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How you can Take Commencement Photographs

Commencement portrait pictures is a chance to develop your portrait abilities, make photographs that your shopper will treasure, and have enjoyable. There are vital logistics to bear in mind for a easy and well-executed commencement portrait shoot, and this information will assist put together you.

Desk of Contents

Get to Know the Places

Much like different types of portrait pictures, there are fairly a couple of behind-the-scenes particulars to work out earlier than you arrive at your commencement shoot.

Begin by getting in touch along with your shopper. Have an thought of whether or not you’d choose to remain on college grounds, go someplace close by, or do each. Chances are you’ll wish to supply location choices, the place multiple location may cost extra and take extra time.

In the event you’re planning at the very least a part of the shoot on campus, ensure to go to in case you are unfamiliar with it. An web search provides you with a good suggestion of the place to begin searching for the nicest spots on campus, however speaking to college students and/or school is one other fast and simple approach to be taught. Your shopper might need a couple of spots in thoughts, however it’s good to have at the very least a couple of to choose from your self. This may assist you may have a great sense of route through the shoot.

Tip: Stroll across the campus and drop digital pins on a mapping app for the place you’d wish to {photograph} your topic. You’ll be able to retailer and evaluation these for whenever you’re preparing for the shoot.

Be sure you know the place to fulfill your shopper, and analysis parking beforehand. Colleges are sometimes restricted in customer parking, so ensure you and your shopper have a plan.

Study the Apparel for Graduations

It’s vital to be taught what apparel you’ll be working with to be able to ensure every little thing is so as. In case your shoot is earlier than the ceremony, likelihood is good your graduate will need some steering. Right here’s a abstract of every frequent a part of the commencement outfit.

Picture by Justin Hein.

Cap and Tassel

The cap is fairly easy. The again of the cap will likely be barely “deeper” than the entrance, and the cap simply goes on like a standard hat as soon as the route is appropriate. The pointed finish of the cap ought to stick straight out in entrance of the graduate in a diamond form. The highest of the cap must be parallel to the bottom.

The tassel is hooked up on the prime of the cap below a button. The tassel is generally located on the entrance proper aspect of the cap earlier than the commencement ceremony, and on the entrance left aspect of the cap after the commencement ceremony.


The robe can also be easy. Most robes can zip, so that you may wish to take some images with them zipped and unzipped.


It is a sash that’s worn across the neck throughout commencement. It’s straightforward to placed on, and because the photographer, ensure the 2 ends are even all through the shoot. Some could have an emblem or emblem, so ensure you can see that in your images.


These are similar to the stole above; they drape across the neck and cling on the graduate’s sides. Be certain that they’re even.

Come Up With a Plan

This course of is barely extra concerned than it is perhaps for different varieties of portraits. Begin by emailing or calling, and in the event you’re snug with it, share your mobile phone quantity to both textual content or name on the day of the shoot.

To start with, work out your shoot location(s). Work along with your shopper to see what they want, and needless to say most commencement portraits are achieved at the very least partially on the graduate’s campus. Keep in mind that most campuses are fairly busy through the week, so that you may wish to plan a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night shoot.

Decide a time when the sunshine gained’t be too harsh, typically an hour or so earlier than sundown. Think about using a photograph planning app corresponding to PhotoPills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris to verify very best mild timing on your location(s).

Speak to your shopper about what they’re going to put on. Be certain that they know to put on good garments below their robe, to be able to do a couple of pictures with out the robe. If doable, have them take all of their commencement apparel out of its packaging and get any wrinkles out earlier than the shoot (this contains the cap and stole).

Ask what your graduate’s plans for the long run are. They may need a couple of pictures of their future college or employer’s apparel, which is a straightforward means so as to add selection to the shoot.

It’s a good suggestion to remind and make sure along with your shopper a day or two earlier than the shoot. Double-check with them to see if they’ve any questions.

A commencement picture with a faculty mascot sculpture. Picture by Justin Hein.

Gear You Will Want

The good factor about commencement portraits is that they don’t require a lot specialised digicam gear, however listed here are a couple of suggestions so that you can take into account.


The perfect digicam for this type of pictures is a DSLR or mirrorless digicam that means that you can change lenses. Nonetheless, nearly any digicam that means that you can management settings (particularly aperture, learn under) will do.


Portrait lenses usually have a large most aperture. For portraits of a person, the perfect lens will cease to someplace round f/2.8 and wider, permitting for a blurry background and good bokeh. An amazing, often cheap possibility is a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, which gained’t zoom however will likely be sharp and produce a pleasant bokeh. Different nice choices embrace 85mm prime, 105mm prime, and 70-200mm zoom lenses. You in all probability don’t must carry greater than two lenses to your shoot – a great set of two lenses provides you with a spread of focal lengths (e.g. a 50mm and a 105mm). Some photographers simply carry one prime lens to their portrait shoots.


Take into account bringing a reflector if will probably be vivid outdoors. When you have somebody to carry it, it may be very helpful in aiming mild towards your topic and illuminating them in a reasonable, however noticeable means. Be sure you know the way your reflector works earlier than you’re working along with your shopper.

When you have expertise with off-camera flash, this may additionally add a pleasant “pop” to your portraits. Whereas it isn’t vital, flash, when used correctly with some sort of diffusion, can carry extra consideration to your topic and assist you create much more stunning portraits. Nonetheless, it’s most vital to be attentive to your topic and the placement, so if doubtful, you’ll be able to all the time make stunning portraits with none further lighting.

A portrait captured with an off-camera flash. Picture by Justin Hein.


Your shopper will probably need a couple of portraits with out their cap on, so it’s a good suggestion to carry a comb or brush to repair messy hair. You’ll be able to carry a mirror as effectively, however utilizing a cellphone digicam in “selfie” mode works simply positive, too.

If you wish to get artistic with props, you’ll be able to discuss along with your shopper about what they’d like. Some examples of props for commencement portraits is perhaps enjoyable college apparel, “champagne” (carbonated apple juice works simply as effectively, and will likely be a lot much less prone to break the legislation relying on the place you’re), and banners.

Normal Ideas for Taking pictures the Photographs

Now that your shopper is adorned of their wrinkle-free, completely located commencement outfit, what’s subsequent? That is probably the most enjoyable half – get artistic!

In case your shopper desires strategies, take them to one of many spots you scouted out first. Be certain that to do pictures which might be standing, sitting, leaning, and every little thing in between. Use a large aperture (one thing like f/2.8 and wider is a normal place to begin for a person) for a pleasant blurry
background. After every location, it’s a good suggestion to point out your shopper at the very least a couple of of the pictures and see what they like. It is a good approach to observe communication along with your shopper through the shoot.

When your shopper is sitting, strive to not have their torso pointed straight towards you. Angle them away barely, and ask if they’ve a aspect they like to be proven in footage. Don’t all the time have them simply sit and smile – do some candid pictures in the event you can.

Together with variations in poses, range your topic’s dimension in your photographs. Get some pictures from the shoulders up, some full-body pictures, and every little thing in between.

Additionally, range your shopper’s apparel. Have them do some pictures with all of their commencement wardrobe, however then do some with simply the cap and tassel, some with simply their good garments, and no matter else they’d like.

A commencement picture shot in nature with the topic sporting school attire. Picture by Justin Hein.

Have some enjoyable with it. Incorporate movement, corresponding to having your shopper toss their cap into the air (you’ll want to use a quick shutter velocity to freeze the cap within the air). Discover some “funnier” places, corresponding to statues or different landmarks round wherever you’re taking pictures. If the college has a mascot, problem your self to include that someway.

Lastly, take into account providing group commencement shoots. That is environment friendly for you as a photographer, and other people (particularly college students) are likely to loosen up round their buddies. Teams present nice candid alternatives for enjoyable and real pictures.


Commencement portraits require cautious planning however are finally rewarding and lighthearted. Be certain that to maintain in shut contact along with your shopper and make clear as a lot as you’ll be able to earlier than the shoot. Above every little thing else, have enjoyable with it and preserve an open, optimistic thoughts. You have got the chance to seize one of many happiest instances in somebody’s life, so make the expertise joyful for everybody concerned. Now that you just’ve graduated from this text, it’s best to get some commencement portraits achieved for your self!

Picture credit: Inventory picture licensed from Depositphotos

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