Senior portraits

What to Wear for College Graduation Photos

When it comes to what to wear for college graduation photos, the answer has a lot to do with how you want to use, display and share your pictures. I recommend a bit of attire mixing! There are three basic looks that I generally always photograph: 

Miami Graduation Portraits
  1. Professional attire without graduation gear 

These photos are really nice to have for your post-grad life, ready for professional use on social media, resumes, and portfolios. 

  1. Cap and Stole 

I spend a large majority of graduation sessions in this look, because it’s flattering, and it clearly says “graduation photos.” (This is also a great time to pull out any other special items you may have brought.)

  1. Traditional cap the gown

This is what I’d consider the “full attire” look. It looks incredible, and it captures the excitement and joy of graduating. I typically have students put the gown over their shoulder. I may take a few photos with the full gown on, but not a ton, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing what to wear! 

What to Wear for College Graduation Photos: Ladies

Ladies, you really can’t go wrong with a simple dress or skirt! Why? Dresses are easily the most flattering outfits out there, and the cute Spring ones are usually pretty comfortable. The style and colors you choose can take your photos in a formal direction, or in a fun, free and celebratory direction! Just make sure you’re comfortable in whatever you select, because you will likely be doing a fair amount of walking. (Hint: If you don’t love walking in heels, wear flat shoes and change into heels later.) 


Dresses that follow your figure or simply have a cinched waist such as a fit and flair are some of the most flattering for graduation pictures. Boxier, shapeless dresses can add extra bulk, so instead, try your favorite sundress or that formal dress you love! The important thing is to make sure the dress length is the same as (or shorter than) the length of your graduation gown. A fitted outfit also helps minimize the volume of the already bulky school-issued gown, which we’ll try to incorporate in a much more attractive way than actually wearing it.


Since these are graduation photos, consider matching your outfit to your school’s colors. (Although I totally get it if your school’s colors are not particularly flattering to your skin tone.) If school colors aren’t for you, a simple black, white or cream-colored outfit will be perfect! You could always bring in your school colors with your shoes and/or jewelry selection. (And nude or beige heels always look great with a white dress!) 

What to Wear for College Graduation Photos: Gentlemen

Guys, your graduation outfit is quite simple. Just choose your favorite dressier clothes! (I know you have some.) Or wear what you would (or did) wear to impress the person of your dreams on a first date. 

Are you in slacks and a button down? Iron them. If your clothes are a bit more casual, throw them in the dryer with a damp cloth for a while, then hang them up immediately after they dry. Doing this will keep your clothes from looking too stiff and uncomfortable, but nice enough to show your grandma – who really wants a printed graduation photo of you to brag about.

Tips for Friend/Group Graduation Photos 

These are truly some of my favorite photos to take! We can lean into the fun and joy that each and every one of you has when you’re together, and create some natural, candid and posed photos to remember these days and these friendships forever. Here are a few things to consider before showing up for your group portrait session:

  • Decide on your outfits. If you are all going to wear the same colors, are you also going to wear the same color shoes or mix it up? It’s best to know before everyone shows up!
  • Some groups of friends like to do half the session in school gear (t-shirts and jeans) and the other half in a more formal look. Decide what you want to do as a group, and make sure everyone knows the plan! 
  • Decide where you want to go ahead of time. A larger group means more photo time (which is amazing and SO fun), but keep in mind that it does take time to resituate locations and walk from one to the next. Have an idea of your favorite campus spots ahead of time and go from one to the next in the most time efficient way. 

Essentials to Bring to a Graduation Photo Session:

  • Traditional graduation threads: Cords, cap, stole, gown
  • Chapstick/lip gloss, and a hairbrush or comb, in case it’s windy 
  • A change of clothes (if you’d like), and any alternative shoes or accessories to go along with it
  • Your best smile!

BONUS: Four personal items that can add flair or school spirit to your session: 

  • A bottle of champagne 
  • A school pennant, flag or banner
  • Party Poppers (check with your school… we don’t want to make a mess in a location that isn’t permitted) 
  • Cheer or sports gear to commemorate your collegiate athletics career

Chances are, most of you know these things already, but hopefully these tips serve as reminders, or give you a jumping off point as you prepare for the big day! Have fun, enjoy the opportunity to dress up, and remember how special this time of your life is.

Are you graduating this spring? My 2024 grad sessions aren’t limited to Colorado Springs! Check out my travel dates below, and reach out to reserve your time ASAP. To see more photos, click here.

Travel Dates 

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