3 Tips for Photographing a Graduation Ceremony

For a lot of us, myself included, it's that time of year when we celebrate a scholastic achievement by attending a graduation ceremony for a loved one. If you want to capture the event for posterity, I have three tips.

Graduation 2014 - Friday 25 July Photo by Leeds Beckett University on Flickr. Example of a horizontal shot that can be easily integrated with video footage.

  • Think video and still photography. Because most ceremonies are big affairs, chances are slim that you'll get close to the stage. Plus, catching the decisive moment during diploma handoff is even tougher. I recommend that you record short video clips during the ceremony, allowing you to capture audio and ambiance. Then switch to stills afterward for the portraits (where you'll have more control).
  • cap-and-diploma.jpg

  • Take portraits directly after the ceremony. There's always lots of excitement once the formal part of the event concludes, and this is a great time to take individual portraits and small group shots. Be ready to work quickly. Don't forget candids, they'll come in handy later. Fill flash will help you tame harsh light.
  • Shoot horizontal portraits. We tend to compose vertically for individual portraits, but remind yourself to shoot horizontally too. Why? Well, because you have video capture from the ceremony. In post production, you can combine the video, audio, and horizontal images into a memorable, shareable movie. Don't be afraid to use a little Ken Burns effect for those stills.

Follow these tips, enjoy the event, and honor the achievements of those are graduating... and you'll have a great day and some lovely memories.

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Line art by Liz Aragon.