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How senior photos have gone from rite to runway

August 27, 2013

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Melanie Preskin opted for a softer look for her photo session.

Say cheese!

Or, rather, don’t.

Like a lot of things, senior pictures are much different for today’s teens than they were for their parents. There’s a lot more style, and a lot less of those cheesy “grip and grins.” Once upon a time, students entering their final year of high school would get a fresh haircut, maybe pick out a new sweater, and head to a dark studio for their senior photo. For many, senior pictures nowadays look more like fashion magazine spreads than cookie-cutter portraits.

Just ask Candice Lamarand, of Sterling Heights. As one part of the husband-and-wife photo duo at Lamarand Style Photography, she said seniors are more concerned and involved than ever with the outcome of their pictures.

“It’s a huge market. They don’t just want to take a nice picture that grandma wants. For a lot of them, it’s the first real chance to get really done up,” she said. “There’s more options available to students now, and so many more photographers. It used to be you go to that one chosen photographer that everyone had to go to, and you just chose from whatever they offered.”

From clothing to props, every detail about senior photos has to be just right. Lamarand offers a la carte services to her clients, including hair and makeup professionals to create the perfect look for a shoot. She even offers stylists, who can accompany seniors on shopping trips or advise via email on an outfit for a photo session.

Like any modeling shoot, though, the photos are made all the better with just the right location.

“It’s all about the look you want to go for. We talk to (clients) a little bit and get a feel for who they are and where they’d like to go. Some people like an open field, and some like more of an urban feel,” she said.

From graffiti-covered walls to wildflower-adorned clearings, the days of cramped photo studios seem to be a thing of the past. Another benefit of shooting on location is the options for lighting.

“I’m a natural-light photographer. It’s just really pretty and warm — just before sunset in the middle of a field,” said Lamarand.

The Russell Industrial Center, in Detroit, was the setting for Kali McIntosh’s senior photos. The Clawson High School 2012 grad reached out to Lamarand, who also happens to be her big sister, to get photos that would be different than the run-of-the-mill studio backdrop.

“I told her I wanted color, edge and graffiti. That is exactly what I got,” said McIntosh, noting that she was never once told to smile for the camera. “We arrived in Detroit, and while she was setting up, I was just looking around at the scenery, and when I looked back, she was already getting my pictures. She didn’t just want the typical, ‘OK, now say “cheese”!’ She wanted to capture me — who I was.”

There’s no doubt that things are changing in the senior photo market and, for that matter, portrait photography overall. Lamarand said she suspects the shift has a lot to do with the evolution of technology over the years, specifically with social media.

“Back then, you chose your pictures from packages. They would tell you, ‘OK, you can get 10 8-by-10s and 20 8-by-7s.’ We do more print credits, and you can use them however you want. More seniors are more concerned with digital rights to it so they can get it up on Facebook,” she said.

In the age of social media, where copyright limits are sometimes stretched too far, Lamarand said she doesn’t mind when seniors post their photos online. In fact, she prefers it.

“Some photographers are anti social media. Those are more of the people that want to make sales from the prints. But I look at it as free marketing. We’ve never paid for advertising. We looked into it. But Facebook alone is great, and word of mouth is the best thing,” she said.

Technology also plays a role in the influx of photographers, she said. Digital photography has made professional-grade cameras and editing equipment available to more and more customers, and many seniors simply have a friend shoot their pictures, with considerable success. Though, many may tell you, there’s no substitute for the real thing.

“A lot of people can go buy a fancy camera and put it on auto and probably get some good pictures. But we look at everything: light, shadows, posing,” said Lamarand.

For more information on Lamarand Style, visit

About the author

Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki covers Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Franklin and Bingham Farms along with Birmingham Public Schools, Oakland County Parks and Recreation and Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center. Esshaki has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2011 and attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Oakland Community College.


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