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The Ins & Outs Of Grad Photos

I think it’s fair to say most of us are in denial, but whether we like it or not, graduation is looming for the Class of 2019.

No matter how much you try to avoid the scary g word, your parents are probably expecting photos of you in your cap and gown all over the campus you’ve called home for the past few years. For those of you organizationally challenged or just too stressed about trying to find a job to even think about this stuff, here’s what you should consider when planning your grad photos.

Buying Your Cap & Gown

Even if the best you can do is a few iPhone photos on portrait mode, you’ll still need the bare minimum: a cap and gown.

Before you try to pull a cap and gown from your parents’ closet, be warned. Penn State has changed its color of blue for commencements since 2010, so anything older than a close-in-age sibling won’t look quite right when you walk across stage.

Your best options are to order from the bookstore in the HUB using this form or to order online from the Student Book Store downtown. All of this stuff comes straight from Jostens, so either option will cost you a cool $40 for cap, gown, and tassel.

Finding A Photographer

First and foremost, do you know anyone who does this already? Working with someone you know will usually make both of you more comfortable and alleviate some of the contacting/scheduling issues that come from working with strangers.

If you don’t know anyone who takes grad photos, a survey of our staff photographers said the best places to find photographers are the Class of 20XX Facebook groups and on Instagram. When it starts to get warm, every college kid with a digital camera hoping to make some extra cash will start posting on these platforms offering to take grad photos. Social media is a great place to compare prices and photo quality before making a decision.

Not Spending Your 55 Days Of Cafe Money

A total amateur or a close pal likely won’t charge you an arm an a leg, even if it’s just because they feel awkward about it. But if your friend is a somewhat serious photographer or takes grad photos regularly, you should offer and be prepared to pay them the going rate.

You can try to save some cash by limiting your photoshoot length and your number of locations for photographers who charge by the hour. Depending on your agreement with the photographer, this can be particularly effective if you’re able to split a longer session with a friend.

Depending on how nice you want your photos to turn out compared to how important your budget is, you can always borrow or rent a DSLR, pair up with a buddy in a similar situation, and take each other’s.

If all else fails, remember those iPhone portrait mode snapshots I mentioned earlier?

Choosing Locations

Most photographers will let you choose where you want to shoot your photos at, although they might give you some suggestions. The Pennsylvania State University sign near Beaver Stadium is an ever-popular and timeless option, and it never hurts to take some in more personalized locations like your favorite bar, your apartment building, or your favorite coffee shop.

If you’re still stumped, we’ve compiled a few suggestions over the years:

No matter what else you choose, you’re legally obligated to take a graduation photo at the Lion Shrine. Luckily, former visual editor Eric Weiss has some tips on how to set the perfect scene.

We walk in 101! *shudders*

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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