A proud moment in many lives is the day we or someone we love graduates from high school or college. It marks a big life accomplishment and milestone.
Naturally, we want to remember graduation day for the rest of our lives. The best way to do that is through photographs.
But you don’t want just any old photos. You want high-quality images that tell your big day’s story. This means not only have a good camera, but knowing what to take pictures of, when to take the pictures, and how to operate your camera for the best results.
Let us help you with some graduation photography tips.
A Note About Cameras and Photographing the Big Day
Most of our tips can be applied to just about any camera when followed. For the best pictures, however, we recommend getting a professional camera – a DSLR is best. A DSLR camera will allow you to capture the best images regardless of the type of photo, where the photo is being taken, or the distance away from your subject.
If you can’t borrow or buy a professional camera, you can take great photographs of the big day. You just need to remember a few things.
Firstly, shoot in the highest resolution possible. Higher resolution will have the best quality and can still be edited if need be using editing software like Photoshop.
You’ll also want to get as close as possible to your subject when taking photographs.
Keep lighting in mind as well, using shade as much as possible when outside. Be mindful of when you use the flash – it’s not only disruptive during a ceremony, but also may have little benefit, especially for far away shots.
For even more guidance for great graduation photography regardless of camera type, take a look at Adorama’s guide.
Guide to Graduation Photography
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re trying to get the best graduation photography you can.
You don’t need to hire a professional, not even for portraits of your graduate.
All you need is a good camera, some working knowledge on how to operate it, and a guide to offer up suggestions you may not have thought of yourself.
1.Get Familiar with Your Camera
There are a lot of ways you can plan ahead for graduation photography. Let’s start with the biggest thing – your camera.
If you get your hands on a DSLR, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the settings and handling. The most important settings will be the exposure ones – ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. There are plenty of guides online to help you familiarize yourself with these.
A thing to keep in mind about the exposure settings is that each is used for a different type of photograph. Adjust your aperture for portraits and still scenes. Adjust the shutter speed for motion pictures like your graduate walking onto the stage.
There are a plethora of guides online that can help you get familiar with your camera’s settings. If you already know the basics and want a guide tailored specifically for graduation photography, check out photographer Tom Sapp’s YouTube video on taking great graduation pictures.
Adjust your camera’s settings ahead of time for the ceremony if you’re not confident in how quickly you can do so. If you’re uncomfortable or simply don’t have time to learn your camera, most come with automatic adjusters built right in.
We also recommend getting a long lens for zooming in and a teleconverter for especially far away shots. You might not be able to get up close to the stage or your graduate during the ceremony, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some great shots anyway.
Make sure your camera is fully charged on graduation day. Bring multiple empty memory cards as well – you don’t want to run out of space for new photographs halfway through the ceremony.
An article on Photography Course also encourages photographers to set their cameras to shoot high-resolution RAW format photos. This type of image file is larger than the standard JPEG, but it can be edited a lot more than a JPEG can.
You won’t have time to ensure every snapshot is perfect. Having more editing freedom could be the difference between a beautiful photograph and a blurry mess.
2.Plan Ahead and Coordinate with Loved Ones
There’s more to graduation photography preparation than simply picking some poses and party planning. Your graduate is sharing this big day will fellow classmates, some of which might be very close friends or family.
Coordinate with loved ones ahead of time so that you can get photographs of your graduate with them. If you aren’t having a graduation party, makes plans to meet before or after the formal ceremony.
Choose a location either near where the ceremony is going to take place and get your portraits out of the way.
You can also agree to meet at the ceremony location extra early or linger around once it’s over for photo opportunities.
3.Mix Up Picture Types
Formal portraits of your graduate in their cap and gown are a must. However, you don’t want only portraits of people smiling at the camera. Your graduate won’t want to remember only what they looked like on graduation day.
For pictures involving family and friends, take some candid shots of them interacting. These moments may seem small, but they are still often worth remembering. Sometimes the candid shots turn out even better than formal portraits.
Speaking of those formal portraits, you don’t have to limit your graduate to one pose with a smile. Play around with angles and action shots. Take a photo of your graduate looking up at the camera holding their diploma towards it. Or get an image of them jumping for joy with their classmates.
During the ceremony, take pictures of guest speakers and your graduate receiving their diploma. You can also get shots of them walking up onto the stage and off of it. You might capture a progression of emotions as they cross the stage.
Another major moment you’ll want a photo of is the famous hat toss at the end of the formal ceremony.
If your graduate has any favorite teachers, try to get some pictures of them together. Teachers can have large impacts on their students – your graduate will want to remember who helped them earn their diploma.
You are not limited to only taking pictures of people. If your graduate decorates their cap, take a picture of it. If their friends decorated their caps as well, get a picture of all of the caps in a row or circle. Even if the decorations fall off, fade, or the cap is lost, they’ll still have the picture to remember what it looked like.
You may also want to take photos of the school campus. Your graduate will have made many memories during their time in school, but may not have thought to take photographs of the places where those memories were made.
Take a picture of the graduation stage before anyone gets on it. Get images of the hall graduation is being held in.
If you’re throwing a party for your graduate, get a few snapshots of the cake and decorations. If you get any lawn signs, get a picture or two of them.
There are tons of ideas for graduation photography out there that even we may not have thought of. If you’d like more ideas, websites like Pinterest can be very inspiring.
Get Inspired for the Best Graduation Photography
Great moments don’t require professional photographers to be captured. Getting them on camera can be fun and fulfilling for even an amateur with a phone camera.
There are so many ideas for poses and pictures and parties out there that it can be a little overwhelming.
But it doesn’t have to be. With enough forethought, open-mindedness, and this guide, you can take wonderful pictures of your graduate’s big day.
Remember that you’re telling a story with the photographs you’re taking. Get as many as you can, even of things that might seem mundane like an empty stage. You never know what might mean the most to your graduate.
Have fun and congratulations to your graduate.