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Smile! With commencement a few days away, it is time to capture your last memories as an undergraduate with some photos.

As the University photographer, I’m often asked for tips on how to get the best shots. It might seem overwhelming, but if you focus on a few key elements, you’ll create memorable photos that will stand the test of time.

It all comes down to the basics. Look the part, find the best location, and be mindful of lighting and your environment.

First things first. What should you wear? You will want to dress professionally and comfortably. You’ll be standing for long periods and potentially walking up and down stairs.

Start by taking some photos wearing your professional attire, then add your cap, tassel, cords, and stoles. Finally, add your gown and get some shots with it on and zipped up. You will want to be sure to put the tassel on the left side of your cap to signify that you have graduated.

If you want to add a bit of flair, consider wearing red sunglasses or shoes, or bring along an Illinois State flag or pennant to pose with. If you have taken time to decorate the top of your cap you will want to take a few pics showing off the design.

Now that you are dressed for success and equipped with any additional accouterments, it is time to pick a location. To generate some ideas, I have developed a list of the top 10 places on campus to take your commencement photos. They are:

  • ISU walkway
  • Redbird Plaza
  • The Bell on the Quad
  • Flowerbeds on the Quad
  • Hancock Stadium
  • Schroeder Hall southeast stairwell between the first and second floor that overlooks the campus
  • “Congratulations Illinois State Graduates” banner on the west side of College Avenue
  • Fell Hall
  • State Farm Hall of Business courtyard
  • Gates, Fell and Lincoln

You will also want to take photos at locations on campus that reflect your personal experiences, which could include your residence hall or other academic buildings. Other locations that have naturally artistic elements are In Exchange and the pillars in front of the Student Fitness Center. When choosing locations, be mindful of the time of day. You do not want to be looking directly into the sun, or have the sun directly behind you, causing a silhouette.

Congratulations graduates! You’re ready to capture the big day! Be sure to tag Illinois State University on social media when you post your photos.