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8 Essential Graduation Photoshoot Tips

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When you graduate, you’re going through a transformative period that symbolizes your transition from one chapter of life to the next. It also honors your years of hard work and persistence toward your goal. Marking this momentous occasion with a photoshoot serves as a great way to keep your precious memories from this period in your life. But most people can only afford one photo session, so you’ll need graduation photoshoot tips to make the most out of your session!

Regardless of if you’re graduating from high school, college, graduate school, or with your doctoral degree, you deserve to be celebrated! Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best tips we’ve found for your graduation photoshoot.

Graduation Photoshoot Tips for the Best Pictures

Plan Ahead

Before the big day arrives, take some time to plan out your photoshoot. Consider the location, time of day, and any props or accessories you’d like to incorporate. Choosing the right setting can elevate your photos and add depth to the narrative of your journey.

As part of your planning, you should consider several personal factors as well. Think about the items that have meant a lot to you over the past few years. Most likely, you’re leaving your program behind feeling like a different person than when you started. Including the most significant symbols of your last few years will help the photoshoot feel more meaningful.

In addition, you might want to consider the people you want in your photoshoot, too. Sometimes, it can be cheaper for you and some of your friends to split the photoshoot session fees. Plus, you’ll get to take pictures with the people who have been the most important to you throughout getting your degree.

Dress to Impress

dress to impress graduation photoshoot

Just because you’re graduating doesn’t mean you only have to wear your cap and gown! Instead, focus on wearing items that reflect your personality and style. Opting for bright colors is great, especially if you’re graduating in the spring or summer months. Wear some of your favorite jewelry pieces or accessories for the best results. 

If you want to incorporate your cap and gown into your session, do your best to match your school’s colors. Usually, caps and gowns come in solid colors, so opting for solid, neutral tones is your safest bet. Choose solid colors that complement your complexion and avoid busy patterns that may distract from the main focus—you!

For those wanting to wear more trendy colors, take a look at Pantone’s Color of the Year – Peach Fuzz! This gentle and endearing shade appears well on a variety of skin tones. But if peach isn’t your favorite, you can also take inspiration from Pantone’s color palette suggestions.

Timing Is Key

If you’re not a professional photographer, you may not realize how important the time of day is to getting great photos. In fact, having too much or too little natural light can completely change your pictures! After all, too little light will make it harder for the camera to capture, and too much light causes unflattering shadows and washes you out.

Most photographers prefer to schedule their shoots at golden hour. This is the hour just after sunrise or before sunset. During this time, the sun spreads soft and warm light that casts an appealing glow over your photos. But be aware: this is also the time when photographers are most busy! So, you’ll want to schedule your session far enough in advance. If you’ve already waited until the last minute, focus on finding a photographer who’s available.

Strike a Pose

Knowing your best angle helps you ensure that you get great pictures. If you don’t know which poses flatter you the most, practice posing in front of the mirror. You might also want to look up some posing tips to see which ones work the best for you.

Here are some that have worked well for many people:

  • The cap throw – This is the ultimate victory lap! Toss your cap into the air, don a big smile, and have your photographer capture the moment. 
  • The stole stretch – If you have a stole, put it on, grab either end of it, spread your arms, and raise one end into the air. This pose allows you to show off your achievements!
  • The gown – If you already have your gown, drape it elegantly over your shoulder, topping it off with your stole. Then, look back at the camera and smile!

Still not sure how to pose? Don’t worry, you don’t need to have it all planned out. Good photographers have learned how to instruct people to pose. So, if you only end up looking awkward when you try things out in the mirror, rest assured that your photographer will know exactly how to get you situated!

Location, Location, Location

Location serves as one of the most significant choices you make about your graduation photoshoot. After all, location radically impacts the feel of your photos. For example, if you choose an urban location, your photos will likely feel hip and chic, whereas a country photoshoot will give you more of a natural beauty. 

For the best results, select a place that’s significant for you. Maybe you spent most of your time at school studying in a specific area or you find the outdoors refreshing. Other graduates select their alma mater as the location for their pictures. 

If you want variety in your photos, consider having both indoor and outdoor pictures. That way, you get to alter the mood of your portraits and don’t have to stick to such a strict shooting timeline for the natural lighting.

Bring Props

Graduation Party Photo booth props, graduation party decorations, attached to the sticks, NO DIY REQUIRED image 1 - graduation photoshoot

Your photos should tell a visual story that captures a moment in time. So, consider bringing some of your favorite items to your photoshoot. Think about who you are as a person and find ways to sprinkle that in. 

Here are some examples:

  • If you speak another language that’s close to your heart, write down your favorite saying or poem in that language and display it somewhere in your pictures.
  • For those who have a major or a favorite subject, add a symbol of your chosen course of study! 
  • Use graduation-themed props, which can add visual interest and tell a story. Many stores sell graduation-themed props designed to make your photoshoot more fun and playful!
  • Bring some merch. If you have a favorite band or TV show, sprinkle some fun into your photoshoot and wear something that symbolizes them!

Embrace Candid Moments

Posed photos usually comprise the bulk of graduation photoshoot pictures. And don’t get us wrong; they’re essential! Still, the whole point of having a graduation shoot revolves around creating pieces that represent who you are in a moment in time. So, why not try to get the whole moment?

Encourage your photographer to take candid photos of you. Get pictures of yourself laughing, making funny faces, or even walking from one backdrop to the other. If you’re doing your photoshoot with friends, have the photographer get a candid shot of all of you together hanging out. That way, you get to preserve your vibe forever! 


Going to a professional photographer can seem stressful, the final of our graduation photoshoot tips involves some tips to keep yourself calm and confident! First, remember that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do your photos. As long as you’re taking pictures, you’re doing it right! 

If you find yourself still experiencing some anxiety, try taking some deep breaths to destress. Many therapists recommend deep breathing to counteract anxiety because when we get anxious, our breathing becomes shallow. Deep breathing, therefore, calms the nervous system by letting the body know that it’s okay to relax.

In particular, the 4-7-8 breathing technique helps people calm down and can even improve their sleep! To start, close your eyes and get as comfortable as you can. Then, inhale for 4 seconds, filling your lungs as much as you can. Hold your breath for 7 seconds, and release it for 8 seconds. Repeat this as often as you need to do so to calm down.

You can also get ahead of yourself by creating an inner safe space for yourself. Close your eyes and picture the safest place you can. Let it become as real to you as you need it to be. Then, when you’re feeling stressed during a session, picture yourself traveling back to that place. 

Get Ready to Walk the Stage

Now, it’s time to put on your cap and gown, smile, and let your beautiful personality shine. Don’t forget that your graduation photoshoot is a great opportunity to focus on yourself and think about who you are as a person. No matter what you end up doing, as long as you felt like your truest self came through, the photoshoot was a success! 

Good luck on your next adventure, and should we say…Congratulations!

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