20 Graduation Photo Tips


Graduation day is a special day. A time to acknowledge our loved one’s growth and accomplishments and to celebrate successfully completing all the requirements for graduation. A scrapbook is a heartfelt way to celebrate and memorialize this special time. In this article, I share a few tips and ideas for capturing great photos.

My first tip is to spend some time before, during and after the actual commencement exercise for taking photos. Secondly, try to take any outdoor photos early or late in the day when the lighting is less harsh or find some shade.

casual photos in shade

Pre-Graduation Day


You can take many of the photos before the actual graduation ceremony. Hours, days or weeks before graduation day schedule one or two photo shoots. Here are some things to consider:

Be sure to schedule enough time so you aren’t rushed.

Pick a scenic location or two for nice casual shots. Think of indoor and outdoor options in case the weather’s bad.

graduate casual photo

Get casual photos all dressed up with and without your gown, as shown above.

Consider buildings with archeological interests and favorite hangouts to remember.

cap n gown closeup

A closeup of the cap with class year showing on the tassel, the graduates face, & the gown neckline make a great photo. This would be my first choice. If this isn’t possible for some reason the gown could be placed across a sofa or bed with the cap & tassel (year showing) on top of the gown.

If a graduation party follows the commencement ceremony get some shots of the graduation cake & party decorations.

If a limo (or some other cool mode of transportation) is being used get a shot of that too!


Graduation Day Ceremony & Beyond


Get as close as possible to the stage.

Bring a zoom or 200-300 mm telephoto lens.

Zoom in as close as you can for most shots.

No Flash! Flash is wasted in large rooms, auditoriums, stadiums or outside, which is where most graduation ceremonies take place.

Get a close up! Fill the screen with the graduate receiving their diploma. Focus on what’s important!


graduate receiving diploma

Use the auto-setting & an autofocus lens if you have one. Use continuous setting to continue snapping shots as the graduate walks across the stage, is getting their diploma, and for the cap toss.

Get a full class photo, if possible, of the cap toss.


After the Commencement Ceremony

After the commencement ceremony, there are still a few photos you want to be sure you get.

The graduate with tassel moved, holding their diploma.

The graduate & their friends all in cap & gowns.

Get close-ups of the graduate with their favorite teacher or professor, friends, brother/sister, parents, grandparents, etc.)

Casual shots of the graduate, friends, and family in mixed groups as they mingle and visit.


The After Party

If there is a graduation party be sure to get some photos of everyone dressed in their party clothes as they arrive and some individual and group shots at the party.  You might want to hire a photographer or photography student for any after party.


Bringing It All Together

You’ve got 100’s of great shots and now the fun begins.  It’s time to bring it all together into a gorgeous scrapbook that will be cherished for years to come.

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