5 Tips For Graduation Photography

University of Delaware Graduation

I was going to try and write a long article about graduation photography. Instead, I decided to make a quick bullet list to help the parents out there to capture better graduation photos of their kids. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send an email.

Tips For Better Graduation Photos

  • Be prepared
    • Have your batteries charged, a flash for after the ceremony, a long lens and a standard/wide lens and extra memory cards
  • Distance
    • If you can get close to the stage, do it.
    • If you can’t get close to the stage, use a telephoto (zoom) lens
  • Bump up the ISO
    • Usually during a graduation you are far away and/or the location is dark.
    • Bump the ISO past 1000 and take advantage of the camera sensor in order to get a clear photograph.
  • Don’t always pose.  Sometimes the best graduation photographs are the ones where the graduate is:
    • Talking
    • Hugging
    • Crying
  • Use light
    • The sun is your friend as a main light or backlight
    • Use the flash (which you packed) for a fill light

As a side note, you don’t need a DSLR to take nice graduation photos.  If you’re a long time reader then you will my review of the Canon SX200 IS.  If you’re a new reader, I highly recommend checking it out to see how a small pocket camera can be very useful at a graduation.

Have your own tip for graduation photography? Comment below to share.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,



  1. Joseph Hoetzl June 21, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    If the graduate is a family member, don’t forget to get yourself in the photos! This is one of the few times I’d recommend “P” (Professional) mode on the dial, even with on-camera flash acting as a fill to lessen the raccoon eyes, but don’t bounce the flash to the sky as I’ve seen on numerous occasions.

    And for your own comfort the day after, if the ceremony is outdoors, even if you don’t see the sun, apply sunscreen well before you set out. It is all too easy to forget, and you’ll regret it later.

    • Scott June 21, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Great advice Joe!

  2. D Roberts June 23, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    I’m no pro, but I think the P mode is program mode. You’re better off shooting in portrait mode or Av mode. Just my 2 cents.

    • Scott June 23, 2011 at 8:06 am #

      It does – Joe was just being silly when he called it P for Professional. Portrait mode would be ok after the ceremony but not when you’re sitting far away. Good tip though!

  3. Don in Cornwall June 29, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Hi Scott,
    My daughter graduates in about three weeks. I have a Cannon 7D with a 15-85mm (F3.5-5.6) lens. Also I will be taking 50mm 1.8 prime lens. Could you please give me some advice as to what P settings I should be making and should I use the 50mm lens?

    Many thanks

    • Scott Wyden Kivowitz June 29, 2012 at 7:44 am #

      Because P is automatic, you do not have many settings to choose from. Really your options come down to flash or no flash and what ISO. My first suggestion would be that if you do not want to shoot in manual, and you need some automation – to shoot in shutter priority. Because you’re most likely going to be more focused on paying attention to your daughter than shooting, with shutter priority you can at least be sure that there won’t be blur. Bump your ISO up high enough so the shutter speed is at least double your focal length (which is 50mm so double would be a shutter speed of 1/100 at the least).

      I hope that helps!

  4. Don July 23, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Hi Scott,
    Just got back from graduation. Great day with plenty of good photos, however the most important shot of my daughter being presented has come out with ghosting around her face. I used the cameras built in flash. Is there any way that i can remove or improve the ghosting. I shot in both RAW & JPEG. Will be glad to hear your views.



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