Graduation is one of the most important times in a young person’s life and this is what makes good graduation photography vital.
You want to document the day in all its glory. Capture the joy and happiness of the day with the best settings for graduation photos.
In this practical guide, we provide tips and tricks on camera and light settings to ensure your graduation photos reflect the atmosphere of this special day.
1. Use A Professional Camera
While modern smartphones come with advanced camera settings, they usually don’t offer the same features of professional cameras.
A high-quality camera allows you to change a variety of settings and adjust each feature according to individual lighting conditions.
Without these features, your pictures may end up blurry or out of focus.
2. Shoot Different Types Of Photos
Graduation day holds plenty of surprises and emotions. There is so much to see and capture in your grad photography.
That’s why it is best to shoot a variety of different photos, including group shots, formal portraits, shots of details and some photos before and after the official graduation event.
3. Use A Large Aperture
When it comes to photographing graduating students, then you need to ensure that the subject is in sharp focus. This means that you should blur out the background.
If you set your aperture to f/1.8, then you can create a good composition that keeps your grad students in focus while softly fading the background.
Just keep in mind that this is just one of the many techniques for graduation photos and you will need to adjust the aperture depending on the right moment.
For example, for a graduation ceremony, you need to focus on details which means that you can make the aperture smaller.
4. Bring Enough Equipment
A graduation ceremony typically lasts a few hours, so you will need to bring any equipment you need for this time.
From several memory cards and extra batteries to different lenses, make sure that you pack all the things you might want to use.
Also keep in mind that you won’t have much time during the photoshoot to replace batteries, so it is best to have everything ready.
This means that you won’t miss any of the action and you can grab any equipment ready for the next shot.
5. Take Pictures Of The Venue
It is a good idea to take a variety of venue shots. This doesn’t just show the setting of the graduation ceremony but it also allows you to get a feeling for any potential lighting challenges.
Experiment with different angles and your equipment to ensure that your indoor graduation photos appear in the right light.
6. Use A Silent Shutter
As a photographer, you want to capture natural emotions and movement. This means you need to stay invisible in the background.
In order to do this, it is best to use a silent shutter that doesn’t disturb guests attending a graduation ceremony. This is especially important for small ceremonies.
Continual camera clicking might make feel people around you uncomfortable, so use a silent shutter that allows you to capture your photos without the clicking noise.
7. Capture Unexpected Moments
Burst mode or continual shooting settings of professional cameras allow photographers to hold the shutter down to take a series of photos.
This means that you won’t miss individual moments, such as rapid moments that naturally occur. You can also use burst mode when students toss their hats, socialize in groups or when they get their degrees.
8. Take Atmospheric Shots Of Students
Similar to other high-quality photography, graduation photos need to reflect the atmosphere during graduation day.
Whether you photograph a young adult who receives their final degrees or a preschooler, try to capture a great variety of different photos in various poses and places.
The more details you can capture of your subject, the location and the group of people your subject interacts with, the more you get a sense of the atmosphere of the day.
It is a good idea to use a wide-angle lens to get a good view of what’s around your subject.
While you should try to keep a sharp focus on the students, you can also use a small aperture, such as f/22, to capture the surroundings.
9. Photograph Students With Their Family, Friends And Teachers
Teachers, friends and family are a vital part of a student’s educational path, so it is important to photograph a student together with everyone who helped them to achieve their goals.
You will need to find a well-lit and quiet location where you can take some group and portrait shots. Some popular places include in front of the university or in a shaded area.
While it can be difficult to set an exact time for graduation photos, you should try to avoid taking photos around noon as the harsh light can overexpose the images.
10. Focus On Details
A big event like a graduation ceremony can be busy with people. There is so much going on that often the small details, such as candid reactions or accessories, are forgotten.
Try to hone in on these details and document the moments with your camera. This could be close-ups of the gown, tassel or cap.
You may also want to photograph how your subject interacts with their friend or how they hug a family member.
It is best to use a zoom lens for these moments as you need to allow your subject their privacy but still want to capture a crisp image.
11. Do Not Forget Post-Graduation Portraits
Graduation photography doesn’t just include the grad ceremony but it also involves taking pictures before and after the ceremony.
Make sure that you capture some exciting graduation pictures post-graduation with different people and locations. This can also make your photographs more unique.
Choose special settings with your model that are individual and match your subject’s character. It is also a good idea to ask your model what location they like.
12. Use A Large ISO For Indoor Graduation Photography
Venues for graduation ceremonies can vary from normal classrooms to large halls.
However, the majority of these venues are not suitable for professional photography.
This means that you need to adjust the lighting to get the highest quality of your photos. This is where a professional camera is invaluable.
You can adjust a range of different settings, just as the aperture, ISO and white balance, to create beautiful images.
ISO is especially important because it allows you to create crisp images in low light conditions. This being said, you can also take slightly grainy photos to capture the dark environment.
13. Use Flash With Care
While cameras typically come with flash, your flash settings are important to adjust according to the venue and light.
If you shoot a kindergarten graduation ceremony, then you can use the flash to bounce off some light from a room with low ceilings.
However, as a rule of thumb, flash typically creates too harsh light that will overexpose your photos and make the subject look less natural.
You should also keep in mind that continual flash photography in a darkened room can disturb guests, so try to work with the ISO to capture your subject in low light.
14. Photograph Everyone Tossing Their Hats
Students tossing their hats in the air is the classic image that comes to mind when you think of a graduation ceremony.
But there are plenty of fabulous opportunities to capture some creative photos from different angles.
You can take hat-toss photos from above or close to the ground. Try to experiment with different heights and different zoom settings.
You may want to capture some images far away, while other hat-toss photographs can zoom in on the subject’s face.
You can even capture some of the small details, such as the tassels of the hats bouncing up and down or the hands of students.
With great anticipation and joy, graduation is a special time in every student’s life and they want to capture this moment to remember for years to come.
High-quality graduation photography and the best settings for graduation photos allow you to capture the memories of this unique day.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best shutter speed for graduation photography is a minimum of 250. It is best to use the shutter speed priority function of your camera, so the aperture automatically adjusts.
Just make sure that your ISO is below 800. These settings will give you clear photos with plenty of details and good lighting.
The best size for your graduation photos is 8 x 10. They allow you to show enough details and it is also a fantastic size to hang your grad photos in the hall.
The best time of year for graduation photos is late spring. This allows you to capture the best light. Plus, you can also find some fantastic locations and settings with budding trees.
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