A Comprehensive Guide to Taking Graduation Photos in Boston

Remember the day of your kindergarten graduation? Probably not. But it was a huge deal back then! There are probably lots of photos of an adorable you, all dressed up for the occasion, looking proud… And now you have finally made it to the next milestone. Your college (or high school) graduation is an occasion that deserves to be marked. You can opt for graduation photos that capture you in cap and gown or crossing the stage to receive your diploma or you can celebrate your achievement by making those photos be so much more! 

My team and I thought long and hard about what sets bland graduation photos apart from the wow photography that we like to do. We researched the history of graduations and graduation photography, looked through thousands of contemporary graduation photos and put together this guide to inspire your own photoshoot! 

We want to help you come up with graduation photoshoot ideas that are fun and unique, regardless of whether you hire us, or have your friends take the photos. Check out our comprehensive guide to taking graduation photos in Boston.

Why Take Graduation Photos?

So why take graduation photos at all? Is it because your parents and grandparents want to proudly display a photo of you in your cap and gown on their wall or mantlepiece or because you just want to share your graduation pictures on Instagram? 

Today, we mark pretty much any occasion big or small with a photo, whether it is a trip to a museum, a ski trip or just a walk on the beach. So something as big as your college or graduate school graduation deserves to be celebrated not just with any photo, but one taken by a professional photographer! 

If you need another reason, here is one more: by completing your education and graduating you are taking  part in a tradition that dates back to the 12th Century. So capturing the moment (and, more importantly, who you are at the moment) is worth your time. There are so many reasons to take graduation photos… 

History of Graduation Photos 

For centuries, Latin was the language of  the well-educated, which is why the word “graduation” comes from the Latin gradus, meaning “step,” as in the next step of your education. Even the hooded gown graduates still wear is traditional—these outfits were modeled after the daily Middle Age attire in Europe. Caps, meanwhile, originated in Sweden in the 1700s and soon became popular around the continent and then all over the globe. Class rings, on the other hand (pun intended) are an entirely American tradition started by West Point Academy graduates in the mid-1800s. Meanwhile, the traditional graduation song Pomp and Circumstance was first played at a Yale graduation in 1905. 

Of course, photography wasn’t invented until the mid-19th century, which is when we first started to see photos of commencement parades and graduation ceremonies. By the 1940s, photographs weren’t just the “traditional” seated graduates or the handshakes on stage, but also of groups of friends smiling as they prepared to tackle the next phase of life.

Fast forward a little more than three quarters of a century, and graduation photos are so common that many border on cliche. There is the classic photo of graduates throwing their caps, for example, or the recent trend of graduates holding a letter board that details the degree they’ve earned. Pictures nowadays are far less sullen than the first ones captured a hundred years ago, but they still represent that same sentiment—pride in a big achievement and excitement for the future!

Who Should Be in Your Graduation Photos?

Your graduation photoshoot is in your hands, so you get to decide who’s in it. Here are a few ideas: 

Solo Graduation Photos

Let’s be honest, graduation ceremony photos can be boring, but solo graduation portraits are anything but! Just like that kindergarten graduation shot, these graduation photos are a way of preserving who you are at this moment in time, at this stage of your life. While there’s nothing wrong with a classic shot of you in cap and gown, solo graduation photos are also your chance to express yourself in whatever way feels best. Choose the location, outfit, pose, and props that feel uniquely you. 

Bentley graduate with a bouquet Portrait of an African student graduating from Boston University Portrait of a Chinese student graduating from Boston University Portrait of a Japanese student graduating from Harvard University Creative graduate portrait of a woman in Boston Public garden

We can also use this opportunity to take a professional headshot. Why not? You will be on top of the world and that will come across on every photo — trust us!

Graduation Photos With Friends

School friendships are deep, and a photoshoot with your favorite people from this phase of your  life is so much fun! So gather up your friends and roommates, or anyone else who was a special part of your days for the last several years. Try a classic cap-in-the-air photo and then mix it up and do something totally different.

Graduation photo of friends in a library Two women, graduating from Suffolk University, posing on a balcony Portrait of Friends in cups, graduation photo unique and creative photo of two women celebrating graduation from college Two women in cups and gowns posing in a library for graduation portrait

Graduation Photos With Family

Maybe you couldn’t have gotten through college without the support of your family, or you have family members who traveled a long way to celebrate your achievement. Include them in your photos too!

A mom, graduating from business school, posing with her baby boy for graduation portrait A student from the west coast posing with her mom for graduation portrait on campus of Brown University International student hugging her mom during graduation shoot on Northeastern University campus International student with his parents at Harvard university Boston University Medical school graduation portrait with mom

There’s nothing like the pride of a family on graduation day, which is another special moment to capture in photos. Honor your support system with a family graduation photoshoot.

Or with your significant other!

Couple celebrating college graduation in front of House Of The Blues, Boston, MA Couple celebrating college graduation in front of Red Sox Sign, Fenway Park, Boston, MA Candid BW shot of a couple celebrating college graduation in Boston, MA Couple acting silly in Fenway Park, Boston, MA A view from the back of a couple in front of a Taste Of Boston sign

What to Wear for Graduation Photos

Sure, you’ll probably want graduation photos in your cap and gown to signify the occasion. But the fun doesn’t need to stop there! For graduation photos in Boston, wear whatever you feel comfortable in, an outfit that makes you feel your best and marks this special occasion; dress up, dress down, the only thing we ask is that you have fun at the shoot! 

Another graduation photoshoot idea? Bring a few different outfit changes to test out and get some variety in your photos.

Best Places in Boston to Take Graduation Photos

After years of school in Boston, you probably have your favorite places around the city. Plus, if this is the end of your time in Boston, you may want your graduation photos taken in iconic locations in the city. Maybe you want your graduation photos in the library where you spent most of your studying time, or at your favorite local bar where you spent most of your non-studying time. Maybe there was a park bench where you went to sort out your feelings when life got hard, or a cute cafe where you were a regular. Graduation photoshoot locations should be unique and personal!

A BU graduate wearing cup and gown in front of famous Citgo sign in Boston. A graduate wearing cup and gown in front of Harvard Business School sign in Boston. A BU graduate wearing cup and gown in front of mural in Boston. A Northeastern University graduate wearing cup and gown sitting on a wall in Boston. A Brown University graduate in front of Van Wickle Gates in Providence, RI

If you’re stuck, here are some other great graduation photoshoot locations in and around Boston:

  • Boston Public Gardens
  • Charles/Acorn Street/Beacon Hill
  • Fenway Park
  • Kenmore Square
  • Faneuil Hall
  • Strata Center MIT
  • Harvard Yard/Harvard Square
  • BU Bridge
  • Johnston Gate

Unique Graduation Photoshoot Ideas

In need of some graduation photo inspiration? Here are some of our favorite shots, which might just give you graduation photoshoot ideas:

Bentley graduate sitting on a fountain in Boston Public garden A HBS graduate in cup and gown posing inside Baker library, Boston, MA A graduate with a bottle of champagne in front of  Suffolk law school, Boston, MA University graduate in front of George Washington statue in Boston Public garden BU graduate on campus

Book Your Graduation Photoshoot With Mind On Photography

Mind On Photography is not hemmed in by convention or limited to cliches. We take our direction from you, working with you to create unique graduation portraits you’ll treasure. Whether that means popping a bottle of champagne in your cap and gown, taking over the school library with your friends, or something even further out of the box, we’ll encourage you to be yourself during your graduation photoshoot. After all, this day is about you, and how you’ll jump into the next phase of life! 

To learn more and reserve a time slot for your graduation photoshoot in Boston, visit our contact page, we can’t wit to see you in your cup and gown in front of our camera!

Please visit our Graduation Photography section for more info!