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Graduation Photography (How to Take Graduation Photos)

Graduation Photography (How to Take Graduation Photos)

Graduation is a very happy celebration not just for the person graduating, but for their parents, siblings, extended family members, friends, and community as well. For someone to make it through years of education and graduate is a big deal and should be honored. You may be a bit more proud of your child when they achieve their academic goals and graduate college, but let’s not forget the years it takes to graduate to high school, and then another 4 years until college. The moments and memories created during graduation ceremonies honor the hard work, dedication, relationships, and time it took to get here while also respecting the challenges the future holds.

The bottom line is graduating is an iconic experience and is exactly why people will go out of their way and spend good money to hire a graduation photographer to ensure that they get pro shots of their loved ones dressed up on their special occasion. But, let’s be real, hiring a professional photographer is not for everyone and this is a photography job you can surely do yourself. Graduation photoshoots are usually candid with the subject accepting their certificates or while chilling with friends in their graduation gowns. There are a few graduation day shots that will require some posing such as family photos and senior portraits, but all in all grad photos are not difficult to take and should be a lot of fun.


Things you will need

The best advice from all the photography tips in the world is to be prepared. Have a plan of action by knowing what types of photos you are looking for.

For pro shots you should be using a DSLR or mirrorless camera like the very capable and affordable Sony a7III. Even if you are not passionately into photography, you still would want to capture pics of your kid graduating and will need a good camera with interchangeable lenses so you can take wide angle, landscape, or portrait photography when warranted. There are amazing Nikon Savings you can find on tons of high end cameras at a bargain like the Nikon Z30, Z-50, and Z5 as well as a terrific selection of wide angle lenses and zoom lenses at a discount to choose from.

Pro shots can also be supported with camera accessories. Using something simple such as a tripod will assist in a perfectly stable shot with no shake and should be in every photographers gear bag. Since graduations often occur outdoors, you may have to battle lighting conditions with harsh sunlight or deep shadows in which you can use UV polarizers and lens filters to help maintain the true colors from the beautiful natural light and alleviate unwanted shading. Or you may need more camera flash and light to ensure the best photos are taken when shooting indoors. While on the subject of camera accessories, having extra memory cards and battery have also proven to be wise since you will never know how long these events can last. It’s good to be prepared.

Taking graduation pictures today can be a lot of fun. There are other methods of photography in addition to the availability of affordable cameras that capture classic memories in super high quality. I am talking about drone photography. If you’re feeling wild and the graduation is outdoors, don’t be shy to film live footage for your livestream and snap incredible aerial images of the event.

There are also really great novelty cameras such as the Fujifilm Instax which will let you snap and print photos as you go. The Instax is literally like a portable photobooth which couldn’t be more perfect for a graduation ceremony where friends and family are having a good time and can shoot selfies or group photos together and immediately share them with each other. As a side note, the Fujifilm Instax also makes a fantastic little graduation gift for friends.

All in all, regardless whether you want to be taking pro shots with a powerful camera, or a more relaxed approach using a point and shoot or instant print camera, you will need to be ready for the occasion with the correct camera, lens, and accessories to get great photos with every snap.


Taking Photos & Ideas

Before you begin shooting like crazy, take a moment to finish preparing your shot. You have the gear and the vision, now you just need to set up your frame and settings. The easiest thing would be to set your powerful mirrorless camera to Auto Focus and Auto Exposure which will usually complete the job with flying colors, but in case you’re a DIY kind of person or are looking for a specific customization such as the depth of field for blurred backgrounds, fast shutter speed to keep the moving confetti looking sharp in images, or slow shutter speed to cause the inverse and make the confetti look like its streaking throughout the image. Always consider the ISO per your lighting conditions and check your white balance so you are achieving true to life colors in your shots.

Ultimately, you will know you’re ready when you are pleased with the way your test shots look. Yes, taking test shots will inspire opportunity and confirm greatness.

Graduation portraits are ideal for senior photos and college graduations. This is mainly because the artistic nature of this style of photograph portrays sophistication. Utilize the amazing props the occasion has to offer by including the graduation cap and tassel in classic and artistic ways. Have the subject pose holding their degree while maintaining a natural pose. Try shooting from different angles and don’t be shy about taking too many photos. If you’re using one of the better cameras similar to the Nikon or Sony’s mentioned earlier, then you can upload, sort, store and even edit these pictures later at home on your computer. Postproduction can help with colors and put the finishing touches for a polished and professional looking image.

Graduation is usually a big day for these kids and their demeanor shows it with ear to ear smiles, jokes, and laughs among the graduates. Take advantage of this rare occasion in their lives by taking close up photos of best friends candidly throughout the ceremony, and maybe even stage a few fun photoshoots so you can get some classics in addition to capturing them going wild.

Once you have an idea for the types of shots and or photoshoot you will have, you need to pick a location to shoot from. Like mentioned, test shots and shooting from different angles will help you find the perfect spot. It’s good to be early so you can get to the best vantage point before anyone else. Scout the areas and campus outside for innovative locations to capture these kids doing fun things while wearing their robes. Not just for fun though. These shots can also provide very meaningful images that tells a story. For example, an artistic photo of a graduating student in his robe exiting or in front of the library where they spent years researching and laboring on academia will show the evolution and growth of a student who accomplished their academic challenges and are now moving into the next chapter in their lives. This is easy apply to any type of student and can even loads of fun. Let’s say the graduating student plays sports, you can have a photoshoot where the team is playing the sport, but in their graduation gowns and hats. These are just a few examples. Every student is different but shouldn’t be hard to figure out. Look at their passions and their studies and you will know what to do.


The most important thing to recognize is that there will be good photos and bad photos, you will sort them out. Just make sure to have fun, be supportive of your graduating child, family member, or friend, and let the good times roll.

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