BSSA: Graduation Photoshoot Tips

Grad Photoshoot Tips

Congratulations, Class of 2020!

Wherever you are right now during the COVID-19 outbreak, I think it’s safe to say capturing your graduation memories may not be as easy this year. It might be harder to get a hold of a photographer or to go out and find a location. But it can still be done! BSSA wants to help you take control of your own memories and give you tips on how to take your own graduation photos.

Here to help you advise you during your grad photoshoot is our Publicity Committee! First we will have Henry, our Publicity Commiteee Co-Chair, walk you through the steps the committee has created, so you should take to perfect your own grad photos using these mock grad photos he has taken at home.

Hey there, I'm Henry! In these examples, I use a scarf to imitate what your stole will look like when you go to take your own photo. Sorry if it looks cheesy, but in these times, we must make do with what we have!

1) Lighting

Let’s begin by talking about lighting. If you want an outdoors shot with your stole, you’re going to need to pick the right time and day. Cloudy skies are your best friend because they will eliminate the extreme brightness from your sun, making the shadows covering your face and outfit less extreme. If you’re like me and live somewhere very bright, however, the next best thing would be to pick a shady scene.I chose this nearby grapevine because not only do the leaves look nice in the sun, but it offers me even shading for my photograph. Plus, there are a lot of vineyards near my hometown, so it also represents where I come from.

2) Choosing a Location

Choose a place that is important to you. Taking a grad photo is not only about looking great, but it’s also about capturing your memories. Try to tell a story by finding something that means a lot to you. This can include carrying any extra props, pets, or people (social distancing might make the people part a little harder).

3) Composition

Next, we can discuss the shot composition. Being perfectly centred is always a good start, but you don’t have to stick to it. Even though I’m leaning to the side, I still draw the eyes' attention because of how the “stole” and my clothes contrast with the background. From left to right, about two-thirds of the picture features the grapevines before reaching my head. This might mean there are more vines in the picture, but I maintain more presence by contrasting with it.

4) Equipment

But what should you use to take this photo? I used a Canon DSLR camera, so if you own one, you’re set. If you have a smartphone with a camera, however, that can be just as good. Most phone cameras nowadays can take high-quality pictures, and their facial recognition is able to focus on you and not the background. One of the advantages of phones also is that if you find that somewhere in the background is a little too bright, like the sun or a reflection, you can always set the “metering” of your camera by tapping on a spot on the screen. This basically means your phone will change the exposure of the light to keep the spot you chose well-lit.

Here are some other example photos with some of our amazing Publicity Committee Members:

1) Lighting

This image is unedited and in the shade on a bright day.

2) Choosing a Location

The model is posing in front of a pool, but any body of water should work as well.

3) Composition

The camera is in portrait mode and focused on the subject (see how the background is blurred out). This pose would be great for a graduation photo because, like most “formal” photos, the body is turned slightly one way, but the head faces forward. There is room to see a gown and stole as well by taking the image at waist height. There was more foliage above her head, but it was cropped out to make the main focus on the person and not the extra room above the head.

4) Equipment

This was shot with an iPhone in portrait mode!

1) Lighting

This image was taken on a sunny day.

2) Choosing a Location

The model is posing in front of a colorful wall! She is also wearing clothes contrasting to the background.

3) Composition

The camera is on aperture priority mode and shot in manual focus. This means the photographer has to manually adjust the focus ring to get the lens to focus on the model! Because the camera is on aperture priority mode, the aperture is already small (f [higher number]). This allows for more depth perception and better distinction between the object of the image and the background.

4) Equipment

This was shot with Nikon D3400.

1) Lighting

Note the white background, which can be easily and evenly illuminated. It also makes certain props, such as the board in the back, more obvious and easier to see. If you don’t have a wall with enough space or even colouring, sheets or blankets can also be used instead.

2) Choosing a Location

The indoors room is dark (window blinds down at midday).

3) Composition

The camera is in creative mode, with flash on. The timer is on 10 seconds and the camera was pre-focused on the office chair.

4) Equipment

This image was taken with a camera and a $25 iPhone/camera tripod from amazon.

5) Editing

This is an edited, but unfiltered version. In the (free) app VSCO, you DO NOT need to buy filters (if you don’t want to) to achieve this editing. I turned exposure up by +0.7 to combat the darkness of the image and contrast down by -2.0 to soften the image. By changing exposure and (especially) lowering contrast, the image sacrifices color and will look dull. As a final touch to add color back into the image, use saturation; I turned it up by +1.7 and cropped out the bulletin board for less clutter and more focus on the pose/person. Remember that each image is different and to fiddle with these setting to fit your image.

Also, ideally, you would not want to have to cut your head or off; prepare for more space if you intend to crop out wall hangings. The arm was cut off to achieve a 1:1 ratio (square), but that is up to you and your image.

This pose may not be the best for a graduation setting, but the main idea here is the simple background: clutter-free/neutral colored wall and a decent office chair. Because of the background, the subject of the image is clear and not impeded on by anything else. Once the bulletin board is cropped out, it will look clean and more formal.

If you would like to order a Class of 2020 graduation stole from the Division of Biological Sciences, please visit this CollegeWear website. All sales will go directly through CollegeWear Inc. and include shipping for just $34.95! Please note that all sales are final; no returns or exchanges are allowed.

For more information, please visit our webpage on our stole sales: