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5 Ways to Boost Teen Confidence

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

A young girl with tan skin wearing a golden gown on her knees looking up

You’ve MADE IT! It’s their last year of high school (*cue the celebration as well as the tears*)! Now, it’s time to commemorate this with a senior session that you will go on to use in the yearbook, grad party invites, and sharing with family, friends, colleagues, and everyone else in your circle. When it comes to photos though, your teen is not exactly a fan. Maybe it’s because they don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera and you know what? We get it.

The choice to get in front of a camera takes guts. Though, even when you’ve reached that point and you hear the click of the camera, that anxiety starts setting in - that “it probably looks terrible” or “Do I look okay?” moment. Coming from a generation (Millennials) whose culture has been about performing and being in front of the camera, we can only imagine what it’s like for Gen Z and Gen Alpha – they either love the camera or they hate it. And that is OK.

If your teen is anxious about getting their pictures taken, we’re here to help! We all need a confidence boost and this is especially true when getting in front of the camera. While photoshoots themselves are another way to reinforce this, the work of building confidence starts way before they arrive to their session. We have 5 ways to boost your teen’s confidence before their senior session:

A young man wearing a maroon suit and tie laughing

1. Affirmations. They may know what to do with posing – they’ve done this so many times in front of a mirror or hanging out with friends and family, but they don’t believe that they are worthy of taking photos. Knowing that you’re worthy is that extra OOMPH that your teen’s photos need. Affirmation looks like listening to the way that they talk about themselves AND listening to the way that YOU talk about yourself. Despite not being sure whether or not they’re listening, they do listen and unbeknownst to them they pick up traits from you. Listen to the way that they talk about themselves in conversation, the way that they react to a photo of themselves or someone attempting to take their photo, and/or how they respond to someone saying something nice about them. If any of this is negative, get curious. Ask them why they feel that way. If you catch yourself doing this, pause that thought and evaluate why. This could be something they may have picked this up from you.

Regardless of whom or what sparked how they talk about themselves, try practicing

A young man wearing a black suit with a white shirt clasping his hands while smiling and looking off into the distance at night

affirmations together. And YES, it’s going to feel very silly but over time it’s well worth it. It might look like “I am worthy of being in front of a camera. I’m a beautiful person. I’m capable of learning this new skill.” Try to make these specific to the issue that they’re dealing with. The more you say it, the more you believe it.

2. Practice Posing. Posing isn’t just about trying to look your best, but it’s also about being comfortable in one’s body. Not all poses work for every body (see what I did there?). It depends on the type of shoot, your body type, and your personality. For instance, for a senior session, we’re celebrating your teen so we want to do our best to highlight all of the traits that make your teen unique. Let’s say your teen is a young woman who’s very laid back. We’re not going to have a picture of her jumping in mid-air or posed with their hands on their hips. It doesn’t scream laid back – what does is a hip kicked off to the side with one hand in her pocket while the other hand rests at her side OR her leaning up against a wall. Depending on her body type, we may have her lean forward or lean back. Ultimately, your photographer will help you do this during the session but beforehand, have your teen practice in front of a mirror. Whatever feels right to them – keep. Whatever feels off to them – toss. Want ideas for poses? Until we can do a photo shoot together, Pinterest is the best tool for this! Search “teen poses” and you’ll come across a TON.

A young person looking into the camera intensely as their hair blows in the wind

3. Practice Facial Expressions: Smiling is not for everyone. We’ve seen many instances where smiling isn’t the best move. In posing, what works for some people doesn’t work for everyone. But then where does that leave us? (SO GLAD you asked!) Our alternative to smiling is a pensive pose. Of course, you want your teen to look happy and content in a photo, but if they don’t like their smile – until they believe for themselves that their smile is amazing – build their confidence by working on their pensive pose. A great one makes them look content without having to smile. We learned (most of this) from the BRILLIANT Lindsay Adler, a fashion photographer based in New York City, and added our own little twist.

Here’s how to do a pensive pose: Tell them to close their eyes and relax their face. Next, have them pretend that their face is melting (you want all of the tension in their face gone) – from the top of their forehead to their jaw. Then, instruct them to inhale through their nose and then exhale out through their mouth. At the end of their exhale, whatever their mouth is doing, tell them to hold their mouth there. Then, you’re going to count to 3. On 3, they’re going to open their eyes and that’s when you’re going to snap the picture. Definitely practice this a few times!

A young woman with curly hair looking into the camera while dressed in a white dress on the beach

Extra tip: Don’t wait to take the photo too long – when you take the photo immediately when they open their eyes, they don’t have a chance to think about what their face is doing. It works for us all of the time!

If your teen doesn’t mind smiling, step it up a notch. Make them laugh! Laughing candids are the best of the best and no one can convince us otherwise!

4. Lean into their style. Embracing your personal style is a lifelong journey, so this takes some building too. You want your teen to look their best, but you also want them to be comfortable – otherwise, this awkwardness shows up in the photo. Whether your teen prefers dressy, casual, or somewhere in between, embrace this. You can put together outfits that look good on either side of the attire spectrum. For teens who are more into casual wear, graphic tees work perfectly fine with jeans, but perhaps to dress it up, you grab a leather jacket or a blazer. For photo sessions specifically, try avoiding jeans with holes – otherwise, keep these to a minimum. Another tip when it comes to their actual senior session, you can also rent at Incognito’s Menswear, Olivia’s Gowns (dress rental in Utah), Rent the Runway, or Arlene’s Costumes (if your teen wants a themed shoot and/or feels more themselves dressed in cosplay – we’ve done it!).

A young woman dressed in a teal fluffy dress smiling and running towards the camera

Also, consider skin tone! If they have a paler skin tone, they’ll want to go with bold colors like bright blue, emerald green, deep red or purple, or a mustard yellow color. Neutral colors like brown or gray also work too! If their skin has pink or peach undertones, dark colors (like navy blue, silver/gray) will work in their favor as well as red or pink to highlight their natural skin tone. Pastels are great as well! If their skin has more yellow or brown undertones, earthy colors like brown, dark green, dark orange, or deep red work. For the teens who like to wear all black and/or dark colors, if they are open to it, adding a touch of color gives their look more character!

With all of that said, they don’t have to revamp their entire wardrobe, but one piece at a time goes a long way. As long as they can look in the mirror and feel more confident about the person staring right back at them, you are moving in the right direction!

5. Build a playlist. We haven’t met the person yet who doesn’t have a song (or songs) that makes them feel unstoppable. If your teen had to pick a list of songs that made them feel like this, which would it be? Maybe it’s the lyrics, the beat, the artist or a combination of all of these things. No matter what, these songs make them feel incredible and, specifically prior to their session, have them listen to that playlist. Better yet, have them play it during the session too! They won’t help but feel iconic. When in a professional setting, spending time with loved ones or hanging out with friends, getting your photo taken should be fun. We hope these encourage both you and your teen on feeling comfortable not just in front of the camera but in general as well!

Have any questions or want more suggestions? Let’s schedule a chat! Book a free discovery call here. You can also follow us on Facebook/Instagram/Tiktok at @jackiephotographyroc or on Twitter at @jphotographyroc.

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