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.





Keep Your Community Close



In The Creativity Cure’s latest podcast episode, I talk about how to keep a healthy community throughout life. While my community has always been around, friends can change and there have been seasons when my life changed and my need for community did too. For example, when I had my daughter I needed mom friends. Before being pregnant I never considered what friendship with kids would be like until I was right in it.  Another example would be from my friends who talk about the togetherness of college life and the loneliness when you suddenly are juggling multiple schedules and distance.

Creative people can work alone but do best when they are together and truthfully I think everyone needs community. Maybe you don’t need a crowd but everyone needs support. Growing and maintaining your community is a skill you can learn! Whether you move to a new city or just haven’t had friends here are some ideas about how I have thought about building and maintaining community.


The Fence


I got to a point this past year when I realized I needed to actively build community. I felt lonely and frustrated and overwhelmed. To share how I see community Imagine a 4-sided fence where a missing panel leaves you exposed or unsupported. This illustration (see below) helped me identify gaps and prioritize building my community. Check out this cringe diagram I drew explaining this concept. 


Let’s start with the left and right panels of the “fence.” These people I consider friends but on two levels. Some friends are a bit ahead of me. They may have more experience than I do and I learn from spending time with them. They also learn from me so it’s a mutual relationship similar to a good sibling relationship. On the other side of the fence, I have a friend I may be a bit ahead of in life with who I can share knowledge but still can lean on or rely on them for support. These friends can be found doing life with you. In my current life parenting is really relevant so I need to have some friends who are also in this season too! Some of my friends have an older kid or multiple and we can share the journey of motherhood. I also have some friends who are just starting parenting and I love encouraging them as they begin their journey too.




In the front of the community fence (see silly diagram above), I think of needing people to serve or lead. This can be at home or work but they are people I pour out to. I am their support system. I think of my daughter and my clients in this way because it’s my job to create a great experience for them. When I spend time with my daughter or clients, giving of myself I learn a lot about generosity and selflessness. It puts life in perspective and helps me to take what I have learned and break it down for example when working with my daughter or communicating to help a client understand an idea I have for a session. Having these responsibilities helps me to continually grow and to learn how to give to others and lead well. There are many people who need a friend like you to champion them. You may not feel like you have much to give but your struggles can help someone overcome their struggles. Serving can be for your younger relatives, a new employee at work, or at a boys and girls club. Regardless of what is going on in life find a way to give to those in need of your care. Communities won’t thrive if we don’t take the time to share the values, skills, and stories we have lived through with those who are younger or inexperienced.


Listening To Those Who Have Been There


    Finally, the back of the fence represents someone who has more experience, advice, and wisdom than me or my peers. This person is there for you to listen and they can be a shoulder for you to lean on. When I was looking at my “community fence” this was the piece that was missing. I love my friends but when I’m making big decisions I really appreciate the wisdom of my godmother. I feel safe being vulnerable with her in a different way because I know she has seen more than I have. Just sitting in the home of a mom who has more experience than I do lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders. I tell myself ” If she can do it, so can I!” If you rarely interact with people who are more experienced you should seek them out. I guarantee they are waiting to share their wisdom because they don’t want to see you make the mistakes you did. I MUST contribute a BIG amount of my growth over the past year to the wisdom of more experienced women in multiple areas of my life. I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t go and listen to them and take their advice when I felt unsure of how to handle different situations.


Bethany J. Photography is more than just a fine art practice. I build community. I make people seen and celebrated. Community is why I create and why I will always create. The truth is at the end of the day the people around me matter the most. They walk with me on my best and worst days, and for that reason, I work to keep my community close. I hope you have a community and if you don’t and you like what you see here, please join me by subscribing to Seen & Celebrated the Weekly email that I send out. I share short stories to celebrate Maryland natives who are doing great work for the community!


Hopefully, these are helpful tips but I am only one person so I would love to hear what has worked for you! Email me here or at Also, commission a portrait with me to collaborate on a creative art piece! Booking is open for 2023.






How Bethany J. Photography is Changing

What’s gonna be new?


In one week I will be FINALLY sharing my new rebrand and what that means for my clients and followers! I am so excited because I know what’s coming and I hate keeping secrets! I wanna give you some idea of what is going to happen so you can get ready for the launch.

Fine Art Portraits Only

The biggest change will be in the kind of work I will complete for people. I will be shifting from the family photography service category to a fine art portrait photography practice. Here are the differences between the two, for future clients.







As mentioned above I am shifting to not only incorporating being better focused on each individual client’s needs but also providing a service that creates portraits that you can treasure as key pieces for your home.


Changing Style

My style has always been vibrant, warm, fun, and colorful. However, I don’t want to stop growing as a creator so for that purpose, I want to shift into creating work for you from a truer place of authenticity. I will continue to keep the key elements of my style but I will be pushing to create portraits that are a bit more in-depth, carefully lit, and filled with an element of wonder. Each session will be about creating a unique work. I want to invite clients to further explore their own creativity with me.


Inviting the Creative Community

In addition to inviting clients to collaborate I want to extend the community further by helping creative people, supporters, and more connect. I have so many individual conversations with clients, businesses, and more, and want to build a meeting ground. I will be doing this with the launch of a weekly newsletter that will be for people interested in sharing their triumphs, work, connections, products, and more. I want to hear your stories, see what moves you, and build up the creative community. I believe that coming together in an exclusive community will open the doors for great things to happen! Those who subscribe will get updates first and get the opportunity to share their opinions or ideas for topics to cover or events to share. I will also open the newsletter for small, local, or artisan brands to share their business.



New Podcast: The Creativity Cure

I will be launching my Podcast The Creativity Cure on February 17th. In working with clients in photography and design I realize that there is a large perception that being creative is purely a gift or talent. I believe that in a big way, creativity is a skill that can be fostered and cultivated in powerful ways. On my podcast, I will talk to women about how they can grow this skill and use it to change how they handle problems with business, relationships, and themselves. The podcast will be available on all platforms and will be streamed every other Friday.


Focusing In

I will be focusing on what I do so that I work with those who are on the same page and share the joy of being creative. This means that I will no longer be photographing events, weddings, parties, sports, or boudoir. Not to worry I will be on the lookout for photographers who excel at those segments to make sure you can still be covered. In fact, one of the great things about this change is that I will have a chance to branch out and collaborate with other photographers.


The next time I blog I will be reintroducing myself and going into more detail about how you can join The Creative Community and stay connected. You don’t want to miss this!  See you next week.


Get the exclusives first by subscribing here.



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!

Hope & Patrick

Client Spotlight

Booking 2023 sessions and planning a client newsletter! Contact me today to schedule your session!


Hope and Patrick should look familiar because they have been some of my best supporters for years now! If you haven’t seen their beautiful engagement party blog head over here to catch up! This was the third year that I photographed their family. This was the first session we did!



Back then it was just these two with baby Vaeda on the way! Now that baby girl is so big! I was so excited to see her again! We did their annual session at the beautiful Liriodendron Mansion in Belair, MD. We made Christmas come early in front of this beautiful fireplace and in front of the mansion. Check out the images below! I really enjoyed working with their family. Hope is amazing at coordinating outfits and colors and sending me her ideas which makes getting ready so easy! We worked around Vaeda who was full of energy and wanted to explore and I think she did a great job! I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!



Fall/ Holiday Sessions are still available. Please contact me today to get your session booked!

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!
Wanna share your story? Join the #joyjourney in my FB group here! We encourage each other to accomplish more and meet up once a month for a nature walk!