Recently, I turned in my senior pictures to the school I am at. I decided to take my senior pictures at a landfill, they got rejected because they did not follow the dignity of standard portrait photography and it was deemed inappropriate. Here is a list of the requirements:

  • Digital photos of 300dpi or better are required.
  • All photos must be submitted in full color (no sepia, selective color or black and white)
  • All photos must be in vertical (portrait) orientation and of the senior only,( no other people in the photo).
  • Students must be appropriately dressed (i.e., meet all dress-code requirements listed in the student handbook with face fully visible - no sunglasses or hats that cause shadows, please).
  • Photos should reflect the conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography (e.g., still poses, no action shots).

"The yearbook staff reserves the right to request a new photo if submitted photos do not meet these requirements or are otherwise deemed inappropriate for publication."

I met all the requirements for the senior pictures (I wore a suit, took the photo vertically, followed the outline that was exemplified in the conventions/dignity point, and made sure the quality was 300 dpi), but the teacher disagreed with me taking my senior pictures at a landfill in contrary to the norm. She mainly harped on the landfill pictures going against the "dignity of standard portrait photography" and that they were inappropriate.

  • 1
    Gives them a passport photo (blank stare, no smile). These are the only photos with strict published rules. All other rules are in the eyes of the beholder.
    – xenoid
    Oct 29, 2018 at 23:30
  • 1
    Why did you choose a landfill location? Aside from anything, isn't it a bit distracting? I'm not really familiar with US conventions, or what a normal Senior yearbook photo looks like.
    – osullic
    Oct 29, 2018 at 23:35
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    vtc b/c This is a question about a school-specific policy, not photography, per se.
    – xiota
    Oct 29, 2018 at 23:49
  • 2
    The question could be interpreted to be, at the most basic level, asking "Are there any universal conventions regarding portrait photography?" That certainly is on topic here.
    – Michael C
    Oct 30, 2018 at 8:36
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    Agreeing with @xiota and vtc. The more I read this, the more I keep thinking that you are trolling your school and are reaching out to SE in a last ditch effort to get some people on the internet to combat this policy for you. I'll gladly retract this assertion and my close vote if you edit your question to include the image in question, so that we can all get a better sense of if this is a sincere request or not.
    – OnBreak.
    Oct 31, 2018 at 17:15

6 Answers 6


There are no defined "conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography". This seems to be something localised to your school yearbook photo guidelines. If you have an issue with it, I would appeal to whatever committee is behind these guidelines.


What are the “conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography”?

In your particular case, they are whatever the teacher with the power to say "yes" or "no" wants them to be.

At most educational institutions, the teacher responsible for the production of a school yearbook has the power to determine what they think is and is not appropriate content. If you strongly disagree with the teacher's decision, you might appeal to the principal or the school board, but they're far more likely to stand behind the teacher on this one than give you what you want.

It's really no different than out here in the real world, where a publisher gets to decide what is printed and sold under that publisher's mark. If you disagree with a publishers decision, you can try to find another publisher who feels differently, or you can finance the publication of your content with your own resources.

On a broader scope, there are no universally accepted “conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography.” What some would consider art, others might consider pornographic, disrespectful, sacreligious, etc.

That's not to say, though, that there aren't certain poses and lighting configurations that are more or less de facto standards for things such as a "3/4 professional/business headshot" or other such things.


In my opinion, a good portrait shows something of the character and personality of the person. This is what distinguishes art from, for example, the passport photo mentioned above. I am entirely intrigued by your choice of a landfill as location and curious about the photos!

I make portraits with the portraitee together with something that is important to them, for example with a mirror to show what lies on their heart.

I also did all the senior portraits for my high school yearbook (it was a small school, and this was along time ago). The one I remember most was the person who spontaneously chose an odd and acrobatic location (windowsill over the back stairwell). However, this showed his personality - it was no comment on something external as a landfill photo might seem. For most, I strove with the subject for something candid and attractive, and also closeup so we could see the face (and eyes).

As has been pointed out, the decision is in some ways up to the advisor or the teacher overseeing the yearbook. They may be choosing conventional, since art is not usually what a yearbook photo is about: it is a keepsake to remember one's classmates. Conventional images are often safest to still look okay in 20 years' time.

Perhaps there is another outlet for your artistic ideas!


Photos should reflect the conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography (e.g., still poses, no action shots).

This is a bit of language that has no definition. It is there simply to allow the teacher to pick and choose images on a whim, and have some sort of "standard" that they can refer back to in order to make the judgement (the "standard" being their whims and applied after the fact, not presented before).

In my experience with yearbooks, the senior class was the only class allowed to do anything remotely unique and each image had to have an overall similar style. This is why they contracted with our studio. At the end of the day, it's the same studio, same location, same photographers - so even though each image got away from the typical blue background school portrait, they were all similar in style.

So, I'm surprised that you can submit your own photos. That being said, plenty a great photo has been done in off-beat locations. Graffiti walls are fun, as are abandoned buildings, machine shops, and possibly - a landfill.

But, the important point to ask here is: does your image fit with the style of every other image? If you had your friend snap an iPhone photo of you standing in front of a heaping pile of garbage bags, then I can tell you that it appears you're trying to troll your school.

If you hired a photographer and these are actually very good portraits, then try showing the set to your teacher to see if any of them is acceptable, regardless of the location (there's got to be at least one shot in the lineup where the photographer threw the background so out of focus, you wouldn't be able to tell where you were).

  • To the DV'er - I'm genuinely curious why you found my answer to be not useful?
    – OnBreak.
    Dec 6, 2018 at 23:52

As just about everyone else has already stated, there is no "conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography".

  1. Photography is a mix of technology and art. It is quite different from math, where conventions are widely known and almost universally followed. As with other arts, "conventions" are often intentionally broken, and new "conventions" are created to replace old ones. What you get are different periods, styles, genres, and types. The boundaries of what different people find acceptable differs.

  2. "Dignity" means different things to different people. Teenagers have a different concept of dignity than the elderly. Buddhists have a different idea from Muslims. Americans different from Europeans. Etc. What different people find acceptable differs.

  3. Similarly, there is no "standard portrait photography". There are many different types and styles of portraiture. As before, what different people find acceptable differs.

But assume that you are successful in convincing the higher-ups that your photo fits all the "requirements", including that it "reflect the conventions and dignity of standard portrait photography". You are fighting a losing battle because "The yearbook staff reserves the right to request a new photo if submitted photos ... are otherwise deemed inappropriate for publication." In other words, they can reject a photo for any, or no, reason at all because what the teacher finds acceptable clearly differs from what you find acceptable.


What point were you trying to make by using a landfill as location? That was the point that was being objected to.

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