior photos lgbtq community

high school senior in three locations in westerville ohio posing for senior photos against brick wall and white cement wall

Pre-Shoot Jitters and Posing

I’ve known Ali for years. But despite knowing each other, she was still a bit nervous before her session. Here’s what I’ll say about the pre-shoot jitters: they are normal, and nearly every client feels this way.

Ali didn’t think she was photogenic (her family always disagrees!), and said she didn’t like having her photos taken because of it. She also worried that she wouldn’t know how to pose herself. I can’t tell you how often I hear clients tell me they don’t know how to pose themselves.

Unless you’re a full-time model, you’re never going to know how to pose yourself in the most flattering positions from each camera angle. That’s my job! I pose each client to make them feel comfortable and look their best.

Ali and I worked together to create her senior portraits for two hours. At the end of her session, she said that she had so much fun that she wouldn’t mind staying for another hour! She also told me that she appreciated all of the posing tips I gave her.

Her thoughts on having senior pictures taken went from feeling nervous and uncomfortable to enjoying a two-hour session! One reason for this is that I invite my clients to be themselves. I encourage them to show their unique personality through wardrobe, props, sports, and even location.

young woman with purple hair and westerville north lacrosse school jacket smiling and leaning on brick wall

young woman in photography studio smiling at camera

Final Thoughts

Ali is an amazing person. She’s kind, funny, thoughtful, and wise beyond her years. She’s an old soul who cares so much about justice and equality.

I’m thankful she trusted me to capture a pivotal time in her young adult life.

Where to next?

I photographed Ali’s brother for a project I worked on called “Be A Man.”

I focused on that project to talk about gender norms in our society today.

Want to book your senior session? Awesome!

Click here for a free consultation with me!

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