Changing the face of high school photography

Tarra Wynd is on a mission to help teenage girls see themselves through a different lens

Most of the high school girls who walk into Tarra Wynd’s photography studio in Langley City have never had professional photos taken before.

Often shy and a little clumsy at first, it can take a while for the teens to relax and feel comfortable.

But by the time the first few photos are shot, and the girls are changing into their next outfit, Wynd can already see a change.

Using her skills as a photographer, Wynd, a mother of three from Surrey, is hoping to change the narrative for teens struggling with their self image.

By using a combination of the right lighting, outfits, hair, makeup and posing — instead of excessive computer editing — she produces stunning magazine-style photos for the girls as a keepsake in their graduation year.

“I remember back when I went to school it was Keds and a Cotton Ginny sweatshirt, and as long as they were matching, you were really cool. Now it’s like keeping up with the Kardashians,” said Wynd, who has a 15-year-old son, 13-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.

“I think with social media and Instagram, everyone is trying to keep up with everybody else. And it’s like, ‘Oh I don’t look like that,’ or ‘Oh, I don’t have those clothes, I don’t have those cool shoes.’ I think our kids have tough years to navigate through.

“Regardless of how many likes they get on Instagram, or how popular they are, women all have things that we are self conscious about. And I want to take these amazing photographs of these girls so that they look at them now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and say, ‘Oh my god, I am beautiful.’”

This style, called high school senior photography, is very popular in the United States, but still a relatively new concept in Canada. The idea is that girls in their graduation year can have personality photos taken outside of the school setting that go beyond the typically “cap and gown” image.

“Usually senior photos are done at school and they are sort of cheesy,” Wynd said. “I want to create photos that these girls look back on and go, ‘Wow that was me when I graduated high school,’ instead of me looking back on my photo going, ‘Oh my god, that was me when I graduated high school.’ There’s a difference.”

The sessions usually last half a day, and include several outfit changes, professional hair and professional makeup by Talia Joyce. Through the shoot, Wynd will teach the girls how to pose and be comfortable in front of the camera.

Two weeks later, the girls and their parents return to the studio for a grand reveal and receive a folio box of printed photos — something that is usually very emotional.

“I absolutely just love making everyone who comes into my studio feel good, feel special, feel beautiful. It’s almost like a high,” Wynd said.

“(It’s about) having that whole experience of feeling like a model for the day, or like a little star … having someone come and do your makeup professionally and your hair, having someone professionally style you, having a great day, having someone say, ‘You look beautiful.’”


For many years, photography was only a hobby for Wynd. Her husband gave her a camera when their first son was born, and she practised taking photos of him as a newborn. Soon, her friends were asking for photos of their kids, too, and she began offering photo shoots part time out of a studio in her home.

It wasn’t until five years ago, when her youngest son was born, that she finally quit her full time job at the Surrey School District to pursue her creative passion in full force.

The catalyst came while she was on vacation in Mexico. She was casually surfing the web and came across some striking photographs of women.

“I looked at them and I thought, ‘Wow, who is the photographer?’” Wynd recalled.

“And these models were so beautiful and I just loved the style and everything.”

The photos were by L.A. based photographer Sue Bryce, who runs a number of courses online through CreativeLive.

Wynd immediately signed up for a workshop.

“I soon came to realize that these women she was photographing weren’t models. They were everyday women … I absolutely love that,” Wynd said.

“I’ve always struggled with how I look and how I feel. We tend to lose our sense of our self a little bit. We go from who we were in our 20s — care free and everything — to being a mom and throwing on jogging pants and taking the kids to school everyday.”

Armed with a new mission, Wynd began photographing whoever she could find, and quickly found a passion in creating memorable photos for teens.

“Everything is online, everything is in our phone, every photo that we take of ourselves are selfies or on a disk, or on a USB, or a chip on our computer and phones, and nothing is printed anymore,” she said.

“I want to create these images so that we have them forever, so that one day when we’re not here, my children or grandchildren can say, that was my mother or that was my grandmother.”

For more on Wynd, visit

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