Photography Tips

Graduation Photography Tips & Post Graduation Ideas

20th June 2019

When you graduate from university, you leave with more than just a degree and student debt – you’ll also have lots of photos that document your graduation day. As many people consider their graduation one of their proudest achievements, it’s important that you have worthwhile photos to show for it.

Whether it’s your own graduation or a loved one’s (such as your child or grandchild) make sure you make the most of those much-anticipated graduation photos.

Meet Otalia

With the help of London based portrait and lifestyle photographer Otalia at Sweet London Family Photography, we’ve collated some tips and tricks to help you look back at your photos and beam with pride for years to come. Otalia has a passion for capturing natural and authentic moments that will be cherished for generations. Luckily for us, one of her favourite subjects is Graduation photography.

Regardless of the type of shoot, her focus is to capture love between family members. Otalia believes that portrait photography is precious as it captures the honest story behind every photo. Before we get stuck into some top tips, we found out a bit more about Otalia and the inspiration behind her photography.

Otalia has always loved visual storytelling. As her friends began to have children, she started photographing the new arrivals and quickly realised that she wanted to do it every single day. Her dream was to be able to create portrait photography that captures important moments in her clients lives. “Even if they don’t remember my name, my work is still out there and has the same emotional value. The photos will will be a real time machine that allows them to access those beautiful memories.” In addition to storytelling, Otalia loves meeting new people “especially those who open their hearts to me and my camera so I can capture meaningful portraits for them and their family.”

Citing light and familial love as her biggest inspirations, Otalia is in love with the golden hues of London sunrises and sunsets. Otalia tells us, “we now live in a globalised society where people are relocating and travelling all over the world, unfortunately, it means that the days when a family grew up within a few miles of each other are long gone.” She does, however, choose to view this societal shift in a positive light as “professional portraits are the perfect gift for grandparents and extended family as they bring everybody closer, especially when capturing important milestones like graduations.”

“I graduated 10 years ago and at the time, my parents couldn’t travel as I studied in a different country. Also, my father had just found out he was very ill. We lost him less than a year later and if I could turn back time, I would have done a graduation shoot with my family. My father was a storyteller and although I have my dear memories to hold on to, I wish I had photos that would take me back to that special milestone.”

Otalia’s Top Graduation Photography Tips

Regardless of whether you’re in front of the camera, or behind it – there are tricks that you can use to capture the perfect moment. We asked Otalia for her top graduation photography tips and this is what she told us.

Show Off the Outfit and The Location

We know that every University has their own personalised graduation gowns. There’s a certain pride that comes with wearing that outfit, so I make sure I capture the robe and the colour associated with the University.

I shoot a lot of international students that have made London their home for the past 3 to 5 years, so it’s important to capture the beauty of our city as well. We have red telephone boxes, double decker’s and historical buildings for example, which makes it easy to provide a sense of location for those who have made London their temporary home. Utilising the specialities of your location is what makes graduation portraits even more memorable.

Capture the Families’ Reaction and Pride

I approach graduation photography the same way I approach every other session: with a focus on storytelling. There’s isn’t a more powerful story than parental pride! Mum and Dad’s loving, and sometimes teary, gaze is what makes these memories so meaningful. After all, a graduation is not only a student’s achievement, it’s a lot of parental hard work that’s being paid off too. It’s years and years of emotional and financial investment, so I make sure to capture that beaming pride in a mother’s eye.

Use Movement to Create Beautiful Portraits

Just because you are capturing portraits, doesn’t mean that you must be still and serious all the time. Make your subjects walk, jump, dance around, laugh or ask them to throw their cap up in the air. Movement adds drama and makes a portrait much more dynamic.

Wake Up Early and Take Advantage of the Best Light!

I cannot repeat this enough – it’s all about the correct light! Sunrises and sunsets are the best for portrait photography. That Golden Hour light creates a soft glow that will elevate your photos from 1 to 100.

If you are shooting in a busy city like London, I would suggest shooting at sunrise – it’s the only time you can have the city all to yourself! At 6am, there is no one around campus or at a famous landmark, so make sure to use that to your advantage.

Capture Emotion with A Close-up

At the end of each graduation session, I will sometimes ask my graduates to take their robe off so that I can capture a timeless portrait. It is like I am taking a peek at their soul at this special time in their lives.

Thank you, Otalia!

If you’d like to check out more of Otalia’s work, you can find her at or on Instagram at @otalia_onta.

Give the Gift of Graduation Memories

Now you’ve perfected taking the perfect graduation photo, don’t let them sit on your phone or camera – do something with them. If you’re a parent of an adult child who is graduating or has already graduated, we have a great range of top quality products for you to create and give as a gift (or keep for yourself!)


A CEWE PHOTOBOOK is the perfect way to collate all your photos into one place so that you can reflect on them for a lifetime. As it’s a very special occasion, we’d recommend adding Highlights to your front cover and then protecting it with a Presentation Box. Those extra special details make all the difference when showing your creation to other people too. If you have family members or friends that live further away or you don’t get to see as often as you’d like, order a few extra photo books and send them a nice surprise in the post.

Gift a Canvas Print

If your child or grandchild is moving into their own house or flat after graduating, give them a housewarming present that will always remind them of their university days. A Canvas Print is a quick and easy way to make a house feel more homely, especially if you’ve chosen a photo that includes all their friends or family. Plus, it solves the age-old question of what present to buy new homeowners.

Treasure a Framed Photo Print

A Framed Photo Print is ideal for parents and grandparents who want to hang a graduation photo in pride of place in their home. Printed on premium quality semi-gloss paper for brilliant colour brightness and vibrancy, our framed prints not only offer excellent quality, they are also UV resistant to ensure a long and happy life. Perfect for hanging proudly in your home for generations to come.

Get Creating!

Is graduation a distant memory that needs preserving or something you’ve got to look forward too? Either way, make sure your whole family has a gift to last them a lifetime.

Enjoy 10% off Europe’s most loved photo book

Be the first to know about new products, competitions and inspiration.
  • Plus, receive a 10% welcome discount on your first CEWE PHOTOBOOK.
You can unsubscribe from our newsletters and postal mail at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of any newsletter or by logging into your account.

Please check your email

We have sent you an email with a confirmation link to complete your registration.

Please confirm your subscription by clicking the link in the email you will receive shortly.

You can cancel your subscription at any time by clicking the unsubscribe button, or by changing your preferences in your Account.

We're sorry

Unfortunately, an error has occurred

Unfortunately, we were not able to sign you up for our newsletter. Please try again later.