Melissa Mullen Photography Blog » Maine Wedding and Portrait Photography : New England & Beyond

Senior Portraits in Maine: A Visual History

Senior portraits have been a tradition for decades, though many people may wonder what the purpose is of taking senior photos.

For starters, senior portraits are taken at a time in a teen’s life when they’re about to embark on life after high school. It’s a major life event to graduate from high school, and it’s more than just a portrait — this moment is part of your life’s history.

I love comparing how senior portraits used to be taken to how they are taken now, as there’s so much value in looking into the past to see where we are now.

Just look at how portraits were taken in 1964 and 1978. The photographers captured the seniors’ classic beauty with the head pose and eye gaze. Often printed in black and white for uniformity and formality, there were also less options for more personalization {or, at least, for the yearbook, that is}.

This uniformity in appearance — required by yearbooks — continued into the ’80s and ’90s {and even the 2000s}, when kids had to take pictures in tuxedos or a black “academic drape.” They had an option to take more casual photos, as you can see by the photos for 1992, but were usually limited to the settings within the photo studio. And the casual photos were almost never included in the yearbook.

While timeless, the serious senior portrait required for the yearbook isn’t necessarily a fun experience.

Once the “Instagram generation” entered high school and prepared for graduation, a trend emerged where seniors wanted to take photos outside of the formal ones required for their yearbook. They wanted to be captured in settings where they felt comfortable and in poses that expressed their individuality, rather than sitting in a chair in a studio in clothes they didn’t pick out themselves.

Seniors now want photos that show the world who they are — something they could share on social media with their friends, even if it means it’s not the photo that goes into the yearbook.

The tradition of capturing life’s moments and recording your life history hasn’t changed — but there’s no denying that there are new, more unique ways to create a time capsule of your senior year.

Above and below are some of the recent senior photos I’ve captured for the graduating class of 2018. Something that is so fun about these portrait sessions is being able to capture each senior’s unique personality. All of them turned out to be very different and beautiful.

Each senior gets to choose their location, and I love working with them to help them feel relaxed in front of the camera.

You can see it in their faces, too — unlike some of the stiff, formal photos found in yearbooks, the seniors in these photos have natural, soft smiles that really show how comfortable they are in that moment. These happy moments are the memories to look back on fondly, and these beautiful portraits are something that parents cherish, too.

This senior chose to take her photo at Forgotten Fields Hopyard in Naples, Maine. Her outfit paired wonderfully with the bright red truck, and the smile on her face really matched the tone of the session.

Senior portraits are taken at such a significant time in a teen’s life, and these photos are important for the parents as well. If parents have their senior portraits available, it’s a fun idea for seniors to take photos with their parents’ photos to show multiple generations in a single frame.

I like to encourage my seniors to ask their family members about their own senior portrait sessions — it can help them feel part of a tradition that all teenagers go through and may open up some nice conversations and stories.

  • Things change (evolve) over time. Your current senior images are wonderful. I wonder if in the 60’s people thought their senior portraits were wonderful, awesome, or beautiful? Probably. I make portraits of doggies and go for the 60’s style. If I let them pick the location it would probably be a cow manure stock pile.

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