renee bowen


Cap and Gown Poses for Graduation Photos



So happy to connect with you here! If you're a fellow neurospicy creative, I hope you appreciate the mish-mash of goodness I have here; it's a little nutty but I love it - hope you do too!

are we bffs?



Visit the Shop


Free Call

1:1 Coaching
for creatives & photographers

schedule your FREE call to see if we're a good fit to work together

collage image of graduates in cap and gown

Let’s talk casual cap and gown photos so you can get the best grad photos EVER!

I’ve specialized in senior photography since 2007 and while most of my senior sessions are focused on more personality and experience sessions, I always offer cap and gown mini sessions right before graduation, for both high school and college grads.

Graduation marks a pivotal moment in a student’s life, whether they’re moving on from high school or college. It’s a time of celebration, reflection, and anticipation for the future. Amidst all the excitement, taking the perfect graduation photos becomes essential—not just as a formal keepsake but as a fun and memorable experience.

That’s why choosing the right cap and gown poses is crucial to capturing this significant milestone.

Why Choose Casual Cap and Gown Poses?

Traditional graduation photos are often formal and can feel a bit stiff. By opting for casual cap and gown poses, graduates can express their personality and style, making the photoshoot more enjoyable and unique. These relaxed poses not only capture the essence of the graduate’s joy but also create images that feel genuine and vibrant. And .. they’re more FUN!

The Best Time for Graduation Photos

Graduation day is undoubtedly hectic, filled with ceremonies and celebrations. Scheduling a separate photo session before the big day allows for a more relaxed and controlled environment. This ensures that both the graduate and their family can enjoy the process without the rush and chaos of graduation day itself.

I offer MINI cap and gown sessions to all my senior clients; most of these sessions are included in my senior portrait experience with me.

Involve the Family

While the focus is on the graduates, involving the family in the photoshoot adds a layer of intimacy and emotion. It’s a chance to capture the collective pride and joy of the family, making the session a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Family shots during casual cap and gown minis provide a personal touch that often gets lost during the busy graduation day.  Lots of my grads like to bring their pets too (see some example pics below).


Pose Ideas for Graduation Photos

1. The Classic Look

A simple, classic pose is always a winner. I like to get both full body and tight shots, but the tight shots are always my favorite grad pose! I also like to play around with tight crops, which make the images more modern and less “stuffy” like the ones you have to get for the yearbook.

Photographers, I use my Nikon Z8 and the 85 1.2 for these typically, but any portrait lens works!

collage image of graduates in cap and gown and tassels

For these wider, full body shots, I typically use my 24-70 2.8 lens or the 35 1.4.  Also, keep in mind that you want to get a variation of poses, so I like to start my clients out NOT fully put together so we can get multiple options without wasting time. I usually do cap and gown sessions as mini sessions; meaning 20 minutes max. So it’s important that I use that time wisely.

We start with just the dress, then add the stoles and cords, then the cap, then the graduation gown and do various poses like this before putting the gown fully on.

I prefer to photograph the majority of cap and gown poses with the gown not fully zipped; it gives a more modern feel that my senior clients prefer.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown

2. The Cap Toss

Nothing says “celebration” like tossing the graduation cap in the air. This action shot captures the essence of joy and accomplishment, but they can be tricky to get! Remember, you don’t want to toss it SUPER high; you just need it fairly close to you; however, I do love a wide shot of that cap way up there!

Try mixing these up and do both looking at camera and away – as well as shooting from below for some artistic angles and a different take on the traditional “throwing of the cap” graduation photo. I also love the toss at the camera shot; the key to that one is you need to be below the subject just a bit and make sure your client is smiling!

collage image of graduates in cap and gown cap toss

3. Show Off The Cap

Most of our high school senior grads will have their caps decorated, so we need to make sure we get some fun shots of those!  I like to mix this up and do some artistic takes; some of these caps are works of art!  College grads rarely have their caps decorated, but you can still get some fun shots if you stretch yourself creatively.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown showing the decorated cap

4. With the Family or Furry Friends

When I offer my mini cap and gown sessions right around graduation, I always offer to photograph the family as well; this is the perfect time to grab those family portraits because graduation day is typically very stressful and mom or dad are usually not able to get into the photos.

Photographers, this is also a great opportunity to sell more prints or digital images. I speak about this a lot inside of my coaching programs.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown

And what could be CUTER than graduation photos with your dog or pet?!  These are definitely my favorite ones to get 🙂

collage image of graduates in cap and gown with images of dogs and graduates

5. The Details

I always grab detail shots of all the awards and recognition, since these are not available when most high school seniors take their yearbook images in summer. They’ve worked really hard all year long and I believe it’s important to capture the details artistically – they look great in album spreads.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown details photos of stoles and robes and awards for graduation

6. The Turn

Quite possibly the most requested graduation pose I get is this one – the turn. You can do this in one spot OR as you’re walking if you like to get some movement. The one thing that is tricky about doing this shot with movement or while you are walking is that the tassel goes crazy lol, so just be ready for that.

7. The Feet

Another detail shot I always get during graduation photo sessions is this one – a close up of just the legs and feet with the graduation cap.  There’s something really fun about it and they also look good in album spreads.  Photographers, you will need to get on the ground for this, but aren’t we always on the ground? 🙂

collage image of graduates in cap and gown and showing their legs with the cap

8. The Tassel

I love to highlight the tassel when I can; either having the client hold it or zoom in on it somehow.

A tip for keeping the tassel in one spot is to bring some garment double-sided tape.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown

9. The Dress

The graduation dress can be a stressful part of this whole thing for my senior girls!  Most of my clients prefer to wear white, but some of them will mix it up with color, which I think can look awesome! My advice is to keep the color solid; too much print can really be distracting with all the stoles and cords, etc. Ultimately, whatever you like will look great – my job as your photographer is to make sure we get all the shots you want!  I do love a solid black dress under a colorful graduation gown too.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown

10. College Grads

All of the grad poses we went over will work for college grads of course, but the popping the champagne shot is reserved JUST for my college seniors!  This is VERY hard to get, so my advice is to bring at least three bottles of champagne to make sure we get it.  You will have to shake it, but what makes the champagne “spray” is how you hold it when it’s bubbling out.

You will need to put your thumb over it, like you would a garden hose – and then I always ask my clients to actually point it a little bit toward ME (and yes, my camera). I know that seems crazy, but that is how you get some good spray!  Of course, the side view is also always good.

collage image of graduates in cap and gown

collage image of graduates in cap and gown popping champagne

Graduation photos are more than just a formality; they are a celebration of achievements and a bridge to future endeavors. Choosing the right cap and gown poses and involving the family makes the photoshoot not only a fun and personal experience but also a cherished keepsake.

Remember, these photos will likely grace the homes of family and friends and be shared across countless social media platforms, so make them count!

By incorporating casual yet meaningful cap and gown poses, photographers and graduates alike can ensure that the graduation photoshoot is as remarkable as the milestone it commemorates. So, let’s make these moments unforgettable with the perfect blend of personality, style, and family involvement.

Grads, feel free to share these images and this blog post with your senior photographer and photographers, if you want more help with this, I have some options for you!

Hop into my free Facebook group for High School Senior Photographers or, if you ready to invest in your business a little, check out my group coaching program called ELEVATE.  And, if you are really ready to level up, I have something even better for you HERE

As always, I would love to hear your feedback – comment below or if you share this on social, make sure and tag me!

xo, Renee

Read the Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

as seen in:

READ          LATEST


The Blog Playlist

In The Mood For...

Photography Tips


Senior Sessions

Location Inspo


senior session & LOCATION


 what your friends are saying about us



"Renee is not only an incredible photographer but also an amazing person! Working with her for my senior year was all I could have ever asked for!"   - Kayla O'Shea

Featured                Shoot

Charlee's senior session at Vasquez was UHmazing


New Video

Find out the 10 Mistakes most photographers are making and how to fix them.

follow @reneebowen

If you're into moody portraits, 90's nostalgia, great wine, Taylor Swift, memes I find funny + probably way too many videos of my cats? You've come to the right place. 

Follow along →

Let's get casual →

I'm real into Pinterest →