What you’ll need:
- A friend who’s good with a camera
- A camera
- Graduation robes
- Unopened champagne bottle (or two, just in case)
- Makeup for touch-ups
- Graduation outfit + shoes
- Comfortable shoes for walking around in between shots
- 1-2 hours (total) for the shoot
- Apple iPhoto or some photo editing software
Disclaimer: I am not a photography professional, these are just some tips and tricks I found useful!
Just in case I haven’t mentioned it enough lately, I g r a d u a t e d from college last month! The last semester at school is hectic enough with job applications, tests/papers and future housing arrangements — why add to the stress with an expensive photoshoot?
I’m the kind of person that wasn’t sure what I wanted each shot to look like, so I did some research. Pinterest is a wonderful resource for sample graduation photos! I even found some from The University of Texas so I could narrow down where I wanted to take the pictures and how I wanted them to look.
Once you have the location figured out, get with a friend or family member who has a decent camera. My roommate had a Canon Rebel T3i that we used for the shoot, but honestly an iPhone 6 or 7 camera would probably do just fine. Or even the Google Pixel — apparently it’s the highest rated phone camera on the market. The main thing you want to get right isn’t your outfit or the camera, it’s the lighting.
Outdoor lighting is best during the Golden Hour, which is either the first hour of light after sunrise or last hour of light before sunset. It’s perfect because there aren’t many shadows but the light isn’t too direct. Make sure to double check when exactly when these hours will fall beforehand because it differs with the season! Since my pictures were shot in December in Texas, we started the shoot around 4:30pm.
As far as a graduation outfit, it really depends on the color of your robes. Mine were black with a red tassel and stole so I opted for a white dress underneath to give some contrast. I wore some fun Vince Camuto sandals to spice it up a little — I got them from Nordstrom Rack, which I’ve found always has the best shoe steals. I rarely leave that store without a new pair. Also, you want your gown to be as wrinkle-free as possible. Mine came all crinkled up in a plastic bag so I tried to steam it a little by hanging it in the bathroom with the shower running (this didn’t quite work, but you can always retouch wrinkly grad gowns in Photoshop or iPhoto).
You can definitely do your own makeup for the shoot, just be sure to wear a little extra. The absolute best foundation for photos/videos is Makeup Forever Ultra HD because it’s full coverage without being too heavy or cakey. I wear shade Y215 (I’m the palest!). I had eyelash extensions at the time so I didn’t need much on the eyes, but I threw on extra bronzer, highlighter, and blush. Hourglass Cosmetics has the best face products for literally any skin tone. I wore the Ambient Lighting Palette and Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure). The Sephora cream lip stain in Marvelous Mauve is another winner for natural but noticeable lips.
Next, bring whatever props you’d like! Andre’s champagne is like $4 at the grocery store and I found confetti at the local HEB. Timing can be difficult with props — that’s why it’s a good idea to get two bottles of champagne, just in case popping the first is a flop. All that’s left to do is take the photos!
I used Apple iPhoto to edit the photos, cropping them and adjusting the light and color. I like my photos to be bright, light and clear! Other great apps for photo editing are VSCO and Facetune to adjust brightness and sharpen. I use Facetune’s whitening tool for backgrounds or clothes (like on this white dress).
In total, the whole process took about three hours, including getting ready, arriving to the location, shooting the photos and editing them. Expenses totaled out at about $10 for the props. By no means are these photos professional, but doing them with a friend saved me a ton of money — especially when I know my parents are probably the only ones who’ll want these framed.
Yay to saving money and yay to graduation pics!