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If you graduated from high school in the U.S. or Canada, you’ve had a senior portrait made for the yearbook. If that year of graduation was between 1950 and about 1975, it was probably black and white, was a smiling, head and shoulders portrait, probably in a suit or fake tux for the boys, and maybe an off shoulder drape for the girls.
Like so much in photography, the senior portrait has changed! For the sake of all those small portraits you see in the yearbooks displayed at the Fair each year, printed images are still head and shoulders, but many schools are allowing outside locations and a wider variety of looks. For your own personal portraits as a senior, the choice is only limited by your creativity.
In the past few years, we’ve not only been to the beach and many homes, but also photographed equestrians, sailors, pilots, surfers, hikers, bikers, car owners, and many others on location. In the studio, we’ve seen every kind of dog, birds and even a chameleon. Dancers, musicians and martial artists create a mini performance for the camera. Scientists and artists bring their projects. Athletes display their gear and letter jackets. The experiences of seniors today are varied, and the senior portrait celebrates that!
We’re often asked how we get the “cush” job of photographing 2,000 seniors each year at Canyon Crest, Torrey Pines, SDA and La Costa Canyon. We’re proud to say that the SDUHSD board has renewed our contract for another five years, as they have since 1995. Why?
The yearbook is published by a yearbook class, a group of 15-17 year olds who are writing, photographing, designing, selling ad space and managing a publication that takes a year to complete, involves thousands of images, hundreds of pages, and is an enterprise that requires managing a budget that often exceeds $100,000. As a former yearbook editor myself (back in the black and white yearbook days), I can tell you it is one of the most significant classes I ever took, and not just because it’s now part of my business!
The class is graded on the content of their work, and also scored at competitions like the Fair, and those sponsored by yearbook publishers. The senior section is of course a vital section. The studio selected to photograph the seniors does so free of charge, and must make portraits match in size and color for the entire layout of several hundred seniors. We make our small business operate because we seek every day to create portraits you’ll want to have as a memory of this time in your life, not because school money is spent for the purpose.
This process involves also working with seniors who don’t want to be in the yearbook, families who need scholarships to afford a print or two, coordinating the schedules of 2,000 busy families, and making deadlines that are in the fall of the senior year. So, class of 2015, be expecting to hear from us this spring!
Bill started photographing weddings from his dorm room at the Claremont colleges back when Nixon was president and film was the only way to record images. A great deal has changed since 1968, but his fascination with photography, and ultimately the stories of the people he has photographed, has made every day of his 40+ years as a portrait photographer, as interesting as the first. Bill considers himself very fortunate to be involved in what I love doing every day.
As I was growing up, my parents always made portrait photography part of our lives, as it had been when they were growing up. As my own children grew, I developed a deeper appreciation of how important those photographs had become in my life. There was the picture of my uncle and the horse drawn delivery wagon he drove for my grandfather’s business on the unpaved streets of Berkeley; the portrait of my other grandfather smoking a pipe as he fished on the bank near the family home in Morris, Illinois; there was my mom as a six year old child model in Chicago; and then there were my own baby pictures, and memories of family vacations. Because my parents passed away when I was in my 20′s, these memories of my family have become my own link to the past, and a way my family now can connect with their history. Of course, it’s also kind of fun to remember that my hair used to be dark!