Whether you are taking pictures of high school, college, or kindergarten graduation here's a terrific shot list to get you started along with some handy tips to help you nail each shot. Good luck!
The Standard Shot
First, nail the basic shot showcasing the cap, gown, and all the graduation swag. The key is to find a setting with a background that is NOT distracting. 🚫 Avoid lots of colors and lots of the people so the focus is on the graduate!
Bonus points if it is not in front of your garage. 🤡
Everyone takes the far away shots. But how about some close ups too? Bonus points ⭐️ for having your tassel charm facing the camera.
3. The devil 😈 is in the details! If you've never used an iron before, this is your sign that it's time to learn how to do this. Because the gowns and the sashes come pre-wrinkled for you. (Often, quite a bit.) So smooth everything out so your pictures won't have distracting wrinkle grid lines.
The jump shot is tricky.
First, if you are wearing heels decide if this is even worth attempting: if there's a chance you might not stick the landing, don't do this! Nobody wants to be on crutches at graduation!
Second, you can give this a shot while wearing your cap & gown. But check your camera to make sure you got it. Often the front of the gown pops up and obscures your face.
➡️ Pro Tip: If that happens, just take the gown off and do the jump with your cap.
The Glitter Blow
A glitter blow is super fun!
Now I'll let you in on a little secret: I don't use real glitter. It's an environmental nightmare. So this is all done in post.
But if you are going to do this please lay down a sheet or old blanket on the ground in front of you so it's easy to clean up afterwards.
➡️ Pro Tip: what you want to buy is metallic confetti, in the largest chunks possible. That will photograph the best.
The Cap Toss
The cap toss is a classic. There are two versions.
1. Throw the cap like a frisbee.
➡️ Pro Tip: Aim to hit your photographer in the chest.
For Photographers: Be careful if you are asking a senior to do this who happens to be a competative discus thrower! Maybe ask them to go gentle, or else you may find yourself startled and having your senior say, "Wait, was I not supposed to actually hit you?!?" 😜
2. Throw the cap straight into the air.
➡️ Pro Tip: have the flat part of the mortar board face the camera, and give it a very small toss, again, frisbee style but this time up instead of out.
Signs! Sometimes colleges send out these super cute signs when you get admitted. SAVE THESE! They often have your school's slogan on them and are great to include in your graduation pictures.
Pennants! If you didn't pick one up from the college bookstore when you went to tour, you can get one online. You're probably going to want to decorate your dorm room with one of these anyways, so get it early and get a shot with it!
College Tee/Sweatshirt! Same as with the pennant. You are going to get a LOT of use out of this, so get it early.
➡️Pro Tip: there will be several different design options to pick from: get one that has large, bold lettering in the center (or the mascot!). This shows up better in pictures than text that is small and/or off to the side.
I hope this helps you shoot a wonderful graduation portrait! And in case you were curious about the photoshoots featured in this post: I offer cap & gown shoots to all of my existing senior portrait clients.
There are so many aspects of your daughter's senior year that you don't get to be a part of. But her senior portrait isn't one of them!
Making it special
For this shoot celebrating how far she has come, why don't you both enjoy it together? Here are some ways for the two of you to get the most out of her senior photoshoot experience to build wonderful memories.
Shopping- 1 month+ beforehand
Whether you are working with a personal stylist or pulling together looks on your own, figuring out her outfits is a great way to bond with your senior.
When I was in high school, I used to love going shopping with my mom. We had a tradition of taking a "lunch" break for frozen yogurt (don't judge!) to rally before hitting up more shops. It was so nice to have that one-on-one time with her because my little brother didn't have any interest in clothes.
Now is also a good time to talk about meaningful jewelry. Do you have any family heirloom pieces that she could wear to her shoot? If you have been thinking about a special item to pass down, this photoshoot would be a wonderful occasion to capture your daughter in the new-to-her piece.
Spa Day- a few days beforehand
Getting ready for the shoot is one of the best parts! Why don't you both get pampered for the occasion?
Whether heading out or creating a spa day at home, the two of you can enjoy the little things.
Mani/Pedis are a great place to start. She's going to want to have nice looking nails for her shoot. But why don't you join her?
Mom mom started taking me out for mani/pedis in middle school. But getting mani/pedis with my mom is still one of my favorite things to do, all these years later. We always choose different colors, but it's fun to talk about all the options and sit around reading magazines.
If you are heading out to the spa, massages for both of you are a terrific idea.
But a Word of Caution! If your daughter is interested in a facial, now is not the time. It's possible that her skin might still be puffy or irritated a few days after a facial so it's best to leave that treatment for after the shoot.
Girls lunch- the day of!
Today's the day! Your daughter might be a little nervous about her photoshoot. Why not have the fun distraction of getting lunch from your favorite cafe? Whether it's dine-in or take out, lunch or brunch, having a meal from a place you both love is just one more way to make the day special.
At the Shoot!
We will be working together to make your daughter look and feel her best at the shoot and you play a pivotal role!
Also, I often save the dressiest look to shoot last. Which means that at the end of her shoot your daughter will look her most fabulous. And since we end close to sunset, now it's time for dinner.
Post-Shoot Dinner Date
Why not call in a reservation or take-out at one of your favorite restaurants? Cap the day with a terrific meal over which you both can tell your whole family about how much fun you two had at the shoot.
I want this entire experience to be wonderful for both you and your senior. Hopefully you two can enjoy one or all of these bonding opportunities together surrounding her senior portrait photoshoot.
Samantha Grant Photography is a boutique studio in Pleasanton, CA specializing in high school senior, teen & tween portraiture.
To find out more about the photoshoot experience with Samantha Grant Photography click the button below!
If it's not soft, cute, or smells good I don't want it! Here are some of my top picks for excellent holiday presents this season. Look out for some local vendors!
I can't speak to being soft or smelling good, but we'll definitely take cute pictures at any shoot! Get in touch to snag a gorgeous gift certificate, wrapped and ready to place under the tree. That special teen or tween in your life will have a big surprise in opening this goodie and then get to spend the rest of the holidays planning what to wear on their big day. What a special treat!
They would tear this to shreds the moment I got up to get myself another cup of tea. But if you don't have that problem, go make someone in your life feel incredible with this. It comes in a bunch of colors.
The Farmer's Wife is based in Yuba City but the Raley's on Sunol sometimes carries their products. If you buy one as a present, you'll have to get another one for yourself. It's not a big tub, but a little goes a long way.
What I impressed me was how MINTY the chocolate mint cookies were. It wasn't subtle. And I really liked it.
My husband took one look at the greenish cookies and said, "I bet those are packed with food coloring" and you know what? They aren't! The green color comes from SPINACH. Never would have guessed.
Go support Dan at his storefront in Livermore or at the farmer's market. Comfort food at it's finest.
Local favorite, Jam Jar Posies makes floral displays that have that effortless airy look. She mixes fussy with wild; her bouquets are delightful.
Again, something I can't have because the cats attack flowers in vases as if they were silent burglars, hanging out patiently in the middle of the table.
Not that I wouldn't love one of these. But I'd need to put a cage over it, or something.
It says it holds 5lbs of candy. It could probably hold a heck of a lot of surgical masks mixed with cute little hand sanitizers. Crazy what we scramble for these days...
Heading over to the pumpkin patch to take some pictures? Here are some tips to help you get the best shots possible, even with just a phone.
1. Plan Your Pumpkin Patch Outfits
Even if it's 85 degrees out, you can still make it look like fall by wearing the right colors. Think about deep, rich tones. And if you wear white, go with a creamy off-white.
2. Pick a fall nail color
3. Shoot with your back to the sun
Shooting with your back to the sun will mean that you can get the bluest of blue skies and super bright orange pumpkins.
Yes, it does also mean that the people in the pictures will be looking directly into the sun. To help with that, do a "three, two, one" countdown with their eyes closed and have everyone open their eyes on "one."
One other thing to be aware of: your own shadow. If the sun is to your back, be careful that you aren't casting a shadow onto the people in the shot. The easiest way to avoid this is to get down low (either squat or sit down) when you are shooting.
4. Have fun!
Some of the best pumpkin patch shots are ones you won't think of until you arrive and see what there is to play with. But don't be afraid to get silly. Juggle some baby pumpkins, jump in the air. Skip down a lane of hay bales.
Look for motion and emotion. You got this! 🙌
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You've made it to senior year: congratulations! This is a big deal! You want to document it with gorgeous pictures and you deserve to work with the perfect photographer to get them.
For a lot of people this is the first time they have hired a professional photographer. It can be daunting. So I've put together a guide to help you figure it all out, know what questions to ask, and what to look out for (hint- some things here you would not have thought of.)
Tip 1. Ask About Artwork
Does your photographer offers archival quality artwork?
Yes, having your digitals is important, but you also want to check that your photographer offers incredible archival quality pieces of artwork like albums and canvas collections that you will enjoy forever.
I’m not talking about what you can get at Costco. You deserve an album with thick sturdy pages and ink that resists UV light so that the colors in your images won’t change or fade.
When you come in for your gallery reveal/ordering appointment you will get to touch and feel all of the heirloom quality artwork that I
Tip 2. Look for Consistency
Look at a lot of a photographer’s past work and ask yourself, “Do these pictures all look like they were shot by the same person?”
And if so, “Do I like the editing style?”
This is important because if you look at their work and some pictures have a completely different vibe, how are you going to know what you will get out of your session?
You want consistency!
I am known for a consistent look and feel for my photography. “I could tell it was one of your pictures even before I saw your name,” is one of the comments I get from clients time and again.
Tip 3. Hair & Makeup Guidance
Does your photographer give you guidance on hair and make-up? Or are you left to fend for yourself?
I provide all of my clients with a list of professional hair and makeup artists that I have worked with, who understand the look that I want: natural. I want you to look like you, just with the best skin day of your life.
No crazy contouring. No theatrical lashes. When people see your pictures, I want people to think you look terrific. I don’t want them
to even notice the makeup.
And to make sure that you look exactly the way you want, I also provide my clients with a “How to Work with Professional Make Up
and Hair Artist” guide. Because if you’ve only ever booked someone for a prom look, or never before, how are you supposed to know what to do?
This guide is full of tips and tricks to make sure you leave your appointment looking your absolute best and loving your look.
These are just a few things to look for, but they are super important. And there's more.
Download all 10 Tips for finding your perfect photographer
Want to know more? I created this free guide to help people like you find their perfect photographer! I will personally send you this guide to help you get started.
Samantha Grant Photography is a full service boutique studio in Pleasanton, CA specializing in teen, tween, and senior portraiture.
Running a small business is HARD. You quickly discover that you spend a small amount of time on the part that you love (the reason that you started the business in the first place!) and a ton of time on all this other stuff.
Paperwork, spreadsheets, marketing...
And when things aren't working it can be hard to figure out what to do. Which is why mentoring is so helpful.
When I mentor other photographers I like to hone in on one specific topic and do a deep dive to figure out exactly what is going on and how to improve it.
But before you even talk to a mentor- take a moment to diagnose the problem and figure out where you should focus your efforts.
The key here is finding solutions that are tailored specifically to your business. Not generic catch-all advice. Which is why attending conferences or online lectures on these particular topics probably won't help. You may get solid information on the direction of the change you need to make, but none of the details. And of course, the 😈 is in the details.
When I first started my business, paying for mentoring was the best investment dollars I spent. I seriously saved myself years of struggle by asking for help.
So when you are ready, don't be afraid to reach out.
Celebrating High School Graduation
Cap and Gown mini shoots are such a fun way to celebrate your up coming graduation! What better time to update your pictures and create some lovely artwork to put out at your grad party!
Getting Ready for your photoshoot
These shoot are available to any of my senior portrait clients. When you book your date I send out a special guide: "How to Rock Your Cap & Gown Mini" so that you are completely prepared to get all the important shots.
Class of 2020, set your senior portrait date today and we'll be shooting these for you next spring!
It's prom season! One of my favorite times of year. I love enjoying the excitement of prom vicariously through you all, but my favorite part of it is the dresses.
For the past several years I've been invited by Cal High in San Ramon to take part in their Formal Faire. This is a fashion show put on by the Cal High Leadership team showcasing gowns, tuxes, and some wonderful hair and makeup styling. Check out some of the gorgeous looks from the 2019 Formal Faire!
Glitter! Have you ever wondered what the heck it is? Where it comes from?
All the glittery secrets are revealed today on the blog!!!
Glitter originated on a farm in New Jersey when a German immigrant invented a machine that could shred scrap metal into tiny pieces in the 1930s.
But glitter didn't become a "thing" until the 1940s when people were advised to do their Christmas decorations with glitter rather than light candles (which turned windows into night time targets during the war).
Most of the glitter that you'll find in American glitterized products are made in one of two highly secretive glitter factories. Both of which are in New Jersey.
One of which is called, awesomely, Glitterex.
The thickest and least advanced is craft glitter.
The finest is cosmetic glitter used on lips.
Most glitter produced is hexagonal.
I personally love the look of glitter in pictures but I also love the environment. My solution? Digital glitter! So if you want some celebratory shots during your photoshoot I can get the look of glitter without harming the environment! Yay photoshop!
Class of 2019, I still have a few spots open on my spring calendar for senior portraits for which, if you book, you can also qualify for the cap & gown mini shoot. But get in touch soon before they are gone!
If you are interested in learning more about glitter check out: "What is Glitter? A Strange Journey to the Glitter Factory" by Caity Weaver in The New York Times 12/22/18
By guest blog author Kaelin. Kaelin is a competitive dancer, AP scholar, and a captain of the varsity cheer team at AVHS.
Strip lashes are a way to really elevate your look. There are a ton of tips and tricks to making them look absolutely perfect. Read on to help figure out the right brands, right styles, and the right way to apply them to take your look to the next level!
First, you need to decide what level of boost you want to go for with your new lashes.
If you are on stage with heavy makeup definitely consider a more dramatic lash. For these I would recommend House of Lashes in the style "Iconic". They are quite bold and will hold their own with the rest of your stage makeup.
For everyday wear, wispies are a great choice for a natural look. If you are going to wear wispies, I highly recommend Ardell. They have the perfect balance of "natural but better" that is great for Homecoming, photoshoots, and any event where you really want your eyes to pop.
There are pros and cons for different brands. For example, House of Lashes and Lilly Lashes are more expensive, and can only be bought online, but if you are careful with them you can reuse them up to 10 times. Drug store lashes like Ardelle and Kiss are more affordable but you can only use them once or twice.
For general all-around wear my favorite lash for any occasion is Lilly Lashes in the style "Miami." They are perfect for a glam look and even though they are pricey you can wear them up to 25 times!
So go pick out some pairs to try and don't forget the glue. My favorite eyelash glue is Duo (which is formaldehyde-free. Yay.) which you can pick up at any drug store. You'll also want a few other things to help with the application process...
The key to strip lashes is the application. Before you start, gather together everything you will need:
First- the glue. Before using the glue, squeeze the tube to get out any air bubbles. Then apply a little bead of glue to a piece of paper towel or the tray the lashes came in. Wait around 30 seconds for the glue to become tacky.
While you are waiting... Eyelashes are made super long so you'll likely want to trim part of them off to fit the length of your eye. I prefer to trim from the outer side. You can also apply mascara to your natural lashes while you wait.
Now take a bobby pin- dab the edge into the glue and use it to apply the glue along the edge of the lash taking special care to apply a bit extra to the inner and outer edges (the parts most likely to come undone). Once the glue is on, wait another 30 seconds to a minute for it to become more tacky. You can blow on them to help speed this up.
To apply the lashes, hold them with the lash applicator tool and push the ends of the lashes onto your lash line. Make sure to actually push the strip lashes into place so that they won't lift.
Once your lashes are completely dry (about 15-20 mins) curl them to blend the natural and fake ones together. And finally, apply mascara. My current favorite is "Better than Sex" by Two Faced which is a true waterproof mascara.
My trick for applying mascara for the top lashes to hold a mirror (or your phone) below you and look downwards. For the bottom lashes I like to apply several layers of mascara and use my fingers to "pull off" the clumps to leave behind just the darker color.
With the right tools and some practice, you'll be able to get your lashes on in 5 minutes. So don't be intimidated- give it a try!
Check out the before and after!
Samantha Grant Photography is a boutique photography studio in Pleasanton, CA specializing exclusively in high school senior portraiture.
I am a teen, tween, and high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.