The Senior Portrait Experience | Class of 2019 Magazine

Welcome, Class of 2019 (upcoming) SENIORS!!

(or, Welcome, Class of 2018 senior who is getting ready to graduate and missed out on wonderful senior pictures.... BUT still wants to book an amazing, once in a lifetime portrait session before heading to your next adventures!!)

I just published my NEW senior portrait magazine, designed to visually walk you through the process of the senior picture experience in a bit more depth.

We'll discuss ALL of this in person at your consultation (and I'll have a paper copy for you to peruse) but until then I hope this provides some inspiration for things you want to try in your senior portrait session, including in depth examples of different kinds of locations and photo stories from several kinds of sessions we can have in and around Denver, from urban, to natural to mountain and beyond. You'll also find ideas for styling, tips for hair, makeup and wardrobe, a bit more on how the process works. Plus LOTS of pictures to get you excited to tell YOUR story.

{ feel free to view the magazine in full screen mode -- note that clicking full screen will open a new browser window }

Hopefully if you're reading this we've already set up your consult, but if you've found this post on your own and would like to know more, please click this link to drop me an email (be sure to include a phone number, your school, and please check your spam folder if you don't hear from me within a day or two!)

Or call me at (970)708.2065 and let me know a good time to reach you! Let's grab a coffee and you can tell me how YOU imagine your senior pictures.

I'm so excited to start our creative collaboration to celebrate your senior year with artful portraits!!


Actor and Professional Headshots: Urban vs Natural Light Studio

I offer two options for my actor and professional headshot clients: 1) natural light in urban location or 2) natural light studio.

Either way, I have spent my photography career learning to master natural light and am confident that how I use light will be flattering and natural in either location. The differences in the location types boil down to A) what is behind you and B) the experience you desire while on your photoshoot.

I thought I’d do a quick post sharing some examples of what is possible in the studio vs on location, along with a few words on the pros and cons of each.


Sessions shot outdoors are a bit more improvisational than in the studio, as both you and I will be responding to the immediate conditions of that day, weather, light and location. People tell me often that they to appreciate the “depth” they see in my outdoor photos, which serves to push the focus to the connection they can feel in my subjects’ eyes. I always start in an area which is slightly removed from crowds, so you’ll feel comfortable, yet alive with the vibrance of the city. There’s a fun energy created on these sessions which is reflected in the style of the photos, and I believe reacting in the urban environment leads to part of the very "natural" expressions we get out there. These sessions are always vibrant and fresh.


Urban Street Session BENEFITS:

vibrant, energetic, colorful, depth in backgrounds

eye-catching, memorable, unique


Urban Street Session CHALLENGES:

weather can be an issue (mostly wind, but can also add element of fresh, natural movement)

must pack wardrobe to carry (rolling suitcase is best)


My natural light studio is a shared co-op space, so does require advanced booking. In here, the light is consistent and beautiful. It is quiet and a controlled setting, which for some people can be preferable. I have a few different seamless backdrop options, so you won’t be getting the stiff, traditional yearbook background! These sessions are modern, comfortable and consistently beautiful.


Natural Light Studio BENEFITS:

controlled, predictable, quiet

neutral, professional look

easy to change and keep wardrobe at studio

Natural Light Studio CHALLENGES:

shared studio space can be harder to book

not as much depth in photos (if that's important to you)


IN SUMMARY... Either way you go, even if you're not comfortable with the idea of getting in front of the camera, my promise to you is that you'll end up having a great experience!


On Choosing a Location for your Portrait or Headshot Session

I was photographing a headshot session a few days ago in Denver, and was struck, as I often am, by how stark the contrast can be between what you see at a location, and what you CAN see at a location... with the right composition, professional equipment, and knowledge of how to work a location to your advantage as an experienced photographer.

I was so struck by this contrast, in fact, that I whipped out my cellphone on this particular session just so that I could share with you what I was looking at… vs. what I was able to create in camera at this exact spot. Fairly dramatic, yes?!

Behind the scenes pullback on headshot location in Denver

I had so much fun at this location that I went back with another headshot client a few days later, and was amazed by how completely different the results were, now later in the afternoon and with overcast skies.

behind the scenes pullback of headshot session on location in Denver

Note that in the two examples above, the backgrounds in the final photos are quite different, even though the location is the SAME exact garage, due to the difference in the angle and amount of sunlight on each day.

OK so what am I trying to say by sharing this??

Basically that choosing a location may not be as critical as you think, at least if you want the focus to be on YOU in your photos. A skilled professional photographer should be able to draw attention to YOU no matter what the location.

Absolutely, there are certain variables that I consider when considering locations: walk-ability, ease of finding places to change, wind and sun exposure, color, texture and the motion and fabric of the available “backdrops” in the vicinity, as well as variety in the intensity of all of these things.

behind the scenes on senior session in Denver, Merritt Portrait Studio

What keeps me on my toes all the time is that even areas I know very well will change dramatically from hour to hour, season to season. So part of the challenge (and delight) is derived from learning how to work with what I see on any given day, at any given hour, and with my client’s particular style, coloring and wardrobe.

In fact, working with a place that is special to YOU is one of my favorite creative challenges as an artist (and if you’ve worked with me, you’ve seen how obsessed I am with the visual discovery!)

behind the scenes on senior session in Denver, Merritt Portrait Studio

Urban locations offer infinite possibilities for texture, light, vibrant movement and implied history. I’ve photographed in stockyards, next to dumpsters, in gritty alleyways, in open parking lots, garages, industrial garage doors… you name it. And in fact, some of those least expected locations become people’s favorite photos of their session.

There’s also an organic energy that happens and brings both focus and spontaneity to expression when you're not in an enclosed, safe studio space. A studio has its advantages for certain kinds of sessions to be sure, but if you head outdoors, when you add the motion, noise and vibe of the city with just enough of a textured background and some beautiful light… it can be rather magical.

Even inside in an urban setting, it’s amazing what can happen with the right composition, aperture, lens, photographer's eye and willing subject! 

Hopefully this all leads to a finished photo that becomes true portrait or headshot magic.

That's when, for me anyway, a picture can cross into becoming ART.

I’m a Denver based headshot and senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out personality and highlighting connection in my clients’ EYES. I strive to create images that are far more memorable than typical headshots or senior pictures. Your session will be styled around YOU, and will be an immersive, enjoyable and empowering experience, to boot. I would love to chat with you about a session!

Meet Stephanie | Senior Pictures at Cherokee Castle in Denver

I'll admit: I had no idea this special location existed before this resourceful high school senior shared her vision with me. I'm so grateful for having had the opportunity to photograph this beautiful girl ... at a CASTLE... in Denver!

High School Senior Pictures in Denver, photographer J Koskinen

It’s super fun to design a photoshoot with a senior around his or her style… the choice of location alone can really set the tone for the mood of the senior session and the final pictures. The majority of my clients (understandably) assume they don’t know what they want from their senior pictures, but during our consultation we discover together that they have more of a clear idea than they thought they had.

Stephanie, by contrast, had one of the most clear visions for her senior portrait session of anyone I’ve worked with -- all I had to do was show up!

Her vision was abundantly clear from the first moments of her initial consult. She imagined being photographed in a castle setting in a green dress… and so the pieces fell into place easily.

I didn’t even know there WAS a castle on the front range in Colorado -- but here we are! Special arrangements were made to photograph her senior session at the historic and impressive Cherokee Castle, typically a unique Colorado wedding venue on the front range, south of Denver.

Timeless, lovely, classic, and full of opportunity to create portraits that are not your everyday high school senior pictures! Her look and personal style were absolutely perfect in this setting -- we had a wonderful time exploring the compositional potential at this unique site. Old stone, great textures, beautiful light in some of the interior spaces… and spectacular vistas everywhere.

Thankfully we were just in time with our session, before intense summer storms rolled in late that afternoon.

What a great experience this was for all of us!

I’m a Denver based high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection, personality in the EYES by giving my clients more than just senior pictures for their yearbook -- I create an immersive and empowering experience, custom tailored around the personality and interests of each individual client. I would love to chat with you about designing an high school senior photo shoot for you!  

High School Senior Pictures at Industrial Studio in Denver

What can I tell you about photographing this amazing young woman that you won’t see for yourself in the photos from this session? Maybe just how much I ADORE this talented, kind, brilliant and beautiful human!! I could hang out with and photograph Maddie's positive energy, bubbly personality and gorgeous humanity all day long (and nearly did!)

maddie senior pictures traintracks denver

Maddie and I (and her awesome mom, and my son who is becoming such a fantastic assistant on these portrait shoots!) all had a blast photographing her senior portrait session on location in my vintage industrial studio. This unique (and REALLY fun for seniors) studio is located in a factory/industrial complex just south of downtown Denver.

One of the things that makes this studio so interesting is that it's actually a working factory during the week, so there are always new piles of photographically interesting materials to explore as backdrops. And that doesn’t even count the changing natural light pouring in through old windows and vintage glass at different times of day and year. I get so excited walking around with my clients -- the variety allows me to create photos which remain as unique as the person I’m photographing.

I’m telling you, I’m the luckiest girl in the world -- both to get to know amazing people like this AND to get to make them feel this way during their photo sessions! It's an understatement to say that I adore my high school senior clients -- I always end the session feeling like I have a new friend -- someone I wish wonderful things for in their future!

DREAM BIG, beautiful girl... I am so happy to know you and I can't wait to see where you go with your life!!

I’m SO EXCITED to be booking Class of 2016 senior portrait sessions in Denver already! If you or your soon-to-be high school senior kiddo would like to discuss pictures, please drop me a line!

Let’s set up a complimentary consultation and/or book a session to create senior pictures you and your family will treasure for the rest of your life!