A man with formal suit posing outside for his senior photograph

How Long Do Senior Portraits Take?

Rushing through pictures may mean missing the perfect images for the yearbook or graduation announcements. Since 2013, I’ve been helping senior graduates document this important milestone in a student’s life. I’m sharing this guide on the standard photoshoot timeframe so you’ll know how long it takes to take senior portraits.

How Long Do Senior Portraits Take?

Most standard senior portrait sessions take one to two hours from start to finish. Sessions in NCP’s studio allow for more wardrobe variety, different poses, and backdrops around two hours.

A student wearing a formal suit while sitting on a chair for his senior photograph

The number of outfit changes, locations, and desired portraits ultimately determine session length. I plan and help my clients communicate their photoshoot vision. This way, I can work efficiently to achieve the desired outcome within the given timeframe.

Senior Portrait Photography Timeline: Consultation to Delivery

The actual senior photo session may last around 60 to 120 minutes. However, you need to consider other parts of the shoot that may also consume considerable time. Since you may be using the images for a yearbook, yearbook ad, or announcements it’s important to consider how long it will take to receive the final pictures.

Initial Consultation

I provide an initial consultation before the photography session. During this time, I can discuss how you can look good in senior portraits. This consultation typically lasts for 30 minutes or less.

  • Discuss ideas and preferences
  • Choose outfits and accessories
  • Determine the location for the shoot

Photography Session

The photography session itself usually takes about one to two hours. Meanwhile, more complex shoots with multiple locations can last up to three hours.

Image Processing

After the session, I will post-process the images to ensure they look their best. This step typically takes about two to three weeks, as each shot requires individual attention and editing for optimal results.

  • Retouching and editing
  • Custom enhancements and color corrections
  • Final processing time varies depending on the number of images

Delivery and Review

Finally, once the images are ready, I will schedule a review session. You will also be able to view the edited images and select your favorites. After the review session, you will receive the final digital files and can order additional prints or products using the print credit that is included with your collection.

A man with formal suit posing outside for his senior photograph

Factors Influencing the Duration of a Senior Portrait Session

While it commonly takes one to two hours to finish a senior portrait photoshoot, the final duration may depend on certain factors. The more organized and prepared you are, the more time you can effectively use for senior photography to capture stunning and memorable photos.

Photographer’s Experience

The photographer’s experience plays a significant role in the duration of a session. As a seasoned senior portrait photographer, I know how to manage my time efficiently, often completing sessions quicker than a newcomer. However, I also understand the importance of taking my time to capture the perfect shot.

Photography Style

Different photography styles may require various amounts of time to perfect. For example, a casual, candid session may be quicker, while a posed and highly stylized concept might take longer. Discuss style preferences with your photographer before the session.

Location and Scenery

Different locations can result in various lengths of time for your senior portrait session. A picturesque outdoor setting might take longer to navigate, while a studio setting might be more predictable. Consider factors like:

  • Time spent getting to the location
  • Scouting the best spots
  • Adjusting to different lighting situations

Number of Wardrobe Changes

What you wear in a senior portrait photoshoot can affect your aura and the overall appearance of the images. An increased number of changes may extend your session duration. 

This is why I encourage my clients to coordinate preferred wardrobe styles and how many changes they would like to make so I can help prepare the outfits in advance.

A student looking formal for his senior photograph

Hair and Makeup Styling

Hair and makeup styling can be a significant factor in a session’s length. Consider:

  • Complexity of the hair and makeup looks
  • Retouching during the session
  • Time for prep


A study shows that becoming more mindful of body positions and expressions is the first step in increasing positive self-perceptions. The number of poses you want to include in your session will affect the time it takes.

A variety of poses can capture your personality and interests. However, it will require more time for setup and execution. During your session, be ready to experiment with various poses as I guide you on standard posing and encourage you to make candid ones while incorporating your preferred poses.

Related Questions

How Long Does It Take to Get Graduation Pictures Taken?

Graduation picture sessions are typically one to two hours long, allowing time for cap and gown shots and a couple of different outfits in different locations. More variety equals more time, although you can complete most graduation photos in a standard senior portrait session.

How Long Should It Take to Get Senior Pictures Back?

Most photographers take two to six weeks to edit and deliver senior portraits after the session, though rushed delivery can take as little as one week. The turnaround time may vary depending on the photographer’s workload, editing style, and the number of images included in the package


While session length varies based on location type, number of outfits, and other factors, a standard senior portrait shoot can take one to two hours. With proper planning and an experienced San Diego senior portrait photographer, you can get the senior shots you want without the session dragging on indefinitely.

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