As an Oconomowoc senior portrait photographer, I’ve had the honor of capturing some of the coolest high school seniors over the years. I love getting to meet each of my seniors and helping them infuse their personalities into their custom senior sessions. As I got to know my seniors and their parents, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like when it was my turn. 

It feels like I blinked, and suddenly, my oldest son, Hunter, was starting his senior year of high school. His senior year of high school was way busier than I ever imagined. There is a lot that happens during or right before senior year that takes a lot of time, like college visits, college and scholarship applications, senior events, and let’s not forget the senior photography session! I want to share my experience on the other side of the camera so that you can head into your child’s senior year feeling more prepared. 

Here are the five things I wish I had done differently during my son’s senior year.

5 Things I Would Have Done Differently During my Son’s Senior Year


1. Complete College Visits Before Senior Year

I would have finished all college visits before the school year started. We did get a number of them in, but not all. It’s a lot to plan college visits during the busy school year. Even if we didn’t have three of his sibling’s schedules to juggle, it’s hard enough squeezing a day or two here and there with everything he has going on. That being said, some colleges offer “fairs” where you can attend and see more of what the school offers, and these typically fall during the school year. To get around this, you can visit these during their junior year.

2. Take Senior Pictures Earlier

I waited until October, and by then, senior year was well underway with college admission and scholarship applications, college symposium nights/admissions fairs at the high school, financial aid meetings, etc. I wish I would have taken his senior pictures in the summer. His very busy schedule is a little freer during the summer without having to juggle school work. I ended up squeezing his senior pictures in before a client session, and that made me feel rushed. It wasn’t how I had envisioned his special day to go. I think I minded more than him, but if I could go back and change that, I would.

3. Curate Your Senior’s Childhood Photos Throughout the Year

I would have collected photos throughout the year and started printing them well ahead of his graduation party. Going through thousands and thousands of images just a week or two leading up to his graduation party was overwhelming, to say the least. Dumping favorites into a folder for him throughout the year (and even years leading up) would have alleviated a lot of stress preparing for his grad party. I might have even started ordering graduation decorations months before he graduated, so I felt more prepared.

4. Take a Photo WITH My Senior

I would have followed my own advice and gotten a photo of just him and me at his senior portrait session. I offer this to all my clients and tell everyone that, “As a mom, it’s something I would want to have and hold forever, so I offer it to you too.” However, since I was the one behind the camera, the thought didn’t even occur to me! I have plenty of candids (like the one below that we took at Big Bend during his senior trip) but no formal ones of just him and me. 😭 **I plan to remedy this before he leaves for school.

5. Cherish the Time

I would have stressed less and relaxed more, spending as much quality time as possible with him this last year. I would have leaned more into the belief that everything happens for a reason. While I felt his senior portrait session was rushed, I was beyond grateful that we took the time to take a trip – just the two of us. I’ll cherish the memories we made on that trip forever. 

Oconomowoc, WI Senior Portrait Photographer 

If you have a high schooler, I hope you found these five tips helpful! It’s also worth mentioning how emotional I felt during my son’s senior year. Of course, I knew I would be sad and that I’ll miss him terribly, but it’s important to honor and process those feelings. As the mom of a senior, I’m even more passionate about creating an amazing senior portrait session for your child so that you can have a custom album or wall art to treasure long after your senior leaves the nest. 

If you want to schedule a time to chat with me, please send me a message here.


  1. Carolynne Stanioch

    The beauty of reflecting on what you would do differently is that you are more aware of what to now and moving forward. Your son may no longer be a senior, but he is forever your son. Enjoy fostering your relationship with him as he navigates adulthood. Mothering an adult child isn’t easy, but it can be fun. Make the most out of every moment you have with him. ❤️

    • Julie Collins Photography

      Great advice from a respected mom who has been there, done that. Appreciate it Carolynne! It’s an emotional year to say the least, but you’re right. He’s forever my son and I look forward to watching his life unfold from here!

  2. Nina Jakubczak

    Great advice Julie!


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