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Senior photos: Capturing the moment

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Taylor Maresca | The Daily Wildcat

Taylor Nations capturing senior pictures outside of Old Main. 

The scene: Old Main at sunrise. The time is 5:30 a.m., and the campus is already brimming with activity. There are students in white dresses, suits and heels wobbling on the gravely street of palm tree road. Their most important accessory: a cap and gown.

At the end of every semester, graduating students take part in a tradition that is a college graduation staple: senior photos.

Senior photos are meant to encapsulate a senior’s college experience by capturing them at iconic campus locations.

At the University of Arizona, your senior photos are not considered complete without a shot in front of Old Main, a picture with your favorite campus building and a champagne pop in the Old Main fountain.

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But why are these photos such a big deal? Why do students and their families spend the money to make these photos happen?

Popular photographer, Taylor Nations, said these photos capture an important time of life for seniors.

“It’s a great opportunity for you to spend a day with yourself reflecting on how you are on the cusp of one of the biggest transitions of your life,” Nations said. “You will look back on this time forever.”

An Arizona graduate herself, Nations knows that these sessions are more than just your average photoshoot.

“I know, it really is a lot to process,” Nations said.

For Nations, she said that being a small part of these graduates’ journeys is incredibly rewarding.

“Nothing makes me happier and more excited than meeting all of my amazing graduates and creating beautiful photos with them,” Nations said.

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With these beautiful photos comes a price tag. The average senior photoshoot is going to run you around $500 for an hour-long session.

University of Arizona graduates seem to be willing to pay that price. If not for the beautiful photos themselves, then for the memories captured.

Senior Nursing student, Sammie Stears, took her senior photos with a group of five of her closest friends.

“I really wanted pictures with this group of friends before we moved all across the country,” Stears said. “I wanted to capture the last kind of big thing that we did together in these pictures.”

She emphasized the value of the friendships she made and how she wanted to remember these moments forever.

“It makes me feel so good and happy that I made all of these friends,” Stears said.

After spending most of their college experience amid a pandemic, senior Nursing student, Amanda Solley, said that her senior photo experience has been a beacon of positivity.

“You get to cherish one of the happy moments now,” Solley said. “It is great getting to be with each other like this.”

Ever since she was a first-year student, she remembers seeing the photoshoots happen.

“I always walked by to my classes freshman year, and I would see people taking the pictures,” Solley said. “It really is so surreal to be standing here today.”

Solley said that after four years in Tucson, she cannot believe she is in the shoes of a senior.

“I can’t believe I am graduating,” Solley said. “It really is such a ‘pinch me’ moment.”

Solley agrees that senior photos are a “must do” for any Arizona graduate.

“They are such an iconic tradition,” Solley said. “We all love senior photos. It’s a moment that says ‘you finally made it.’”

At the end of the day, the memories do come with a hefty price tag, but seniors agree that it is worth it.

“It was absolutely a good choice,” Stears said. “I will treasure these photos forever.”

Photographers know the ins and outs of getting the most out of your senior shoot. Nations said things like time of day, outfits and props all play a part in making your shoot shine.

“The best most magical lighting scenarios for me are sunrise and sunset,” Nations said. “Personally, I am a sucker for the soft lighting of sunrise.”

Nations also said that the most popular outfit choices are a white dress for females, a suit for males and Wildcat gear.

“Yes, that’s what's most popular, but you don’t have to follow that like a rulebook,” Nations said. “Wear something that feels like you.”

Nations is a big advocate of a champagne pop.

“Go out and pick the cheapest bottle from the store, and I’ll help you from there,” Nations said. “It is an absolute blast.”

The photos certainly capture a special moment in time, but photographers recognize that not everyone is comfortable being in front of the camera.

“My goal as a photographer is for you to feel as authentic and comfortable in front of my lens as you can,” Nations said. “All you have to do is show up, be yourself and watch the magic happen.”

She said that finding what makes each human special is a highlight of her job as a photographer.

“Every grad that I work with brings their own special sparkle to the shoot, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Nations said. “I want everyone to bring their whole shiny selves to the session.”



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