Graduation is a momentous occasion that passes in a flurry of excitement and thus should be documented through memorable photographs to remember the milestone for years to come. While class portraits usually call for the senior to be professionally dressed in a cap and gown, the photos shared on a graduation announcement or graduation party invitations do not need to be so formal. In this article, we’ve assembled 25 graduation photo poses and ideas perfect for all age ranges from kindergarten graduates to college graduates in themes ranging from unique to funny and classic.
“Simple Grad”, designed by Joan Nguyen
This is a great high school graduation photo idea for the grad who is playful and most likely has a soundtrack of songs frequently playing in their head. Students who have a passion for the performing arts, dance, or cheerleading may find this look appealing and natural. Ask the photographer to follow your grad as they twirl and dance around in an outfit that has movement to it (skirt, dress, a top with big sleeves) for added flair.
“Signed Graduate”, designed by Nicole Barreto
If you’re looking for a unique graduation picture idea, dig up first-grade photos of your child for an extra dose of nostalgia. Find a meaningful place to take photos posing with a picture of their younger self. Visually showcase how time has flown by with one simple pose. The final picture will serve as a great memento for the grad to remember how far they’ve come! You could also create framed photo art that showcases a collection of these photos over time as a nice gift for the grad.
“Made It!”, designed by Kristel Torraba
Students commonly throw their caps upon graduating, so why not take this quintessential move and use it as a college graduation photoshoot idea! Capture some creative shots by mixing up the locations where you throw your cap. Think about noteworthy spots like a campus fountain, famous statue, or elevated vantage point. Be sure to snap multiple hat throws, because you don’t know how the cap may appear in the finished shot.
“She Persisted”, designed by Heather Cairl
Use high school graduation as an excuse to get dressed to the nines–a dapper suit or floor-length gown. Formal high school portrait ideas will get graduates excited for what lies ahead. Continue your formal theme into a planned virtual celebration.
“Class Of”, designed by Pixel and Hank
If you can’t decide between multiple graduation photo ideas (casual vs. professional), combine the two looks in one! This will create a fun collage for graduation announcements, invitations, and framed mementos. We like this idea because it allows the grad to showcase their more natural and casual self while also giving the parents and grandparents the cap-and-gown money shot we all know they want to see.
“From Here to There”, designed by Jackie Mangiolino
Photographing a student’s passion is perhaps one of the most powerful graduation photoshoot ideas. All-star athletes and performers (soccer, football, cheerleading, actors, musicians, etc.) will appreciate showing off their talents, so hire a photographer who is skilled at capturing action shots of your grad doing what they love most. Maybe there is even a newspaper photograph you can feature?
“Bold Chic Grad”, designed by Carolyn MacLaren
Calling all artistic and expressive grads! Graduation picture ideas like this one take advantage of lively murals full of color as a backdrop and let the grad choose poses that showcase their personality. It is recommended that the graduate wear simpler patterns and colors so as to not clash with the surrounding artwork.
“Caption”, designed by JoAnn Jinks
Graduation is a celebration after all, so why shouldn’t photo poses be full of confetti? To get some great candid photos, order confetti (perhaps in school colors) and ask your photographer to capture a series of photos of your grad having fun throwing confetti everywhere. Another popular look is blowing confetti out of your hands.
“Polished”, designed by Nicoletta Savod
Here is a cute DIY idea that will really leave a lasting impression. Seek out your most artistically talented friend or family member to create a sidewalk or driveway mural out of chalk. Create a scene that your grad can pose themselves creatively in. It could be something as simple as holding a giant apple, standing on a giant representation of “2021”, or sitting on a pile of books. What a cute option for preschool and kindergarten graduation pictures!
If you’re looking for funny photoshoot ideas, capturing the graduate mid-jump is the perfect way to achieve it. Bring out their personality by taking photos in a memorable place and have the photographer shoot from a lower angle that will make your grad look as if they are further off the ground.
“Modern Numerals”, designed by Karidy Walker
Who says graduation photos must include the full cap and gown? Take a less formal approach by having the grad wear their own clothes with the cap and/or stole. Make sure the tassel is attached to the cap as well. This semi-casual look also works great as a dress code for a grad party you may be considering hosting. This way all guests in attendance will know who the guests of honor are.
“Formal Script”, designed by Iveta Angelova
A school mascot is said to bring luck to a school, so it should bring luck to your grad’s next chapter in life too, right? Choose a senior picture idea that has school pride and gives your student a chance to hug their mascot one last time. Another spin on this idea is to hold a stuffed animal that may also represent your school mascot.
Graduation photoshoots should capture who the student is and that means going to the source of their happiness. That could be the beach where they surf, trails where they hike, or the base of the tree where they write poetry. Work with your photographer to get the best vantage point of their special spot. Include a sentence or two on the back of your graduation announcement explaining why this particular backdrop is so significant.
“Peak”, designed by Sara Hicks Malone
Talk to a professional photographer and they will divulge that they always have their finger on the camera trigger. It is often between poses and staging that a subject’s natural personality can be witnessed on film. As you try and capture the perfect pose or look, be sure to take a collection of impromptu photos to showcase the grad being themself and laughing, playing, or sitting deep in thought. If you are able to capture your kindergartener with finger paint all over their hands and shirt, deep in their artistic flow, then there is no need to look further for the perfect pose!
“Cooper”, designed by Heather Schertzer
Up, up and away! Grab some balloons in the school colors (those mylar “2021” balloons work great too) and head to an outdoor spot to take photos. This graduation photo idea can easily be adapted to celebrate various age ranges. A balloon that reads “kindergarten!” or “freshman” will help broadcast the moment in time. Balloons are universally fun and age-appropriate.
Get the sillies out! It’s important the grad can be his or herself, so have a light-hearted photoshoot where the photographer can capture their natural jubilance and get the perfect mid-laugh shot. If done correctly, you can’t help but smile when looking at the photo. After all, laughs are contagious.
“Minimalist”, designed by Chryssi Tsoupanarias
If you’re looking for school pride senior picture ideas, look no further. Try out a letterman jacket or other school clothing ensemble for this photoshoot. Ask the photographer to follow your senior around campus for some action shots opening his or her locker or hanging out on the bleachers.
“Ambition”, designed by Jessica Williams
This new grad worked hard for their degree to set them up for the working world! Incorporate props from the profession that’s to come. If you’re looking for nursing graduation ideas, this is it! Have the grad wear a stethoscope around their neck. Other defined majors can do the same. Civil engineers can wear hardhats, teachers can use a mini chalkboard, and an accountant might have a calculator sticking out of their pocket.
“Earned It”, designed by Ekko Studio
Every grad forms special memories with the people they go to school with. Capture photos that show the whole kindergarten class, the college roommates, fellow athletes, or other close friends made along the way. These will be important moments to look back on later in life.
“Our Graduates”, designed by Sara Hicks Malone
If you’re looking for a shot that can be unique to your particular school or campus, consider posing on the school steps or near the prominent campus sign. While the formality might suggest this is for high school or college graduates, it would be just as sweet for an eighth-grade graduate!
“Delight”, designed by Melanie Kosuge
Funny graduation photos let the humor of the grad come to the forefront. Provide your son or daughter with a blank chalkboard sign and let them come up with a saying to write on it. Sayings like “I’m done!”, “Ready for sleep,” or “It’s been real” will all be fun to look back on when the pomp and circumstance has concluded.
Cap, check. Gown, check. Mask, check! The 2020-2021 school year was one that tested students’ ability to change, adapt, and persevere. There is no denying it. Allude to the strange year it has been with a Covid-themed pose showcasing your grad wearing their mask or staged at their make-shift home classroom.
“Longest Ever”, designed by JoAnn Jinks
Students have a lot of helpers as they study and get through school assignments and exams. For some, the family dog plays an integral role. If man’s best friend is important to the grad, bring the pup along for some graduation photo poses.
“Praline”, designed by Chocomocacino
If you’re looking for photo ideas in a cap and gown, rather than sending an announcement before your child graduates, wait to capture a shot on the day of their momentous honor that you can then share with loved ones a week or two later. It isn’t written in stone that announcements must arrive in the mail before the actual graduation date. Capture your child as they actually celebrate their accomplishment in real-time. The photo will help paint a picture of the celebration for friends and family who were not in attendance.
“And Female”, designed by Pixel and Hank
Most pictures are taken during the day, so if you’re looking for something different, why not experiment with some graduation photo ideas at night? Find a spot with a dramatic background (like forest trees or a cityscape) and grab photos just as the sun is setting for incredible light. This could be a great option for a college student graduating from a university closely associated with a major city. Capture that iconic cityscape silhouette in the background.
“Extension”, designed by Katy Shen
Q. When should you take graduation photos?
A: It is popular to have them done between January and April of the graduation year, but it’s really up to you. Just consider any deadlines you might be working against (school yearbook, sorority recruitment, graduation announcements, etc.). When it comes time to pair a greeting or messaging with your picture, we have an entire post dedicated to graduation announcement wording and etiquette.
Q: What should you wear?
A: Be thoughtful about the outfit from head to toe. Think about the belt, shoes, socks, earrings, and other seemingly small details. The last thing you want to do is have your student wearing the perfect outfit, with one neglected element. Here are some basic guidelines:
Q: Does the no-smile look work?
A: It can in a few scenarios, but we recommend showing off those pearly whites! It is supposed to be a joyous occasion you are proud of. Show off your excitement!