Hey there grads and parents! As a professional photographer who has shot lots of grad photos, I know how important it is to get those perfect pics to commemorate this major milestone. Your grad photos will be cherished memories that last a lifetime, so you want to make sure they turn out amazing. I'm here to share my top 5 pro tips to ensure your grad photoshoot is an absolute success.

1. Plan Your Outfits and Props in Advance

This is arguably the most important tip - what you wear can make or break your grad photos. You want to look stylish and put-together, but also feel 100% comfortable and like yourself. You may be wearing your grad dress or you could choose to do both some casual and formal shots. Are you going to be taking cap and gown photos?

Also, don't forget the accessories and props! Simple jewelry, a cute bag, a hat, etc. can add nice pops of visual interest. Guys, make sure your clothes are neat, pressed and fit properly. And for goodness sake, clean your white sneakers so that they shine!

Do you play a sport? Consider bringing your soccer ball or lacrosse stick as a prop.

2. Hair and Face

Ladies, have your hair, nails and makeup done professionally if possible - it's worth the investment for flawless photos. Do you absolutely need to have make-up done professionally? Well, it depends on how confident you are with doing your own make-up. If you aren’t sure, better leave it to the professionals. (Pro tip: check out make-up counters at Shoppers or at Sephora - often they will do your make-up for free and just charge you for products that you purchase!) I’d highly recommend wearing some make-up even if you want a natural look to your photos. It really helps to have smooth skin and some colour. Photos can drain your colour a bit. Don’t worry about the odd blemish, I can always remove them if you wish when I do the retouching.

Schedule your appointments well in advance because you know how busy grad season can be. Nails can be done up to a week ahead, so get it out of the way early. Make sure you show up to your hair appointment with either photos or ever better, have a consultation prior to the day so that there are no surprises. If you are getting your hair coloured, do it at least two weeks ahead.

GUYS, pay attention! Get your haircut at least a week ahead so that it is fresh and has settled down a bit. And I have to comment on facial hair. If you haven't had a moustache, consider growing one after grad and doing your photos with a clean-shaven face. Now is NOT the time to start growing facial hair. AND please moisturize your face and use lip balm before the shoot.

3. Location, Location, Location

Where you take your grad photos is almost as important as what you wear and how you look. The location sets the entire vibe and backdrop for your pictures, so keep these following things in mind.

What kind of a look do you want? What suits your personality? Do you want an urban, city look with graffiti and murals, a wide-open country field with wildflowers and a fence, a picturesque garden filled with spring flowers, or beside the ocean on the beach? Or would you prefer to be at your own house with your own garden which adds a very personal and individual touch. Finally, consider doing it at your high school. There are lots of wide-open spaces and there is nothing better than having a visual reminder of where you worked so hard to finish high school.

Obviously, outdoors is the best choice, but we do live in BC, so have a back-up plan. If it is raining, is there a space under cover close by.

Finally, make sure they allow photography, have plenty of parking, and check to see what times of day have the best lighting conditions.

I have lots of great suggestions for locations, so if you really don’t know, let’s chat and see what suits your personality and style!

4. Prepare Shot List Ideas

As your photographer, I will ultimately direct the shoot, AND it's helpful to have a few shot list ideas prepared in advance. This ensures we get all the key photos you want in a variety of poses and backgrounds. Also, do you want photos with your family or best friend?

Some classic grad photo must-haves are: your cap and gown look, casual outfits in urban and natural settings, close-up portraits, full-length poses, serious and smiley shots. But you can definitely get creative too! Maybe you want a fun action shot throwing your cap in the air. Or a picture incorporating your sports equipment/instrument/hobby props. Or adorable poses with your pet.

The possibilities are endless, so make a list of any special ideas you have in mind. You can check out my Pinterest board for some inspiration!

5. Relax and Have Fun!

Feeling nervous or awkward in front of the camera? Totally normal! The key is to relax, let your personality shine through, and most importantly, have fun with it. Listen to your photographer's direction, but also feel free to loosen up and get a little goofy between shots. Laugh, joke around, crank up the music you love - whatever helps you relax and avoid looking stiff or uncomfortable. As a pro photographer, it's my job to make you feel at ease and capture you at your best. So trust me, let your guard down, and we'll get those amazing candid shots that really showcase your true self.

That's it from me! Follow those 5 tips and you're practically guaranteed to walk away with a set of grad photos you'll be proud to share for years and years to come.

Congratulations Class of 2024!