What to Wear for Senior Pictures (Tips and Ideas)

Once upon a time, senior pictures were taken in a studio on a blank background and made to look like a yearbook photograph. Today, the whole concept of a senior portrait is entirely different; it involves taking teens out into the world and capturing the essence of their personality.

As a result, clothing has changed dramatically in recent years. Here is our guide on what to wear for senior pictures!

What Are Senior Pictures, Really?

If you were to ask ten different people to define a senior picture, they’d all give you a different answer. It doesn’t have an agreed-upon definition!

But generally speaking, a senior portrait is a photo that documents a life stage: going from school to the adult world. For so many teenagers around the world, the final year of high school is filled with a tremendous amount of growth, including major milestones and new life experiences. The senior portrait documents the young adult at that special stage in their life and represents all of the big changes taking place.

Therefore, senior portraits can take many forms. They can be simple portraits that capture the beauty of youth, but they can also showcase a teen’s hobbies, activities, and passions.

Start By Determining a Theme

Because the style of a senior portrait is so dependent upon what you want to represent, it’s tough to choose what to wear until you’ve picked out a theme and a location.

So once you set up a session, open the door for communication between yourself (the photographer) and your subject (the senior). Ask the teen what they want to display in their portraits. Do they want to create a specific type of look? Do they want to highlight a passion?

Then, once you determine the theme, try to find a location that is complementary – so if the teen is into dancing and loves an urban feel, go into the city! Alternatively, if nature is their greatest love, head out to the woods.

Let’s Talk Clothes 

Once the photoshoot theme and the location have been determined, you can start to think about clothes.

First and foremost, the best things to wear for senior pictures are those outfits that make the teenager feel the most confident, happy, and alive.

That’s right: The outfit needs to make them feel absolutely on top of the world so that they’ll look super happy in the images. The outfits should also match the theme that your teen picked for their session and should be adjusted to complement the location. 

When it comes to choosing specific items of clothing, here are a few things to consider:

Fabric and Texture

Not all fabrics are created equal in the eyes of the camera sensor. It’s important to understand how each type of fabric looks in photos; this can change both how you should shoot and how you should advise the teen on clothing. 

Fabrics such as satin are very reflective, so they bounce light all around. Velvet absorbs the light, which can hide texture if not correctly lit. Cotton and polyester appear matte in the frame, while leather and pleather turn out very shiny and textured. Tulle is transparent, and so is sheer.

The general rule to follow is that if your teen wants to wear all of the same color (such as black), each article of clothing should be a different texture. You want the articles of clothing to be clearly differentiated from one another. Otherwise, your subject will look like a floating head!


Remember that colors have meaning. Colors evoke emotions, energy, moods, and vibes. Color is so important that some individuals devote their entire lives to learning about photographic color theory, which explains how color interacts with our minds and influences our understanding of photos.

While a senior shoot does not require a thorough dive into the world of color theory, you should still keep color associations in mind. For example, red represents energy and passion, while blue is the color of peace and honesty. Orange is social and quirky, and purple references creativity and imagination. 

When picking colors, remember a few basic guidelines:

  • Complementary colors are those that sit opposite one another on the color wheel. These always go together because they create beautiful contrast.
  • Analogous colors sit adjacent to each other on the wheel. These schemes are very harmonious. 
  • Triadic color schemes feature three colors that are exactly three spaces apart from each other on a color wheel.

After choosing your colors, make sure their tones are equal. Tone refers to how much gray a color has; in other words, is a color very vibrant and saturated, or is it rather muted? Colors with similar tones work together while colors with clashing tones do not photograph well.

The Fit

The way that clothing fits the teen changes how you should shoot. I am not a fashion guru – I’m just a photographer! – but in my experience, you typically need a good balance. If the teen wants to wear a baggy and oversized top, then the bottom should fit well. Likewise, a looser bottom looks great with a tighter top.

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If the teen wears more oversized clothing, play with their pose to make sure the result doesn’t look too frumpy. If the teen wears tighter clothes, be mindful of how straight their back is and their shoulder positioning. These will be very obvious in the final image!

What to Wear for Senior Pictures: Ideas

Still feeling a bit lost? Here are ten quick senior portrait clothing ideas to consider.

1. Earthy and Neutral Colors

You can always count on some earthy browns and greens to look great:

2. Classic Navy

A gorgeous navy blue is perfect for a stately, refined look. You can add a bit of white for extra pop.

3. White with a Color

White is a classic portrait color, and for good reason. Try combining it with a strong second color, such as blue, green, or gold.

4. Burgundy and Tan

Burgundy tops look great, especially when positioned against warm-toned brick walls:

5. Pastel Colors

Who doesn’t love pastels? Pale pinks, blues, greens, and oranges are a great choice.

6. Elegant and Flowy

If you choose a dress with plenty of flow, you can create dynamic compositions that include running, jumping, and twirling!

7. Bold Color

There’s nothing wrong with choosing intense colors. The images will certainly be eye-catching!

8. Classic Summer Chic

Many senior sessions actually happen before the senior year. If you’re doing a senior portrait photoshoot in the summer, then consider asking the senior to choose flattering, summery clothes.

9. Tulle

If you want to capture more dynamic senior portraits, consider having your subject wear tulle:

10. Urban Style

These days, plenty of teens enjoy an urban look. The more comfortable they feel, the better the images – just make sure you find a suitable background.

Enjoy Your Senior Sessions!

The senior portrait is what you make of it, and the clothes are simply a part of the overall image (and experience). Be sure to focus on outfits that make your teen feel their absolute best. After all, they’re going to look back on this time for the rest of their lives! 

About the Author

Anabel author

Anabel DFlux

Anabel DFlux is a published photographer in the sunny states of California & Nevada, known for a vast array of photographic work. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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