How To Take Great Graduation Photos! (Article & Video Link)

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The local news website itsrelevant.com interviewed our Fred Bonilla in 2014 about taking great graduation pictures (in which much of the info in this article was shared). The link to the video segment can be found here. Our thanks to Christina Chiarelli & it'srelevant.com

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(Originally written in 2010, this has been our most popular blog article and we're pleased to share it with you yet again...Enjoy!)

It’s May, and that means that graduation season is here and with it the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture memories of your matriculated one, preschool to post grad! This is a great time to apply some of the portrait tips that we've shared before in our blog, but also a time to think of novel ways to capture that special day. Here’s some tips to get those special shots…

1. Let the pros get the diploma shot! Most all schools will hire a professional photographer to get the all-important picture of the graduate receiving their diploma. If so, buy the picture package & RELAX! The gods are not with you if you go up to the front of the auditorium and think you’re going to get that “perfect” photo of the diploma hand-off . You’ll be competing with every other camera toting parent & relative there & you’ll have the added pressure that you have ONLY one chance to get the shot. If you decide to give it a go, here’s what you do: Set your camera to the continuous or “sports” mode so you can have shoot a rapid sequence of shots as your grad approaches the podium, then gets the parchment. Hike up the ISO if you’re indoors (& have decent light). Also, practice with the 3 or so students before your loved one comes up to get your technique down right. Also, don’t forget to get a reaction shot of the grad AFTER he receives the diploma; it can be the best shot of the day!

2. Get some shots of the grad before the ceremony. So many special events pass by without what may be the most important shot of the day: a good close-up of the person of honor. It’s a good idea to spend a few moments alone with the graduate to get a relaxed portrait. If they've got the cap and gown in advance, it’s a good idea to get these shots  before you go to the event. Pick a special place like the front entrance of your home or the sign/front entrance of the grad’s school.

3. Take most of your portrait/family shots in the shade. If it’s high noon and a sunny day, do the bulk of your portrait/family shots in the shade. They’ll be less squinting & no ugly shadows from the graduate’s cap. Find a nice large tree for this. If you can’t, remember to use fill-flash to balance the light hitting your subject’s faces.

Some More Tips:

Take a portrait of the graduate with some of his fellow grads in a spontaneous moment. Find a special teacher/professor as well for a shot the grad will treasure for years to come.

Dark graduation gowns can throw off the exposure settings on an auto camera. The secret is to expose for the grad’s face. This might be a good time to crack open your instruction manual to see how you can do that or even better, ask your friendly CWS salesman to help you out; each camera does it differently so take heed!

Shoot a wide angle shot of the graduation venue to capture the scope of the event. Take any other shot as well that catches your fancy and captures the flavor of the day: the best shots of my son’s graduation was a picture of my grandson Roman shouting at the top of his lungs trying to get his uncle’s attention, then a shot of the 2 of them together after the ceremony.

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Buy (& bring with you) an extra battery. What graduation haven’t you gone to where you’ve seen a deeply saddened parent with a dead battery JUST before the graduates entered the room…

Travel as light as you can. Try to anticipate the camera/lens combination you’ll need to get your shots. Bring just what you need & nothing else since it’s easy to forget something behind.

And remember to enjoy the day and celebrate! The day will soon pass, but the memories (and photos) will last forever. If you need a hand, join us at one of our Thursday evening classes. And to all the grads out there, Congratulations!

( Text & Photos By Fred Bonilla)


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