Classic Poses and Posing Tips for Striking Graduation Portraits
A posing guide for authentic, gorgeous graduation portraits that feel true to you.
One advantage of booking a professional portrait photographer is that they always come prepared with a game plan, which includes an eye for posing. Having done tons of portrait sessions over the years, I’ve fully explored a wide range of posing possibilities.
Now you may be thinking, "How could I feel like my truest, most genuine self if I stick to a rigid list of poses?"Well, a candid moment requires a skilled photographer who knows how to properly prompt those moments. Since most people tend to tense up in front of a camera, I find that simple poses give them somewhere to place their limbs and begin to feel comfortable. After that, true personality begins to shine through, and candid moments naturally follow.
Here I've compiled an essential graduation posing list sorted by standing, sitting, and action poses to make sure you don't miss out on any memories. Check out these iconic poses and tips listed below along with examples from past sessions and pose-specific tips to help plan your shoot!
Poses for Standing
Whenever you can create angles with your body, go for it. Lean on a wall, put one hand on your hip, throw one hand up. Guys especially — don’t stand with both arms down at your sides. Instead, put one hand in a pocket for an attractive silhouette.
Show off that grad gear! Throw one or both arms up with your cap in hand. Or hold your stole or cap out directly in front of you, especially if you have a fun grad cap decoration or a few different stoles. You could even throw your gown over one shoulder and look back at 'em!
Turn around with your back to the camera and throw some peace signs to the institution that you called home for four years. If you’re really bold, you may even lean down and throw up a school hand gesture, like the UCI Rip ‘Em Eaters.
Poses for Sitting
Sitting with one leg bent and one leg straight flatters every figure. Place an arm on the bent leg for dynamic angles and a casual, approachable look.
If sitting cross legged is your jam, go for it! My legs, however, will not bend that way…
Go for a classic graduation shot by laying down on your stomach with your knees bent behind you.
Sit on a ledge, fountain’s edge, or any other surface with your chin slightly resting on your hand for a professional-style shot — especially if you're looking to capture a headshot along with your graduation portraits.
Ride your school’s mascot for a cute or hilarious addition to any graduation portrait session. And if you've got your own mascot — pose with your furry friend — the options are endless!
When I ask someone to pretend like I’ve said something hilarious, 9 times out of 10 their laugh begins awkward and stiff but becomes genuine and gorgeous!
Walking is another classic go-to for any graduation portrait session. You (might) know how to walk, but walking for photos is a little different. Slow down so the photographer can keep you in focus, and slightly cross one leg over the other with each step. The aim with this is to capture one leg crossing the other on the down step like this:
If you’re wearing a longer dress or skirt, try for a twirl! Or if you've got some long locks, flip that hair!
Another iconic pose: throwing your cap. Angle yourself to one side and gently toss the cap upwards by raising whichever arm doesn’t block your face.
Jumping is another fun graduation pose. Raise both arms for extra pizzaz! Or make a splash and go fountain dipping.
Pop that champagne, toss that confetti, or wave a sparkler! These action poses are my all time favorites. If you blow the confetti in front of your face, remember to smile with your eyes since your mouth will be frozen in “kissy face” mode. For champagne, spray up and out so the champagne doesn’t drench you or the photographer’s lens. Pro tip: save this one towards the end of the graduation portrait session just in case it gets a little messy.
BONUS Tip #1: Tilt your chin downwards
No matter how skinny you are, when anyone stands in a normal, relaxed state, there’s usually a little bit of flab visible underneath the chin. Tilting your chin slightly downwards helps to make the face look slimmer.
I always ask people with glasses to push the glasses farther back on the bridge of their nose and tilt their head down a tad. 99% of the time, this trick will eliminate harsh reflections in the glasses!
Also, I notice that guys tend to tilt the chin upwards for a masculine appearance, but photographing your face straight on or tilted downwards is MUCH more flattering and approachable!
BONUS Tip #2: Roll your shoulders back
This one’s simple, but as you’re nearing the end of a shoot you might be less aware of your posture. As someone with terrible posture, I am always on the look out to fix bad posture. Simply roll those shoulders back to stretch the muscles, and relax.
BONUS Tip #3: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth
You might’ve heard of this hack from TikTok. If you place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, a snatched jawline may suddenly appear. It doesn’t work for everyone (it certainly doesn’t for me unfortunately), but if you’re being photographed from a lower angle it can help.
BONUS Tip #4: Just be yourself and have FUN!
All in all, do what feels most natural to you! And celebrate this momentous milestone in your life. You've gotten the degree and you did it during a pandemic. That's some serious business, and you deserve to celebrate it properly and treasure it always with an authentic and timeless portrait session.
Book your graduation portrait session today!
Now that you have a better idea of all the awesome poses possible, are you ready to book your portrait session? Consider booking with Marie Tobias Photography! I have shot numerous portrait sessions, leading to knowledge and expertise beyond simply knowing the best possible poses.
Moreover, I am also a recent alum!
Click here to book your graduation portrait session today.
Click here for what to wear, what's included, and more (I even have props like confetti, sparklers, and color smoke bombs for some added excitement).