It’s graduation season! A graduation photography session is a great way to celebrate and document the big milestone.  The genre presents many opportunities to exercise (and flex) your creative muscles.  You can experiment with different styles, different techniques and different storytelling approaches to come up with a unique set of images, making this one of the most enjoyable types of photography.  So whether you’re a photographer or a graduate, here are some great tips and ideas for graduation photography.

Note: All images in this article are by Joshua Chun and used with his permission.

Start with a Moodboard for Graduation Photography

graduate dog

As always, we recommend that you create a moodboard for every photography shoot. Simply put, a moodboard is a collection of images, usually on an app like Pinterest. Moodboards should reflect the style that you (or your clients) are going for. Having your clients create a moodboard helps you understand their overall vision and style preferences.

Understand the Location

creative field portrait

School and University campuses can be very large. If you simply show up, you might not find the best locations on campus in a reasonable amount of time. Our best graduation photography tip is to do a quick location scout ahead of time. This will help you understand where the best light is, what areas to avoid, and other key factors like parking and location restrictions.


Consider utilizing aspects of the campus that showcase the school name. Or try to incorporate elements and buildings having to do with their major or their interests.

Incorporate Their Personalities During Graduation Photography Sessions

graduation photography personality props

Use graduation props to add personality to your photos. Think graduation caps, diplomas, balloons, etc. Also, as mentioned, try incorporating their interests and their majors. As you plan, ask your clients where they often hang out, where they ate their lunch, where they studied, and more.

Add in Friends

Grad photos don’t have to be solo portraits! If your client wants, add in their friends and make it a fun event. This is a great way to add personality and capture the friendships that they have made throughout these important times.

friends blow bubbles in graduation photography
Example of fun props for graduation photography

Utilize Flattering Poses for Graduation Photography

Apply all that you’ve learned from our posing workshops to deliver the types of poses and expressions that your clients want. Understand their preferred sides, utilize flattering angles, know the difference between traditional masculine poses and feminine poses, and more.

Graduation photography example in open shade
Example of power posing for graduation photos

Mix Posed Photos and Candid Photos


Capture candid moments as well as posed shots. If your grad session is on their actual graduation day, candid will help tell the story of the day and capture the emotions of graduation.

Smiling girl graduates

Even if you’re doing a graduation photography session on a separate day, mix in posed photos with action photos and capture the impromptu laughs and expressions.

Add Your Creativity

Example of creative action posing for grad photos

Get creative with your graduation photography angles! For example, try shooting from up high or down low to get unique perspectives. After your “safe” photos, i.e. the classic and standard photos, utilize your time to experiment with more creative photos. Think of compositions like negative space, leading lines, perfect symmetry, reflections and more.

Bring the Right Gear

Be sure to prepare for the shoot with the right gear for the job. Here’s a brief list of what to take on your graduation photography shoot.

  • Camera – A professional full-frame camera is recommended for grad photos
  • Lens(es) – A versatile range is helpful, which can be accomplished with multiple prime lenses, like a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and/or 85mm, or a single zoom lens, like a 24-70mm lens.
  • Reflector – If you have a assistant (or a friend who can assist), a nice 5-in-1 reflector can help you perfect the light using existing natural light.
  • Flash and Flash Stand – If you’re comfortable with Off Camera Flash, consider bringing flash and flash stand. More on this in the next point.

Utilize Off-Camera Flash

off-camera flash
Example of off camera flash for moody graduation photos.

If the style is in line with the grad’s style preferences, we recommend utilizing off-camera flash. This involves using an external flash unit (or speedlight) that is not attached to your camera hot shoe. When done well, flash presents lots of creative opportunties and effects that can make your photos stand out.


Whether you’re shooting graduation photos for a friend or family member, or you’re a professional graduation photographer, we hope these tips have been helpful! Best of luck and congrats to all the graduates out there!  If you’re a professional photographer hired to shoot a graduation, be sure to check with your client beforehand to get an idea of what style they are going for. These tips are meant as general guidelines.

If you have any questions about graduation photography, please leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Copyright: All images in this article are by Joshua Chun and used with his permission.