Senior Snaps: 3 Beauty Tips for the Perfect Teen Portraits

Senior year of high school is so daunting. So many big deadlines and decisions to make - and the sliiiiight anxiety involved with determining the direction in which you'll strike out into adulthood. And, to really pile it on, there's that time-honored tradition of senior portraits - aka Pray That Zit Heals With A Quickness Or It's Documented For All Time. 

That's the old lady in me speaking, though - smartphones didn't even exist during my high school years (selfies weren't even a thing!), so our senior portrait sessions felt SUPER important. But every time we're posed in front of a professional lens, it still feels pretty darn special - and that's why I'm here this week! Trying in my own lil' way to lessen the freakouts that accompany a senior portrait session and offering some tips to acheive the look you want with a bit less worry.


These gorgeous gals are Alex and Brandi, two adorable seniors whose portrait session was styled by our fellow counselor Ashley Pepitone and shot by sweet Janet Howard. (And those precious signs were courtesy of Liz Townsend of Liddabits, creator of the cutest photo props on the planet!) They're both absolute natural beauties who perfectly illustrate the look I strive to create for seniors: neutral colors, happy skin, and some fun definition.

1. Neutral colors: I always push for neutral shades when it comes to eyes and cheeks; nobody can wear color as well as a teen (lucky youths!), but when it comes to portraits that'll last a lifetime, wacky color can steal focus from timeless bone structure. Urban Decay's Naked palettes are all excellent choices for eyes - avoid overt contouring and sweep just one neutral shade over your lid and slightly into your crease. As for cheeks, MAC's Springsheen blush is the perfect peachy-pink that's nearly universally flattering. Lips can be a little more playful, but again - sticking as close to natural as possible is always a great idea. In order to find a natural shade that flatters, simply pull down your lower lip and check out the color of your mouth - find a shade that matches (or go lighter or darker by no more than two shades) and you're good to go!

2. Happy skin: yeesh, poor hormonal kiddos. I think "happy skin" would've sounded like an oxymoron to me at 17. But even with some breakouts or dryness (or in my case, absurd oiliness), we can find some solutions that don't involve spackling skin with super opaque foundation. Primer's your best friend, because it moisturizers or mattifies whatever situation's going on and it creates a nice smooth surface for concealing anything nasty. (Maybelline's Baby Skin is a perfect idea!)

I WILL say that if you're dealing with any major discoloration, then tarte's Amazonian Clay foundation is your best friend - BUT! Be sure to apply it with a dampened beauty blender and concentrate it in the center of your face, blending less and less into your skin as you move out towards your jaw and hairline. Damp sponges thin out foundation and using a small amount of product will leave you looking dewy and natural instead of cakey and slippery.

For the occasional breakout, though, you're better off using a tinted moisturizer (Laura Mercier's and Urban Decay's Naked Skin are both great) and covering any spots with a liquid concealer like MAC's Pro Longwear. Tap it on lightly with your fingertips using EEEEENSY amounts of product - it's better to build coverage in layers. Top things off with a bit of highlighter on your cheekbones and the tip of your nose. 

3. Fun definition: that's code for mascara. Or lashes. I won't badmouth lashes for senior portraits, not one tiny bit. They're a natural feature that gives some OOMPH without sacrificing that timeless aspect of your look. But the ABSOLUTE KEY to making false lashes look real lies in picking out the right type. Always go for the wispy, natural styles - and even then, trim off the outer third of the strip. Unless your lids are nearly naked, you just don't need falsies that extend into that inner corner of your eye. The goal is to bump up volume and length on the outer corner - that's where the camera will really register them. Ardell's demi-wispies are always a great option, but there are plenty of accent lashes to choose from made by Ardell and Andrea. Walk into a Sally Beauty Supply and follow your heart. 

Definition is also REALLY important for your brows: fuller brows read youthful, which makes sense - our brows actually thin and lighten as we age. Joy. So enjoy the catepillars while you can! This is where I beg you not to overpluck. PLEAAAAAAAASE don't overpluck! It's never as good as you think it'll be. Take it from someone who had the dreaded sideways-comma-brows in 10th grade. All that's necessary to wrangle brows is some clear brow gel and a spoolie - you can brush them exactly where you want them and then lock 'em down with gel. NO TWEEZERS NECESSARY. 

And those basic guidelines should do the trick! I won't be the condescending adult who tells you your smile is the most important element - basically I remember resenting anyone who told me that, starting from 4th grade onwards. But . . . I mean, smiling's a good idea. When choosing images for this post, guess which ones drew me in? Years later you can look back on yourself during this CRAZY tumultuous time and fool yourself into thinking these years were WAY much more fun than they actually are - all thanks to the smiling. 

Moms and seniors, are you hiring a professional makeup artist/hair stylist for senior pics or will you be trying things out on your own? Any questions for the pro here? Tweet us @CampMakery and I'll see what I can do to address any specific concerns!