How to take high school dance photos like a pro


as featured on KSL Studio 5

Teenagers aren’t the best at communicating. “Mom, can you take photos of our High School Dance group this Saturday?” is typically asked with just a few days notice.

Mark and I have 7 children combined. 2 Covid 2020 Graduates, a Senior, and a Sophomore. We’ve been taking High School Dance photos for 6 years straight. It’s the best way to get to know their friends and so much fun watching them all grow up over the years! If your child asks you to take photos, do it! It’s the closest opportunity you’ll have to being a fly on the wall on their date.

how to take high dance school photos like a pro

1. Plan Ahead

Pull all the information out of your teen as possible! I ask the following questions:

  1. How many total people will be in the group?
  2. Where is dinner?
  3. What time is dinner?
  4. What are the groups expectations for photos?
  5. Is there a theme?

Once I have the information, I can plan accordingly.

how to take high dance school photos like a pro

2. Check the Weather App

Unless you’re using a dSLR camera with a strong sensor and have RAW editing capabilities, I highly recommend taking photos outside. I check my weather app for the upcoming weather conditions AND to see when the sun will set.

Be sure to check when the sun will set at the location you have in mind. I did a quick drive-by a few days prior to the dance to ensure the lighting would work at the time we set. In Utah, the setting sun can be much earlier behind a tall building or when blocked by the mountains.

how to take high dance school photos like a pro

3. Location

To make it easy for everyone, I scout out a location close to where they’ll be having dinner. If you’re familiar with Orem, Utah, you’ll know of Pizzeria 712. It’s located off of busy State Street and not near a field or cool outdoor space. We had to get creative.

The week prior, I hosted the most amazing retro dance party celebrating women in business for the Persnickety Box App. We purchased this $349 couch on Amazon for the event which was still sitting in our garage. Get creative with what you have! Grab ottomans or furniture in your home to create variety.

how to take high dance school photos like a pro
Couch on Amazon

4. Communication (again)

Before we start, I gather everyone together and tell them how it’s going to go down. I will edit and deliver two to three couple poses and one large group photo. Be very clear, otherwise you’ll be there all night. Believe me 🙂 The girls will want separate bestie photos, silly poses, cheer team groups photos, they’ll want to look at the photos to see how they turned out which will lead to countless re-takes. By all means, if you have the time, great!

I bring Mark or one of my other kids to help usher the couples through, especially with larger groups like this one.

The kids will want their photos immediately! This is another reason why I try to keep it simple. If you get the lighting right from the beginning, you won’t have as much to edit. I try to plan an hour after the shoot to run home, edit and deliver the digital photos before the night is over. The kids don’t want to post and share their dance photos a week later, they want them now! Bless this generation.

During my “group” pow-wow I explain that I’ll be sending their edited photos via a dropbox link to _____ (in this case, Andrew). He will then forward it to them. I remind them not to screenshot their pictures, but to hold and save the full resolution image to their camera roll.

5. Posing

Posing people is my least favorite part of photography. Maybe it’s because I was forced to get family pictures taken at Olan Mills my entire childhood. These kids spend time and hard-earned money on these dates, so I do my best!

  1. Tallest in the back
  2. Separate similar colors
  3. Standing slightly sideways is more flattering than straight on
  4. Watch uneven shadows and harsh light
  5. Use fun props or locations that tell a story
high school dance photo prints

Then What?

Create a “thank you” photo bookmark, retro prints, photo sticker on a treat or give your date a print + wood block to remember!

I hope this information helps you feel confident taking the dance photos for your teens! Remember, you’re always your own worst critic, it takes practice, just get out there and shoot!

persnickety prints

(*disclaimer, I am not for hire. Unfortunately, my two businesses already take too much of my time. If there were only 10 more hours in each day!)