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It's a whole new look: Graduation photo season is here

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It starts as one piece of mail late in January.

A photo studio sends you a slick mailing, reminding you that your child is scheduled to graduate from high school in 18 months, and it’s time to think about senior photos.

You’ll probably toss that one out.

But as the months go by, one piece of mail becomes many, and their tone becomes more urgent:

Book now for better deals.

Don’t wait any longer.

Your child will only be a senior once!

Senior photos are a much bigger deal than they were in the dark ages of the 1970s and 80s.

“It’s definitely transformed since then,” said Kim Rosenbrook, owner of Rosenbrook Studio, Janesville. “The last few years, photos have more of a glamour look to them. It’s more like a modeling session.”

Leanna Schumacher of Helgesen Studios agreed.

“Back in the 80s, it was head-and-shoulder shots,” said Schumacher. “Maybe you changed your clothes once. Guys used to come in wearing their suit jackets and ties with shorts.”

A lot more has changed, too.

Props and poses

Then: We walked to school uphill both ways, even during blizzards. Graduation photos were head-and-shoulder shots, something respectable for the yearbook and for grandma’s wall.

Now: You drive your own car to school and complain there’s not enough parking.

Graduation photos usually include two clothing changes, if not more. Students still get traditional shots for the yearbook, but then anything goes.

Boys pose in their sports uniforms or with their trucks or motorcycles or with the instruments they play in band or all of the above.

Girls pose in their sports uniforms or with their pets, their band instruments or with other props representing their interests.

They often choose to have their photos taken in their prom dresses.

Clothes and backgrounds

Then: Our moms usually picked out our outfits. They—the outfits, not our moms—were usually dorky.

Now: Your mom might, if she’s lucky, get to pick out one outfit.

“We really encourage students to come before their sessions, much like a consultation,” said Helgesen. “That way we can help them with clothing choices.”

Not just clothing, but backgrounds, special effects and other extras.

Instead of institutional blue or dull gray, backgrounds are any color you want. Then there’s digital overlays such as color washes or frames.

How about a set of lockers in the background, with all your football equipment in them? Perhaps you’d like to recline on a gossamer spread, smiling beatifically, like some kind of tasteful pinup.

Location, location...

Then: You drove to the studio and sat quietly.

Now: You might go to the studio. If you do, be sure to bring your iPod or favorite CD so you can relax.

But perhaps you’d rather go to Rotary Gardens for your photo, or to the stables where you keep your horse, or to a random city street for that urban look or … well, the possibilities are endless.

Not just photos

Then: Grandparents got the 8-by-10. So did the parents. Friends got wallets with “Seniors rule!” written on the back.

Now: Along with photos of all sizes, seniors can buy coffee-table books, DVDs, portfolios, note cards or graduation announcements.

Time and money

Then: Senior photos could be taken between September and March of your senior year, depending on yearbook deadlines.

Whatever the cost, your parents would complain.

Now: Senior photo season is now. Early birds can become “ambassadors” for the studio. Refer a friend, and get a discount on your packages.

Parents can expect to pay $500 to $2,500. Prices depend on the length of the session, the number of outfit changes, where the photos are taken and how many you want.


Local photo studio owners offered these tips for parents and students getting ready for their senior portrait sessions.

-- For ideas, check out the senior photo display at the Janesville Mall.

-- Most studios have Web sites, and some have Facebook and MySpace pages. Again, they can give you ideas about what you might like.

-- Talk to your friends about their experiences.

-- Book early for the best deals. Early birds can become “ambassadors” for the studio. Ambassadors who recommend friends to the studio can get discounts on their photo packages.

-- Diversify your clothing. Trendy is good, but in 20 years trendy will be embarrassing. Need proof? Look at some yearbooks from the ‘80s.

-- Remember, even if you have your photos taken in August, you’ll want to include some fall and winter clothes.

-- Senior photos are not the time to try radical new hairstyles.

-- Consult with the photographer about your clothing choices before the session. They can help you look your best. Such consultations usually are free.

Last updated: 9:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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