You’ve dedicated years to your education or supported loved ones as they spend long hours studying. Now, that cap and gown are within your grasp — and you’re ready to celebrate!

As you plan the ultimate graduation party, don’t forget to commemorate this achievement with a special photo shoot. These images will remind you that, with hard work and passion, anything is possible.

Graduation photos take many forms, and, at this point, you have almost certainly seen the usual tropes play out again and again. There’s nothing wrong with embracing tried-and-tested poses or backdrops, but what if you crave something different?

Good news: we’ve compiled several memorable options that will make an impression. Whether you work with a professional photographer or a good friend, you will thank yourself for capturing these special moments.

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1. Classic Cap and Gown Poses

Before we take a deep dive into unique graduation photo ideas, it’s worth covering the basics. After all, some poses are always appealing:

  • A simple, sweet picture while standing and wearing both cap and gown.
  • Cap toss photos in which the graduate sends the graduation cap flying.
  • Close-up shots featuring the tassels from the cap.

Keep it simple with at least a few classic poses before moving on to more unique and memorable images.

College graduate tossing up their cap.

“cap toss” by ubcleap is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

2. Celebratory Confetti Shots

Confetti is inherently celebratory, and, with the right setup, it can also form the basis of a fun photo. There are many ways to incorporate confetti:

  • Place a little confetti in the graduate’s hand and have them blow it right as the picture is taken.
  • Throw the confetti in the air, either alone or while joined by fellow graduates.
  • Look at the camera while tossing the confetti or look up in the air as it flies.

Keep in mind that these photos typically require several tries before they look just right. Thankfully, this is a fun (albeit messy) way to get playful while taking graduation pictures.

3. Use Custom Cardboard Cutouts

Do you have a distinct vision for your graduation photos but struggle to bring that concept to life? Custom cardboard cutouts will help you convey nearly any idea imaginable. Examples include:

  • Posing alongside cutouts of grandparents or other loved ones who cannot be present for the graduation ceremony.
  • Similarly, cutouts featuring your cap and gown can be sent to loved ones far away, giving them the chance to ‘congratulate’ you in person with a photo of their own.
  • Cutouts featuring the graduate as a younger child displayed alongside him or herself as a teen or young adult.
  • Creating silly cutouts featuring favorite characters, celebrities, or mascots. These are perfect for goofy photos featuring goofy graduates.
  • Using cardboard cutouts as props that portray essential components of school or college.
  • Even if photoshoots don’t incorporate cardboard cutouts, the images they produce can be used to create these cutouts, which, in turn, can be displayed during graduation parties.

College graduate and brother celebrating her graduation with a BigHead.

4. High School vs. College Graduation Themes

How you structure your photoshoot will largely depend on your achievements: high school graduation photos often look markedly different than their college counterparts. The former may focus on letter jackets, class rings, or extracurricular activities, while the latter might provide better campus-based photo opportunities or even shots related to professional aspirations.

The other major difference is that college photos are less expected. At this point, professional photography is a rite of passage for high school seniors — but many college students have yet to embrace similar traditions. This huge accomplishment is just as deserving of photographic mementos, however, and with fewer expectations attached, you may feel more freedom to take photos exactly as you see fit.

5. Incorporating Family and Loved Ones

It really does take a village. If, throughout your academic journey, you have relied on the support of family members or close friends, why not include them in your graduation photos? Snapshots with best friends are always more enjoyable, and pictures with parents, grandparents, or siblings make for meaningful mementos.

Canines also count as loved ones, and, if you pose outside, you can easily get your furry friend in on the action. Not all pooches will cooperate, but the process is always a blast. Avoid complex poses, and instead, focus on genuine moments that capture your dog’s personality and your special relationship.

6. Group Photos with Fellow Graduates

We’ve already touched on the value of posing with close friends, but consider a photo shoot that incorporates a larger group of fellow graduates. For example, other seniors from your high school sports team may want to gather for a graduation photo.

Similarly, college graduation pictures may include snapshots with all the graduates from a particular major, minor, or academic club. Roommates also love to take pictures together, especially as they bid farewell to their college digs.

A small group of college graduates getting their picture taken.

“Graduation photo *sample #1*” by taufiq @ eyecreation is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

7. Close-Up Shots of Graduation Details

While most graduation photos will emphasize the person graduating, other shots are also worth taking. These bring context to the photo collection and can provide a powerful reminder of what happened and how this achievement was celebrated.

We’ve already mentioned tassels, but the graduation day program and the diploma itself should be featured as well. Action shots on stage capture the exact moment in all its glory, and later, grad party photos expand on the celebratory fun.

8. Innovative and Fun Graduation Photo Ideas

You’ve posed for all the usual graduation photos, and now, you’re ready to go all-out with unique images that you’ll treasure forever. Go beyond the expected and try these creative graduation picture ideas:

  • Bottle of champagne. Perfect for college graduates, champagne is fun and festive — and it can distinguish a college image from a high school graduation photo. Timing is everything, however, and not just anybody can catch the bottle popping on the first try. In other words: you may need to invest in a few bottles and be prepared to get messy. Or you can record a video in Ultra HD or 4K and extract screenshots later.
  • Balloons. From balloon arches to numbers designating the graduation year, balloons add instant whimsy to any setup. Go big and bold with school colors or any other bright hues that make photos pop.
  • Cars. Exciting for high school seniors but often fun at college graduation, vehicles can add a youthful, yet distinctly adult dynamic to any photoshoot. Seniors who have recently purchased their first set of wheels will be thrilled to pose with their pride and joy. Borrowing a sports car or luxury vehicle can take this concept up a notch.

9. Outdoor and Themed Photoshoots

If you graduate in May or June, you can easily find plenty of beautiful backdrops. As we mentioned previously, many of these will be located on or near campus. Otherwise, local parks, botanical gardens, and other outdoorsy landmarks should work. When possible, select locations that are personally meaningful, as opposed to simply pretty.

Outdoor photos don’t always need to focus on flora and fauna, although this will always be a welcome option. If you prefer more of a contemporary vibe, street art is a wonderful option: find a mural or sculpture you love.

10. Using Graduation Photos for Announcements and Social Media

Taking graduation photos is only the first step. Now, it’s time to share these images with your circle of family, friends, and followers. These form the basis of excellent graduation party invitations and can also be displayed at the actual party. Don’t forget to share on social media and consider allowing your proud parents or other family members to do so as well.

Make Graduation Memories With Cardboard Cutouts

There is no one right way to take grad photos, but many snapshots are more vibrant and memorable when they incorporate cardboard cutouts. Our team at Cardboard Cutout Standees is committed to helping you capture life’s most meaningful moments, including, of course, graduation.

There are many excellent options for graduation, including life-sized and BigHead cutouts. Get started by uploading photos on our website or learn more about our products.

A family celebrating their family member's college graduation.


  • Jason Frank

    Jason Frank is the Co-Founder and Vice President at Cardboard Cutout Standees. After 25 years of selling factory automation he started the company with one of his college roommates. The company has grown to one of the largest providers of large format custom printed products in the United States. Along with the namesake cardboard cutout standees, they also provide BigHeads, Point of Purchase Displays, Wall Murals, and Wall Decals to a diverse client base across the US and Canada. When not focused on the business, you usually find Jason either on the road biking or our in the woods and fields of western Wisconsin.

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