The do’s and don’ts of graduation photography

It’s that time of year again – it’s kind of light at 6pm, the library is chock-a-block with teary eyed third years (I hold up my hand) and suddenly-realising-they-are-meant-to-study second years, and the energy drink shelves at Tesco are looking suspiciously empty. Though the end of uni might not yet be in sight for all of you, there’s going to come a day (and I’m sure it will come round surprisingly quickly!) when you’ll be preparing to take your dissertation and graduate photos. They’re a tricky one: you’ll want to send them to your best friend, but also to your nan. You might want to put it on your LinkedIn, if you’re super keen, but they need to be casual enough for Instagram. While I am by no means a photographer, I do have Google at my fingertips and procrastination on my mind, so I am here to share with you today my top tips for getting those perfect final year photos:


1. Posture posture posture!

The most important part of your photo is the people (or person) in it. Being hunched over your laptop 12 hours a day is not great for posture, that’s for sure, but don’t let it get in the way of you looking your best at graduation. There’s nothing worse than looking back at photos and seeing yourself hunched, Gollem-like, in the corner of the frame. Make sure to stand up tall, shoulders back, and if you’re feeling fancy maybe cross your legs or fling back your gown, Snape-esque, to get some movement in the frame.


2. Lighting: do I need to state this?

I don’t want to presume the lighting knowledge skills of you, my reader, so I’ll just state it for the record: do not, I repeat do not, take your photos with the sun/vaguely brighter clouds behind you. Your photo will be dark in the foreground and will be so far from crisp you might as well smear vaseline all over your lens. Aim for indirect light that doesn’t cast too many harsh shadows across your face – try a few different locations for the highest likelihood of success!


3. Steer clear of funky angles

I love a fun angle as much as the next gal, but remember on the day that these photos will last you a lifetime – don’t let yourself get too carried away with choosing which angle makes your bum look best, just make sure to get that all important smiling, straight on snap for granny’s hallway! Have the camera perpendicular to the ground (unless you’re on a hill), and try a couple from a slightly downturned, higher angle to see if you prefer the look. This is not to say that you shouldn’t experiment; if you want, try some floor upwards-looking power stance photos or even a close, cropped frame, focusing on your graduation cap or alternatively, your lovely face. Just make sure if you do, you’ve got the basics first.


4. Social interaction (something new after having just written four essays in the space of three weeks followed by three exams)

The university has organised graduation over a several day period, meaning hopefully it won’t be too crowded. Still, you’ll likely be grouped with lots of your friends, coursemates, or at the very least, people you vaguely know who are looking cool in gowns. If you can, grab a friend and take some photos together (you can pass on my article to mum if she needs a handy guide to taking the photos). Try to interact: laugh, chat, walk towards the camera, anything to get a bit of movement and life into the frame. If finding a friend is a tricky one for you, make the most of the space around you! Take some photos sitting, standing, in front of the library on Palace Green or under a tree by the Cathedral. If you’ve got your degree in hand, show it off, or for a more iconic photo, throw that grad cap in the air. 


5. Last but not least, remember what matters

Remember that first and foremost, this day will likely be one of the last chances you will have to hang out with your friends as uni students. Make the most of it! Your photos are important, but don’t let them consume your day. If the photos aren’t working out in the moment, take a break, don’t think about it, and maybe try again a bit later, even if that’s in a new setting after an outfit change. As for fussy parents, may I invite you again to direct them to my words of wisdom. Parents: remember this is not about you! Enjoy the day, celebrate others, and know that the most important photos are the snapshots that we hold in our hearts (cue *awwhh*).


So there is my very well researched and highly scientific advice on how to take the best ever grad photos! If you want a more in depth guide, check out this article by Nikon, or this one from Expert Photography. Happy snapping!


Featured image: Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash, <>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Our YouTube Channel