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Many graduations offer you pictures of a lifetime to cherish years later. A graduation marks a momentous personal event that often leads to an entirely new stage of life: such as the start of college and living away from home. Read our tips below to make sure you're prepared to capture this special occasion in pictures.
Preparing Your Camera
Preparing for taking pictures at a graduation is fairly simple. You need to get your equipment ready, and you have to spend a few minutes thinking about what kind of pictures you want. If you have a more sophisticated camera, this is definitely a day to use it. Single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras let you use telephoto and wide-angle zoom lenses to greatly increase your versatility. For instance, if the graduation ceremony is huge and crowded and there's no way way to get as close as you'd like, a telephoto lens can help compensate for distance. Since you may be indoors, use a high-speed film such as KODAK MAX Versatility 400 Film or KODAK MAX Versatility Plus 800 Film
Preparing Your Digital Camera
With a well-prepped and well-equipped digital camera, you can attend the graduation and take pictures--and actually enjoy both activities.
Use this preparation checklist to make sure you are ready.
  • Fully charge batteries the day before
  • Place a spare set of batteries with the camera
  • Empty the picture card so you get the maximum number of pictures
  • Put the picture card in the camera
  • Bring a spare picture card if you're taking lots of pictures
  • Bring an accessory telephoto lens
  • Know how to turn on your camera flash for use in bright daylight
  • Take a few pictures and make sure everything is working right
Preparing Yourself
The camera is ready. Are you? If you really did prepare your camera as just suggested, then you'll likely be ready also. However, if you haven't used your camera in several weeks, then you may want to review the camera manual to be sure you remember how to work it. After all, you don't want to be fumbling and frustrated to the point that you miss picture opportunities and ruin your enjoyment. Graduations are emotional. And with emotion comes stress, so the best advice is to prepare for the picture taking well ahead of time and then relax and go with the flow of the event. In short, don't become obsessed with the picture taking to the point it interferes with your enjoyment.
Picture-Taking Strategy For Graduation Pictures
Ahh, isn't it nice that we have developed a strategy for taking graduation pictures? All you have to do is follow it.
Take a few pictures before graduation but plan on taking most of the pictures after the ceremony.
Why do we recommend taking most of the pictures afterwards? Three reasons:
  • Many families are rushed and nervous before starting the ceremonies.
  • Many schools tightly control the ceremonies, making it difficult to get close enough to take a picture of your offspring receiving the diploma. Remember that the range on most point-and-shoot cameras is only about 10 feet.
  • Flash photography is often prohibited during all or part of the ceremony.
Afterwards, your graduate, resplendent in cap and gown, and clutching that diploma, will be yours to photograph to your heart's content. Of course, if you think your kid may head off to a celebration, be sure to get a few pictures before the graduation. And, if necessary, even a day or two after the main event.
Document the event.
The first thing to do is set the scene of the graduation. Take a picture of the school's name and show the setting for the ceremonies. Once that's done, get ready to document the event of a lifetime.
Capture the emotion.
Big smiles, crushing hugs, tearful goodbyes. Best friends, favorite teachers. Here's where that accessory telephoto lens can let you stand out of the way while capturing heartfelt moments.
Take plenty of pictures.
Tears spill and dry up, shouts ring out and fade, huge grins erupt and subside. Greetings, goodbyes, and high-speed reminiscences will appear and disappear faster than you can react. The only way to get good pictures under such rapidly changing conditions is to take lots of them. And with your digital camera, if you don't like a picture, you can just delete it.
Catch the climactic moment?
That's up to you. If the school allows you to approach the stage, determine the best location ahead of time. Be ready when the time comes and quickly get into position. If it's indoors, remember the flash range is only about ten feet, so get close. And when retreating back to your seat, try not to block the view of others taking pictures. The good news is that many schools hire a photographer to capture the graduate receiving the diploma. That takes the pressure off you.
Required pictures
They include the graduate holding the diploma and the proud parents holding the graduate. Holding and hugging also applies to extended family. Don't forget brothers and sisters, as many will be competing for attention and taking pictures of them may satisfy their need for attention.
Use the flash outdoors
Without flash.
With Flash
Bright sun means deep shadows that often seem to mar expressions and features. But no matter how bright the day is, if you are shooting up close, remember to turn on the flash and get within a few steps of your subject, so the flash has enough power to lighten those harsh shadows and get all the detail you want.
By using the flash outdoors, you lighten harsh shadows and create much more pleasing photos of people.
Pass the mortarboard and take a picture
Everybody seems to love the ceremonial cap. Once the action dies down, put it to good use. If the younger kids want to try it, let them, and then take their pictures. It looks great on grandparents, too, so have a little fun with the cap.
Then-And-Now Pose
In this case, "then" means all the way back to childhood. Find a favorite childhood picture of the graduate and reenact it, only this time with the graduate in full ceremonial clothing. It can make a nice then-and-now picture for your wall. And it will surely make you wonder about the passage of time.
Recreate a favorite childhood picture to show the passage of time.
Don't forget the celebrations
Most graduations result in a celebration, be it quiet or raucous. So whether it's a pool party or a family picnic, capture those moments, too. Stock on a few one-time-use cameras and give them to the party goers for wonderful candid shots!
Photo Project: Graduation Shadow Box.
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