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10 Tips for Taking the Perfect Graduation Photos (on Any Device)

Graduation is an exciting milestone for every international student – and definitely one that deserves to be documented.

Ahead of your photoshoots, we’ve put together a few tips, tricks and graduation photo ideas so you can improve your photography skills. The best part? All of these apply whether you’re shooting by yourself or asking a friend to lend a hand, and whether you’re using your phone, a mirrorless camera or DSLR. 

Ready, set, snap! 

1. It’s easier to shoot during the day

As with all photography, the most important thing is lighting. The reality is, it’s much easier to shoot in the daytime than it is at night. Better lighting also adds more energy to your photos and makes them feel more alive.

2. Grab a close up

We’d call this kind of photo the “Mum Shot” – that is, the shot that your mother will print out, frame and place on the wall. Luckily, a “Mum Shot” – also known as a close-up shot – is possibly the easiest type of photo to take. You don’t need any special techniques or gear; all you have to do is get ready, set and snap!

3. Get a group shot

Since relatives and friends are coming along to celebrate, a group photo is an absolute must. It’s recommended that group photos be taken with a tripod and a wide-angle lens. A tripod prevents your hands from shaking while you take the photo, and a wide-angle lens ensures everyone is included in the scene.

4. Interact – and capture the interaction

There’s something very special about a photo where you can see the subject engaging with the photographer. Make sure to capture that interaction! Instead of using stiff poses for graduation photos, an organic interaction makes the photo feel natural and not too staged. This often means the visuals are more interesting and engaging for the viewer.

5. Make good use of a wide-angle lens

Using a wide-angle lens allows you to zoom out from the subject and make the background more of a feature, which helps highlight the beautiful architecture or campus environment. As well, using a distortion effect can lengthen the feet and make the subject look taller and thinner. If you don’t have a camera or special lens, you can add a wide-angle lens to your phone as well!

6. Use props to create interest

Get creative with your photos by having your subject interact with something. Not only does this create visual interest, but it can also make your subject feel a bit less nervous about having their photo taken. This is because an item can distract them and give them somewhere to place their hands. There are three must-have props for graduation: graduation dolls, a graduation certificate and a bunch of flowers!

7. Create a story behind the photo

Interesting portrait photography tells a person’s story. This can be done by showing your subject interacting with their environment. In other words, choose a location that helps drive your message home, or pick some props that are meaningful to your subject. 

[Author’s note: For this shoot, I chose to wear the tie from my school in Hong Kong, which was one of the first chapters in the story of my student life.]

8. Think about what makes your photos unique

If you want to make your graduation photographs more unique, look for the rarer aspects of student life or things that make your adoptive city different from your home country. Think locations like the cityscape or old buildings on your campus – these are unique and will help capture your time in Australia.

9. Check out the world’s best Instagrammers for inspiration

Every single country has a big Instagram community, with talents ranging from amateurs to professional photographers. Get graduation photo ideas, and a feel on what’s already out there and what’s popular, by searching #graduation, #graduationday and #graduationphotoshoot. You don’t necessarily have to copy these photos, but they might help inspire your work.

10. Loosen up

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Remember, this is a special moment to celebrate. Also, not everyone has to be smiling or looking at the camera. Natural, candid snaps are often the most treasured.

(All photos the author’s own)