Congrats!

You did it! You made it to your senior year of high school! You’ve got a lot planned this summer I’m sure, from days at the lake to nights around the bonfire. You’ll be working, laughing and also having to sit for your professional photos for the yearbook. For those whose stomach turns with anxiety at the prospect of sitting in front of a camera and posing-don’t worry! As Joe’s photography assistant, I have plenty of tips to help you not only get through your senior photos easily, but also how to make them look great and enjoy the process at the same time!

Tip #1: Bring Multiple Outfits

Hey, I know not everyone’s big into fashion, but multiple outfits help make your senior photos that much more dynamic. The polo shirt will make your mom happy but the baseball cap and t-shirt will make you feel like yourself.  Three to four is standard and allows you enough variety to showcase every aspect of who you are as a person!

Tip # 2: Props Are Welcome

We all have activities in high school or hobbies that are very important to us and a senior session is a great place to highlight them. Played volleyball? Bring that jersey! Maybe you were more into music? By all means, bring your instrument. Car person? We’ll happily get a picture of you next to  your ride. Action shot? We’re there!

 

Tip #3: It’s Normal To Feel A Bit Awkward

Let’s face it: we can’t all be Instagram Influencers. Most of us aren’t used to being photographed all the time or having people fuss over our hair to get it just right. It’s a little weird to hold a pose for a few minutes as a flash blinds you. You feel so stiff and you worry it might translate to these once-in-a-lifetime pictures. Don’t worry, that’s normal! I felt the same way during my own senior session and I have yet to be part of one now where the Senior didn’t feel the same way at first. Let me say again: the awkwardness you’re feeling is normal.

Tip #4: Goofing Off Is Occasionally Needed

Senior photos might be once-in-a-lifetime but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a little silly during the shoot. It’s a great way to relieve some of the awkward tension that I mentioned in #3 and even results in some great photos!

 

 

Tip #5: Choose Your Photographer Carefully

The last and most important advice from your friendly neighborhood photography assistant: choose wisely when it comes to hiring a photographer. As I’ve said before, senior portraits are once-in-a-lifetime. You’re never going to graduate high school again and for that reason, you need to make sure you hire the best person for the job. Yes, anyone can have a nice camera, take a picture and use filters to improve the image but that is not what makes a great photographer.

Great photographers aren’t made by their fancy equipment. They’re made by their ability to connect with clients; their ability to listen to ideas and actively engage. Their skills behind the camera are just as critical as being able to put anxious clients at ease. To make them laugh so they can capture that 100% genuine smile. Great photographers also know how to see the extraordinary in the mundane. Just see for yourself:

     

 

That’s A Wrap!

There! Now that you’ve read this post, you know everything you need to know to survive and thrive during your senior photo session! See you then!

Our Story Begins in 1956

Back in 1956, Kenneth “KJ” McDonald opened the first McDonald’s Studio of Photography and in 1958 moved the studio to his hometown of Watertown, Minnesota. Thirty-two years later, his son Joe opened McDonald’s Studio in Delano and has been in business for thirty years. With such a history behind it, it’s safe to say a lot of things about the photography industry have changed since the first McDonald’s Studio was opened. What changed? Well, as they say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

KJ outside the original McDonald Studio in 1956

When KJ was starting to build his studio, photographs were developed from negatives; images on a strip or sheet of transparent plastic film. As the darkest parts of the photo appeared the lightest and vice versa these images were called “negatives”.  To switch it around, KJ had to make a “positive” of the image by projecting it onto a piece of paper with either a photographic enlarger or by way of a contact print. He was aided in this endeavor by his lovely wife Barbara.

KJ developing a photograph in 1949.

KJ and Barbara ‘Barb’ McDonald on their wedding day in 1958. 

Over the years of developing his craft photography changed again, going from negatives to film strips and then to video. KJ mastered all of them. Eventually, he passed on his vast knowledge to his son. Like his father before him, Joe had a passion for capturing precious memories on film and this lead him to opening his own studio at the young age of twenty-two.

The Story Continues in 1988

Joe in his studio, 1988

By the time Joe got his start in 1988, film cannisters were the new normal for photography and like his father, Joe developed and printed his images and used a darkroom to do so. However, the industry changed again in the early 2000s and digital began to take over as the age of computers ushered in a new era. As a result, he had to learn to use the computer to get his images looking just right. Later, he met and married his wife Rachel who used her expertise in graphic design to help him perfect his craft. Eventually, their boys began hanging around the studio as their family expanded.

Joe, Rachel, Alex, Jacob, Aiden and Winston, 2018

Today

Eventually, the commitment and passion Joe brought to his craft earned him a Master’s degree in photography as well as numerous awards and recognitions. Some of these include an award from Kodak for “Photographic Excellence” in 1999 and that same year he won Court of Honor from the Minnesota Professional Photographer Association. Joe went onto win that honor again in 2007, 2009 and 2010. That same year the Professional Photographers of American awarded Joe “Photographer of the Year”. His most recent accolade was  “Best Photographer” for the Herald Journals’ Best of Delano 2018 piece. However, Joe maintains that the best titles he’s been given are “Dad” and “Rachel’s husband” respectively.

So, it’s safe to say that while photography has changed a great deal over the last few decades, the commitment of McDonald’s Studio to provide quality work and immortalized memories for our clients has never wavered once since 1956.  

Joe outside McDonald’s Studio, celebrating thirty years in 2018.