Ian Kuhn Photography | Senior Portraits

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Senior Portraits

September 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I realize that it’s a bit late in the season for this, but it’s still something that I’ve been thinking about and would like to share.  I had a potential client ask me back in July if I could do her daughter’s Senior Photos, to which I of course readily agreed.  We had agreed to meet up in mid September to do the shoot, only to have her contact me in late August and tell me that her school has dictated that they can’t have outside photos for senior portraits.  The students have to have their portraits done by the school photographers.  Now the silver lining to this is that the client loves my work in general and wants me to do “Senior” portraits anyway for her own purchase. 

This is actually freeing up our time as we both work for the Festival, and doing the shoot was going to be a tight for both of us time wise in the first place, so now we can take our time a bit.  All this got me thinking.  If there are any other parents out there in the same boat I will gladly do portraits for you anyway.  

Now, part of me can see the logic behind this as it allows for greater control and continuity between photos, but it should be about the expression of the students.  These are young adults who, like it or not, are capable of making their own decisions, or by this point in their lives, should be.  They are between 17 to 19 years old typically, old enough to vote, hold a job, buy cigarettes, or even enlist in the military.  I’m all for having guidelines that they have to adhere to with the final decision being made by the school, but the seniors should have their choice.

If the school says, Senior Portraits must not have anything that may be deemed vulgar in them, I am okay with that.  No swear words on their shirts, not hand signs of any kind, sure thing.  I can even work with guidelines such as “nothing provocative.”  I always love that statement because let’s face it, what one person finds provocative another person won’t think twice about.  Even then one dress may fit one person one way, and fit another person completely differently.  What is provocative?  A bare shoulder?  A tight dress? Cleavage? How much cleavage is too much?  Perhaps we should go Victorian, and say “no ankles?”

Again, this isn’t meant to be against school policy, but if a school gave their students guidelines and said, make sure, X, Y, and Z are showing (or not showing as the case may be), then it we should rely on the Senior to be a responsible human being and follow those guidelines.  If they don’t, then the school withholds the right to not publish the photos. 

Everything has a price.  If a student is treated like a responsible adult, and does not follow the guidelines given, then they deserve to not have their photos published.  However, if a student is given *gasp* responsibility, and they show that they are capable of being responsible adults, then they should be rewarded by having the photo of their choice in their yearbook, rather than being stuffed into a mold that they may or may not fit.

This is going to go off on a slight tangent here about age and responsibility.  Back when I first started working at the Museum of Science I was working for Admissions/Retail, and we had a few very simple rules we were supposed to follow, sent down from the CEO. 


1) Don’t sit down on the job (unless of course you had a medical need for a stool/chair). 

2) Don’t use your phone. 

3) Don’t use the computers for personal use (i.e. go  on facebook)


That’s it.  Those were the three big rules.  At the time, I had quit smoking, gained an enormous amount of weight, and the arthritis in my knee was acting up to the point that I often used a cane.  I refused to sit down.  It wasn’t that bad, and I could manage.  We had this “kid” working with us however that would constantly sit down and play on his phone. 

Every day I’d remind him of the rule, and every day I’d get ignored, or he’d outright break the rule. (I remember one time the Manager on duty had taken the stool that was there and had put it away.  As soon as she walked out the door this kid went over, grabbed the stool and brought it back). Then one day this kid went and complained to our manager (whose opinion was vocally, “I don’t care what the CEO says, as long as he doesn’t see you do it, I don’t care what you do.)  My manager pulled me aside and asked me what was up.  When I explained the rule breaks to him, he shrugged, and told me, “He’s only 18.  He just graduated High School.  Think of where you were at that age.”

My response?  “He’s 18.  He is an adult.  When I graduated high school I was 17.  By 18 I had been in the Marine Corps for more than a year where I learned things like how to take orders, and follow instructions.  By 18 I learned how to follow directions as if my life depended on it, because it very well could.  I was learning how not to get shot, and how to return fire at 18.”  Now I realize that there is a HUGE difference between not sitting on the job, vs. how to sweep an area, but the point is, he was an adult.  If he had committed a crime the judge would not look at him and say, “Well…since you just graduated…” 

Now, I realize I’ve gotten somewhat off topic, but please understand what it is that I mean by treating 18 year olds like adults.  I know it can be a scary concept, and with each passing year I find the concept scarier and scarier…As it is, for me, 17 was half a lifetime ago…


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