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Get ‘The’ Photo: Your Guide To Graduation Pictures

Seniors, the time is here! If you are avoiding the unavoidable, we’re here to break it to you that graduation is on its way for the Class of 2022.

As the winter months slowly come to an end and we inch closer to the end of the semester, it’s time to start thinking about having your graduation photos taken. To capture this amazing accomplishment, as well as for the sake of your mom’s Facebook page, we’ve created a list to guide you through your grad photo journey.

Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Finding A Photographer

Still haven’t booked a photoshoot session? Luckily for you, it’s still early, and most photographers have plenty of availability. State College is booming with an active photography community, and we guarantee that there’s a photographer to fit your vibe. The best way to search is to post on any Penn State Class of 20XX Facebook group page. If professional photographers aren’t your thing, you can get a group of friends together and take them on your phone.

Get Yout Outfit, Cap, & Gown Early

Ladies, save yourself the stress and start looking for your white graduation dress now. By the time April rolls around, there’s a good chance that everything could be sold out downtown.

If you decide that grad photos aren’t your thing, it’s still smart to order your cap and gown early. You can find them at the Penn State Bookstore or through Jostens. (Pro tip: Buy an extra tassel. They get lost more often than you’d think.)

Pick A Date Earlier Than You Think

Arguably the best tip for getting graduation photos done is to get them done early. If you are planning on having your photos taken the last week of April or the first week of May, prepare yourself for looooong lines. For popular University Park locations such as the Pennsylvania State University sign, Old Main steps, and the Lion Shrine, you could wait anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours at each spot. Thousands of other students are also getting their pictures taken around this time. Planning early will help you to avoid this and make the process easier.

Plan Out Your Locations

The classic and most popular locations for graduation photos at University Park are Old Main, the Lion Shrine, the “Pennsylvania State University” sign, and the WE ARE statue, but these photos are yours! Consider heading somewhere else, on or off campus, that’s special to you. Maybe it’s your freshman dorm, the campus building you spent the most time in, or even your favorite bar downtown. 

Be Prepared

We highly recommend packing a bag for everything you may possibly need during your photoshoot. Some ideas include makeup, hairspray, comfy shoes, bobby pins, etc. Not having to lug around your cap, gown, suitcoat, wallet, sunglasses, car keys, and phone will make things a lot easier when traveling from location to location. 

Consider Bringing Props

Everyone has seen the classic champagne-pop photo, and while it is a classic, maybe you want to put your own spin on things. Why not bring your favorite pizza to eat on top of the Lion Shrine? Maybe you want to take photos with your favorite Squishmallow? Or perhaps you want to indulge in shotgunning a particular beverage with your cap and gown on? Totally up to you. Other things like confetti and balloons are a classic — just be sure to clean up after you’re done.

Ask Your Photographer Questions

Can I bring a friend to the shoot? What’s your weather policy? How strict are you about timing? Can I try this pose? When can I expect to have the photos back? Is there any way that I can take a picture with my dog and me both eating creamery ice cream? These are all valid questions that your photographer is more than likely happy to answer. Remember, these are your photos! Make them what you want them to be.

Tag Your Photographer

Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform, drop your photographer a pic cred. It’s a common courtesy and helps out their business in the end.


Well, there you have it, folks. The Class of 2022 walks in about three months. No matter if you end up hiring a professional or just going with your friend’s iPhone for your grad photos, congratulations on this amazing accomplishment!

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About the Author

Emma Kappel

Emma is a third-year student at Penn State majoring in professional photography and art history. She's from Portland, Oregon where she acquired her love for iced chai lattes and art museums. Reach out to her through her Instagram @stay.subtle or on Twitter @stay_subtle.

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