Shipman Photography | Why Shipman Photography for your Senior Portraits?

Why Shipman Photography for your Senior Portraits?

May 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Before we get started, here is the direct link to our full senior portrait portfolio gallery - which features many of our favorites images from the last three years.  It is exactly where you need to go if you want to get the full spectrum of what kind of work we do at Shipman Photography!  But the purpose of this blog is to tell you more about senior portraits with us in general and what to expect from your experience with us.   If you are interested in booking, getting pricing or have any questions, please email us at or give us a call at (918) 947-9601.

2018 GSP Ad 12018 GSP Ad 1modern fictitious living room with white sofa and copy space for your own image/photos on the concrete wall behind the sofa; the photos in the background are taken by me - no rights are innfringed
A sample of 2017 seniors, shot on location and in studio.  

Recently, CBS news aired a story on senior portrait photography. The story was about how different it has become since back when we parents were kids.   It certainly has changed, I'm reminded every time I visit my mom's house and see my senior portraits right there on the bookcase where they've been since 1988.  Those old pics are OK, but I always see them and think back to who I was at that time, and I think they kind of missed the mark.  Now I think of things I wish we had done differently, but it simply wasn't an option back then.    Everyone went to the same place and was shot in the same series of poses.   That's no longer the case today.  Everyone has a decent camera in their phone and knows a dozen amateur or part time photographers.   The friend with a camera has replaced the SEARS portrait studios of yesterday and the cellphone has replaced the point and shoot.   Good photography is cheap and easily accessible these days and there are tons of talented shooters out there.

So today, if you are going to make a living as a senior portrait photographer, you've got to do some really special things that stand out from the crowd.   You need to create unique and powerful "WOW" images, and you have to focus on customer service and exceeding expectations.  That's exactly what we do.

The photographers featured in that CBS story have very similar processes and businesses as ours, and can best be described as custom senior portrait photographers.  Custom, in that we break the mold and throw it away every time we shoot a new client.   It should never feel the same or look the same from session to session and the images should never make you cringe when you go to your mom's house and see them 30 years in the future!   Our company slogan is "Be Authentic."  And that is our simple mission - to capture, create and build images that express and reflect the authentic you.  

Authentic, even if our underwater pictures (unlike those in the CBS story) are shot on dry land in our climate controlled studio!

AIMG_underwater2bxAIMG_underwater2bxswimming pool under water ...

AIMG_turtle_altxAIMG_turtle_altxUnderwater shot of sea surface with waves

Water, water everywhere...

And now, I can speak from experience as a parent of a high school senior! 

My daughter was a high school senior this year, and I can now officially relate to all the senior parents of portrait clients we've worked with through the years.   The emotional ups and downs, the pride of accomplishment...  it all affects you both as a student and as a parent of a student in ways you did not anticipate.    Looking back, I know that your senior year of high school is something that only comes around once in life, and I just wanted everything to be perfect for her.

Unposed, and slightly irritated at her dad (me) for making her look up for a picture while she was getting ready for her big night.

As she stood at the podium giving her valedictorian speech to her classmates, I was completely overwhelmed with the enormity of what she had accomplished and that the night had finally come that she had been working toward, so hard for for so long.   It was truly a once in a lifetime moment for her, and for us too. And one thing I never pictured myself doing at her graduation happened - a few times.  I cried.   Tears of joy and pride.   Tears of a proud dad, subtle and (I hope) under the radar, but tears just the same.   It's just one of those times when it's hard not to burst with the emotion of the moment.  There are few moments in life that carry such a clear before/after line, but high school graduation is certainly one of them.

That night in particular, and this year - her senior year - in general have helped me understand the importance of what my wife Jennifer and I are doing when we book senior portrait sessions.   One of my most cherished reflections of this year will be the portraits I shot of my own daughter, and that time I spent with her, reflecting her personality and interests back at her with images that I shot and edited and printed for her and for our family.    It really reinforced to me something that I knew but hadn't yet been blessed with the opportunity to experience, and that is this.   Senior portraits last a lifetime, and sometimes beyond - but they should capture the person you were when you were  17 or 18 years old.  Not just the way the photographer wanted you to pose, but how you really were.  Your personality should be evident in your senior portraits, and they should be art - not just 'pics.'

One of the great things about anyone's senior year is being able to look back and see who you were at that time, and for better or worse - that's exactly what senior portraits can do.   We all know that growing up changes things.  People grow and adapt, and evolve and become an amalgamation of all the experiences of their life, but your senior year in high school puts you at that starting line of adulthood.   It's worth the time and investment to properly document.  

In closing the intro, a final note - especially to our male senior portrait clients, who sometimes don't always want pictures and don't see the value in them as 18 year old young men with bigger things on their minds.   Here's the thing guys, senior portraits often, while fully about you - the student, are not always for you.   My pictures don't sit on my mom's bookcase to this day because I want them there.  They sit there because they are important to my mom.   There's nothing wrong with being a parent who appreciates the value of professional custom senior portrait art and strongly encouraging a reluctant student to suck it up and do it for mom (and dad)!   We have won over many a student and gotten them to admit at the end that yes, they indeed did have a good time after all!  I run into  these young men all the time - now college students, college grads, and young professionals.  I consider many of them friends and I hope our photography is part of their future plans as they grow up, get married and become dads themselves.

OK...  on to the details!


So, you've read this blog and have decided to go with Shipman Photography for your senior portraits!  Congratulations and thank you!   The good news is that our senior portrait package average investment is well below the number tossed out in that CBS article I linked above, while the quality of work is at least as high.   Pricing is provided upon request, but every package is custom and every package receives added value without added expense.   So, what can you expect?

Sometimes simple natural light and a gust of wind at just the right time is all an image needs.

First, you can expect us to invest time in getting to know you and your senior.   This can be a phone call or two, or it can be an in person free consultation at our Tulsa studio.    During this consultation, we try to get to know what activities they are involved with.  Hobbies, interests, personalities....  What kind of images do they like?  What are they drawn to?   Urban or country?  Is there a vehicle or a pet or an important place you want us to involve in your shoot?   We work with you - our client - to develop a plan that fits your family and your senior. 

And sometimes, the perfect way to create the image you want is to go to work in the studio and build it in photoshop.


Once we have a plan, it's time to shoot!   Our typical portrait session is 60-90 minutes, on location, where we shoot you in a variety of settings and poses.   We prefer shooting in the 90 minutes before scheduled sunset, as this is typically the easiest, softest and most dramatic daylight to work with.   A typical session  yields around 150 shots, giving us plenty of options to show you.

Sometimes we break the sessions up into smaller ones to give homage to your sports or activities.  These can be done in studio...

AC5A4244xAC5A4244x Or in one of the school facilities where you played or prepared for games.


We are known for a few specific styles.  In particular, we are known for the photo-composites (green screen shots and digital environments).   This literally opens up the possibility for any idea you may have from photo realistic to the intentionally surreal.

AIMG_movie scenexAIMG_movie scenexRed cinema seats drama concert chair indoor, no ...Like going to the movies with yourself and yourself and yourself and yourself....  

root4xroot4xCheckered Background In Perspective. Squares - black and white Or sitting in an art gallery featuring other portraits of yourself

AIMG_Will Dunk 2xAIMG_Will Dunk 2x
Or throwing down a dunk, like you actually did in that game we didn't shoot!


In reality though, while these composites may be something we do that are genuinely unique and fun, it's just another tool in the toolbox, and the majority of our senior portrait work is simply the product of years of experience in on-location portrait photography, how to use natural and artificial light, framing the shots so the backgrounds look great and the composition is artistically pleasing - and interacting with our clients to get genuine reactions.   We direct our shoots, more than pose them so that your reactions and expressions can be natural and authentic. 

Daytime, nighttime, anytime is the right time for downtown sessions!


So the sessions are complete.  What next?   We set up a meeting at our studio, typically in the evening where you and your family can be our guests at a fun and exciting in person gallery review.  We conduct these in person so that we can discuss the images in your gallery, editing options and get some ideas put together for what you may want to order.   

One way in which we are very different from other portrait studios is that we do not ask you to pick out your selections on the night of the gallery review.  We believe in giving you a lot of choices to look at in your proof gallery (typically 70-100 images), and working through all your selection that night is not realistic, so no pressure!  Just sit back and enjoy the show.   

The business side of these gallery reviews comes last, in which we rough up the details (number of images) for order, then we offer some incentives for payment and show you how to create your selections through your proof gallery.    It is a sales meeting, but it is a zero pressure experience.  Primarily we are doing a needs analysis to help find exactly the right fit for your family and your home. 

Then, it's up to you!   We encourage you to take your time and involve your family in making your selections, reviewing your online proof gallery at your convenience over the next week or two.  Once you you have made the selections, along with any editing requests you may have (we can accommodate anything), we build your order.

We know some great places to shoot, but are always open to client ideas!   

Anywhere your passions take you, we will follow.


When we build your order, that means we edit your portraits.  Whatever they may need.  Blemish retouch - no matter how severe the case - is easy and seamless, and when complete looks natural - not photoshopped (even if it is).    We may need to remove something from the picture, add something to the picture, change the temperature of the lighting, light a dark thing, darken a too bright thing, add a sky, whiten teeth, remove wrinkles, create a sunset, change green foliage to fall colors and the list goes on and on.  Whatever that image needs, it gets.   Satisfaction guaranteed.

This process takes typically 4 weeks once we have received your selections.   

Your complete satisfaction is our goal.  It may be every business' goal, but it's a conversation Jennifer and I have every single time a customer leaves holding a new canvas or photo album, smiling from ear to ear.   We simply could not imagine being anything else but your photographer.  We are grateful to our clients and seeing and hearing how happy this art has made them is one of the things we truly love about our jobs!


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A close second to seeing these reactions in person is reading the unsolicited social media testimonials by our clients!    Here are a few recent samples of social media screen captures of our clients telling their family and friends about their experience with Shipman Photography.  

Denise WoodDenise Wood

Whitney AllenWhitney Allen

jeremy cookjeremy cook NicholsNichols

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 3.50.59 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 3.50.59 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.29.57 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.29.57 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.30.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.30.36 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.04.17 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.04.17 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 4.59.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-03 at 4.59.12 PM

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 2.44.40 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-08 at 2.44.40 PM


These are humbling and rewarding and absolutely heartwarming.  We cannot begin to express to our clients how grateful we are that they wanted us to document this once in a lifetime moment in time for their families.  Thank you to them, and to you who are reading this blog, we hope that we can earn your business too.

We will be booking a limited number of seniors this year (50).  While there is no magic time of year to shoot senior portraits anymore, we highly recommend that you book early - even if you are looking for fall dates.   Contact us here to arrange your free consultation.

And,  if you are interested in earning a free session and making some extra spending money, we will also be accepting applications from Tulsa area high school students from the Class of 2018.   If this interests you, please read about this opportunity and click on the application link found in this blog...   Shipman Photography 2018 Senior Rep Program

Thanks again for taking the time to check us out!

- Gregg





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