Senior portraits

Senior portraits

In North America, Senior portraits are formal portraits taken of students at the beginning of their senior year of high school.


Formal senior portraits, in and of themselves, date back at least to the 1920s. However, in more recent decades, the convention has been to feature male students in tuxedo jackets and female students in a silk or fur drape and a pearl necklace which is meant to simulate the appearance of a formal gown.

In some schools a portrait studio is invited to the school to ensure all senior portraits (for the yearbook) are similar in pose and style, and so that students who cannot afford to purchase these portraits on their own or choose not to purchase portraits will appear in the yearbook the same as other students. Other schools allow students to choose a studio and submit portraits on their own.

Some traditional senior portrait sittings include a cap and gown and other changes of clothing, portrait styles and poses.


Modern senior portraits may include virtually any pose or clothing choice, within the limits of good taste. Students often appear with pets, student athletes pose in letterman jacket while many girls choose glamour photography. Outdoor "location" photos continue to increase in popularity, replacing studio portraits.

Uses of senior portraits

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Senior portraits are often included in graduation announcements and/or are given to friends and family. They are also used in yearbooks and are usually rendered larger than their underclassmen counterparts and are often featured in color, even if the rest of the yearbook is mostly reproduced in black and white. In some schools the requirements are strict regarding the choice of photographer or in the style of portraiture, with only traditional-style portraits being acceptable.

Many parents choose to frame a large print of their student's senior portrait for display in their home. One popular way of displaying the senior portrait is in a special photo mat cut to display small copies of the student's school photos from Kindergarten to their junior year, displayed in a circle (like the numbers of a clock) surrounding a larger opening for the senior portrait.

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