graduation picture ideas

34 Graduation Picture Ideas & Poses for High School & College

Want to get the best and most shareable graduation pictures? Try these 34 fun graduation picture ideas and poses to capture this special day forever!

By Ana Mireles

For any student, graduation day is an emotion-filled milestone event.

That’s why it’s so important to have graduation pictures that can be cherished forever.

Whether you’re taking photos of your child’s graduation, or you’re a professional portrait photographer looking to expand your business in that direction, these graduation photo ideas can help. 

You’ll find everything from senior photo poses to wardrobe tips plus many pictures to inspire you.

So, read on!

Table of Contents

Graduation Picture Ideas in Cap and Gown

Here are some ideas suitable for both college graduation and high school graduation.

1. Group photo with your BFFs

Girls in college caps

Credit: Karolina Grabowska

There are always those one or two people that make your graduation year special. So, why not come up with creative ideas for pictures together?

2. Sitting on the school stairs

Girl on steps

Credit: Godisable Jacob

You’ve been walking up and down the school stairs for many years. That’s why they’re such a meaningful location for a photo.

You can sit or stand, walk toward or away from the camera. There are many graduation picture ideas you can do on the school steps. 

3. Jumping

Graduate jumping in air

Credit: Antony Trivet

If all the graduation picture ideas seem stiff and dull, why not take action shots? Immortalize yourself jumping for joy.

After all, your college or high school days are full of fun memories. Plus, you can’t deny that you’re happy to be graduating.

4. Holding the tassel

Girl holding cap tassel

Credit: Benito Momanyi

Graduation caps have a tassel. It’s not just an ornament; it’s also a symbol. 

Before you graduate, the tassel should be hanging on the right side. Then, as you graduate, they hand you a diploma and move the tassel to the left. 

A good graduation photo idea is to hold the tassel as if you were going to move it from right to left. This portrait evokes that special moment. 

5. Receiving your diploma

Accepting diploma

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

Every graduation photoshoot should include a photo of the graduate receiving the diploma. 

You can capture the actual moment or recreate the moment later for the photo. 

6. A traditional portrait with your favorite teacher

Graduate and teacher

Credit: Thành Dỗ

Not all graduation picture ideas need to be original. A few classic poses with you and your teachers make for wonderful memories.

The campus makes for a good background. Find an eye-catching spot and take some pictures the classic way.

7. Doing your extracurricular activities

Boy in graduation gown skateboarding

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

Many students love their extracurricular activities. Maybe they had some of their most important and memorable moments while practicing them. 

You’ll find many graduation picture ideas around these activities. For example, you can do action shots on the football field if the student is an athlete. 

If they were in the band, take some portraits with the instruments and group photos with the entire band. The type of photos will depend on the extracurricular activity they did. 

8. Holding your arms up in a sign of victory

Graduate holding up diploma

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

Isn’t graduating a triumph? 

You spent so much time and effort studying that you need to commemorate this win. Raising your arms to signify victory is the perfect pose to show this feeling.

9. Close up on the diplomas

Close up of certificate

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

A more creative graduation photo idea is to make a close-up of your diploma. You should find a way to show it’s yours, though. That’s the creative part. 

You can extend the hand so it’s in the foreground and in focus while you’re blurred in the background. 

Another idea is to take a step to the side. Then, hold the diploma in the center of the frame while you’re peeking out from the side.

10. The head-turn 

Girl in graduation gear

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

As you know, the tassel in graduation caps is quite symbolic. It also needs to change side to show that you’ve graduated. 

A cool graduation photo idea is to turn your head fast so that the tassel changes sides with your movement. 

11. Tossing the graduation cap in the air

Students throwing caps in air

Credit: Pang Yuhao

Throwing the graduation caps in the air has become part of the ceremony. Most groups do this on graduation day. 

Be sure you capture this moment to make a frame-worthy graduation photo. 

12. Tossing the cap to the camera

throwing caps to camera

Credit: Vantha Thang (left) / Samuel Peter (right)

Taking a single or group photo of the caps in the air is a must-have. But you can also make one where you throw the cap to the camera. 

This photo idea makes wonderful senior portraits. 

13. Superhero pose

student with hands on hips

Credit: Muhammad Renaldi

If you’re looking for an original pose for your graduation photos, you can do the superhero pose. 

It’s fun and reflects how you feel when you graduate. To make it more special, you can be with the school mascot or go to a scenic location. 

14. Celebrating

graduates celebrating

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

There’s nothing like capturing raw emotion to make wonderful graduation photos. 

The graduation photoshoot is not all about staged pictures. A professional photographer can also capture the special moments of the day. 

15. Walking away

graduates walking away from camera

Credit: Marcus Silva (left) / Stanley Morales (right)

One of the most traditional graduation picture ideas is to walk away from the camera. 

It represents that you’re leaving school behind to start walking your own path. It’s both beautiful and meaningful. 

16. Wear the school sweatshirt

girl in school tshirt

Credit: Joshua Mcknight

Your graduation picture is a good way to show your school pride. 

You can wear a t-shirt or sweatshirt with your school logo or pose with the school mascot. 

If you want to be more subtle, you can wear something with the school colors. The important thing is that you convey the school spirit. 

17. Peeking out from behind the diploma/thesis

graduate peeking out from book

Credit: Jasmine Coro

Great graduation pictures are also a little whimsical. You can hold your diploma or your thesis close to the camera. It should cover a good part of the frame. 

Then, peek your head out from the top or the side, depending on the composition you want to achieve. 

18. Getting ready

seniors getting ready for graduation

Credit: Gift Habeshaw

A beautiful senior picture idea is to capture the moments before the ceremony. You can photograph the graduate getting ready. You can include a friend or a family member helping out if you prefer. 

Graduation Picture Ideas with Family

Behind every graduate, there’s a family that supported them to get there.

Here are some senior picture ideas to capture the graduate with the family members.

19. Smiling faces

sisters at graduation

Credit: Alexander Grey

Every parent will treasure a graduating picture of the graduate wearing cap and gown and hugging the other siblings. 

You should focus on capturing natural emotions. So, choose a simple pose where they are relaxed and smiling. That will make the perfect photo.  

20. A classic portrait in the studio

family portrait

Credit: Chris Siam

Senior photos aren’t always taken on graduation day. Sometimes families like to organize a photoshoot in the studio.

Usually, this happens beforehand. This way, the graduation gown is still clean and wrinkle-free. 

21. Family graduation photoshoot outdoors

graduate and sister

Credit: Pixabay

Some families prefer to have the graduation photoshoot outdoors. 

You can use an urban background or a beautiful setting in nature depending on the family. Either way, prepare some senior picture ideas ahead of time.

You can bring props, show them some poses, etc. 

22. Let the younger sibling borrow the graduation cap

Let the younger sibling borrow the graduation cap

Credit: Yan Krukov

A fun senior picture idea is to dress a younger sibling in graduation attire. This makes you think of a younger self. 

23. Include the family pet

Graduation shot with dog

Credit: Laura Seaman

If you have a furry friend, you probably consider them part of the family. It’s not uncommon for the graduate to want them in the senior picture. 

This is especially the case when they’ll be leaving for college and want to bring a photo of their pet.

Graduation Picture Ideas with Parents

Having your parents in your senior photos is a great idea to make them more special and memorable. 

Most graduation picture ideas concentrate on the person wearing the cap and gown, but it’s important to remember the supporting role that parents play too.

24. Parents in the foreground as the graduate walks away

Parents in the foreground as the graduate walks away

Credit: Feedyourvision

The best senior picture ideas are full of emotion. That’s why this is a great one to recreate. Place the parents in the foreground with their backs toward the camera.

They can hold hands but extend their arms to leave space between them. In that space, you can see the graduate walking away. 

25. Parents handing a graduation present

Parents handing a graduation present

Credit: Rodnae Productions

Another senior photo you can take with the parents is when they give the graduate a present or a bouquet of flowers. 

Graduation picture ideas for guys

All the graduation photo ideas you find in this article are genderless. That said, here are some that are particularly popular amongst guys. 

26. Holding a sign

Holding a sign

Credit: Rodnae Productions

A small blackboard is a common prop in graduation photos. Here, the graduate can write anything that represents them. It can be something as simple as “I’m done” or a more meaningful quote. 

27. Group high five

Group high five

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

Get the graduate and their friends together and ask them to give a group high five. This makes for a very dynamic graduation photo. 

28. Thumbs up

Thumbs up

Credit: Rodnae Productions

Communicating something with their hands is common for guys in their graduation pictures. For example, a thumbs-up or a peace sign.

Graduation Picture Ideas for Couples

A fun graduation picture is one that features your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Here are some graduation picture ideas for couples to mark the special occasion. 

29. Looking into each other’s eyes

Graduates looking into each other's eyes

Credit: Olia Danilevich

If the shoot is for high school sweethearts, this is one of the best photo ideas. 

They can be facing each other, or have their bodies to the camera with their heads turned to each other. The important thing is that they’re looking into each other’s eyes. 

They can hold their diplomas or caps with their outer hands.

30. Kissing with the University as background

Kissing with the University as background

Credit: Fernando Gomez Cortes

A classic couple’s picture is a kiss. When you can see the campus in the background, it becomes the best graduation photo to remember this special moment. 

31. Piggybacking

Couple piggyback

Credit: Toàn Văn

For a fun graduation photo for couples, you can also try a piggyback. 

Graduation Picture Ideas for Nurses

If you’re taking nursing graduation pictures, here are some ideas for you.

32. Instead of the academic gown, use a lab coat 

Instead of the academic gown, use a lab coat 

Credit: Joshua Mcknight

On your graduation day, you wear a gown, but as a nurse, you’ll wear a lab coat or scrubs. So, why not wear that in your pictures? You can always add the academic cap to make it clear that you’re graduating. 

33. Tossing confetti toward the camera

Tossing confetti toward the camera

Credit: Joshua Mcknight

Another picture idea is to be throwing confetti at the camera. 

Of course, you can always use a confetti cannon if you want a more spectacular result. 

34. Use job-related props

Use job-related props

Credit: Joshua Mcknight

Some excellent photo ideas for nurse graduation photos include job-related props. 

For example, you can hang a stethoscope on your shoulder. Another idea is to do a close-up of medical instruments on top of the diploma. 

How Should I Pose For a Graduation Photo?

How should I pose for a graduation photo?

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk (left) / Davis Sánchez(right)

  • Turn away from the camera 45 degrees.
  • Keep good posture.
  • Find your best side.
  • Prepare some poses in advance.
  • Relax.
  • Smile. 

What Should I Wear for my Graduation Pictures?

Students in gowns

Credit: Junny Sema (left) / Martin Kirigua (right)

The only rule that applies to everyone is that you feel confident and unique.  

The rest may change according to your taste and body type. So, try clothes with shapes that you know look good on you. 

Also, don’t wear anything too trendy. You could regret this in a couple of years. It’s better to opt for a classic look.

  • What color should you wear for graduation photos?

The first rule is to consider the color of the gown. Starting there, try to keep it simple. 

You can’t go wrong with a white shirt and a solid color tie. This outfit has a timeless quality that makes it a classic. To add an accent to your outfit, use a contrasting color tie. 

The same goes for dresses. You can use neutral colors to look good with whatever colors are on your gown. If you feel bold, you can wear something contrasting. 

The important thing is to stay away from flashy colors and busy patterns. 

  • Do I have to wear makeup to graduation?

You don’t have to wear makeup for your graduation photos. It’s a personal choice.

If you wear makeup in your everyday life – then yes, feel free to use it for the photoshoot too. 

However, you can skip it if you don’t usually wear it. 

How Do You Look Good in a Graduation Portrait (Senior Photo)?

 
  • Choose your outfit carefully. 
  • Check every detail from wardrobe to hair and makeup before the shot. 
  • Stand up straight.
  • Turn to your best side. 
  • Push your chin forward to avoid a double chin.
  • Don’t press your lips together.
  • If you smile, keep it natural.

Remember that to look good, you need confidence. So, relax and enjoy your day.

  • How do you smile for graduation pictures?

To have a natural smile, you need to be relaxed. So, try closing your eyes and breathing deeply to calm yourself. 

While you’re at it, imagine or remember something that makes you happy. Then, open your eyes and smile for the photo. 

If you have an active mind, you might be overthinking instead of relaxing. If this is you, you may need to do something more physical. Try shaking your head or opening your mouth wide and moving your jaws from side to side. This should relax the facial muscles. 

How Do You Take Graduation Portraits at Home?

Graduate students holding sign

Credit: Gift Habeshaw

Organizing a photoshoot at home is a great idea if you don’t want to get a professional photographer. 

We’re used to taking photos all the time. However, you want to ensure they come out perfect for your high school or college graduation. 

Here are some tips for the best results:

  • Stand next to the window if you’re inside.
  • If you’re outside, avoid hard sunlight. 
  • Use the portrait mode of your camera or phone.
  • Make sure the background is not too busy.
  • Practice some poses in the mirror to find out which ones look the best.
  • Use a tripod and a timer to do self-portraits. 

Graduation Picture FAQs

Are graduation photos worth it?

Yes! Your graduation is a momentous occasion that you’ll want to remember. Whether you take the pictures yourself or hire a photographer, they are totally worth it. 

What is a good size for a graduation photo?

The ideal size depends on what you want to do with the photos. To have them on your desk or side table, you can print them in 4×6″ or 5×7″. A good size to hang on the wall is 8×10″.

What side does the tassel go on?

The graduation cap is not just an accessory – it’s part of the graduation ritual. Before you graduate, the tassel goes on the right side. When you graduate, the tassel is moved to the left side as part of the ceremony. 

What is a good quote for graduation?

“What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” – Alfred Mercier.

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X. 

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Michael Josephson.

Final Words on Graduation Photos

Graduation is a huge achievement, whether from college or high school.

It’s an occasion worth immortalizing with a photoshoot.

However, the graduates and their families will remember more than just the pictures. 

As a professional photographer, you should provide a pleasant experience too.

Make sure you guide your clients and help them enjoy the process of taking the photos. 

I hope this article gave you enough ideas to create a fun and unique photoshoot for each graduate.

Of course, the final result should also be technically perfect.

So, make sure you nail the settings, lighting, and editing of the graduation pictures you take. 

If you have any tips in that regard, feel free to share them in the comments!

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Shotkit Writer & Camera Gear Reviewer

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

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