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How-To: Take Better Graduation Ceremony Pictures
by Laura Hicks -  4/22/2013

Caps and Gowns. Another year has passed and it's time for another set of graduates to enter a new phase of their lives. Whether the graduation is from college, high school or kindergarten, capturing those important moments can prove to be challenging. But have no fear. We have compiled some pro tips to have you shooting graduation like a champ.

1. Get to the ceremony early and grab a prime spot. If you can, locate a great shooting angle close to the action. The closer you are to the action, the less zoom you will need to capture the processional, the delivery of the diploma and the tossing of the caps.

2. Be prepared with a long zoom lens or Ultrazoom camera. Most graduations are held in large arenas or venues. You will need to come prepared with a long telephoto lens (at least 200mm) or an Ultrazoom camera with a minimum of 20x zoom. Cameras like the Canon SX50 HS are a fantastic tool to get close to the action even when you are stuck in the nose bleed section. With it's 50x zoom lens that has the equivalent of 1200mm, it would be hard to miss the action from almost any seat in the house. Priced at only $430, this camera is a steal when compared to a long zoom DSLR lens.

3. Bring a tripod or monopod. Tripod and monopods can be an inexpensive way to reduce camera shake and give your arms a much needed break from holding long lenses and Ultrazoom cameras -- especially when you are using the camera at the long end of the zoom. Tripods can be found in all price ranges, but remember...you get what you pay for. The sturdier tripods will cost a little bit more. However, they will provide more stability for your lens or camera. Manfrotto makes great photographic products. Two are shown below.

 

4. Set your camera settings accordingly. Depending on the lighting in the venue, adjusting your camera to the appropriate settings can be a challenge. Always test your shot before the big moment happens. You almost always have quite a bit of time to get this one right due to the long speeches and introductions from faculty or staff. See if auto mode looks good and has a shutter speed of at least 1/125 of a second (or more). If it does, leave it. If not, you will want to adjust your ISO or aperture in order to keep the shutter speeds at least 1/125 second to stop movement and reduce blur. Many new cameras have good ISO sensitivities up to at least 1600 (if not more). Pumping up your camera's ISO can give you a few more stops of light, allowing you to have a higher shutter speed. Also, opening up your aperture can give you the same results. Try shooting at f/4 instead of f/5.6 to give you more light coming into the camera. 

5. Leave it to the pros. At almost every graduation ceremony there is a professional photographer paid to capture the delivery of the diploma for every student. This pro has been granted the best spot in the house for capturing this moment. They generally have additional lighting set up that adds extra illumination to their images. If you want a close up of this moment you might want to spend a few bucks to get their official image. But don't forget to snap some photos of the "before and after moments" from the ceremony. These images may prove to be your favorites. The nervous feelings before the ceremony or high level of excitement after the ceremony lends to some great emotional images. Although some posed photos are important, try to sit back and capture most of the moments as they are happening instead of choreographing the events and photos.

Congratulations on your loved ones recent accomplishments. We hope you are able to capture some great images from this important event. If you have more questions or thoughts feel free to post them in our forum.

Looking for more technology gift ideas for moms, dads or grads?  Go to our MDG Special Report Buyer?s Guide for top picks and articles from across our sites!