The 5 Easy Ways to Get Great Grad Photos

by Bethany Joy



Graduation season is back! Everybody is prepared to celebrate their hard work this season and move on to greater things. There’s no doubt you earned it! Make the most of your graduation experience by taking the time to reflect on your accomplishments, both big and small. Cherish the memories and friendships you made along the way. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate your successes!


Using these tips, you can DIY amazing grad photos this season to make your photos as amazing as you are. My examples will be drawn from a real session I conducted.  You can use DIY graduation photography to capture your special moment when you have limited time. Take beautiful graduation photos with these simple tips.


The Location



Choosing a location that contrasts with your gown, your skin tone, and the school colors is best. You may want to consider mascots and places that have special memories for you. Contrasting colors and locations can add visual interest to your photos and can make the photos look more dynamic. Additionally, choosing locations or mascots that have special meaning to you can make your photos more meaningful.

Contrasting colors and locations draw the eye to the subject in the photo and can help to create a more interesting composition. Choosing a location or mascot with special meaning to the individual in the photos can add an additional layer of emotion and nostalgia, making the photos more meaningful and memorable.


The Lighting



Unless you have access to professional lighting, I recommend shooting outside in the evening when the sun is setting. When the sun is golden as it sets, it is flattering and not as harsh as during the daytime hours. Avoid standing under trees that cast shadows on your face, and consider bringing a white poster board to reflect light under your chin. To create the crisp focus effect, you should pose with your chosen background in the distance. Your photographer should stand equally distant from you as the background. This way, the light will be even across your face and body and the background will be out of focus, creating the desired crisp effect. This technique also allows you to shoot without the harsh shadows that are often seen when shooting in direct sunlight. Make sure you are far enough away from the background so it appears blurred. This will help create a more aesthetically pleasing image. Finally, ensure that you and your photographer are standing at an angle to the sun, to reduce the harsh shadows that can be caused by directly facing the sunlight.





On your cards, banners, and social media posts, you will want to use several classic poses to make your cards, banners, and posts stand out. Take a picture of just your outfit without a cap and gown. You can use this for your professional profile headshots. It is best to do this before putting on your grad cap since it may mess up your hair. Next, take open-gown photos with your grad cap on. You should consider whether you want the graduation tassel to be on the appropriate side. You should take full-body shots of yourself walking toward the camera as well as mid-body shots. After that, zip up the gown and repeat the process. Capture some close-up shots of your face smiling at and away from the camera. Here is where you may want to add props such as a fake diploma or sports equipment depending on your favorite activities. Don’t forget to take a picture with your tassel, your graduation cap, and of course the classic cap toss. Full-body shots show your whole outfit, while mid-body shots emphasize details such as the tassel, diploma, or any props you choose to include. Close-up shots of your face capture the joy of the moment and having props that represent your favorite activities makes the photos more personal and memorable.


The Props



You can create a session that is unique or classic to suit your style. Create your own style or theme by incorporating it into your session. In my examples, Zoë did a Meg The Stallion-themed shoot. The outfit involved cute accessories and a cute look. Whether you are a member of a club, a movie fan, or a sports fan, display your personality through your outfit and props. Don’t be afraid to express yourself with what you wear and use props. This could be a colorful outfit, a favorite movie poster, or the jersey of your favorite sports team.


Create Something Unique



Have fun trying different looks and enjoy yourself. It is HARD to graduate from high school or college and you deserve to be celebrated! Congratulations to the class of 2023, the best is yet to come! Embrace the moment and don’t be afraid to try things you’ve never done before. This is your chance to make a statement and you want your look to reflect who you are and the milestone you are celebrating. You should be proud of your achievements and eagerly look forward to what lies ahead.

You will be seen and celebrated with my one-of-a-kind fine art photography portraits. For more information about next-level all-inclusive graduation photography, please message me here! I provide comprehensive and tailored photography services, so you can cherish this special moment for a lifetime.

I hope these tips are helpful, but I am only one person, so let me know what has worked for you! I can be reached here or via email at Interested in collaborating on something creative? Commission a portrait! The booking period for 2023 is now open.






Final Fall Sessions

This weekend I finally finished fall sessions! This season I captured portraits with more vibrancy and style than I have before! I met new families and had some friendly faces return. I count myself blessed and so joyful that creating art is something I get to do for other people. I enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors, getting little kids to smile- even for a second, and just learning more about you. Scroll below to see some of my favorite portraits of the season! Usually, they are my favorite because they are unexpected, impactful or I just love the composition. Choosing just a few is hard because they are all my artwork babies! Enjoy and see you back here for a new blog next Friday.




Thank you to everyone who worked with me this year! You are the reason I do what I do!




Finding Joy

Welcome to my blog. Here I am myself. I am an artist who shares her photography, her family, and more! I called this blog choosing joy because 1. That’s my middle name and 2. Finding joy when life is tough has been a journey for me. More often I am choosing to look for the bright side even when I don’t see it. If you are an artist, a parent, a small business or all three then you will like being around here!

Share your Joy Journey with me by emailing You might be featured in my newsletter!

Your Joy Journey can be something funny or moving your story of overcoming or what brings you joy.



The Steele Family

I decided to do something special this year! Being a photographer I live behind the camera. I always have because it’s my comfort zone, playground, and so much more. This year when we were moving on our 3rd anniversary it occurred to me that we didn’t have any family photos in a studio setting or formal wear since 2019 when we got married.



One thing I have been reflecting on lately is how it seems like time really flies. 3 years ago I was just out of college, engaged, and excited about my wedding. I still forget that I’m 25, not 23 (the adulting that has happened has been serious.) For me this year was so monumental in ways I don’t always share and I wanted to make time slow down. I knew that I had not been making time for celebration. No matter what life looks like celebrating what matters helps me remember why it matters. Accomplishments are worthy of luxury, beauty, and time. So after Instagram stalking Pics By NiNi I booked our first studio session!


I had a good time picking out the colors, my dress, and my hair. I was so excited to get dressed up and then to finally get Jamal to agree to join me in front of a camera, I could not wait. When we arrived at her studio she was so warm and fun. We put on Lofi music and she gave us ginger beer (which tastes like ginger ale tries to taste.) Nini is the cousin of one of my art friends from high school. My friend, Ohene was assisting so it was like a double good time! I have insecurities about my look and Nini was great at communicating how to pose, and how to make adjustments. She worked with us and it was a very relaxing experience. I was so excited to see the pictures and when they came they did not disappoint! I love them! They really make me smile and think of how far we have come. I have my own family and it’s such a wow moment to see in pictures what we have.

I want to encourage you this season especially since times can be hard right now to find a way to celebrate. Celebrate making it through the year, celebrate achieving a new goal, or even just waking up another day. Your life is an occasion worth celebrating however you decide to do it.


Thanks again to Pics By NiNi for creating such beautiful work!



Finding the Joy

Welcome to my blog. I talk about choosing joy, to me, that means believing God is good and there is hope in the face of difficulty. I also talk about my goals and challenges. I believe in perseverance, grit, dreaming big, and choosing to challenge yourself to be better than yesterday.

What does it mean to be a part of the #JoyJourney?

It means to choose JOY in the good and bad!
It means we focus on our goals!
It means we challenge ourselves to do better!