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Graduation Portrait Tips

Updated: Feb 27, 2023


Cap and Gown Portraits taken in Fuquay Varina, NC
Raleigh Graduation Portraits

High School Graduation - Time to Celebrate those accomplishments!


What better way to start the celebration than with Portraits in your Cap & Gown! Usually schools will hand out the cap, gowns and tassels in plenty of time to get portraits taken in time for those Graduation Cards to go out. Here are some tips to help you in planning your Cap & Gown Session.




  • Try on your Cap Before your session. It surprises me that these caps are still not the most appealing. But if you spend a little time in front of the mirror experimenting with it, that will help you out on the day of your portraits. Some of the caps will allow you to fold in the front point to look better. You will just need to play around with it. Be sure to use bobby-pins to help it stay on your head if it is on the big side.

  • Steam your Gown. You will most likely need to steam your gown. If you don't have a steamer you can use a towel to protect the material and use an iron. Be careful using an iron directly on your gown as the material can melt under high heat. You can also hang your gown in your bathroom while the shower is on for the steam to help decrease the wrinkles.

  • Personalize your Cap. Check with your school's policies before doing this. You can personalize the top of your cap if your school allows - Create a special message or decorations on the top for your memories. If you school allows you can even purchase a customized tassel online to replace your school's tassel - Make sure to still get the same colors!!! Or you can get a more personalized year charm to change on your tassel. Be sure to check with your high school before doing any of these! The last thing you want is to have issues on graduation day because you changed your cap and tassel. You can always use a different personalized tassel for portraits and put the school tassel back on for graduation.


  • Cords. Be aware that some schools do not give out cords and sashes until right before graduation. But these are things you will want for your cap and gown portraits. So plan ahead and ask friends that are in the class before you if you can borrow their cords/sash for portraits. If you can't find some to borrow you might be able to order the same color cords online. If you wait to take portraits until after you receive your cords from your high school you might not have enough time to get your graduation cards out before your graduation party.

  • What to wear under your Gown. Check with your school, some are strict on what they allow you to wear for your graduation ceremony under your gown and what color shoes they want you to wear. Keep in mind you get to choose what to wear in your cap and gown portraits. You can choose to wear the same outfit you will wear during your graduation ceremony or if you want to wear something else for your portraits. I recommend wearing something that will contrast with your cap and gown. For example if you have a dark cap and gown - Navy or Black - I would recommend a white dress/romper for the ladies and a white shirt and khaki pants for the guys. If your cap and gown is white - I would recommend a little darker dress for the ladies and a little darker shirt for the guys. Try on your outfit with the gown to make sure you like the way it looks and it has a color contrast for best results so your gown stands out in the portraits. However if your gown is white make sure your color dress/shirt doesn't show through the gown.

  • Tassel - Which Side? This can depend on what type of degree you are getting. For your high school graduation it is Right to Left. Here is a way to remember it "just remember that the right side is the right side—and when you move it to the left, you've officially left school." So which side do you wear it for cap and gown portraits? This is up to you really, these are your portraits.



  • Ordering Graduation Cards. When should you order your graduation cards? Give yourself plenty of time to order your cards, receive them and time to address them to mail them out. I like to create mailing labels in excel and print them out to make it easier and faster for addressing the envelopes. If you are planning a graduation party, be sure to order your cards in time to give your guests enough time in advance to plan to attend your party. If you have a spring senior session I would recommend adding on cap and gown portraits during your session - please read above on borrowing cords from friends. If you will not have your cap and gown in time for your senior session - check around for photographers offering cap and gown minis in the spring before your graduation. These are usually scheduled early enough for you to order your graduation cards.

  • Do I need Graduation Cards If Not having a Party? This is up to you. However, remember people love to celebrate others and their accomplishments. Your family and your parent's friends who have watched you grow up are going to want to celebrate with you. They will want to send you gifts to help prepare you for college. Sending them a graduation card will remind them that you are heading into adulthood and they will want to congratulate and celebrate you!

  • Poses. During your cap and gown session be sure to get several different looks. Here are some pose ideas. I like to end with wearing the cap. Start with just holding your cap/tassel and your gown and work towards having both the cap and gown on.

    • Holding Cap and showing year on tassel (no gown)

    • Holding Cap at your side with the Gown over your shoulder

    • Put on Gown and hold your cap in front of you. I like your gown open for these.

    • Throwing Cap, I like your gown open for these as well.

    • Put on Cap and gown - headshot portrait of you showing your tassel and year

    • Full length of wearing Gown and Cap - with gown open and some with gown zipped up




I am a senior photographer outside of Raleigh, NC serving Fuquay Varina, Holly Springs, Cary, Apex, Durham and surrounding areas. I know how important graduation day is and how important it is to capture these memories. I also realize that graduation season is busy and there your schedule is jammed pack with things to do. Sometimes scheduling an hour session to get pictures just doesn't fit into your schedule.


I have picked a beautiful location in Fuquay Varina for Cap & Gown Minis - any local high school is welcome - Fuquay Varina, Holly Springs, Willow Springs, Cary, Apex, Harnett Central, Raleigh and surrounding areas. - limited availability


You can find out more about these Cap and Gown Minis Below.



Please inquire if you are interested in a JMFHOTO Senior Experience Session around the Triangle Area. Schedule a Consult Below






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