I am a photographer because I love the beauty of telling stories through images. One of my hopes when I create a portrait for someone is that when I am preserving this moment in their life that it becomes not just a memory but through a print on a wall or an album on a shelf, it becomes an heirloom. I am chosen to take photos for different milestones in life: new babies, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. I also love family portrait sessions because those freeze your family in that instant and the next time you get in front of my lens, the kids are bigger and you really see it! One milestone I don’t necessarily see a lot but I think should be captured more is turning sixteen! Senior portraits are a big deal, yes. But turning 16 is this cool time in between starting high school and graduating with so many big things happening. To share my sweet 16 photo ideas, I am beyond excited to share my portraits of my favorite 16 year old, my daughter, Sophia! I have five tips for sweet 16 sessions and I hope they inspire you! 

Pick a Location That You Love

Talk to your photographer and pick locations that you love. Don’t go stand in a boring city park. If you love being on the family farm, that might be an amazing place to start. If you are obsessed with street art, find a place with graffiti or murals like I did for this senior session. Sophia and I were very deliberate with the locations for her portraits. We are beach girls at heart! I’ve been waiting to use the Motel palm tree backdrop specifically for her session. Some of my favorite images were with her under the palm trees. 

Accessorize Creatively

Are you looking for ways in order to make your session different? Bring accessories. Use a hat like Sophia did. It can be used as a prop, actually worn, used to diffuse light and create awesome shadows. Maybe you love to surf. Bring your board as a prop for some of your photos! Think of accessories or props that help define who you are as a new 16 year old! Those things can be incorporated into your session in creative ways

Don’t Just Smile

These aren’t school photos! You should not have to just stand with you hands in your lap and smile at the camera. Have fun with it. If someone asked me for tips for a sweet 16 session, I would say to look at poses on social media or pinterest before your session for inspiration. You can pose dramatically. You can get silly! However you pose, you should alway feel comfortable. If a photographer suggests a pose or location and you don’t feel great about it, tell them! Often times, posing feels awkward but the results are worth it. If a pose doesn’t work, we’ll change it up. From the sand dunes in her gorgeous gown to the palm trees in her denim skirt, Sophia was a pro at posing, one perk of being a photographer’s kid!

Hire A Makeup Artist

I recommend professional makeup for all my sessions actually. Getting a makeup artist is always worth it! Some people think they will look overdone with a makeup artist and that is not even remotely true! A professional makeup artist can make you look like your best self in front of the camera and it really does make a difference. I always use Crystal at Merle Norman in Elizabeth City for myself and my family. She knows exactly what works and what doesn’t work for photography sessions. She’s even quick to tell my girls that I am not a fan of major highlighting on the face, which is true (it can cause white spots when light hits it causing an unflattering effect with the pictures and editing). So if highlighting is a must for you, she knows exactly how much for it not to interfere with the pictures. 

Show All Your Style

You scouted your locations! You are ready to work the camera like a model. Now, bring several outfits for your session. Each location needs at least one outfit but I say bring more to be prepared. Sophia and I  made a special shopping trip to create her dream wardrobe for her portraits. We shopped at Vestique, one of our favorite boutiques in Raleigh and Wilmington. Her outfits really brought out her confidence and you can see it in every image. You want to feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing and above all else, you want to feel like yourself. Out of all my sweet 16 photo ideas, the most important one is to be yourself from head to toe. If you are in front of my camera, I want your most authentic self to show. Bring your favorite jean jacket and pair it with that dress you found in your favorite color! Rock some ankle booties and a hoodie! Just be you and you will be beautifully styled. 

I hope these sweet 16 photo tips inspired! If you are turning 16 in 2022 or have a daughter turning 16, I would love to be your photographer for her sweet 16 portraits! My books will be opening next month so let’s chat! Don’t wait to schedule your session as my calendar fills up quickly. 


Sophia is 16! – Sweet 16 Photo Ideas




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