Graduation Day: How to Take Better Photos

Graduation Day: How to Take Better Photos

Posted in [Photography] By Church Hill Classics

As a parent or relative of a graduating student from either high school or college, you are probably experiencing many emotions during this time of year. Graduation will be one of the most important ceremonies your child or loved one will ever experience. Of course, you will be there to watch them receive their diploma and throw their cap in the air along with their entire graduating class.  But you also want to capture every moment and emotion on this important day. These tips can help you take great graduation photos that are full of emotion.  There is no better way to capture and relive those irreplaceable moments in life.


  1. Take Candids! Especially with a digital camera that allows you to be selective and edit later, just take lots of pictures!  The more you take, the greater the chances of capturing a perfect candid moment.  Consider shooting photos of:
    • Teachers, Professors, Speakers or Honorary Graduates enjoying the ceremony
    • Excited parents and family members waiting for their loved one to get their diploma.  Get up close to capture the anticipation and pride in their faces!
    • The grad trying on their cap and gown for the first time.
    • Get your grad having fun with their friends, hugging, waving, decorating their caps, or sharing a quiet moment together.
    • Use a telephoto lens to capture them receiving their diploma, shaking hands with faculty, moving their tassel over on their cap, or marching in their gown and sash. 

Casual and unplanned photos can be the most sentimental of all.


  1. Get as close as possible to the stage without interfering with the ceremony or getting in the way of other photographers.  Again, a telephoto lens can be invaluable in these situations.

  2. Consider asking a “graduating” friend to take some photos for you.  They may be seated nearer to the stage.  Your grad could reciprocate, especially if names are called alphabetically and they are in different call groups going to the stage.

  3. Take photographs from two or more different angles to get more variety. This will spice up your graduation photograph collection.

  4. Get in even closer than you think you should.  For great emotion, close-in on faces and capture those great expressions and connections between people.

  5. If the graduation ceremony is inside, keep in mind a flash typically only captures a ten foot range. Try to get as close as possible to the stage or podium. Get to the ceremony as early as possible to ensure a great seat or to take a quick shot of your grad on stage!

  6. If the graduation ceremony is outside, keep the camera in flash mode. This will eliminate unwanted facial shadows on the subject.



  1. If it is very sunny outside, make sure the sun is not directly behind you (the photographer) so the subject does not have to squint. Angle yourself so the sun is behind you, but to the side.

  2. Find out if the school hires a professional photographer to take the actual receiving of the diploma and the Principal or Dean handshake. If so, don’t stress about getting the perfect photograph. Don’t focus too much on the receiving of the diploma, so you don’t miss the pictures with more meaning; such as what the soon-to-be graduate’s face looks like right before his or her name is called or their facial expressions after they receive their diploma.

  3. For group shots, it can be quite complicated to get everyone in the shot looking at the camera lens at one time. To eliminate this, try and take multiple shots very quickly.



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