Photographers Raise the Bar with Stunning Senior Photos

Cue Card preview image

General Information

NBC Today Show
Willie Geist/Joe Fryer
Event Date:
Air/Publish Date:
Resource Type:
Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
Clip Length:


In the age of social media, high schools get a massive upgrade thanks to some creative photographers who use special effects, lighting, and makeup right out of Hollywood.



"Photographers Raise the Bar with Stunning Senior Photos." Joe Fryer, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 25 June 2017. NBC Learn. Web. 3 November 2018.


Fryer, J. (Reporter), & Geist, W. (Anchor). (2017, June 25). Photographers Raise the Bar with Stunning Senior Photos. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Photographers Raise the Bar with Stunning Senior Photos" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 06/25/2017. Accessed Sat Nov 3 2018 from NBC Learn:


Photographers Raise the Bar with Stunning Senior Photos


I don't know about you, but the process of taking my senior year high school photo consisted of a dusting off and ill-fitting blue blazer, borrowing one of my dad's ties and a sitting in front of a fake backdrop with an awkward look on my face. As the school year wraps up across the country, those senior pictures have reached another level. Joe Fryer has our Sunday Closer.

JOE FRYER, reporting:

As far as high school traditions go, the senior photo was an institution, one typically confined to beds of daisies and brick walls. But for Iowa photographer, Ben Shirk, these quant settings are merely a pretty prelude to the real fireworks. These days, portraits are going to extremes.

JAKE JENNETT: I got to blow my classmates out of the water for senior pictures now.

FRYER: Cue the trampoline, just one of Shirk's many avant-garde ideas.

BEN SHIRK: And we spend a lot of time creating these action shots and movement and fun things that look more like a Nike or Under Armour ad a lot of times.

FRYER: It's kind of like a movie. You can place them anywhere you want, right?

SHIRK: Exactly, Hollywood special effects. I can do that with my seniors.

FRYER: This after all is the Instagram generation, so the bar has been raised to create memorable, personalized moments.

ABBY ATKINS: You definitely want to go to a good person so that you can get good pictures and get a lot of likes.

FRYER: Shirk even installed an indoor waterfall, producing images dripping with drama.

SHIRK: Facial expression.

FRYER: It's why he attracts student athletes from as far away as Alabama.

MEGAN ENGESETH: Can you look over your shoulder?

FRYER: Well, to the north in Minnesota--

ENGESETH: One, two, three, go.

FRYER: --photographer Megan Engeseth caters to a more artistic crowd.

ENGESETH: And then give a good lean over the back. Whoa. Too much.

FRYER: On this day, she's putting on a special Vanity Fair-style shoot, with hairstylists, makeup artists and rented designer dresses. Last year, the theme was Victorian giving her everyday shoots are bursting with creativity.

ENGESETH: It's sort of where their talents lie, finding a way to show their authentic self to the world in a way that they haven't had a chance to do before.

FRYER: It's a far cry from portraits of the past. Just ask Willie, Dylan, or me. These are my senior photos.

MADELINE SILTON: These are so cool.

FRYER: I bravely revealed mine to a couple teens.

TYLER GONZALEZ: Kind of looks like colored version of the ones that my grandma and grandpa did.

FRYER: From the leather jacket pose to the tennis racket caress.

SILTON: I think just like the way you're holding it is a little-- little funny.

FRYER: I wasn't alone.

ENGESETH: I had a bouquet of roses and my flute sitting on top of it and I was holding it like a baby.

FRYER: Times have changed. Families are now willing to pay $2,000 to $3,000 and sometimes more for a standout collection.

ENGESETH: It's really my job to let them know that despite the standards that they see everywhere, they are gorgeous.

FRYER: What's it like for you to see their reaction when they actually see these photos?

ENGESETH: Super exciting. I love making moms cry.

FRYER: Back in rural Iowa, Shirk is always looking for a new perspective on students like softball player Abby Atkins just one more way teens are shattering the image of the senior portrait. For Sunday TODAY, Joe Fryer, Wilton, Iowa.

GEIST: Shots are pretty cool. Joe, thanks.