Ten Tips for Taking Senior Photos at the Lion Shrine

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For seniors, graduation can become a stressful time. Visiting family, dinners, ceremonies, coupled with the good-byes to friends and Dear Old State can complicate what should a joyous celebration. Here at Onward State, we want to help simplify your life come graduation as we offer our top 10 tips for taking your photo with the ubiquitous Nittany Lion Shrine.

1) Plan your shoot in advance.

There’s nothing like being “that guy” at the Lion Shrine on graduation weekend. You know, the one who can’t decide whether to sit on the Lion, lean against the Lion, stand behind the Lion, hold their dog with the Lion…you get the idea. You don’t need to schedule out every pose, but show up with an idea of some shots you want to do. This can also include wearing a nice outfit under your cap and gown to add some variety to your shoot.

2) Schedule your shoot away from graduation weekend.

This will be easier for some than others, but try and schedule time before or after the crowd on graduation weekend. If you want photos with your parents or other relatives, see if they can come up a day or two early, or stay later after graduation. If taking the photos alone or with friends, find a time during finals week that works for everyone. You will have much more time with the Lion which will give you a wider variety of photos, as well as more natural, relaxed poses.

3) Find a friend with an SLR (who knows how to use it).

While many point and shoot cameras these days have fairly advanced capturing capabilities, nothing will compare to a well composed and exposed portrait from a quality SLR camera. Chances are, you have a friend who owns and at least knows the basics of operating an SLR, and if not, they are rentable from MTSS for three days. Be sure the photographer is familiar with the camera and that you are comfortable working with them. If you are unfamiliar with their work, have them send you some samples before you waste both of your times. Finally, be sure to thank them with a drink at Cafe afterwards.

4) If using a point and shoot, turn the flash on.

If you are restricted to using a conventional point and shoot camera, the flash is your friend. Even in broad daylight, the point and shoot’s flash can even out harsh shadows that their exposure systems generally do not compensate for. This can lead to more professional looking photos by creating an artificial lighting source.

5) Shoot from a number of different angles.

Variety is the spice of life. A series of photos of you with different levels of a smile from the same perspective will lead to a bland set of portraits. Instead, change the angle from which the photos are taken. We all know the traditional shot, head on with the Lion, but why not have your photographer lie on the ground as you and the Lion tower over them, or a photo from the back with your arm around the Lion. Unique perspectives can create the most visually stunning photos you have

6) For well-composed photos, aim for a cloudy day.

You know those giant umbrellas used on lights in professional photography studios? When taking photos outside, clouds act as natural versions of these light diffusers. Harsh, direct light will be reduced, exposing colors at their natural hues. This will also make photos easier to develop as the contrast in lighting will be greatly decreased.

7) Choose the time of day correctly.

If you are limited to a sunny day, there are still some rules to follow. While many would think that mid-day is a great time to take the photos because it is the brightest time of day, having direct overhead light will lead to harsh facial shadows, ruining the photos. Instead, aim for times when the sun is lower in the sky, in the morning or at night. For more dramatic photos, shoot during the “Golden Hour”, the half hour before and after sunset and sunrise. The low, diffuse light coupled with the colors of the horizon can produce beautiful portraits. During the summer, the sun sets behind the Nittany Lion Inn, eliminating the problem of harsh backlighting.

8 ) Use the rule of thirds when composing your image.

The rule of thirds in photography basically means this: split your image into a tic-tac-toe board and place your subject where two of the lines intersect. Placing the subject in the center of the photo can often produce awkwardly composed images. Placing the subject off-center will create a point of interest in the photo and place the focus on the subject.

9) Make sure your camera is set on highest resolution.

When Grandma gives you a puzzled look after you tell her to look at your senior pictures on Facebook, you don’t want to piss her off by telling her that the images are too small to print that 8×10 for the family room wall. While camera resolution options differ, be sure that you aren’t shoot anything smaller than 1600X1200 if you’re planning on printing enlargements up to 8×10.

10) Have fun!

Bring along some friends, some props, even some music (not recommended graduation weekend) and have fun with your shoot. The more natural the shoot feels and the more relaxed you are, the better the photos will turn out. Also, make sure your photographer takes some candid shots. Often times, candid moments between friends and family turn out to be the best at showing your personality in a photo. At the end of your shoot, have a water gun fight with your friends or play a game of duck, duck, goose around the Lion. The more fun the better!

We hope that these tips help you take great photos that serve as reminders of your awesome time here at Dear Old State. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to share them below!

Photo By: Melanie Versaw

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About Author

Eric is the Visual Editor, and a Photographer for Onward State, originally from Pittsburgh, PA. He is currently a 5th year student in the B.Arch program at Penn State. Likes: Apple Products, Canon Products, any music Pitchfork tells me to listen to. Dislikes: conversations via Facebook wall-to-wall, #hashtagsthataremorethanthreewords

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