About to graduate? Get glammed up for your ‘Gram

State Hornet guide to perfect graduation photoshoot


A guide to the most successful graduation photoshoot. Find useful information that you can learn and apply for your upcoming photoshoot. (Graphic made in Canva by Madelaine Church)

Madelaine Church

To those about to take the stage: congratulations! Graduation season is upon us and the finish line is near.

It’s exciting to graduate after all the time spent earning a degree. A nice way to celebrate is to book a graduation photoshoot so you have photos for party invitations, thank you cards and to look back on in the future . 

As a photographer myself with a lifelong passion for the art, I’ve done grad photo shoots since 2020. That experience, the mistakes I’ve made and a little advice from other local photographers shapes some of the following information:

Who’s behind the camera?

Photography is a competitive career, so there are many options when choosing who’ll be behind the camera. Every photographer has a different eye, style of editing and execution, so booking a photographer based on the aesthetic of their photos will give graduates a satisfying photo shoot.

Here are some local photographers who are, as of this posting, available to take spring graduation pictures:

It’s a demanding time of the year for photographers, so scheduling a photoshoot as soon as possible may help you get your photos back when you need them.  

How much do graduation photoshoots cost?

Hiring a photographer for your graduation photos can be costly because these photographers are capturing one of the most important days in a graduate’s life. 

For graduates leaning on the help of someone who either takes pictures as a hobby or is a friend, $100-$250 for a photoshoot is a typical price range.

If a college student is hiring a professional, the cost can range from $300-$600. These are photographers with equipment and experience to make photos look clear, well-framed and stunning. 

When considering cost, keep in mind the photographer not only takes the photos, but edits them.

Where to have pictures taken on campus

Sac State is known for the majestic trees throughout campus, drawing graduates to get their pictures taken here. The campus also offers other sightly locations. 

Students often get their pictures taken in front of their college’s academic building. The murals by Shasta Hall, Lassen Hall, University Union and the Library Quad are also photo-worthy places for graduates. 

These are the most popular locations on campus for grad photos:

  • Guy West Bridge
  • Sacramento State Campus Sign (north and south entrance to campus)
  • Library Quad
  • The hallway between Alpine Hall and Brighton Hall
  • Founder’s Rose Garden
  • The Arboretum tunnel near the north entrance to campus

Taking the photographer off Hornet turf

Sacramento has many locations to get grad pictures taken outside of the university. 

Here is a list of off-campus in Sacramento:

  • Capitol State Building 
  • Capitol Park 
  • Tower Bridge 
  • Old Sacramento waterfront
  • McKinley Rose Garden


What to expect at the photoshoot

When posing feels awkward, get silly with it. Being in front of a camera can be nerve-racking, but everyone should feel confident, comfortable and happy during their photoshoot. A good photographer will direct grads throughout the photoshoot, but shaking it off a little before the start of the shoot can help. 

The internet has many videos and pictures to help with posing. Pinterest and TikTok have some great options. I recommend looking into suggestions by the famous photographer/TikTok-er David Suh

What should I bring?

Having an emotional support person during a photoshoot can aid with feelings of overwhelm and emotion that may come with having graduation pictures taken.

For students who are planning to wear high heels, bringing a pair of comfortable shoes to walk around campus may make the trek easier. It’s also important to bring water so students can hydrate themselves during their photoshoots, especially as temperatures increase this spring. 

Since students will be carrying their cap, gown, shoes, and other sentimental items. I recommend they bring a bag to hold their essentials for their photoshoot. 

When is the best time to shoot?

Golden Hour:

This is the period shortly after sunrise and before sunset. Most people want their pictures taken at the golden hour later in the day. Keep in mind that many photographers and students will be on campus taking their pictures during this time. It will get more crowded as we get closer to graduation day. Make sure you book your photoshoot ahead of time.

Afternoon and Mid Morning:

There will be direct sunlight and heavy depth in shadows. I do not recommend taking pictures during this time of day.

Blue Hour:

This time of the day is shortly before sunrise and after sunset. I feel this can be a creative time of day to get your pictures taken if you use flash and capture the blue hues in the endless sky. 


This time is hard but can be super creative. You can do light painting and flash with the dark lighting. 

At the end of the day, it is important to be prepared for one of the most important photoshoots in a student’s life. These photos will be a part of their legacy. 

Final thoughts

A photo shoot can be overwhelming and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Anyone wearing high heels in photos might be comfortable with an extra pair of shoes to walk in. 

Steaming the stole will help to eliminate wrinkles. This can be done by using an ironing board and an iron on low or medium heat. 

Confetti is litter and it is harmful for the environment. Tiny “2023” flakes are difficult to clean up — just don’t do it. You can find biodegradable confetti easily on the internet, I recommend checking out Ecofetti.